FIFA president Jules Rimet, after whom the first,
solid gold, World Cup trophy was named, was the
principle driving force behind the staging of the
inaugural competition. Just thirteen nations were
to participate, a number achieved only after considerable
arm twisting from Rimet.
Five nations had applied for the honour of staging
the first in the series, the four unsuccessful European
suitors promptly refusing to travel to a resplendent
Uruguay in distant Latin America. At one stage it
looked as if no European team would come; amongst
the refusniks were England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland,
Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Spain,
Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark,
Norway, Finland, Germany, Austria and Hungary. The
four British nations were unhappy at the blurring
of the boundaries between amateur and professional,
a difficulty that was reflected in their non-participation
in the football side of the Olympic movement as
well as the World Cup. The Soviet Union was chafing
under the diplomatic isolation that had been its
lot since the Bolshevik coup of November 1917.
Pressure from the Latin American nations, coupled
with the persuasive powers of the lawyer Rimet,
eventually cajoled four entries from Europe: Rimet’s
own nation France, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Rumania.
Given the acrimony and the difficult economic conditions
prevailing after the Wall Street Crash of 1929,
this was a better turnout than it might appear.
From the Americas were to come the more formidable
contestants: Uruguay herself, Argentina, Brazil,
Chile, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay and the United
States. Only France amongst the Europeans proving
able to distinguish herself in such company.
Australasia at the time had been largely colonised
by the European powers and the USA. China was in
the grip of civil strife exacerbated by foreign
intervention. India was the Jewel in the British
Crown, not even having Dominion Status within the
Empire. Australia and New Zealand preferred other
sports such as cricket and rugby. The game was hardly
played in independent states such as Japan and Siam
(modern Thailand). Turkey was in the midst of reforms
under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk, football
scarcely rating a mention. Thus there was not one
representative from earth’s largest continent.
Africa, largely ruled by the British and the French,
with a a Belgium presence in the Congo, only had
two substantially independent states: Abyssinia
(modern day Ethiopia) and the British Dominion of
South Africa. Neither played football in a meaningful
way. Thus the first World Cup could hardly be said
to have represented the World, or even the world
On 13 July, after a three week trip across the
Atlantic, the French team trooped out to play Mexico,
triumphing by four goals to one. The first ever
goal was scored by Lucient Laurent of France.
Although, unlike in subsequent World Cups, there
had been no qualifying competition, one principle
was established for the future: the groups were
divided so as to try and achieve as much geographical
diversity as possible. The groups were:
There were four teams from Europe, seven from South
America, one from Central America and one from North
America. A radically different composition from
more modern World Cups! Given that
Uruguay, Argentina, Yugoslavia and the USA, three
of them seeds, were to make it to the semi-finals,
the seeding was a qualified success.
The winner of each group would qualify for the
semi-finals. Thus, unlike today’s competitions,
there was no reprieve for those who came second
in their group. The victorious semi-finalists would
contest what would eventually become known as the
Rimet Cup, there would be no third place play-off.
The group competitions only threw up one major
surprise, with the unfancied Yugoslavs (Yugoslavia
had come into existence as a result of the Treaty
of Versailles in 1919, it comprised modern day Serbia,
Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro) coming
ahead of both Brazil and Bolivia.
The USA's Bert Patenaude scored the first hat-trick
in World Cup history, scoring all the goals in a
three-nil win over Paraguay.
Unfortunately, many of the games were marred by
violent conduct. The tone was set by the first match
of the tournament between France and Mexico, the
French goalkeeper had to limp off after ten minutes,
as he had been kicked in the jaw by one of his opponents.
The semi-finals emphatically justified the seeding,
Uruguay and Argentina crushed their opponents Yugoslavia
and the USA by the identical score line of 6-1.
SEMI-FINALS (half time scores in brackets)
Argentina - USA 6:1 (1:0)
Uruguay - Yugoslavia 6:1 (3:1)
The first ever World Cup Final was played at the
Centenario Stadium, Montevideo on July 30th. However,
the game was preceded by the seemingly pointless
dispute as to who should provide the match ball.
FIFA stepped in with the Solomon-like decision to
split the disputed baby: Argentina provided the
ball for the first half, Uruguay provided one for
Uruguay, which was celebrating a centenary of independence
from Spanish rule, and had twice triumphed at the
Olympics in football, eventually won 4-2, but not
before enduring the trauma of a half time 1-2 deficit
after a questionable goal from Stabile. Captained
by Jose Nasazzi the Uruguayans proved a much more
durable team, Pedro Ceo scoring a memorable equaliser,
Iriarte then put the hosts ahead, a position cemented
by a further goal from Castro (who played under
the handicap of an arm being partially missing).
Thus the Argentines, led by “Nalo” Ferreira, who
had played one more game than their Uruguayan hosts,
were unable to obtain revenge for their defeat at
the hands of Uruguay in the 1928 Olympic final.
Riots followed in Argentina, an ugly obverse side
of the coin to the wild celebrations in Montevideo
and elsewhere in Uruguay. The 31 July 1930 was a
national holiday for the victors.