Welcome to Uruguay

 

On May 26, 1928, at a meeting in Amsterdam, the FIFA congress decided that a new tournament would open to all its members. FIFA wanted to stage a tournament of its own and get out of the shadow of the Olympics. Jules Rimet believed, FIFA was capable of staging its own global event. Jules Rimet had his opponents to oppose his idea, but they failed to fight against the acceptance of the majority.

A year later in Barcelona, it was agreed that Uruguay, the Olympic Champions and the era’s footballing superpower, should celebrate 100 years of independence by hosting the first-ever FIFA World Cup.

This did little to appease the European nations, though, as many opted out of the inaugural tournament. With air travel still in its infancy, it would be necessary to travel by boat, a process that would take several days.

Only 13 nations took part in the inaugural tournament, with a majority of nine coming from South America.

England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were all ineligible, having withdrawn from FIFA because of a dispute over payments to amateur players. However, a number of British players did find their way into the team representing the United States, where professional football was being played.

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Europe’s only representatives were Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Romania.

The rest turned down invitations either in a fit of pique because the competition was not being staged in Europe or cited the three-week voyage to South America as prohibitive.

Romania entered on the personal instructions of King Carol, who also selected the squad.

He gave the players three months off from their jobs with guarantees that they would be re-employed.

Majority of the South American countries featured in Uruguay to be part of a historic event, which the rest failed to realize.

One stadium is what Uruguay played in during the tournament – a joint-record low for a World Cup-winning team (matched by England in 1966).

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Initially, all the tournament’s 18 matches were to be played in the Centenario, but torrential rain delayed its construction and it wasn’t ready until the sixth day, forcing La Celeste’s debut to be delayed and another two Montevideo venues to host other teams’ games.

At the 2002 tournament, 20 different stadiums, each in a different city, were used, with Brazil lifting the Trophy having played in an unprecedented seven.

History Football in Uruguay

With over 3.5-million people living in the country, Uruguay is buffered between Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay has spent most of her time as an independent nation in the shadow of her larger bordering nations. Yet, in one very important part of South American life, Uruguay has excelled from the very beginning: football.

With a record 15 Copa America title to add to their two World Cup triumphs, Uruguay has enjoyed far more success than any other nation of comparable size.

Like Argentina and Brazil, football was introduced in Uruguay by British immigrants and expatriates in the 19th century. Some references say that the game had been introduced in 1880, at the English High School by Henry Castle Ayre, born in Bedminster in March 1852.

Managers and technical staff of the Central Uruguay Railway (CUR) at Peñarol station. Railway workers spread the practice of football in Uruguay. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Managers and technical staff of the Central Uruguay Railway (CUR) at Peñarol station. Railway workers spread the practice of football in Uruguay. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

The first recorded football match in Uruguay was played in 1881 between Montevideo Rowing Club (established in 1874) and Montevideo Cricket Club (1861), while Albion F.C. –established in Montevideo in 1891– was the first football club in the country.

British football clubs tours over South America contributed to the spread and development of football in Uruguay during the first years of the 20th century. The first club to tour was Southampton in 1904, followed by several teams (mainly from England although some Scotland clubs also visited South America) until 1929 with Chelsea being the last team to tour.

British football clubs tours over South America contributed to the spread and development of football in Uruguay during the first years of the 20th century. The first club to tour was Southampton in 1904, followed by several teams (mainly from England although some Scotland clubs also visited South America) until 1929 with Chelsea being the last team to tour.

CURCC was founded by British immigrants in 1891, being predecessor of current C.A. Penarol. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
CURCC was founded by British immigrants in 1891, being the predecessor of current C.A. Penarol. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

British teams were considered the best in the world by then, and some of them served as an inspiration to establish football clubs in Uruguay and Argentina, helped by the immigration of British citizens that had arrived to work for British companies (mostly in railway construction). CURCC and Albion are some examples of clubs established by British immigrants to South America.

Uruguay is a country with a population that does not exceed more than three and a half million and features a large concentration of professional football teams in the city of Montevideo. The two biggest club teams in the country’s Primera Division are Penarol, which was established in 1891, and Nacional, founded in 1899.

Football in Uruguay excelled and Nacional and Penarol played a major role in doing such. Their structure produced skillful and professional players, who not only outweighed their neighbours, but the other powerhouses of world football.

A dull start for the hot favorites

At the start of the twentieth century, Uruguay Football only flourished and flourished and after the First World War, Uruguay were the best in the world.

Obviously, they were the ultimate favourites in the inaugural FIFA World Cup 1930.

