Directly across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires in Argentina, lies the Uruguayan city of Colonia del Sacramento. Today fast ferries transport people across the river in 50 minutes.
However, in 1930 reports say that boats of every shape and size ferried soccer fans across the river as thousands of Argentines crossed into Uruguay to watch the 1930 World Cup final played between the two countries.
Bitter rivals on the soccer field, then and now, Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay where the first World Cup was played lies 200 kilometres down river from Buenos Aires.
The final was played in the newly constructed Centenario Stadium in Montevideo, the ground surrounded by a moat and its capacity reduced, by all accounts, from 100,000 to 75,000 for security reasons.
Argentine centre half Luisito Monti had received a death in the days just before the final and fans were searched for weapons on the way in. The referee John Langenus from Belgium was dressed in his usual plus-fours and demanded a guarantee of protection and is said to have had a quick escape route planned to a ship in the harbour in case of trouble.
Before the game he was faced with a critical decision. Which ball to use? Argentina wanted to use a ball made in that country, Uruguay wanted a ball made in Uruguay. Langenus was diplomatic, and chose a different ball for each half of the game. Pablo Dorado opened the scoring for Uruguay in the 12th minute, while Carlos Peucelle equalized for Argentine in the 20th minute. Guillermo Stabile gave Argentina the lead eight minutes before the interval.
But it was all Uruguay in the second half with Pedro Cea leveling the scores after 57 minutes and Santos Iriarte putting Uruguay ahead in the 68th while Hector Castro made it 4-2 one minute from the end.
FIFA awarded the honour of holding the first World Cup to Uruguay at the Congress held in Barcelona in 1929. In addition to Uruguay, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands had all applied to be host.
But, the small South American country, celebrating its centenary in 1930, offered to pay all the costs including the accommodation for the teams. At the time Uruguay were Olympic champions having won the gold medal in 1924 and 1928.
However, teams from Europe were reluctant to enter, due to political differences and the time it would take by ship to reached South America.
Then at the time the British nations, and Canada, were not members of FIFA having withdrawn in 1928 over broken time payments to amateurs in the Olympic Football Tournament.
Consequently only 13 nations took part and were divided into four groups. Group One included Argentina, Chile, France and Mexico. Group Two, Bolivia, Brazil and Yugoslavia. Group Three, Peru. Romania and Uruguay. Group Four, Belgium, Paraguay and the United States.
The U.S. team sailed from Hoboken, New Jersey on board the S.S. Munargo on June 13, 1930 and arrived in Montevideo on July 1, after a stop over in Brazil. It was winter in the southern hemisphere and the players reported being bothered by the cold and the penetrating dampness.
The American team contained six players who were born in Britain, five Scots and one Englishman. However, despite many stories to the contrary only one of those players was a former British professional.
In fact most of them had come to the U.S. before they were teenagers, and like most of the rest of the team were playing in the professional American Soccer League of the day.
On opening day the Americans played Belgium and won 3-0, while France played Mexico and won 4-1. The early part of the competition being played at the homes of the great Uruguayan clubs Nacional and Penerol, the main stadium still being under construction.
On July 17, the U.S. won its second game also by a 3-0 score with centre forward Bert Patenaude, scoring all three goals. The first World Cup hat trick, and this qualified the Americans for the semifinals.
Argentina with wins over France and Mexico also qualified for one semi-final and would play the U.S, while Uruguay and Yugoslavia would meet in the other. Both semi-finals were played in the new Centenario Stadium.
Argentina led the U.S. 1-0 at half time, in their game, but the Americans had goalkeeper Jimmy Douglas injured early in the game and centre half Ralph Tracey is claimed to have broken his leg and didn’t play in the second half.
With ten men and an injury to left half Andy Auld, the U.S. with virtually eight fit men, eventually lost 6-1. Uruguay won the other semi-final by the same score thus leading to an all South American final.
Four years later the second World Cup was staged in Italy. Champions Uruguay stayed home piqued by the snub of the European nations who failed to attend in 1930.
This time it was a sudden death competition, one loss and you were on your way home. Italy won beating Czechoslovakia in the final.
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