World Cup early years

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPASTIMES -

IN June next year the World Cup will fi­nally ar­rive in Africa, af­ter 80 years of trav­el­ling be­tween Amer­ica, Europe and, in 2002, Asia.

Now that Africa has fi­nally been cho­sen to stage the fi­nals, the tour­na­ment – so long the prop­erty of Euro­peans and South Amer­i­cans – can prop­erly be called the World Cup.

Fifa, world foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body, was founded in 1904 but it took the or­gan­i­sa­tion no less than 26 years to start the World Cup. One ma­jor ob­sta­cle was World War I and its ac­ri­mo­nious af­ter­math, an­other was the Olympic foot­ball tour­na­ment, con­sid­ered to be the proper world cham­pi­onship by many peo­ple right up un­til the 1950s.

In 1926, Henri De­lau­nay, Fifa gen­eral sec­re­tary and right-hand man to pres­i­dent Jules Rimet, in­sisted on the ne­ces­sity of the World Cup by say­ing that “to­day in­ter­na­tional foot­ball can no longer be held within the con­fines of the Olympics, and many coun­tries where pro­fes­sion­al­ism is now recog­nised and or­gan­ised can­not any longer be rep­re­sented there by their best play­ers”.

Two years later, at the Am­s­ter­dam Olympics, Uruguay was cho­sen as the venue for the first World Cup, ahead of Italy, Spain, Swe­den and Hol­land, partly in hon­our of a ma­jes­tic Uruguayan side that had swept to victory at the 1924 and 1928 Olympic tour­na­ments with a flam­boy­ance that took the Euro­peans by sur­prise.

In ad­di­tion, Uruguay promised to pay the travel and ho­tel ex­penses of the vis­it­ing teams. Even so, only 12 coun­tries both­ered to make the trip. Most of the Euro­peans, in­clud­ing the four un­suc­cess­ful bid­ders, stayed at home, put off by the prospect of a te­dious three-week boat trip.

All the matches were staged in Mon­te­v­ideo, the only time that just one city has hosted a World Cup. The im­pres­sive Es­ta­dio Cen­te­nario, whose name hon­oured 100 years of Uruguayan in­de­pen­dence, was not ready for the early games be­cause of heavy win­ter rain.

As ex­pected, Uruguay and Ar­gentina – who had met in the 1928 Olympic fi­nal – also reached the 1930 fi­nal. Thou­sands of Ar­gen­tini­ans wanted to cheer on their team and spe­cial boats had to make the trip across the River Plate.

They would re­turn home dis­ap­pointed. Ar­gentina, led by the fear­some Luis Monti, went into a 2-1 lead but were over­whelmed in the sec­ond half by an elec­tric­fy­ing Uruguayan at­tack. The hosts won 4-2, Mon­te­v­ideo went wild – and the World Cup was born.

The 1934 fi­nals were awarded to Italy and the Mus­solini regime was des­per­ate for the Az­zurri to tri­umph. And tri­umph they did, thanks to the wily man­ager­ship of Vit­to­rio Pozzo, home sup­port, and Ar­gentina-born stars Monti, En­rique Guaita and Raimundo Orsi.

This tal­ented trio were the first of 12 play­ers to turn out for both Ar­gentina and Italy, un­til this was banned by Fifa in 1963.

It was Orsi who saved Italy in the 1934 fi­nal against Cze­choslo­vakia, mak­ing it 1-1 with an as­ton­ish­ing free kick just nine min­utes from full time. An­gelo Schi­avio scored the win­ner for Italy in ex­tra time, to the de­light of the watch­ing Muss­solini.

The fol­low­ing day Orsi tried, but failed, to re­peat his free kick for the ben­e­fit of pho­tog­ra­phers and jour­nal­ists.

Uruguay had re­fused to go to Italy be­cause of the Ital­ians’ ab­sence in 1930. Uruguay also re­fused to take part in 1938, in protest at the tour­na­ment be­ing again awarded to a Euro­pean coun­try, France, in­stead of al­ter­nat­ing across the At­lantic.

Six­teen teams took part in 1934 and eight cities were used. Brazil and Ar­gentina made the long trip only to play one game, be­cause a straight knock­out for­mat was used in­stead of a group sys­tem.

Pozzo changed his team dras­ti­cally for the 1938 tour­na­ment in France but tri­umphed again, beat­ing Hun­gary 4-2 in the fi­nal with two goals apiece from Gino Co­laussi and Sil­vio Pi­ola.

Sadly, it would be the last World Cup match un­til 1950 be­cause of World War II.

The 1950 tour­na­ment, held in

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