The Origins and Secrets of the First World Cup in 1930

The Origins and Secrets of the First World Cup in 1930


  • Period: from 13 to 30 July 1930.
  • Organizing Country:
  • Host city: Montevideo, with 3 stadiums.
  • Final ranking: Uruguay 1st, Argentina 2nd, Yugoslavia 3rd, United States 4th.
  • Participating teams: 13
  • Total viewers:500.
  • Spectators per match (average):139.
  • Games played:
  • Goals scored:
  • Goals per game: 3,88.
  • Penalties awarded: 3.
  • Players lined up:
  • Players sent off:
  • The youngest: Carvalho Leita (Brazil), at 18 years and 65 days.
  • The veteran: Rafael Gutierrez (Mexico), at 34 years and 149 days old.
  • Top scorer: Guillermo Stabile (Argentina) with 8 goals.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a football tournament was always organized at the Summer Olympics. It is about the 1900 Olympics, which for the first time in history included the sport of football.

In subsequent editions, the World Cup, played within the Olympics, goes to:

Stockholm 1912: United Kingdom

Antwerp 1920: Belgium

Paris 1924: Uruguay

Amsterdam 1928: Uruguay

FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) couldn’t agree on the status of amateur players, so FIFA decided to hold a football world tournament outside of the Olympics. This was the first World Cup. On May 26, 1928, in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, FIFA President Jules Rimet announced plans to host a football tournament independent of the 1930 Olympic Games. On May 18, 1929, FIFA announced at the Barcelona Congress that the World Cup would take place in Uruguay. In retaliation, the IOC decided to exclude football as a sport from the 1932 Olympics.

The choice of Uruguay for the first FIFA World Cup

There are several reasons why Uruguay was selected as the host country. Uruguay, at the time, was the champion of the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, and the country was celebrating its 100th anniversary. When the Federation of Uruguay offered to reimburse all expenses, such as travel and accommodation expenses, of the participating teams, it became clear that Uruguay would be chosen as the first country to host a World Cup. Other countries such as Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, and Spain, who had announced their candidacy to host the World Cup, withdrew in favor of Uruguay.

Jules Rimet

 Teams participating in the World Cup

The choice of Uruguay does not appeal to the European teams, who first withdraw their candidacies and then give up participating in the competition. Among these, there is also Italy, as well as Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland, all with very competitive teams.

This was the only edition that did not see qualifications, but it was enough to accept the invitation to be automatically qualified. Thus, the teams from countries that were close to each other decided to take part, with 9 teams from the Americas coming.

The only African representatives, Egypt, were due to join them, only for their boat from Africa to get slowed down by a storm, and they left without them.

It is also the only edition featuring more countries from South America than from Europe. Four countries from Europe participated: France, Belgium, Yugoslavia (Kingdom of Yugoslavia) and Romania. Two countries from North/Central America and the Caribbean are the USA and Mexico.

The deadline for submitting the candidacy was February 28, 1930, and everything was silent from the Europeans. Many European countries refused, because Uruguay was too far away.

Jules Rimet intervened using his political connections as well. Four European countries decided at the last minute to participate in the 1930 World Cup: Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

Scotland and England made it a matter of principle, refusing the invitation because they considered themselves the inventors of football and therefore world champions. Because of the same reason, these national teams did not play in the next tournaments in Italy and France.

  • Europe: (Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, Romania)
  • South America: (Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru)
  • North/Central America: (Mexico, United States)


The stadiums of the World Cup 1930

Only 3 stadiums were used for the 1930 World Cup matches, the lowest number in the history of this competition. All matches took place in one single city: The Uruguayan capital, Montevideo.

The Estadio Centenario was built specifically for the 1930 World Cup and as part of Uruguay’s 100th anniversary. It was originally planned that all World Cup matches would take place at this stadium, but because the stadium was completed only five days after the start of the World Cup, Estadio Parque Central and Estadio Pocitos were also used. The semi-finals and final were played at the Estadio Centenario.

  • Centenary Stadium:9.000
  • Stadio Gran Parque Central:20.000
  • Pocitos Stadium:1.000

The kick-off of the World Cup

On the program was the inauguration of the World Cup, with the opening ceremony taking place at the brand new Centenary Stadium. During this ceremony, it was also necessary to celebrate the centennial of the constitution of Uruguay and to follow the first ever match of the World Cup played by the hosts of Uruguay.

Too bad, however, that the facility was not ready for July 13, so Uruguay made its debut only 5 days after the start of the competition, and the same opening ceremony was held after the World Cup had already begun.

The first game to start was France vs Mexico, played in front of 1,000 people in the Pocitos stadium on July 13, 1930, starting at 15 local time. A few minutes later, the first match of group 3, between the United States and Belgium, was played in front of 20,000 people in the Gran Parque Central stadium.

