The first two matches of the inaugural FIFA World Cup, played simultaneously, took place on 13 July. France beat Mexico 4–1 while the USA beat Belgium 3–0. In the 19th minute of the French – Mexico game, Lucien Laurent (pictured) of France ensured his place in World Cup history by scoring the first World Cup goal. Sixty-eight years later, in 1998, 90-year-old Laurent was the sole survivor from the French team of 1930 to witness his countrymen win the World Cup for the first time.
However, in 1930, France lost their next two games, including a 1–0 defeat to Argentina, and were eliminated. The Argentinians won all three of their games and topped the group, despite their captain, Manuel Ferreira, taking leave of absence for a couple of games to sit his law exams.
France’s captain in that first World Cup, Alex Villaplane, became a notorious Nazi collaborator during the Second World War German occupation of France, wearing the uniform of the SS and known for his brutality against the French resistance and Jews. On Boxing Day 1944, four months after France’s liberation, Villaplane was shot as a traitor.
Yugoslavia’s captain in 1930, Milutin Ivkovic, was, in 1943, executed by the Nazis.
The inaugural match at the Estadio Centenario, which featured a moat running round the pitch, saw the hosts beat Peru 1-0. Incredibly, the scorer, Héctor Castro, had only one arm, having lost an arm as a 13-year-old in a chainsaw accident.
Bolivia’s eleven players turned up for the first match, against Yugoslavia, each with a single letter printed on the back of their shirts. Once they had lined-up, the letters spelt out ‘Viva Uruguay’, a nice tribute to the hosts.
While Argentina had played three games, Uruguay, the USA and Yugoslavia had each played only twice to qualify for the semi-finals. In their group game against Paraguay, the USA won 3-0, all three goals coming from Bert Patenaude, the World Cup’s first hat-trick. (Although there was a dispute as to whether Patenaude should be credited his second goal. In 2006, 76 years after the event and 32 years after Patenaude’s death, FIFA decided in his favour). In the semi-finals, Uruguay beat Yugoslavia 6–1, and, by the same scoreline, Argentina beat the USA.
The match for third place was not introduced until the following tournament, thus in 1930, Yugoslavia and the USA shared the bronze medal.
The first World Cup Final took place on 30 July at the Estadio Centenario. Tension between the South American rivals was high, with the Argentinians bent on avenging the Olympic defeat two years earlier. Argentinian players had received death threats. Police armed with rifles and fixed bayonets patrolled the touchline throughout the game; spectators were searched, and match officials needed escorts on and off the field. (The referee, a Belgian, fearing for his safety, insisted on having a boat ready at the port post-match to facilitate a quick exit). Tension escalated as the teams argued over whose ball to use. A compromise was reached whereby the Argentinians provided the ball for the first half, Uruguay the second.
In front of a crowd of 90,000, Argentina led 2–1 at half-time only for Uruguay to dominate the second half and win 4–2. Uruguay’s final goal, a minute from time, came from the one-armed Castro.
Jules Rimet presented the ‘Victory’ trophy, which would later bear his name, to José Nasazzi, the Uruguayan captain. The world had its first World Cup champions. Uruguay remains the smallest nation to win the World Cup. The defeat was, for Argentinian defender, Francisco Varallo, ‘a blow I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over.’ (Varallo, who died aged 100 on 30 August 2010, was the last surviving player from the 1930 World Cup).
A History of the World Cup by Rupert Colley is now available.
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