Centenario celebrations set the tone
The attire may have changed. The stewarding and security arrangements most certainly have. But while the FIFA World Cup™ and its fans have evolved over the decades, the passion the tournament inspires remains very much the same.
Indeed, just as hundreds of thousands of Argentinians crossed into Brazil to follow their team’s journey to the 2014 Final, so a similar exodus took place for the very first World Cup in 1930. The fans in this image had made the journey across the River Plate to Montevideo for the semi-finals, and their reward – a thumping 6-1 victory over USA at the Estadio Centenario – is reflected in the jubilation on show.
The match was not as one-sided as the scoreline might suggest, though, with the Americans having gone in at half-time just 1-0 behind. The seeds of their demise had been sown in that bruising opening 45, though, during which goalkeeper James Douglas had badly twisted his knee and Ralph Tracy suffered a broken right leg.
There was also a comical incident when the team’s trainer Jack Coll, dropped his medical bag as he entered the field to attend to an injured player, bursting open a container of chloroform in the process. The fumes overcame Coll himself, meaning that he – rather than the player he was intending to treat – required carrying from the field.
Tracy, for his part, showed remarkable fortitude by playing on with that broken leg until the interval. But he could not continue and, reduced to ten men – this being decades before substitutes were permitted - the US crumbled. Taking full advantage of their numerical superiority, Argentina ruthlessly raced into a six-goal lead, with three of their second-half goals coming in a dazzling seven-minute spell.
Their victory sparked huge excitement across the border, where ten boats were immediately chartered to ferry fans across the River Plate for the Final – only for thousands of fans to cram into the centre of Buenos Aires clamouring for more. Eventually, it was estimated that over 30,000 Argentinians – only a third of whom had tickets – made the journey. When those supporters arrived, they found Montevideo in a similar state of feverish excitement to Buenos Aires, with the Centenario packed out fully two hours before the Final began.
This time, though, there would be no celebrations for the Albiceleste enthusiasts. Uruguay, who had beaten their neighbours in the Olympic final just two years earlier, repeated the feat to become the first-ever winners of the FIFA World Cup. Argentina’s wait would go on for another 48 years.
Did you know? The runners-up medal belonging to Argentina’s Guillermo Stabile, who scored twice in this semi-final en route to becoming top scorer at the 1930 World Cup, is on display at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.