The first goal of the World Cup went to the Frenchman Lucien Laurent in the 19th minute of the match played at Pocitos.

A World Cup without draws

The World Cup formula included a group stage, with 2 points for the winner and one point in the event of a tie. The semi-finalists who would play direct elimination would come out of the four groups.

In direct elimination, in the event of a tie, it would have gone to extra time, and in the event of the persistence of the tie, the match would have been replayed. During the whole World Cup, there were 18 games played, and none of them ended in a draw, and all ended within 90 minutes.


First stage

Group 1



Group 2



Group 3



Group 4




  1. Argentina-USA 6-1 (July 26, 1930 at 14:45, Centenary of Montevideo)
  2. Uruguay-Yugoslavia 6-1 (July 27, 1930 at 14:45, Centenary of Montevideo)



Uruguay-Argentina 4-2 (July 30, 1930 at 14:45, Centenary of Montevideo)

The mystery of the third place

The third place final was officially created only in 1934, but for the 1930 edition, there is a lot of uncertainty. When the semi-finals were over, Yugoslavia said they didn’t want to play because they didn’t like the referee’s decision, which they thought was a big favor for the hosts.

Milutin Ivković, the captain of Yugoslavia, and Tom Florie, the captain of the United States, both won bronze medals at the end of the competition. This made both teams third.

The mystery was born in 1984 when a FIFA bulletin spoke of a match that ended 3-1 in favor of the Slavs. FIFA, on the other hand, published its own World Cup rankings in 1986, making this match obsolete and giving the United States third place because they had the best goal difference. This made the United States third.

The 1930 World Cup final

The competition evidently began a little quietly, but by the time the final act was reached, the rivalry and hostilities had definitely increased. The final was between Argentina and Uruguay, which in those years had dominated football in South America. The same final, for example, was played only two years earlier in the Olympics, and it is estimated that the two teams, before the 1930 final, had already clashed 116 times.

This rivalry made the Argentines arrive en masse in Uruguay. It’s thought that 30 thousand Argentines were on land on the Uruguayan coasts, which made it hard for naval control and pushed back operations. Many Argentines landed only after the start of the game.

The stadium, the brand new Centenary of Montevideo, had a capacity of 90 thousand people, but it is estimated that 4 hours after the opening of the gates and 2 hours before the start of the match, there were already 93 thousand people present.

The threats and the episodes of the eve

On the eve of the match, there were many episodes, reported later, which saw all the protagonists of the final as victims. Uruguayan and Argentine fans worked hard to send death threats to the opposing teams. Another thing that happened: People stormed the hotels where the two teams were staying. They wanted to wake up the players of the other teams.

The problems with the referee

The climate was so tense that the designated referee, the Belgian John Langenus, decided to accept the designation only 2 hours before the start of the match, demanding from FIFA:

  • life insurance in favor of their family members.
  • A ship was ready to wait for him and would sail within an hour of the end of the match.
  • An armed escort made up of 100 policemen.

Before starting the match, the same referee, Langenus, designated his will, which he delivered to the Belgian consul in Montevideo.


Upon arrival at the stadium, the referee was arrested, as before him, 13 people had already pretended to be the referee to enter the stadium. He had to get help from the Belgian consul and the tailor who made the match official’s suit to get the police to let him go.

The snow in the final

In addition, the weather was a little weird. It snowed in Montevideo, which is very unusual for the city and even more unusual for a World Cup game.

The ball

So FIFA had not decreed who should carry the ball to play the final, so both national teams showed up with their own, demanding to play the match with the ball they knew best.

With the help of a coin, referee Langenus decided to play the first half with the Argentina ball and the second with the Uruguay one.

It was the ball of the hosts that ended up under investigation, since, according to the Argentines, it was harder and heavier and therefore favorable for the hosts.


The champion team of Uruguay:

  • GK: Enrique Ballestero
  • DF: Ernesto Mascheroni
  • DF: Joséo Nasazzi
  • MF: José Leandro Andrade
  • MF: Lorenzo Fernández
  • MF: Álvaro Gestido
  • FW: Héctor Scarone
  • FW: Pablo Dorado
  • FW: Pedro Cea
  • FW: Santos Iriartre
  • FW: Héctor Castro
  • Head coach: Alberto Suppici


For a period following the final, the relationship between the two nations would be harmed. Players on the Argentine team had been intimidated by fans before the game, with one player having received death threats. Argentine fans would also claim to have been mistreated throughout the event. In retaliation, residents destroyed the Uruguayan embassy in Buenos Aires, and the government cut off ties with its neighbor.