Thursday, 30 June 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 14

France 4-1 Mexico (13 July 1930) Estadio Pocitos, Montevideo

As early as 1902 there were thoughts of creating a global football tournament. Dutch administrator C.A.W. Hirschmann approached the FA in that year with plans for a new competition and with it a new governing body, but was met with a lack of interest in his proposals. Frenchman Robert Guerin had similar thoughts, but such was the seeming futility of his attempts to convince the FA that he described the process as like “trying to slice water with a knife.”

Following discussions with the leading administrator in Belgium, Guerin invited representatives from the continent’s leading nations to meet in Paris on 21 May1904 with a view to the formation of the grouping he so craved. At the headquarters of the Union Française de Sports Athlétiques at 229 Rue Saint Honoré a historic gathering took place which saw the birth of what would become the most powerful sporting body in the world. The men that attended that first meeting were to participate in the creation of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Robert Guerin

While FIFA demonstrated immense ambition in its early years, it managed to achieve very little. A proposed European championship, to be held in Berne in 1906, came to nought, and it seemed for a time that FIFA would lack any obvious purpose. It was only with the success of football at the Olympics in the 1920s that a large scale football completion became viable. Football accounted for a third of all revenues generated by the 1924 Olympics in Paris showing that the tournament could be self-supporting.

At a meeting with Enrique Buero of Uruguay in Geneva in 1926, FIFA President, Jules Rimet, had conceded his interest in the foundation of a World Cup, but no firm commitment was made. In 1927 FIFA set up a special commission to discuss the potential for such a tournament, and at the FIFA Congress of 1928 in Amsterdam the decision was made to hold a World Cup in 1930. While a host of European candidates were ready to host the tournament, the decision was taken to award it to Uruguay on account of their recent Olympic success, the centenary of their constitution and their willingness to build a stadium fit to host the inaugural World Cup.

The Jules Rimet Trophy
 Following frantic preparations the tournament began in July 1930, though the promised stadium was not ready for the early games and the opening ceremony took place after Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay had all been eliminated. While the European teams had been willing to host the tournament, rather less had been willing to travel to Uruguay and as such it was a tournament with only 13 teams.

The opening game (along with Belgium against the USA) saw France take on Mexico. The game was played in conditions which certainly suited the French over their Aztec adversaries. It had snowed in the night before the game and as a consequence the playing surface was something of a quagmire which stifled flowing football.

France made much the brighter start of the two teams, full of vigour and invention, and the Mexicans were forced to defend in the early stages of the game. After nineteen minutes the French made their pressure count, breaking the deadlock and with it scoring the first ever World Cup goal. The man with that great honour was inside-left, Lucien Laurent. Andre Maschinot played the ball out to Ernest Liberati on the right flank and his cross was met by Laurent to volley home and put the French in front.

Lucien Laurent

Yet just as the French appeared to have settled their nerves they suffered a significant set back. Goalkeeper Alexis Thepot suffered a boot to the head, sustained in a clash with Mejia and had to leave the field. At the time no substitutions were permitted and so left-half Augustin Chantrel was forced to take over in goal and the French were forced to play with just ten men with over an hour remaining.

Les Bleus’ ability to weather the storm of losing their keeper owed as much to Mexico’s inability to impose themselves on the game, as France’s own mental strength. Just ten minutes after going a man down the French extended their well deserved lead. Etienne Mattler, the French right-back, centred for Marcel Langiller to put them two goals ahead. Within two minutes Oscar Bonfiglio, the Mexican keeper, found himself picking the ball out of the net for a third time when Maschinot finished off after some excellent work from Delfour created a shooting chance.
At half-time the Mexicans must have feared for a repeat of their last appearance in a major tournament, when they suffered a 7:1 annihilation at the hands of Spain in the 1928 Olympics. Yet their performance in the second half showed that the side did at least possess spirit.

The words of coach Juan Luque de Serralongo had the stirring effect desired and the Mexicans began to master the trying conditions. With twenty minutes remaining they got their reward, when Dionsio Mejia fed Juan Carreno and he crashed the ball past stand-in keeper Chantrel. The Mexicans poured forward in the last twenty minutes in a desperate attempt to get back into the game, but they were unable to unlock a well drilled French defence.

Almost inevitably, the Mexicans’ desire to level the scores gave the French the chance to put the result beyond doubt. With just three minutes remaining the French broke swiftly through Marcel Langiller and his pass allowed Maschinot to wrap up proceedings with a calm finish. France, on the eve of Bastille Day, had looked impressive, but it was clear that they would have to improve again with far stiffer opposition to be faced in their remaining games.

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