It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look-back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

Starting with the one where it all began...

Uruguay 1930

Just 13 teams took part in the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay, nine from the Americas and four from Europe. While it was easy enough to get the teams from South America to be a part of it, with two months to go the tournament, there was still no European team confirmed to play.

France, Belgium, Romania and Yugoslavia made the two-week Atlantic Ocean odyssey to join the other teams in four groups with the winners contesting the semi-finals.

This is how the Fifa website describes that boat-journey:

Besides the Yugoslavia party, sailing independently on the MS Florida, the remaining European contenders travelled together on the SS Conte Verde, departing from Barcelona on 22 June. Also embarking on one of football’s most significant journeys were FIFA President Jules Rimet with the Goddess of Victory trophy – a statuette 30cm high and weighing 4kg designed by Frenchman Abel Lafleur – and John Langenus, the Belgian who would referee the Final. The Conte Verde stopped at Rio to pick up the Brazil squad and then at Santos where players bought bananas, oranges and pineapples. Finally, on 4 July, the liner arrived at Montevideo where it was greeted by 10,000 Uruguayans.

And what more, the showcase stadium for the tournament, the Estadio Centenario, was not ready even after the players arrived.

Yugoslavia did the best of the Europeans nations by reaching the last four where they were beaten 6-1 by Uruguay. In the other semi-final Argentina overwhelmed the United States by an identical scoreline.

Uruguay, backed by a huge home crowd in the Centenario Stadium, beat the Argentines 4-2 in the final after being 2-1 down at half-time.

A public holiday was declared in Uruguay while in Buenos Aires hostile fans attacked the Uruguayan embassy.

Stats and trivia

  • 31: Age that makes Alberot Suppici the youngest coach to win a World Cup title. The combined age of Suppici and Final counterpart Juan Jose Tramutola was just 58. In comparison, the added age of Mario Zagallo and Aime Jacquet, who led Brazil and France respectively in the 1998 final, was more than double that at 122.
  • TWO: Types of balls that were used in the final. According to Fifa.com, “the teams couldn’t agree, so it was determined that an Argentinian ball would be used in the first half and a Uruguayan one in the second. It apparently made a difference – Argentina led 2-1 at half-time; Uruguay won 4-2.”
  • Hector Castro the man who scored the final goal of the tournament, had just one arm, leading to him being nicknamed El Manco (The One-Armed One).
  • Uruguay’s Lorenzo Fernando became the first ever foreign player to win the World Cup, a list that has grown up to 21 now. A centre-back who would occasionally operate as a playmaker, he was nicknamed El Gallego (The Galician) due to being from Redondela in north-west Spain.
  • An estimated 30,000 Argentines crossed the River Plate for the final on 30 July 1930. The gates of the Estadio Centenario opened in the early morning and by kick-off, 80,000 spectators were present at the stadium, reportedly.
  • Italy had to qualify for their own tournament – it’s the only occasion this has happened in the history of the tournament. Mexico also had a unique tournament, by travelling to Italy for the finals but not playing a single game since USA’s late entry meant their neighbours had to play one more qualifying match which they lost.
  • Tournament top-scorer: Guillermo Stábile (Argentina) with 8 goals.
  • Total number of goals scored in the tournament: 70 (3.89 per match)  

For your viewing pleasure

The final between Argentina and Uruguay...

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Official poster

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

With AFP and Fifa.com inputs