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Coming out to the deafening roars of the crowd in the impressive 90,000-capacity Estadio Centenario, in the first match of the tournament to be held there, Uruguay looked a bit down in the first half. Although football fever had long since swept the nation and the team contained several players who had experienced incredible atmospheres before, they knew they had the weight of the nation on their shoulders.

To add to this, the underdogs Peru had set up to frustrate, playing an intelligent yet negative brand of football.

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When Uruguay eventually made the breakthrough, it was evident that one goal would be enough for them to win the game.

The journey started without any hiccups, but it was not satisfactory.

The Uruguayan press, who blasted the team and demanded of a more free-flowing and attacking brand of football.

Alberto Suppici rechecks his plans

In those days, 2-3-5or 2-3-2-3 was in practice in world football and teams like Uruguay and Argentina exploited the attacking intent of this format fully.

The Uruguayan manager back in 1930, Alberto Suppici, did not utter a word to the dull display in the opening match but proved his point through deeds in the upcoming matches.

Suppici stuck to the 2-3-5 formation which changed shape accordingly to 2-3-2-3 and even 2-5-3, when compactness was required.

4 days before Uruguay kicked off their campaign, Andres Mazali, who had played a fundamental role in their Men’s Olympic Football Tournament triumphs of 1924 and ’28 and was their first-choice goalkeeper, was sent home for breaking Suppici’s curfew. Mazali had snuck out of the team hotel to reportedly meet a female.

The shape of the Uruguayan team in 1930
The shape of the Uruguayan team in 1930

Enrique Ballestrero, the new goalkeeper would be given assistance by two half-backs: Ernesto Mascheroni and skipper Jose Nasazzi. In those days Nasazzi was the best defender in the world, who could play as a winger and orchestrate attacks from deep as well. Meanwhile, Nasazzi built a strong partnership with Mascheroni in neutralizing attacking and marking the opponent strikers.

Jose Nasazzi. Image Courtesy: Twitter
Jose Nasazzi. Image Courtesy: Twitter

In front of these two, there were two center-halves: Alvaro Gestido on the left and Jose Andrade on the right with Lorenzo Fernadez playing the role of a center-half.

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Fernadez was one of the 21 foreign players to have won the World Cup. He was a Spanish-Uruguayan and in 1930, his main role was to maintain the balance between the backline and up-front.

Pedro Cea and Hector Scarone played as an inside forward.

Hector Scarone. Image Courtesy: Pinterest
Hector Scarone. Image Courtesy: Pinterest

This role has evolved over the last few decades to sit deeper and link-up play between the midfield and forward lines and in the case of the two finalists, get the bell to the two wingers.

Pablo Dorado. Image Courtesy: Listal
Pablo Dorado. Image Courtesy: Listal

Hector Castro was the center-forward, who was aided by two wingers up-front: Santos Iriarte on the left and Pablo Dorado on the right.

One arm was all Hector Castro had, leading to him being nicknamed El Manco – The One-Armed One. The Nacional icon accidentally cut off his own limb while using an electric saw as a 13-year-old.

Hector Castro in action with one arm. Image Courtesy: Proven Quality
Hector Castro in action with one arm. Image Courtesy: Proven Quality

The crossing was becoming more and more in fashion into the 20th century so it was their job to receive the ball and provide crosses for the center-forward but they could also cut inside to create chances or to get on the end of crosses from the opposite winger.

Suppici rechecked his options and demanded more from the inside forward to push up and add a bit more fuel for the players up-front with the center-half and half-backs advised to maintain compactness when Nasazzi would free his wings.

The results were showing.

Uruguay attack, counter-attack, and attack

Uruguay’s next match was against Romania, who beat Peru convincingly in their opening encounter. After Uruguay’s dull affair against Peru, the match turned out to be very important for Uruguay.

The winner would qualify for the semifinals and a win was must as only the group winners would advance to the next round.

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The raucous crowd appeared to influence the team positively, and they raced into a four-goal lead in the first half, with four different goalscorers.

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Goals from Dorado, Juan Anselmo, and Cea came to either side of a brilliant 24th-minute effort from the legendary Scarone.

Born in 1898, Scarone had three spells with one of Uruguay’s big two, Nacional.

Despite representing three other clubs during his illustrious career, Scarone won eight championships with Nacional, scoring an incredible 301 goals. He is, however, equally notable for his time abroad.

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In 1926, Scarone became one of the first South American players to sign for Barcelona, a club now represented by the man who eventually broke his longstanding national team goals record, Luis Suarez.

Scarone had not been available to play in the group’s opening game against Peru and his attacking potency had been sorely missed. Having vastly improved with the Nacional man back in the side against Romania, Uruguay were ready for the knockout rounds.

