The FIFA World Cup in 2026 has a very rich history. In the run-up to the final round in North America in 2026, we will also look back: first on 1930. The inaugural World Cup football was held in 1930 in Uruguay. Widely credited as being the brainchild of Jules Rimet, the third president of FIFA, it was won by the hosts Uruguay (who were also the reigning Olympic champions) beating Argentina in the final in Montevideo in front of 93,000 fans. This event was, for different reasons, different from many World Cups there were to follow. Read more: ten remarkable facts about the 1930 World Cup.
- The very first World Cup football was held in Uruguay because the country had retained its Olympic title in 1928 and was celebrating the centenary of its first constitution. In addition, the Uruguayan FA promised to pay the travel costs of all the other participants.
- It is the only tournament to have had more entrants from South America than Europe. In fact, many European countries chose not to participate because of the cost and the difficulty of getting to South America – in the days before commercial air travel. France, Romania, and Yugoslavia were the three countries to make the long trip across the Atlantic.
- The first ever match played in the World Cup football was between France and Mexico on the 13th July 1930. French striker Lucien Laurant scored the first ever goal in World Cup history in the 19th minute as his side won 4-1.
- The skipper of that side, Alex Villaplane, met an inglorious end. He was executed in 1944 for collaborating with the Nazis…
- Andrés Mazali, a goalkeeper with the Uruguayan hosts, became the first man to be kicked out of a World Cup team; he was caught trying to sneak out of the team hotel without permission and never played for his country again.
- The Romania team were all chosen by the country’s king himself, Carol II, and the players were promised money and jobs after the tournament if they did well.
- More than 30,000 Argentines crossed the River Plate to attend the final on July 30th 1930. The organiser had badly underestimated the number, and the boats specially chartered were not enough so all types of other vessels were commandeered. However, the port of Montevideo could not cope with the numbers, and many of them missed the match altogether.
- In the build-up to the final in Montevideo, the two finalists Uruguay and Argentina could not decide on the match ball to be used. In the end, a compromise was reached, with Argentina supplying the ball for the first half, and the hosts for the second.
- The top scorer in the tournament was the Argentine Guillermo Stabile, who scored eight goals in all, including a hat-trick against Mexico and a brace in the next match against Chile. It was Stabile who put his side ahead as they came from a goal down in the final, only for Uruguay to reply with three more of their own.
- A teammate of Stabile, Francisco Varallo, was the last surviving player from that first World Cup tournament. He died shortly after the conclusion of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He was 100 years old at the time.
By 2026 the FIFA World Cup will be completely different in many, many ways. You can read here all about the 2026 FIFA World Cup – almost 100 years later (!). It will be the 23rd edition, to be held in North America: in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It will be the final tournament soccer with a record number of 48 participating countries, 16 groups in the first of 6 stages, and with 80 matches in total.