Until 1930 the Olympic Games were the unofficial world championships. In the 1924 and 1928 Olympics little Uruguay had taken the European nations by storm by taking the gold medals twice in a row.
South America was thus emerging as the main power of football, not only by tactical and physical qualities, but also on how they played: many passes, speed and technical prowess that was unprecedented in European football, and eventually changed the game of football itself.
It had been discussed before to hold a World Cup, and after Julet Rimet became FIFA Secretary General, and the fact that football was taken out by the 1932 Olympics, FIFA decided to give the hosting of the world's first World Cup to the strong Uruguayans on the year of the centenary of Uruguay's Constitution.
All FIFA members were invited to participate, but only four European nations (France, Yugoslavia, Romania and Belgium) accepted to take the long trip to South America. However, this could not dampen the Uruguayans enthusiasm and pride at having been given the World Cup for their country. A whole new Stadium, the Centenario (named after the Constitution), with space for nearly 100,000 spectators was built in just over six months to accommodate the tournament.
The very first match of a tournament that would become the greatest sporting event in the world, didn’t take place in the Centenario, but in the smaller local stadium, Pocitos, where the local club of Peñarol played until they moved to the Centenario after the World Cup (The Centenario was said to be a large version of the Pocitos, that demolished a few years later).
France faced Mexico in the first World Cup match ever. Both teams had travelled far to be in Uruguay, and there were not many spectators at Pocitos to see when Lucien Laurent scored the very first goal in World Cup history. Interestingly this player was the only player alive from the 1930 team to see France lift the World Cup trophy in 1998.
Both France and Mexico were eliminated after the first round. France nevertheless went on to host the 1938 World Cup, and has been at the forefront of world football since then.
Mexico was the leading nation of the Concacaf region for many years, but still had problems when at the world stage. It wasn’t until 1962 that they won their very first match, and only made it to a quarterfinal when hosting the World Cup in 1970 and then again in 1986.
This match was perhaps not the greatest in the history of football, but it was the the first, and thus deserves to be remembered.
- July 13th 1930, Estadio Pocitos (Montevideo)
- Attendance: 1000
- Referee: Lombardi (Uruguay)
Goals: 1-0 Laurent (19), 2-0 Langiller (40), 3-0 Maschinot (43), 3-1 Carreño (70), 4-1 Maschinot (87)
France: Thépot; Mattler, Capelle, Chantrel, Villaplane, Delfour, Pinel, Laurent, Maschinot, Liberati, Langiller
Mexico: Bonfiglio; Garza Gutiérrez, M. Rosas, Amezcua, A. Sánchez, F. Rosas, López, Ruíz, Mejía, Carreño, Pérez