It was no easy task. America and Europe were suffering from the consequences of the 1929 economic crisis, which led to high unemployment rates and the bankruptcy of several small companies and big banks. Football, officially organized by FIFA since 1904, was still taking baby steps as a sport and did not have anything resembling a professional structure. Nonetheless, even if the scenario did not help, choosing Uruguay as the host of the 1930 World Cup made every sense from a sporting point of view.
The South Americans won both editions of the Olympic Games in 1924 and 1928, a feat that earned them the nickname of Olympic Celeste, which they are still called today. In addition, from a symbolic perspective, the fact that Uruguay would celebrate its 100th independence anniversary in 1930 helped.
With this mixed economic and technically based argument, the choice to hold the first edition of the World Cup Final in Uruguay was made during the FIFA Conference in Barcelona in 1929.
Teams Were Invited
In practice, there was a certain level of improvisation in the 1930 World Cup tournament. For example, no qualifiers and teams were invited to participate. Only four European teams agreed to cross the Atlantic by sea, France, Belgium, Romania, and Yugoslavia.
Eight teams from South America, the United States, and Mexico made up the rest of the sides. Unfortunately, the group draw was only done when all thirteen teams had arrived in Uruguay. As a result, the matches were played in only three stadiums and the same city, the capital, Montevideo.
Argentina and Uruguay faced each other in the first World Cup final at the Centenario Stadium, with a capacity of 100 thousand people. Despite finishing the first half trailing 2-1, the Uruguay football team scored three times in the second half and won the match 4-2.
FIFA president Jules Rimet handed Uruguay’s captain José Nazassi the 1930 World Cup trophy. On 31 July, the day after the final, a national bank holiday was declared in Uruguay.
1930 World Cup Draw
The organization of the first World Cup looked rather different from today’s – teams played by invitation, three weeks of a sea voyage for the four European sides, and a Final Draw that was not made until the teams and FIFA arrived in Uruguay three days before the opening matches.
Since only 13 teams attended, first-round groups were formed instead of a traditional knockout format, with the top team in each group advancing to the semi-finals.
Castro’s Clincher Secures Celeste’s Crown
As romantic football tales go, scoring in the 89th minute to secure the first-ever 1930 FIFA World Cup would represent a more than a good start.
But for Hector Castro, whose header had just beaten flailing Argentina keeper Juan Botasso, his moment of triumph in Montevideo – scoring the sixth and final goal of Uruguay’s 4-2 win in the 1930 decider – represented the culmination of an inspiring struggle.
After all, Castro lost half an arm in an accident with an electric saw 13 years earlier and, despite this amputated limb, went on to win Olympic gold in 1928 and score the first and, more importantly, last of Uruguay’s goals at these maiden global finals.
And while this would be the then 25-year-old’s final appearance on this stage, La Celeste declining to appear at the 1934 and 1938 editions, this immortal moment ensured a fairy tale ending to his World Cup story.
Brazil Plays A Supporting Role
For Brazil to participate in the World Cup for the first time, they had to travel 15 days by ship. Also, they did not travel to the Uruguay World Cup 1930 with their squad at full strength because of an argument between the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro football directors.
When the Brazilian Sport Confederation (CBD) technical staff was put together, no representatives of the São Paulo Athletic Sport Association were present.
In retaliation, São Paulo vetoed the call-up of players from the state. Therefore important names at the time, like Arthur Friedenreich, Feitiço, and Aramando Del Debbio, did not play for Brazil in the first World Cup.
Under strength and facing the harsh Uruguayan winter, Brazil lost its first match 2-1 to Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, Preguinho had the honor of scoring the first Brazilian goal in World Cup history.
The setback against the Europeans meant Brazil was out of the 1930 World Cup tournament, as Yugoslavia beat Bolivia 4-1, and only one team would get through to the semi-final. In their last match in Uruguay, Brazil thrashed Bolivia 4-0, with Moderato and Preguinho scoring twice.
Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario stands at a profound crossroads of past and present on the face of planet football.
A monument to South America’s steadfast love for the game, the concrete colossus with a capacity of 100,000 was the main stage on which the drama of the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup unfolded – introducing the world to the irrefutable notion of football as the one truly global game.
The stadium was built to host the first World Cup in 1930 and mark the 100th anniversary of Uruguayan independence.
The Centenario stands to this day as an unforgettable and unmistakable landmark of football and national identity.
The Centenario hosted each nation at least once despite taking place on the cusp of the worst economic crisis. In addition to hosting all three knockout matches, the no-frills stadium earned FIFA President Jules Rimet’s title of “the temple of football.”
A Capital Affair
Construction of the Centenario began on 21 July 1929, but President Rimet’s vision of an event of this magnitude was inadequately supported by the capital’s infrastructure and economic safety net.
Nonetheless, local construction crews worked tirelessly to ensure the stadium was ready on time. Various construction companies were contracted to complete different parts of the job.
Under architect Juan Antonio Scasso, three shifts were organized, so construction went on 24 hours a day.
It was an effort that eventually paid off when Uruguay 1930 FIFA World Cup opener against Peru on 18 July went their way – a match the hosts won 1-0.
Despite the Centenario’s prominence as the main venue for the 1930 World Cup matches and finals, there were two other stadiums – Pocitos and Parque Central.
In the first FIFA World Cup match, just 1,000 spectators watched France beat Mexico 4-1 at Pocitos stadium.
An Echo Of The Past
Almost a century later, with the Centenario approaching its centennial, the stadium remains the home base and often impregnable fortress for the Uruguayan national team.
While playing in the Montevideo shrine, the Charruas rarely lose at the Estadio Centenario stadium, and even the top players in the world can’t match its rich history. Brazil has recorded just two official victories there in 20 attempts.
If you had your hands on one of these, you were fortunate enough to attend an event that would make history – the first FIFA World Cup in 1930.
Despite being the tournament’s first running, the tickets sold like hotcakes. Indeed, the two semi-finals drew crowds of 73,000 and 80,000, respectively, while 68,000 watched the 1930 World Cup Final.
And those spectators were undoubtedly entertained, with those three matches witnessing a whopping 20 goals and seeing the hosts Uruguay become the first World Cup champions.
1930 FIFA World Cup Four Group Winners
United States, Argentina, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia
First Semi Finals
Argentina 6 – United States 1
Second Semi Finals
Uruguay 6 – Yugoslavia 1
Third Place Playoff
Yugoslavia refused to play in the first World Cup third-place match because they were upset with the refereeing in their semi-final against Uruguay. At the end of the championship, the captains of the United States and Yugoslavia both received bronze medals.
First World Cup Final
The opening goal was scored by Uruguay’s Pablo Dorado, who hit a low shot from the right side of the field. An impressive display of passing ability resulted in a strong response from Argentina. Eight minutes later, Carlos Peucelle equalized with a Ferreira through-ball. Argentina took a 2–1 lead shortly before half-time thanks to Guillermo Stábile, the tournament’s leading goalscorer.
As the game progressed in the second half, Uruguay gradually gained momentum. Pedro Cea scored an equalizer for Uruguay after Monti missed a chance to make it 3–1. Soon after that, Santos Iriarte scored to give Uruguay a 3-1 lead, and Castro sealed the win with a 4-2 goal just before full-time in win the final match.
Final Positions And Champions
Champions – Uruguay
Runners Up – Argentina
Third Place – United States
Fourth Place – Yugoslavia
Fifth Place – Chile
Sixth Place – Brazil
Seventh Place – France
Eighth Place – Romania
Ninth Place – Paraguay
Tenth Place – Peru
Eleventh Place – Belgium
Twelfth Place – Bolivia
Thirteenth Place – Mexico
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!