Global Legacy – Looking back at the very first World Cup Final

So France and Croatia will face off in the 21st World Cup final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow this Sunday. The pictures and videos of people celebrating in Paris and Zagreb over the past few days show that the World Cup remains the most sought after price in all of sport.

Over a billion people watched the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany four years ago and don’t be surprised if that record is broken after this Sunday’s final.

Most people will agree that football and in particular the World Cup final, have just become another form of corporate greed that focuses on sponsorships and mutual back slapping from old men in suits.

However, while football and the powers that be at FIFA remain clouded in controversy, the magic of the World Cup final somehow remains intact, even if the matches are usually boring as hell.

While there have been some amazing moments in World Cup finals over the last 88 years from Brazil’s team goal, to Geoff Hurst’s hat trick to Zidane’s head butt, the World Cup final has given us memories that still live on to this day.

Of course it wasn’t always like this; the World Cup went on for nearly 30 years without really capturing the world’s imagination

Thanks to the advent of television in the late 1950s, football fans around the world were finally able to see the players they had heard so much about light up the 1958 final, from Garrincha to the boy wonder Pelé.

But what about the first World Cup final all the way back in 1930, who played in the final, who were the star players and what is the legacy of the first World Cup Final.

Choppy waters to Uruguay

Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Hungary and Uruguay all launched respective bids to be the host of the very first World Cup, before the decision could be put to a vote Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Hungary all withdrew their bids for reasons that remain unclear, leaving Uruguay the only candidate to host the inaugural tournament.

Uruguay were the best international team in the world at that time, having won back to back gold medals at the two previous Olympics.

All matches were played in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, with the 90,000 capacity Estadio Centenario being specifically built for the tournament.

While nowadays we are used to long drawn out process in order to secure qualification for the World Cup, the first FIFA World Cup was the only one without qualification, as every country affiliated with FIFA at the time was invited to participate.

With the tournament being hosted by Uruguay, teams from the America’s such as Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the United States all entered.

However, Europe was in the midst of an economic crisis and because of the long and costly trip by ship across the Atlantic, along with clubs having to give up their best players for two months, no European team entered before the February 1930 deadline.

FIFA president Jules Rimet was desperate for his big World tournament to feature as many teams as possible, so after much cajoling, four European teams Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia made the journey, with Belgium, France and Romania travelling on the same ship, picking up Brazil along the way.

And so the first ever FIFA World Cup got underway on the 13th July 1930 with thirteen teams participating in the tournament.

Over the years the format for the World Cup has changed as the tournament has gotten bigger and bigger, for the 1930 World Cup the format was very straight forward, whoever finished top of one of the four groups would qualify for the semi-finals, nice and simple and thankfully for FIFA the group stages went off without a hitch.

Route to the final

Nowadays teams are able to do tactical reports on every opponent, back in 1930 this wasn’t the case and teams knew very little about one another. This put the European teams at a distinct disadvantage.

After a late goal helped them get off the mark against France, Argentina were the early favourites sweeping aside every other opponent in Group One.

In Group Two Yugoslavia were the only European team who made any impact on the tournament, disposing of Brazil and Bolivia to reach the semi-finals.

Group Three consisted of hosts Uruguay, who brushed aside Romania and Peru to reach the semi-finals. In the fourth and final group the United States eased past Belgium and Paraguay to be the final team in the semi-finals.

So the winner of Group One Argentina faced off against The United States. Although the US team had easily got out of their group, they were no match for Argentina, who scored six goals to dump the Americans out of the tournament 6-1.

Not to be outdone in the other semi-final, the winner of Group Three, Uruguay, demolished Yugoslavia by the same score line to set up an all South American final.

The Final

So on July 30th 1930 the first World Cup final was held at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, kicking off at 14:15 local time.

Six hours before the match was due to begin the gates to the Estadio Centenario were opened to allow for supporters to get to the ground in plenty of time. By noon the stadium was full to capacity and 93,000 people braced themselves for the first ever World Cup final.

In the days prior to the match, a disagreement between the football associations of Uruguay and Argentina overshadowed the build-up to the match. What this disagreement was about? Who would provide the match ball. Eventually referee John Langenus came up with a solution that suited both teams, Argentina would provide the ball for the first half and Uruguay for the second.

Finally the match kicked off and Uruguay took an early lead thanks to Pablo Dorado, however Argentina struck back eight minutes later with Carlos Peucelle levelling the match up.

With their tails up Argentina began dominating and a few minutes before half time, they went 2-1 thanks to Guillermo Stábile scoring his eight goal of the tournament.

The second half kicked off with Uruguay dominating and 12 minutes into the second half they equalised thanks to Pedro Cea. Then, ten minutes later, Santos Iriarte put the Uruguayans back in the lead with a great strike from outside the box.

Finally in the last minute of normal time, Héctor Castro – who had lost his right arm in an accident with an electric saw as a child – sealed the victory for Uruguay with a header.

Uruguay became the first country to win a World Cup, FIFA president Jules Rimet, who the trophy would be later named after, presented the World Cup trophy to Uruguay captain José Nasazzi.

The next day was declared a national holiday in Uruguay as thousands filled the streets to celebrate this achievement.

The first ever FIFA World Cup was deemed a remarkable success, both from a sporting perspective and more importantly for FIFA financially.


Sadly all of the players who participated in the 1930 World Cup final have all since passed away, with the last player, Francisco Varallo, who played that day as a striker for Argentina died in 2010 at the age of 100.

Uruguay would go onto win the tournament again in 1950 and Argentina would return to the final in 1978 winning their first World Cup on home soil.

Ever since the FIFA World Cup and the final itself, have grown to levels that Jules Rimet could never have dreamed of when he first floated the idea of a world tournament to FIFA members in the late 1920s.

The first World Cup was the beginning of a new era in world football and even back those who participated in the tournament saw that it had huge potential in terms of entertainment, unity and joy on a global scale and thankfully that is still the case today.

The Author

Evan Coughlan

I bloody love football

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