The World Cup Alphabet – B is for…



As we approach Russia next month we will be seeing the 21st running of the tournament but how did it all start? Through trial, error and tantrums basically.


FIFA had always been cosy with the IOC up until 1928 with FIFA running the football competition at the Olympics from 1920 to 1928 for amateur players. After the IOC decided to dump football for the LA games in 1932 due to a row over the amateur status of players FIFA decided to break off on their own and thus the World Cup was born.


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At a FIFA meeting in Barcelona, Uruguay was chosen as the hosts seeing as they were the Olympic Champions, a football powerhouse at the time and celebrating 100 years of independence. This move pissed off the Europeans with many refusing to make the trip to Uruguay due to the tyranny of distance (Three weeks in a boat? No thanks) among other reasons.


With no qualifying and an open invitation sent out to all FIFA members Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, USA and Paraguay all signed up with not one European nation entering before the deadline. With the cup looking like it would be a farce of AFL-X like proportions invitations were sent to the heads of state in Europe to make sure at least a handful came. This seemed to work with Yugoslavia, Belgium and France (thanks to FIFA boss Jules Rimet) coming along. Romania also ended up signing up with King Carol giving the players three months off work and promising them their jobs when they got back, he did get to pick the team of course.


13 teams had entered with one group of four teams and three groups of three teams drawn for the first round, the group winners all going through to the semi-finals. Argentina topped their group and were undefeated while Uruguay, Yugoslavia and astonishingly enough the Americans (with a team full of ex pat English stars might I add) all breezed in to the semi finals. In the semi finals both games were amazingly one sided with 6-1 wins to both Argentina and Uruguay to set up a replay of the 1928 gold medal match at the Olympics and another reason for the neighbours on the Rio de la Plata to despise each other even more.


Argentines had taken to the tournament with great vigour and tried to get across the river in all manner of seacraft with some 15,000 making the trip in the end. The port at Montevideo was so packed that many of the Argentines had to wait on their boats and never made it on to land, hope they had a radio. The match would be played at the brand new Estadio Centenario, venue of Australia’s showdowns with Uruguay in recent times. With the game due to kick off at 2pm local time the gates were opened at 8 in the morning and some 93,000 people had crammed in by noon to await the showdown.


The trouble was the showdown almost never happened with officials from both teams arguing over what ball should be used, the first of many petty arguments on the day. FIFA stepped in and said that Argentina would provide the ball in the first half and Uruguay in the second, the ruling is rumoured to be behind the saying ‘a match of two halves’. The referee chosen was also a reason why the match almost never went ahead. The Belgian Jean Langenus wanted a boat in the harbour ready to go and promises from officials for his safety before he would go near a whistle just in case the locals got nasty at the end of the match and he had to flee to the open sea.


In an open game Uruguay would win the match 4-2 with Hector Campos scoring the sealer despite a carpentry accident when 13 leaving his less of a man so to speak. The man who accidentally lost parts of his left arm suddenly became a national hero. He had scored Uruguay’s only goal in their opening match against Peru, but was then dropped. Now he was recalled and scored the goal that secured Uruguay the World Cup.  Rimet handed the trophy (the one that would later be named after him) to the victorious side and history was made.


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The Original Champions.


The Uruguayans celebrated and declared a national holiday the next day while the defeated Argentineans sulked and threw missiles at the Uruguayan embassy back home. A day of many firsts was July 30 1930. The first cup final, the first underdog hero in Campos, the first controversies, the first win for a host nation and the beginning of the greatest show on earth.


The last survivor of the match, Francisco Varallo, died in 2010.




Sport in any code always has that one player who seems not to be cut from the same cloth as the rest.  An individual, one of god’s own prototypes, a Roberto Baggio.


Baggio was the last of those true greats of the game through raw skill rather than hard graft on the training track. Baggio was lucky to have a career at all with major knee injuries early in his career mixed with an allergy to pain killers meaning he was rarely fully fit. He switched from Catholicism to Buddism in the 80s and was never someone who played on a bedrock of emotion like many of his countrymen.


