It was agreed in 1929 that the first World Cup would be held in Uruguay from July 13 to July 30, 1930. After accepting invites, thirteen countries will participate – no qualifying rounds were held. 70 goals will be scored in 18 games, including Guillermo Stábile’s first hat-trick in World Cup history. Uruguay was crowned World Cup champions for the first time at the end of the tournament.
Europe was experiencing an economic downturn at the time of the incident. Some teams were hampered by travel costs, and many European players were unable to leave their countries for a long journey for fear of losing their jobs – this was long before it became commonplace for professional players to play for a living.
The idea of allowing experts to participate sparked a lot of debate and opposition (only amateur players were traditionally allowed in the Olympics). Denmark and Germany refused to participate because of this. England will also fail to join for prestigious reasons. For a while, it seemed that neither of the European nations would make the journey to Uruguay, putting the first World Cup in jeopardy.
Finally, three European countries will send teams to Uruguay. Unfortunately, neither of these teams were among the top-ranked. Many of Europe’s top players, including Austria, England, Hungary, Italy, and Spain, will be missing. The European teams that ultimately crossed the Atlantic would be supported financially by Uruguay, which at the time was a wealthy region.
Uruguay, the host team, was the favourite to win. They had won the 1924 Paris Olympics and the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. In the other hand, Argentina, Argentina’s nearest competitor, had won the South American Championship in 1929. Brazil’s national team had not yet developed into the giant that it would become, and it would arrive at the first World Cup underprepared (due to internal disputes, they were only represented by players from Carioca).
In addition to not being the best team on the continent, the European teams will be hampered by the travel conditions: ten days on a boat and little opportunity for preparation. The addition of a group step (which was not done in the Olympics) was done to provide long-distance visitors with the ability to play at least two sports.
An old rivalry between Uruguay and Argentina was unquestionably demonstrated by the bulk of the crowd, who booed the visitors in their first match against France to the point that the Argentines were forced to withdraw from the competition. Uruguay’s president was forced to act as a mediator. However, the final match of the group, between Argentina and Chile, was when things really got out of control. Following an altercation between two players, the majority of players on both sides participated in a massive scrimmage. After a short pause, the match resumed, with Argentina winning both the match and the group.
Yugoslavia and the United States will shock many by winning their classes and progressing to the semifinals. The United States, who had been embarrassed by Argentina in the 1928 Olympics by a score of 11-2, will be beaten by them again in the Semi-finals, this time by a score of 6-1. On top of the Americans’ patriotism, it should be noted that two of their starters were disabled and could not be substituted due to a bizarre regulation in effect at the time.
Uruguay would win their group by beating Romania and Peru, and then beat Yugoslavia in the semi-finals by a wide margin. However, the outcome would not accurately represent the game. One of Yugoslavia’s first goals was disallowed by a curious referee ruling, and two of Uruguay’s first goals were accepted in questionable circumstances.
In the final, they met Argentina, who had already beaten them in the final of the 1928 Olympics tournament. Uruguay could pull off another victory with four goals against two goals in front of over 80,000 people at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo (the attendance figures are debatable: the official attendance was 68,346, but there were undoubtedly more people watching the game, and some sources claim it was over 90,000 people), after Argentina had taken a 2-1 lead. The Uruguayan football team’s players will reclaim their place as the country’s pride and joy.