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La Coupe du monde - part I

Lionel Messi called time on his international career, then swiftly made a comeback. (Wikimedia Commons)
Roar Guru
5th May, 2018
20

This is the first of a 15 part history of the FIFA World Cup, taking us through each iteration from 1930 to 1994.

Early years of international football
The foundation of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the period leading up to the first FIFA World Cup, held in Uruguay in 1930, forms part of the history of that first World Cup.

At that time, circa 1904, England and Scotland already had 30 years of international football experience (primarily between themselves), and at that point would rightly have seen themselves as the custodians of the game.

The original countries which formed FIFA were all from the continent (effectively ringing the English Channel and the North Sea): France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

I should stress that these countries had not set out to ostracise the British, who they recognised as the founders of the modern game of association football. Indeed, the Nederlandsche Voetbal Bond (NVB) had invited the English FA, but progress stalled with the involvement of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

The French and Belgians continued with the process of establishing FIFA, and as it happens, the British were slow to see the significance of such an international organisation. They were not among the founding nations of FIFA, although the British were represented in the second congress.

In the decade which followed, there were various attempts at organising an international football tournament, but nothing large-scale occurred, and then WWI quickly put an end to anything set in motion.

Jules Rimet would become FIFA’s third president in 1921, at which point FIFA counted 20 members. Rimet would oversee decades of growth and played an important role in getting his vision of a world championship off the ground. The original World Cup trophy was named after him: Trophée Jules Rimet.

In honour of the role played by the French in establishing FIFA, and in particular, the role of Jules Rimet in fulfilling his vision of a true world championship, I have used the French translation of World Cup for this series of articles.

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1930 World Cup
The choice of Uruguay to host the first World Cup was probably predicated on the fact that it had won two consecutive Olympic Gold medals (in 1924 and 1928) and were to celebrate their 100th anniversary of independence.

In 1930, Europe was hit by economic depression, and as a result, only four nations made the long 12 day sea voyage (France, Yugoslavia, Romania and Belgium). The Uruguayans took this as a slight and they refused to defend their title four years later in Europe.

That aside, the tournament was an immediate success in terms of both the football played and financially. The Estadio Centenario in Montevideo would be the venue of huge attendances, including 90,000 for the final, won by the host over its near-neighbour, Argentina, 4:2.

Only 13 of the original 16 nations made it to Uruguay, so the tournament was split into one group of four (won by Argentina), and then three groups of three. Uruguay, Yugoslavia and the USA won the other three groups. The four group winners went straight into the semi-finals.

Yugoslavia had to get past Brazil to top its group, doing so with a 2:1 win, while both countries managed to defeat Bolivia.

The USA proved to be a surprise packet with two 3-0 wins against Belgium and Paraguay. Since there was no third place play-off, they can rightly be referred to as having finished equal third (along with Yugoslavia).

These were simple times, and one of the quirky rules of the day was that both sides had to present their own football. In the final, Argentina won the right to use their ball in the first half and it paid dividends as they led 2:1 at HT.

Using their own ball in the second half, the Uruguayans scored three unanswered goals through Pedro Cea, Santos Iriarte and Hector Castro to win the inaugural World Cup, 4:2.

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