The 90,000-strong crowd crammed into the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay, were expecting big things with their country taking on Argentina as they both fought to be the first FIFA World Cup champions.
It had been an eventful inaugural tournament. Many countries did not compete as the journey to Uruguay would have taken too long. Construction on the Estadio Centenario was not completed until five days into the tournament, and Argentina’s win over France was more than a little contentious. Argentina were winning 1-0 when the final whistle was blown six minutes early – as France were making a run on goal. With riots threatening to erupt, the teams were brought back out to finish the match, but some of the players had already got out of their kit and into the baths.
Fittingly, the final on 30 July 1930 was marred by its own controversy. Uruguay and Argentina disagreed over who should provide the match ball – this was long before the tournament ball was meticulously designed and engineered as it is today. FIFA decided that Argentina would provide the ball for the first half and it would be changed for a ball of Uruguay’s choice for the second.
The hosts Uruguay were the first to score, despite playing with an Argentinian ball, but the first half still went against them. They trailed at the break, 2-1. It is an overused expression by football pundits today, but the 1930 final was the epitome of ‘a game of two halves’. With their choice of ball for the second half, Uruguay romped to victory with the final score of 4-2.
The following day was declared a national holiday in Uruguay, and FIFA had proof of the popularity of the FIFA World Cup.