The inaugural FIFA World Cup was staged in Uruguay in 1930 and was played from July 13th to July 30th 1930.
Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Uruguay all lodged applications to host the event. Uruguay was the eventual choice as they were the reigning Olympic Champions (1928), the country was celebrating the centenary of its first constitution and their bid included the building of a new stadium as the World Cup centerpiece. The Uruguayan authorities also offered to refund the expenses of all participants. The other nations withdrew their bids, and Uruguay was chosen to host the tournament at a FIFA congress at Barcelona in 1929. All matches were then played in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, the majority at the centerpiece stadium – Estadio Centenario.
The first World Cup was the only one without qualification. Every country affiliated with FIFA was invited to compete, and given a deadline of 28 February 1930 to accept. Plenty of interest was shown by nations in the Americas; Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the United States all entered. A total of seven South American teams participated, more than in any subsequent World Cup Finals. However, because of the long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean, and the length of absence required for players, very few European teams were inclined to take part. Some refused to countenance travel to South America in any circumstances, and no European entries were received before the February deadline. In an attempt to gain some European participation, the Uruguayan Football Association sent a letter of invitation to the Football Association, even though the Home Nations were not members of FIFA at the time. This was rejected by the FA Committee on 18 November 1929. Two months before the start of the tournament, no team from Europe had officially entered.
FIFA president Jules Rimet intervened, and eventually four European teams made the trip by sea: Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The Romanians, managed by Constantin Rădulescu and coached by their captain Rudolf Wetzer and Octav Luchide, entered the competition following the intervention of newly crowned King Carol II. He selected the squad personally, and negotiated with employers to ensure that the players would still have jobs upon their return. The French entered at the personal intervention of Rimet, but neither France’s star defender Manuel Anatol nor the team’s regular coach Gaston Barreau could be persuaded to make the trip. The Belgians participated at the instigation of FIFA vice-president Rodolphe Seeldrayers.
The Romanians boarded the SS Conte Verde at Genoa for the 15 day voyage, the French were picked up at Villefranche-sur-Mer on 21 June 1930 and the Belgians embarked at Barcelona. The Conte Verde carried Rimet, the trophy and the three designated European referees: the Belgians Jean Langenus and Henri Christophe, along with Thomas Balway, a Parisian who may have been English. The Brazilian team were picked up when the boat docked in Rio de Janeiro on 29 June before arriving in Uruguay on 4 July. Yugoslavia travelled via the mail steamship Florida from Marseille.
All matches took place in Montevideo. Three stadiums were used: Estadio Centenario, Estadio Pocitos, and Estadio Parque Central. The Estadio Centenario was built both for the tournament and as a celebration of the centenary of Uruguayan independence. Designed by Juan Scasso, it was the primary stadium for the tournament, referred to by Rimet as a “temple of football”. With a capacity of 90,000, it was the largest football stadium outside the British Isles. The stadium hosted 10 of the 18 matches, including both semi-finals and the final. However, a rushed construction schedule and delays caused by the rainy season meant the Centenario was not ready for use until five days into the tournament. Early matches were played at smaller stadiums usually used by Montevideo football clubs Nacional and Peñarol, the 20,000 capacity Parque Central and the Pocitos.
A golden trophy known as “The Goddess of Victory” was commissioned from French sculptor Abel Lafleur.
Eventually thirteen teams (seven from South America, four from Europe, and two from North America) entered the tournament. Few European teams chose to participate because of the difficulty of travelling to South America. The teams were divided into four groups, with the winner of each group progressing to the semi-finals. The first two World Cup matches took place simultaneously, and were won by France and the United States, who defeated Mexico 4–1 and Belgium 3–0, respectively. Lucien Laurent of France scored the first goal in World Cup history, while American goalkeeper Jimmy Douglas posted the first official “clean sheet” in the tournament.
Argentina, Uruguay, United States and Yugoslavia each won their respective groups to qualify for the semi-finals. In the final, hosts and pre-tournament favourites Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people, and became the first nation to win the World Cup.
The 1930 FIFA World Cup is located in Uruguay