The World Cup: An Introduction
| 1930: Uruguay
| 1934: Italy
| 1938: France
| 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea
The first ever World Cup took place without England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland, the very countries that gave the game to the world. This was due to a rift between the Home Countries and FIFA, a rift which was to last until after the Second World War.
The British countries were not the only European absentees. When FIFA met to choose the inaugural host nation there were five applicants: Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. Uruguay offered to pay for each of the competing nations' travel bills. The South Americans had also won the Olympic football tournament in 1924 and 1928, and were considered the unofficial world champions.
Unsurprisingly, FIFA awarded the tournament to Uruguay.
In a severe case of sour grapes, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden pulled out of the World Cup, and four other nations - Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Switzerland - decided to withdraw, citing the three-week boat trip to South America as the reason.
Only 13 teams competed in the inaugural tournament, all by invitation.
Given the absence of the British teams, it was ironic that the USA reached the semi-finals with a team largely composed of former Scottish and English professionals. Having reached the semi-finals without conceding a goal, they were given a rude awakening when they were crushed 6-1 by Argentina.
Much of the tournament was marred by poor refereeing and foul play. Argentina's hard men were allowed to get away with murder, and during Argentina's match with France, the referee blew the full time whistle six minutes early, just as France seemed certain to score an equalising goal. After a near-riot the match was resumed, but Argentina held on and France were eliminated from the tournament.
Once the best European side were on their way home, the tournament was always likely to throw up a repeat of the 1928 Olympic Final between Uruguay and Argentina: a fierce local derby between the South American champions and the Olympic champions.
The atmosphere surrounding the final was incredible, with thousands of Argentinians crossing the River Plate to witness the first ever World Cup Final, but after a thrilling match it was the Uruguayans who were celebrating. Montevideo went mad with car horns and ships' sirens blaring, and the next day was declared a public holiday. Buenos Aires went mad, too, when angry mobs stoned the Uruguayan Embassy.
The world's greatest sporting event had arrived.
Romania and Peru had the misfortune of playing their opening match of the tournament on Bastille Day, a public holiday in Uruguay. Most Montivideans were to busy partying to watch football, and those who wanted to watch football were watching Brazil vs Yugoslavia on the other side of town. This meant that only 300 people watched Romania defeat Peru 3-1 - the smallest attendance at a world cup finals tournament.
Before the final, referee Jean Langenus of Belgium had to settle an argument. Both finalists insisted on using their own ball! Langenus decided that each ball would be used for one half. Argentina started the match with their ball and took a 2-1 lead into the break. In the second half Uruguay, using their ball, scored three times to secure a 4-2 victory.
For The Record
Argentina 6 : 1 USA
Uruguay 6 : 1 Yugoslavia
Uruguay 4 : 2 Argentina
Tournament Leading Goalscorer
Stabile (Argentina) - 8 goals
Other Entries in This Project
- The Football World Cup - An Introduction
- Football World Cup, 1934, Italy
- Football World Cup, 1938, France
- Football World Cup, 1950, Brazil
- Football World Cup, 1954, Switzerland
- Football World Cup, 1958, Sweden
- Football World Cup, 1962, Chile
- Football World Cup, 1966, England
- Football World Cup, 1970, Mexico
- Football World Cup, 1974, West Germany
- Football World Cup, 1978, Argentina
- Football World Cup, 1982, Spain
- Football World Cup, 1986, Mexico
- Football World Cup, 1990, Italy
- Football World Cup, 1994, USA
- Football World Cup, 1998, France
- Football World Cup, 2002, Japan and South Korea