Uruguay’s opponents were to be Yugoslavia – one of the European powerhouses in those days.

Uruguay were not going to allow themselves to make the same mistakes they had made against Peru in their opening game, so they took Yugoslavia seriously.

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Between their second group game against Romania on 21 of July and their semi-final six days later, the Uruguay players were put through their paces in a strict training regime with little contact with the outside world.

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Yugoslavia had far fewer combined caps and played for a variety of different clubs – they had been seriously impressive in winning their group and had lethal Serbian striker Blagoje Marjanović in their ranks. Marjanović scored an incredible 575 goals for his club BSK Beograd, also representing five other Yugoslav clubs in an extraordinary career.

Not content with merely an illustrious playing career, he went on to enjoy a successful managerial career in Italy with Torino and Catania.

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On July 27, 1930, those who were present at the stadium witnessed an Uruguayan massacre.

La Celeste tore the Eastern Europeans into shreds.

With the superior movement to their Eastern European counterparts, Uruguay took the lead in the 18th minute.

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Cea, who would go on to manage the national team, scored a hat-trick, Peñarol legend Juan Anselmo added two more and Santos Iriarte completed the rout. Yugoslavia were to make the long journey home having been well and truly taken apart.

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Goals in a World Cup semi-final is what Pedro Cea is one of only three men to score. Oldrich Nejedly got all of Czechoslovakia’s goals in a 3-1 reverse of Germany in 1934, while Pele posted a hat-trick as Brazil beat France 5-2 in 1958. Cea’s treble propelled Uruguay to a 6-1 win over Yugoslavia, which remained the joint-biggest victory in a World Cup semi – Argentina thrashed the USA by the same score in 1930 – until Germany thumped Brazil 7-1 84 years later.

Uruguay were lauded by the press after such an impressive semifinal victory, but they had not finished the job yet.

On July 26, Argentina thrashed the United States of America by 6-1 and surely would not allow Uruguay to rest in the finals!

The first-ever World Cup Final – Vamos Uruguay

Football euphoria engulfed Latin America – Argentina and Uruguay were suffering from football hysteria and each day the tension grew regarding the final. The tickets were sold out and still, the demand remained high and a huge gather was expected on an eventful day – extra police was deployed.

While the press in Argentina were over-confident of a victory from their side, Uruguay saw this as an opportunity to get one over on their larger neighbour and move out its shadow.

With tensions building on the day of the final, extra police had to be deployed outside the Centenario.

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The final was played at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay, on 30 July, a Wednesday.

Up to date, it is, along with the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, the only World Cup Final not to be played on a Sunday (the latter being played on a Saturday).

This World Cup Final is also the only one not to be played on a weekend. The stadium gates were opened at eight o’clock, six hours before kick-off, and at noon the ground was full, officially holding 93,000 people!

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As the fans packed into the national stadium once more for football’s biggest match, Uruguay’s Alberto Suppici decided to deploy a more defensive formation in the hope of being able to soak up some of Argentina’s undoubted attacking threat.

Suppici, who was just 31 at the time and remains the youngest manager to win the World Cup, told his players before going out that he was confident they would win the trophy “for Uruguay”.

Alberto Horacio Suppici. Image Courtesy: Soccer Nostalgia
Alberto Horacio Suppici. Image Courtesy: Soccer Nostalgia

With this message ringing in their ears, Uruguay’s players ran out to the deafening roars of the Centenario crowd.

A disagreement overshadowed the build-up to the match as the teams disagreed on who should provide the match ball, forcing FIFA to intervene and decree that the Argentine team would provide the ball for the first half and the Uruguayans would provide one for the second.

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The Belgian referee John Langenus blew his whistle and, 12 minutes later, Uruguay were ahead through Dorado.

The crowd went wild, but it wasn’t long until they were silenced as Argentina hit back with two goals to go into half-time with the lead.

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Now it was time for Suppici to inspire his players again!

Uruguay came roaring back in the second half.

Their attack, counter-attack, and attack again tactics pushed Argentina on the back foot.

Goals came from Cea, Iriarte, and Castro to secure the first-ever World Cup for Uruguay.

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It was a memorable final and quite a tensed and exciting one and set the tone for the rest of the events to follow in the coming days.

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Jules Rimet and FIFA declared their tournament a resounding success and promised that more World Cups were to follow.

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The whole of Uruguay was ecstatic with their victory and a national holiday was declared.

The players were heroes and were treated as such.

Uruguay became the first team to win each and every match of a World Cup Tournament. Brazil surpassed that twice: One in 1970 and the other in 2002.