Thursday, June 08, 2006

Uruguay 1930

I'm hoping that, through the medium of staying up all night and sitting here smoking copious cigarettes and drinking industrial-strength coffee, to get through each World Cup before the tournament starts. If it almost certainly an effort that will end in tears, but I like to push myself every now and again. The success of the Olympic football was the major spur towards the formation of the tournament. Although FIFA had been formed in 1904, the prevailing belief of the game's governing body was that they needed to wrest control of it from the IOC, and thus, in 1928, the decision was made to host a tournament in two years' time. There were, perhaps surprisingly, no shortage of applicants to stage the first tournament, at least in the first place. Much as today, the varying competing interests into blocs, and pretty soon six applicants had been dwindled down to just two, Italy and Uruguay. The key reasons behind Uruguay getting the nod were two-fold. Firstly, the Europeans were split over whether to support them, whereas South America. Secondly, Uruguay had an were the reigning Olympic champions, and was also celebrating it's centenary as a republic. Uruguay got the nod. Of course, in 1930, there were no planes. Anybody wishing to take part had to an endure a six week boat journey to get there. The home nations, even though they had recently joined FIFA, declined to have anything to do with it. In the end, only four European nations, Romania, Yugoslavia, France and Belgium could make the trip. And it was a fairly miserable time for all of them. There would be thirteen entrants divided into four groups, and the winners of each group would then play the semi-finals.

Group A: Argentina, Chile, France & Mexico: The strongest European team, France, started convincingly enough, with a 4-1 win against Mexico, but it soon became apparent where the real power in this tournament lie, after they were edged out 1-0 by Argentina in their second match. The final group match, between Argentina and Chile became a winner-takes-all virtual semi-final, but the Argentines won comfortably, by three goals to one, to ease their way through to the last four.

Group B: Yugoslavia, Brazil & Bolivia: The surprise team of the tournament were Yugoslavia, who saw off one of the favourites, Brazil, 2-1 in their opening match. Their qualification was assured with a 4-0 thrashing of Bolivia in the second match.

Group C: Uruguay, Peru & Romania: The only thing I know about the Romanian royal family is that King Karol was his national team's coach at the 1930 finals. Fat load of good it did them. Although they beat the hapless Peruvians in their opening match, they were seen off by the hosts with four first-half goals in the group decider. The Peru-Romania match was watch, incidentally, by a crowd reported as bring 300. It's small wonder that they conceded four goals so quickly against the hosts. The crowd in Montevideo for that game was 70000.

Group D: USA, Belgium & Paraguay: Okay. What's the furthest that the USA has ever got in the World Cup? The quarter-finals, four years ago? The second round, in 1994? Nope. They reached the semis in 1930, seeing off Paraguay and Belgium with identical 3-0 scorelines. U-S-A! U-S-A!

The Semi-Finals: The World Cup has never seen susch lop-sided semi-finals, and I doubt that it ever will again. Argentina and Uruguay saw off the USA and Yugoslavia by identical 6-1 scorelines, although the Slavs did at least have the honour of taking an early lead against the hosts. If you're looking for a sign that the World Cup was coming of age, the combined attendance for these two matches was 173000.

The Final - Uruguay 4-2 Argentina

There are so many great facts about the first World Cup final that it's difficult to know where to start. Uruguay had a one-armed centre-forward called Castro (front row centre in the above picture, that's the stump resting on his right knee). The referee wore plus-fours. Argentina's second goal was reputedly so far offside that there was almost a riot. As it turned out, Uruguay were pushed all the way by their neighbours. They took an early lead, but were pegged back to 2-1, before getting back on terms and taking the lead at 3-2 with a twenty-five yard volley from Santos Iriarte. Even with that lead, it was a tight thing. Argentina hit the cross-bar and continued to push forward, before... Castro, the one-armed striker who had been controversially dropped after scoring the only goal of their nervy opening match against Peru, headed home in the last minute to seal things. If the writers of "Escape To Victory" had submitted this as the plot for the match part of the film, it would have been turned down as too unlikely. The World Cup had arrived.


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