World Cup retrospect – Uruguay 30

The setting of the World Cup in 1930 could not have been more different than modern times. Stalin was putting his finishing touches to the Russian revolution, Gandhi was marching to the sea in order to upset the British powers in India, and the USA’s financial crisis in 1929 had caused New York to shut down and shot-up prices in reliant countries such as Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Argentina. This financial crisis would have no effect on Uruguay, the hosts of this World Cup, until 1933. Until then, they would find very little to be upset about. Since FIFA became professional in 1924 they had won gold medals in both the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics, making them the unequivocal champions of world football. So when FIFA had to make a decision on where to hold the inaugural World Cup there was no doubt which country had earnt their opportunity. This brought with it various implications – Uruguay was a long boat journey across the Atlantic for many of the European nations and only Yugoslavia, Belgium, Romania and France made the trip. The last three of these arrived on the same boat, accompanied by Jules Rimet and a shiny new trophy, in surely one of the most historic boat journeys in football history. On the way they also picked up the Brazil squad in Rio and stopped in Santos to stock up on pineapples, oranges and bananas.

The 13 competing teams were completed by seven South American teams, Mexico and the USA. All of the teams had been invited and so there were no qualifiers making the first two games, played simultaneously, the first games ever to be officially played in the World Cup. All games would be played in Montevideo, where architects had been hurriedly constructing the Estadio Centenario in the eight months before the tournament began. Rain prevented them from finishing in time so it was a week into the tournament before it eventually hosted its first game.

The first two games were France v Mexico and USA v Belgium. There were four groups in total, with one team going through from each. Argentina proved decisive in Group 1 with wins over France, Mexico and Chile, the second of which was done without their captain Manuel Ferreira who had returned to Argentina for his law exam. Yugoslavia surprised all in Group 2 by defeating Brazil 2-1 and progressing to the next round. Due to the delays in finishing Estadio Centenario games in Group 3 would have some serious delays as Uruguay waited to play in front of a packed crowd where they laboured to a 1-0 victory over Peru. In their next game they would be far more clinical, beating Romania by four clear goals and securing their path to the semi-finals. This group is also notable for having the lowest attendance of any match in World Cup history when 300 people turned up to watch Peru play Romania. The final group was dominated by the USA and Bert Pautenade, who got the first hat-trick of the tournament in their game against Paraguay.

The semi-finals couldn’t have been more one-sided. Guillermo Stabile, who was only in the Argentina side because of their captain’s University exams, had become one of the players of the tournament and would get two of the goals in their 6-1 demolition of the US, who had lost defender Raphael Tracey to a broken leg. This meant they would play the winners of Uruguay and Yugoslavia in the final. The hosts did not disappoint and another 6-1 thrashing booked their place in a historic final between two bitter rivals. The two teams already had some history as it was Argentina that Uruguay had defeated to win the 1928 Olympics and they had regularly played friendly matches, making the short trip over the River Plate to play to each other.

There are many different statistics for the amount of Argentinians that came to the final. Boats brought somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people to the final, although congestion was so high on some of the boats that getting everyone on and off meant people were still arriving once the final had kicked-off. Gates had been open since 8am allowing six hours for the fans to filter in. Official attendance is put at 93,000, with pictures of the game showing possibly the same amount of fedoras in attendance, so popular was the hat at this time.

Argentina were the better team in the first half, despite initially going down to a goal from beret-wearing Pablo Dorado, and would take a 2-1 lead into the second half. Uruguay got there act together after the break and eventually started to boss the game, with goals from Pedro Cea, Santos Iriarte and H

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