Lucien Laurent, the first World Cup goalscorer 

To mark the 90th anniversary of the first goal ever scored at the FIFA World Cup, recalls the career of the man who scored it: Lucien Laurent of France.

Firsts are never forgotten. In scoring the first ever goal in FIFA World Cup™ history, in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo on 13 July 1930, France’s Lucien Laurent set his side on the road to a 4-1 victory over Mexico and wrote his name in the football record books. Modest to a fault, however, Laurent barely spoke about his legendary contribution to the game in the years that followed.

Capped ten times by his country, he ended his career as player-coach at Besancon before buying a bar, where he very rarely discussed his 19th-minute volley against the Mexicans. “ Liberati put the cross in,” was all he would say if the topic came up, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Memories of his goal first came flooding back at a gala dinner held by the organisers of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™. “I knew he’d played for France and taken part in the World Cup but that was it,” said his son Marc, with whom Laurent spent his final years.

By the time France 1998 came around, the former Sochaux player was virtually a national treasure, speaking at length as he dug deep into his memories and recalled tales that are part of World Cup folklore, such as the team’s voyage to Uruguay on the Italian liner Conte Verde, which set sail from Villefranche-sur-Mer on 19 June 1930. “Fifteen days to get there and 15 days to come back,” recalled Laurent.

The French team prior to their FIFA World Cup match against Mexico at the Parque Central in Montevideo, 13th July 1930. France won 4-1. Back row (left-right): Augustin Chantrel, Marcel Pinel, Alexis Thepot, Marcel Capelle, Etienne Mattler, Alexandre Villaplane, unknown official. Front row: Ernest Liberati, Edmond Delfour, Andre Maschinot, Lucien Laurent, Marcel Langiller.

A Uruguayan odyssey

The France squad was joined on the ship by the Belgium and Romania players and a number of dignitaries, among them Laurent’s fellow Frenchman Jules Rimet, the then FIFA president and the founder of the World Cup.

“The French federation had a job getting a team together because several of the players they selected had to pull out,” explained Laurent. “Their bosses wouldn’t let them take two months off. I worked for Peugeot at the time, as did three of my team-mates: my brother Jean, Andre Maschinot and Etienne Mattler.”

The voyage was free of incident, the peace and tranquillity of the crossing only being broken by the sound of the three teams jogging on the deck.

France played their opening match of the tournament at Pocitos, Penarol’s home ground. Built especially for the competition, the now-legendary Estadio Centenario was not quite ready in time to host the match.

“When I scored my goal, which was the first of the tournament and my first for France, we congratulated each other but without jumping all over one another like they do now,” added Laurent, who was a somewhat critical observer of modern-day football: “There’s too much bad behaviour, too much cheating and not enough respect for the opposition and the referee. And international players are looked after like babies these days. Everything gets done for them, whereas we had to sort things out for ourselves.”

In France’s second match, a 1-0 defeat to Argentina, Laurent suffered an ankle injury and had to stand out on the left wing, those being the days when no substitutes were allowed. That injury kept him out of France’s third and final match against Chile, which ended in another 1-0 loss.

There was also emotion in his voice when he recalled his second and last international goal, which came against England in a friendly played on 14 May 1931. “We were still amateurs, while the English were already professionals,” he said.

Laurent died on 11 April 2005 in Besancon, but he will always be remembered for the part he played in the history of the World Cup.

Lucien Laurent in brief

  • Born: 10 December 1907, Saint-Maur-des-Fosses (France)

  • Height: 1.62m

  • Weight: 65kg

  • Position: Midfielder

  • Caps: 10

  • Goals: 2

Laurent's France career

  • 1 August 1930: BRAZIL 3-2 FRANCE (unofficial)

  • 23 February 1930: PORTUGAL 2-0 FRANCE

  • 13 April 1930: FRANCE 1-6 BELGIUM

  • 13 July 1930: MEXICO 1-4 FRANCE

  • 15 July 1930: ARGENTINA 1-0 FRANCE

  • 15 March 1931: FRANCE 1-0 GERMANY

  • 14 May 1931: FRANCE 5-2 ENGLAND

  • 29 November 1931: FRANCE 3-4 NETHERLANDS

  • 20 March 1932: SWITZERLAND 3-3 FRANCE

  • 10 April 1932: FRANCE 1-2 ITALY

  • 19 May 1935: FRANCE 2-0 HUNGARY