According to FIFA, the first FIFA World Cup, held in Uruguay in 1930 featured just 18 matches.
(In 2010 a total of 64 will be played: 48 matches in group play, which produces 16 teams to play further. Then there are 8 matches of the first round of the knock-out stage, which will produce 8 winners. The 8 winners will produce 4 quarter-final matches. From there you have 2 semifinal matches. There is a third and fourth place play off match. Then, 1 championship match!)