World Cups Past - The 1930's

Published: Apr 30, 2014 12:17pm EDT
By Jason Bardwell, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Apr 30, 2014 @ 12:17pm EDT


The final countdown to the World Cup has now begun and we are little over a month away now from the kick off in Brazil on June 12th. The USA will take the field against Ghana four days later at the Arena das Dunas, Natal. Drawn in a group which also include Portugal and Germany it is vital Klinsmann’s team hit the ground running. 

Over the next few days and weeks I will look at the United States participation in all the World Cups throughout the history of the competition dating back to the 1930's. Obviously there was no World Cup’s in the 1940's with the ones scheduled for 1942 and 1946 canceled due to the Second World War. 

Starting today I will look at the 1930, 1934 and 1938 World Cups, one of which includes a local Baltimore man. 


The first World Cup was much different from the competition we now recognize, kicking off in Brazil in a few weeks time. Uruguay was selected as the host country and included thirteen teams, rather than the thirty two we see now. There were also very few European sides represented at the inaugural competition because of travel difficulties and also some snobbery, in the case of the English. 

The thirteen teams were drawn with group one consisting of four sides (Argentina, Chile, France and Mexico) and the other three groups containing three sides each. The USA were placed in Group 4 and comfortable walked through that test. In the first game they beat Belgium 3-0 before Bert Patenaude was credited, albeit not at the time, with the first official World Cup hat trick in their second game against Paraguay. Bert died in 1974 and would never know FIFA had recognized his achievement as the governing body didn’t officially acknowledge the fact until 2006. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1909 Bert was only 20 when he made that statement. In fact his record of four goals in a single World Cup was a record for an American player and stood until Landon Donovan broke that in the last World Cup. Unlike Donovan though, this would be the only World Cup he would play in. 
The top teams from each group faced off in two Semi Finals and it was in this game, against Argentina, that the US journey finished. Beaten 6-1, the same score as the other Semi Final, meant that Argentina progressed to the final along with the hosts, and eventual winners, Uruguay.


The second World Cup was held in Europe and as a result had more teams participating. This time it was a straight knockout format and disregarding the Group format used in the previous World Cup. The World Cup holders were not present after refusing to travel to Europe after their refusal to do the travel in the other direction four years earlier. England again did not participate after disputing FIFA’s legitimacy. 
This new format, as a result, was a case of ‘one and done’ for the US team. Drawn against hosts, and eventual winners, Italy they bailed after a 7-1 defeat. The US team was managed by a Philadelphia native, Elmer Schroeder and of the 19 squad members, six were from the PA region. Tom Amrhein, twenty three years old, was born, raised and played his soccer in Baltimore and although traveled to Italy, wasn’t actually in that team for the first, and last game.
Argentina, Brazil and Egypt were also knocked out in this first round and so the rest of the tournament instantly became an all European affair.


Right before the outbreak of the Second World War and was again boycotted by some South American sides who saw the second straight time in Europe as a snub of them, and the US were also not present. France, as hosts, and Italy, as holders, were automatically included. Global politics made an impression on the World Cup and with Germany now occupying Austria the Austrian side, who had already qualified, subsequently withdrew and some players joined the German squad. Their place was not offered to the runners up to Austria in the qualification group, Latvia. As a result Sweden, who had been drawn against Austria, was given a free pass into the next round. 

This World Cup didn’t see a Spanish side, who were prevented from competing due to war. On the other side it did see the first, and currently only participation, of Cuba and Indonesia (then known as the Dutch West Indies). This time Brazil did get to the third place playoff but it was once again an all European final with Hungary losing 4-2 to the World Cup holders, Italy. 


Come back tomorrow for a look at the 1950's, and the upset caused when the American side took on the English in Brazil, in their only World Cup participation of the decade. The return of a post war Germany to International competition in US absent 1954 World Cup and the 1958 World Cup which saw a non European side win the competition on European soil for the first time.


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Jason Bardwell
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