World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Uruguay 1930

Uruguay and the first World Cup

Football fans flushed with excitement for this year’s World Cup in South Africa to kick-off should thank Jules Rimet and the International Olympic Committee.

The Olympic football tournament had been the pinnacle of the World game for a number of years until FIFA and the IOC fell out over whether professionals could take part.

When the IOC decided to cut the sport from its schedule for the 1932 Olymics in Los Angeles, FIFA president Jules Rimet decided that the governing body should organise its own global tournament.

And thus the World Cup was born.

However, the 1930 tournament in Uruguay, the South American’s picked as hosts as reigning Olympic champions, was fraught with organizational difficulties.

With South America some distance away (by 1930 standards) and just 13 teams entered, only four came in from Europe – Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia after being coaxed into entering by Rimet and the Uruguayan promise to pay their boat fare.

Famously, not part of FIFA at the time, none of the home nations decided to enter the tournament, with the English FA turning down a personal request from Rimet to play.

The opening game of the tournament, the first World Cup match in history, is a yardstick for the progress football has made. Just 3,000 fans saw France beat Mexico 4-1 at the Estadio Pocitos in Motevideo. Just days later, a game in the same stadium between Romania and Peru drew a crowd of just 300.

Despite the lack of interest in some of the visiing nations, there was significant local support for eventual winners Uruguay.

Their victory over a strong Argentina side in the final was watched by almost 100,000 fans and helped cement football as the region’s number one sport.

And despite its kinks and a general reluctance by Europe to embrace it, the tournament fuelled something bigger.

It was the very first tournamnet which turned a game watched by thousands into a religion worshipped by billions.


World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Brazil 1950

The Maracanazo

Never count your chickens before they hatch – even if you’re the Brazilian national football team.

Brazil were the hosts of the 1950 World Cup and, after cruising through their group then hammering Spain and Sweden 6-1 and 7-1 respectively, looked like favourites to clinch the crown.

Uruguay, on the other hand, champions from the first world up in 1930, had battered the Bolivians 8-0 but could only scrape a draw with the Spanish.

Rather than a straight knock-out format following the first group stage, this tournament entered a second round robin phase and prior to the game Brazil were just one point ahead of Uruguay.

With that slender lead going into the all-important game at the Maracana, which had opened earlier that year, Brazil only needed a draw to claim their first title.

The hosts, intent on attacking, threw wave after wave of attacks at their opponents, which the Uruguayans managed to fend off. After Brazil managed to claw their way in front on 47 minutes, rather than powering on to victory, the momentum swung in favour of the visitors.

While Juan Alberto Schiaffino’s equaliser may not have dampened the crowd, one point being enough to hand the trophy to Brazil, the atmosphere changed 11 minutes before time when Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia struck the winner.

The extent of Brazilian over-confidence is still cringeworthy even 60 years on.

The host’s football federation had to bin a batch of engraved gold medals which would never be worn as well as ditching a Brazil victory song, which would never be heard.

Not even entertaining the belief that they may actually lose the game, the Brazilian crowd stood silently aghast believing Brazil’s name to be on the trophy.

The victory ceremony, one of the most bizarre and low-key in history, saw a stunned FIFA president Jules Rimet hand the trophy, without pomp and ceremony, to Uruguay captain Obdulia Varela.

What was the follow changed the face of Brazilian football forever, the white shirts with blue trim worn in the final were discarded, with Brazil adopting the famous yellow shirts worn today.

On a more sinister note, the brunt of the blame went on Brazil keeper Moacir Barbosa, with the national side not picking another black keeper until Nelson Dida, for fear they were bad luck.

The match hit the bewildered Brazilian public so hard it has been labelled the Maracanazo – roughly translated the Maracana Blow.