1930: First step
The first FIFA World Cup, the brainchild of the association president Jules Rimet, had an unfortunate commonality with South Africa 2010. Just like this year, the 1930 even took place in grim economic climates just after the Great Depression of 1929. Held in July, the first finals took place entirely in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo. Because of the distance and expense of traveling to Uruguay, only 13 nations, including the hosts, took part. Only four from Europe — France, Belgium, Romania and Yugoslavia — said yes. The teams trained on board the Italian liner they took from France. Uruguay were the champions after beating Argentina 4-2.
Star of the Tournament
Guillermo Stabile: The lightening quick, free-scoring center forward was on a rampage at the 1930 tournament. He scored eight goals, leading Argentina to the final, and finished as top scorer. His tally stood as a Cup record for 24 years.
1934: Italy win
The political situation in Europe had become more and more tense, with fascism, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler in Germany, taking hold. Italy too was under the spell, with Benito Mussolini hoping to use the 1934 World Cup, as Hitler would do with the Berlin Olympics two years later, to further the ideas and reach of fascism. Sixteen teams — 12 from Europe, three South Americans and one African nation, Egypt — lined up for the finals, which were this time conducted purely on a knockout basis. It was the first World Cup that needed teams to qualify. Defending champions Uruguay boycotted the tournament as retaliation for the participation of only four teams from Europe in 1930. Italy won the event beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final. The final was also the match of the tournament, going to extra time before Schiavio scored the winner.
Europe was teetering on the brink of major conflict, and, two years after Hitler had used the Berlin Olympics to glorify Nazism, France was chosen to stage the 1938 World Cup. Austria's 'Wunderteam' was a notable absentee —Austria had been invaded by Germany — while Spain were also missing, preoccupied with civil war. England were in conflict with FIFA, and S America, peeved at not being chosen as host after 1934, sent one representative, Brazil. Asia was represented for the first time, by Indonesia, playing as the Dutch East Indies. They were quickly sent home losing 0-6 to Hungary in the first round. Italy beat Hungary 4-2 in the final.
Star of the tournament
Leonidas Da Silkva: Known as the Black Diamond in Europe after the 1938 Cup when he was leading scorer with eight goals but in Brazil he was known as O Homen Borracha (the Rubber Man) because of his remarkable agility.