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The Story Behind the First World Cup

Photography of a football soccer net. Through it can be seen the soccer field and some stadium rows of seats

Though organized football was originated by the English in 1863 in London, credit goes to the French who created the groundwork for a global tournament. The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was formed in Paris in 1904, and the FIFA World Cup was first held in 1928, when FIFA president Jules Rimet decided to stage an international football tournament.

From 1930 to 1970, the Jules Rimet Trophy was awarded to the World Cup winning team. It was originally known as the World Cup or Coupe du Monde, but in 1946 it was renamed after FIFA president Jules Rimet. In 1970, Brazil clinched its third victory, entitling them to keep the trophy permanently. However, in 1983, the trophy was stolen, and has yet, to this day, never been recovered,

The championship has been awarded every four years since the first tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it was suspended because of World War II. Spain is the reigning champion, having won the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

  • Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) are the only nations to have won consecutive titles.
  • Brazil is the most successful World Cup team (earning five titles) and also the only nation to have played in every World Cup (19) to date.
  • West Germany (1982–1990) and Brazil (1994–2002) are the only nations to appear in three consecutive World Cup finals.
  • Germany holds the most top-four finishes (12), and shares the record of most top-two finishes with Brazil (7).

Although Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden were in the running to become the first nation to host the FIFA World Cup, the ultimate choice was Uruguay. Influenced by Uruguay’s Olympic gold medal wins in 1924 and 1928 and for reasons tied to Uruguay’s offer to cover all the costs, including the travel and accommodation of the participating teams, the country went down in history as the event’s inaugural host. Held in Uruguay in 1930, the World Cup took place as a final tournament of only 13 teams (seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America) invited by the organization.

  • The first two World Cup matches were won by the USA and France, who beat Belgium 3–0 and Mexico 4–1, respectively.
  • Lucien Laurent of France scored the first goal in World Cup history. In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, securing its place in history as the first winner of the World Cup.
  • Ronaldo Lima of Brazil holds the record for most goals (15) at World Cup finals.
  • Now, 715.1 million people watch it broadcast to 204 countries on 245 channels.

Since then, the FIFA World Cup has grown to its current 32-team final tournament preceded by a two-year qualifying process, involving almost 200 teams from all over the world.

Some interesting trivia about the first World Cup:

  • Alex Villaplane, France’s captain, was executed in 1944 for collaborating with the Germans
  • Uruguay goalkeeper Antonio Mazzali became the first person to be expelled from a team after it was discovered he sneaked out of the hotel to visit his family
  • The attendance of 300 in the group match between Peru and Romania still stands as a World Cup low
  • The trophy, originally called ‘Victory’, was designed by French sculptor Abel Lafleur
  • Peru’s captain, Placido Galindo, became the first player ejected following a succession of fights in the group match against Romania
  • The American team was made up of English and Scottish émigrés
  • USA team finished third

Are you planning to attend the World Cup tournament? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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