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In Amsterdam in 1928, the football masters were Uruguayan

27 May 2019
Olympic News, Amsterdam 1928, Football, Uruguay
The football tournament of the 1928 Games in Amsterdam kicked off on 27 May, two months before the Opening Ceremony. It was won by Uruguay, who retained their title from four years previously in Paris, and then went on to win the first FIFA World Cup in 1930, with one common denominator: “the black marvel”, José Leandro Andrade.

The Uruguayan team had delighted the large crowds in the Colombes Stadium in Paris in 1924, winning the Olympic tournament 3-0 against Switzerland on 9 June, and giving rise to this glowing account in the official report: “Football is a team sport, and only the Uruguayans demonstrated this. Playing with short passes, they tire out their opponents and thereby gain ground. However, against many teams, they lose no time once near their opponents’ goal and, as soon as an opportunity presents itself, a low, hard shot finds its way into the net!”  Within the Uruguayan team, one player stood out in particular: “the black marvel”, José Leandro Andrade.

Four years later, Andrade and the other stars of “La Celeste” were in Amsterdam to defend their title. It was right after the first football match of these Games, between Portugal and Chile on 27 May 1928, that the FIFA Congress in Amsterdam decided to adopt the idea of FIFA President Jules Rimet and create the World Cup, with the first edition to be held in Uruguay in 1930.

Football is a team sport, and only the Uruguayans demonstrated this. Official Report

In the meantime, it was the Olympic Games which attracted the largest number of international teams, and large crowds; and so the Olympic tournament was regarded as the real world championship. But the problems linked to the obligatory amateur status of the players, in a sport which was increasingly moving towards professionalism, raised numerous questions and in particular led to Great Britain’s decision not to take part.

Knockout matches replayed in the event of a draw

That still left the best 17 teams in the world to take part in the competition, which was held on a knockout basis from the round of 16 onwards. But the matches could be replayed, as a penalty shootout system did not exist at the time. So if two teams were drawing after the 90 minutes of normal time plus extra time, they had to play again a few days later. And this was the case for the final!

Field hockey opened the Games in Amsterdam on 17 May, and football was the second sport contested before the Opening Ceremony, held on 28 July, with the first match played in the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium on 27 May. Portugal beat 4-2, with a brace from Pepe Soares, and earned their place in the last 16.

La Celeste had no problems reaching the final. The Uruguayan squad began on 30 May against a Dutch team supported by around 28,000 spectators, and qualified courtesy of a 2-0 victory, with goals from Hector Scarone (20th minute) and Santos Urdinarán (86th minute). Playing on the right wing, wing-half Andrade was in action. He was regarded as the best player in the world at the time. In the quarter-finals, while Italy drew 1-1 against Spain and played again three days later, winning 7-1, Uruguay easily beat Germany 4-1, with a hat-trick by Pedro Petrone (35th, 39th and 84th minutes), and another goal by Hector Castro in the 63rd minute.



South American rivals and neighbours in the final – twice

On 7 June, the Uruguayans played the Italians in the semi-final. Although it was Adolfo Baloncieri who opened the scoring for the European team in the ninth minute, Uruguay rapidly equalised in the 17th minute thanks to Pedro Cea, with two further goals from Antonio Campolo (28th minute) and Hector Scarone (31st minute). Virginio Levatto got one back in the 60th minute, but it was too little too late. Argentina, meanwhile, inflicted a 6-0 drubbing on Egypt, resulting in a 100 per cent Latin American final. The two teams were formidable rivals, and both had won a similar number of the matches they had played during the four years between the Games in Paris and those in Amsterdam.


The crowd who filled the stands of the Olympic Stadium to watch the gold-medal match on 10 June were in for a treat. In a hard-fought game, Petrone opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, before Argentina’s Manuel Ferreira equalised in the 50th minute. And as neither team scored during extra time, the whole match had to be played again. On 13 June, in a packed stadium once more, the teams were level at 1-1 with just over 15 minutes of normal time left to play. Then Scarone saved the day with a goal in the 73rd minute, resulting in a 2-1 victory.

After playing a major part in this second consecutive Olympic victory, Andrade led his team to victory at the first FIFA World Cup with a 4-2 win in the final against their Argentinian rivals on 30 June 1930 in Montevideo. Twenty years later, the Uruguayans left a whole country in despair by beating Brazil in front of 200,000 spectators at the Maracanã to win their second World Cup. Today, the shirts worn by the players of La Celeste are notable for their four gold stars. This is because they won the two Olympic tournaments held before the creation of the World Cup. A decoration fully acknowledged by FIFA, which recognises the Olympic tournaments in 1924 and 1928 as world championships.

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