The inaugural World Cup, held in Uruguay in 1930 was one of a kind. It was the only competition where teams did not have to play qualifying rounds to earn a World Cup berth but instead, 13 nations were invited to participate.
It was a rough start to the event as many nations didn't like the fact that the 1930 World Cup was awarded to South America rather than Europe. Uruguay aspired to host but the likes of Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden went against FIFA and decided not to participate.
The likes of Hungary, Germany, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia didn't participate too. Only Belgium, Romania, Yugoslavia and France showed interest, but even they backed out. Despite Uruguay's offer to take care of all the travel and hotel expenses, the visiting teams were not satisfied with the prospect of making a three-week journey in a long boat ride.
The situation got worse when not even a single European nation showed interest. The federations of all the Latin American threatened to pull out of FIFA.
However, after FIFA president Jules Rimet's intervention, Belgium, Romania, Yugoslavia and France all made a u-turn and decided to participate.
All the four European teams sailed together from Villefranche-Sur-Mer, a small town on the French Riviera, on 21 June 1930 — stopping in Rio de Janeiro to pick up the Brazil team — before finally arriving in Montevideo on 4 July.
The 13 teams were divided into four groups: Pool 1 consisted of Argentina, Chile, France and Mexico; Pool 2 saw Yugoslavia grouped with Brazil and Bolivia; Uruguay competed in Group 3 alongside Romania and Peru, while Pool 4 was made up of the US, Belgium and Paraguay. The four pool winners would advance directly to the semi-finals.
Interestingly, the entire tournament was hosted by one city – Montevideo – and only three stadiums were used to host all 18 games: Centenario, Pocitos and Parque Central.
The first-ever World Cup match was played on 13 July between France and Mexico, where the French emerged winners (4-1).
Hosts Uruguay and South American rivals Argentina topped their groups after having reached the final at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia and the United States topped their respective pools to advance to the semi-finals.
Argentina thrashed the United States 6-1, while Uruguay won by the same margin against Yugoslavia in the last four.
There was a tinge of drama ahead of the final. Thousands of fans in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aries sailed across to see their heroes beat Uruguay in the all-South American final. However, there was a slight delay as both teams insisted on using a ball of their own choice ahead of the grand finale.
Despite having the capacity to hold nearly 100,000 spectators, the attendance for the Uruguay-Argentina final was held back to 90,000. The largest crowd of the tournament was 93,000 when Uruguay demolished Yugoslavia 6-1 in the semi-finals.
On 30 July, Uruguay took the lead through Pablo Dorado after just 12 minutes in the final, but Carlos Peucelle equalized eight minutes later for Argentina.
Guillermo Stabile, the tournament's top scorer, gave the visitors a 2-1 lead before half-time. In the 57th minute, Pedro Cea's incredible run and finish levelled the scores. Santos Iriarte restored Uruguay's lead in the 68th minute, and the cup was all but sealed when Hector Castro netted his second goal of the tournament in the final minutes.
The World Cup trophy – 35 centimetres in height, made of gold and weighing 3.8 kilograms – was presented by Rimet to Jose Nasazzi. The celebrations lasted for several days in Montevideo.
Hosts Uruguay were crowned world champions, and the World Cup took its first step to becoming one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Updated Date: May 22, 2018 17:22 PM