For many their first memories of him at Italia 90 were of the 23 year old sauntering around the pitch shirt out, socks down and with the pony tail bouncing behind him. The flamboyant hair cut saw him attain the name ‘Il Divin Codino’ (The divine Pony tail). He backed up his laconic and zen way of looking at things with a heap of goals, especially when under pressure.


At the 1990 World Cup he sat cooling his heels on the bench while Gianluca Vialli blundered his way through two games. In the final group game against the Czechs Baggio started and starred scoring the best goal of an otherwise drab tournament, a rare show of pace and flair. From here he would feature prominently as a foil for the amazing Toto Schicialli who went on to a shock golden boot.



In 1994 he was a certified superstar winning the FIFA Word Player of the Year for his feats with Juventus. With the Italian side full of old men and youngsters he carried the team on his back to the final of USA ’94. Baggio played in the final despite injuring a hamstring in the semi final. In a tense penalty shootout in the searing heat against Brazil, Baggio literally hobbled to the penalty spot to make an attempt that he would have to score to keep Italy in the shootout. His shot was way over the top of the bar in the most heartbreaking moments in the history of the tournament. Baggio put his hands on his hips, stared at the ground and wept.


Four years later and in some form for Bologna he was a shock recall to the Italian side for France ’98. Gone was the pony tail but not the laconic canter and the eye for goal after his humiliation from 1994. In their opening game and down 2-1 to an excellent Chilean side late in the game Baggio was subbed on to chase a goal for Italy. In the dying minutes of the game he managed to wrangle a penalty from a handball which he would take. The late and very much missed SBS commentator Paul Williams said ‘every journalist has his pen poised’ as Baggio lined up to take the shot. Of course the old stager nailed it to give Italy a 2-2 draw and throw off the demons of Pasadena. He would score again in the tournament and like Italia 90′ force his way in to the team.


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In the quarter finals he almost scored a golden goal similar against the hosts but just the wrong side of the post. Then in the penalty shoot-out he was one of the first to take a spotkick and nailed it. After scoring the penalty he gave the Parisian crowd a little ‘shhhh’ motion with a finger to the lips and a sly smile and wink but Italy would go out on penalties again.


In 2002 and at the age of 35 there were calls for him to go to a fourth World Cup. The veteran was in top form for lowly Brescia and still scoring a heap of goals in a brutally defensive league. Unfortunately another firebrand manager with home Baggio had always clashed with, Giovanni Trapatonni, resisted picking him. Retiring two years later from all football Baggio said most of all he was relieved and did now not have to carry the pressure of being a star. One of those perhaps not made for super stardom but had it thrust upon him through talent.


One the biggest 90s icons of the sport and the World Cup. An utter champion unfairly remember just for that penalty in 1994.




While the Vidmar Brothers never made it to a tournament 16 other sets of brothers have headed along.


The first were in 1930 with the Laurent brothers from France. Lucien Laurent scored the first ever goal. There’s the famous Charlton brothers and their unconvincing comb-overs in 1966 who won the whole lot. As did the West German Walter brothers with Fritz Walter lifting the cup after their historic win.


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More games for England than hair on their heads. The Charlton Brothers.


For whatever reason the Dutch always had twin brothers. The Van De Kerkof twins in 1974 and the famous De Boer brothers in 1994 and 1998. Then there were the Boatengs Kevin-Prince and Jerome and played for separate countries Ghana and Germany despite both growing up in Berlin. They would play against each other in South Africa in 2010.


The World Cup. A family affair.


About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.


  1. george smith says

    Speaking of the worst ever World Cup Final, USA 1994 and our unfortunate Mr Baggio, it turns out that the Brazilian coach was a renowned grouch, Carlos Alberto Parreira, who believed that the best form of defence was defence. Shades of Paul Roos, Warren Ryan and Ross Lyon!

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