World Cups: 1930 - 1954

2006-05-31 14:32

London - Part one of a brief history of the World Cup finals covering the tournaments from 1930 to 1954:

URUGUAY 1930

Final: URUGUAY 4 ARGENTINA 2

Thirteen countries took part in the first World Cup finals which were held in Uruguay in recognition of their victories in the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games.

Fifa had planned to stage an international competition from the time it was founded, in 1904, and there was an idea to stage an inaugural world championship for 16 teams in Switzerland in 1906.

In reality, it was to be 26 years before the World Cup began and, when it did, it was rather with a whimper than a bang.

Because of the long distances involved, only four European teams travelled to South America, and they sailed together on the same boat.

Belgium, France, Yugoslavia and Romania made the trip and Romania were there only because of the intervention of King Carol who asked companies, whose employees were chosen for the squad, to give them time off work.

Fifa president Jules Rimet and his fellow Frenchman Henri Delauney worked tirelessly to launch the competition and appropriately France played in the first World Cup match, beating Mexico 4-1 in Montevideo on July 13, 1930.

French striker Lucien Laurent scored the first World Cup goal 19 minutes into the match.

Although several matches were poorly supported, the final between neighboring South American rivals Uruguay and Argentina on July 30 attracted a crowd of 93 000. Uruguay won 4-2.

ITALY 1934

Final: ITALY 2 CZECHOSLOVAKIA 1 (after extra-time)

Fifa decided at their October 1932 Congress to award the 1934 finals to Italy, then under the Facist regime of Benito Mussolini.

Fifa's membership had grown to more than 50 countries since 1930 and 32 teams entered the World Cup qualifying round chasing 16 places in the finals.

Uruguay, however, became the only champions not to defend their crown. They refused to enter because they were aggrieved so many European countries ignored their tournament in 1930.

Half the countries involved played only one match because the 1934 finals were organised as a knockout competition.

Mexico made the lengthy trip to Italy to play one match that was not even part of the competition proper.

They had to play an extra qualifying match against the United States, who entered late and missed the original qualifying competition.

Mexico lost 4-2 to the United States in Rome, three days before the World Cup began on May 27 when the U.S. were promptly knocked out 7-1 by Italy.

The Italians continued with a 1-0 replay win over Spain in the second round, then beat Austria 1-0 in the semi-finals before winning the World Cup for the first time, beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final in Rome on June 10, 1934.

FRANCE 1938

Final: ITALY 4 HUNGARY 2

The third World Cup was played with the growing threat of war over-shadowing the competition.

Argentina had bid to stage it but Fifa awarded the finals to France because of the problems of travelling to South America.

As a result, Argentina stayed away.

The competition was played along knockout lines again, which is how the Dutch East Indies came to play their one and only match in the finals.

They were paired with Japan in a two-team qualifying group; Japan withdrew and the Dutch East Indies went through.

They lost 6-0 to Hungary who went all the way to the final in Paris where they played champions Italy.

Italy had won the 1934 finals at home under the astute and innovative coach Vittorio Pozzo. He was in charge again as Italy beat Norway (2-1), hosts France (3-1) and Brazil (2-1) in the semi-finals to reach the final.

Italy won a superb match 4-2 to become the first country to win the World Cup twice. Little did they know but they were to wait until 1982 for a third triumph.

BRAZIL 1950

Final: URUGUAY 2 BRAZIL 1

After 11 years, because of World War II and its aftermath, World Cup football returned on June 2, 1949 when Sweden beat Ireland 3-1 in Stockholm in a qualifying round game for the 1950 finals in Brazil.

The Swedes qualified eventually and were among 13 countries who took part in a quirkily-organised tournament in the South American country the following year.

For the first time, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales entered but Scotland decided perversely not to take the place awarded to them after finishing second to England in the all-British qualifying group.

England, the home of soccer, had pompously refused to enter the competition before the war but beat Chile in their opening match and looked set to do well.

Badly-prepared and badly-organised, they were punished by falling victim to one of the greatest shocks in World Cup history when they were beaten 1-0 by the United States in Belo Horizonte.

A 1-0 defeat against Spain, in their next match, meant they were out. It was to be a long time before England made any impression in the tournament.

Hosts and strong favourites Brazil, flexing their muscles, made the last four along with Sweden, Spain and Uruguay.

Bizarrely, there was no actual final in 1950 but, luckily for the organisers and future historians, the final group match was the one that would decide the group winner and, therefore, world champion.

The Uruguay-Brazil match, in front of a world record crowd of 199 854 in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro became a de facto final.

Uruguay won 2-1 to lift the Jules Rimet trophy for a second time.

Brazil were stunned by the defeat. They had to wait eight years to become champions but Uruguay have never been champions again.

SWITZERLAND 1954

Final: WEST GERMANY 3 HUNGARY 2

Sixteen teams took part in the fifth World Cup and there was limited television coverage.

There was still a long way to go but the dawn of a modern age was approaching.

Although 16 teams were placed in four opening round groups, another chaotic seeding and qualifying system meant that, instead of playing three first round games, teams played only two matches and several had to resort to playoffs to get through to the quarter-finals.

But there were goals in abundance, 140 in 26 matches, and several remarkable results. These included Hungary 8, West Germany 3; Hungary 9, South Korea 0; and Austria 7, Switzerland 5, the highest-scoring match played in the finals.

Hungary went to Switzerland as odds-on favourites and it seemed inconceivable they would not be taking the Jules Rimet trophy back to Budapest.

The 'Magical Magyars' had not lost a match since 1950, were Olympic champions and had several of the greatest players in the world in their ranks including the absolute master: Ferenc Puskas.

Yet the final in Berne on July 4 still defies logic.

Hungary, who crushed a largely reserve Germany team 8-3 in the first round, raced into a 2-0 lead with goals from Puskas and Zoltan Czibor.

But Puskas had been injured and was below his best, Hungary relaxed and they allowed the Germans to play their way back into the game.

In the end, they were stunned as West Germany came back to create the biggest upset in a final by winning 3-2. Uwe Rahan scored twice and Max Morlock once.

It was the only match Hungary lost between 1950 and 1956.

Captain Fritz Walter lifted the cup, a hugely significant event for West Germany, nine years after the end of World War II.

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