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Football World Cup - 1938: France

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The World Cup: An Introduction | 1930: Uruguay | 1934: Italy | 1938: France | 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea

As in the 1934 World Cup, football politics reared its ugly head. Uruguay had still not forgiven FIFA for the European boycott of the 1930 World Cup held in Montevideo, and stayed at home. Argentina, who had applied to host the tournament, stayed at home because of what they perceived to be an insult when the tournament was awarded to France. The British countries, despite pleas from FIFA, refused to participate once again.

Despite these petty squables, it was the politics of the real world which cast a shadow on the 1938 tournament when Austria was forced to withdraw from the tournament following its annexation by Hitler's Germany.

Once again the 'World' Cup was not representative of world football, with unlikely countries such as the Dutch East Indies and Cuba among the 15 qualifiers. In all, 25 countries entered the 1938 tournament, six less than four years previously.

The Tournament

Italy, the holders and Olympic Champions in 1936, were favourites to win the tournament, but Brazil and Hungary were not far behind, and Norway proved that Scandinavian footballers could compete alongside the best by taking the bronze medal at the 1936 Olympics. Norway and Italy had faced each other in the 1936 Olympic semi-final, and, coincidentally, were drawn together in the opening round. Italy squeezed through 2-1 after extra-time.

1938 saw some surprising results, with the powerful German team losing in a replay to Switzerland and Cuba defeating Romania, again in a replay. But the match of the tournament has to be Brazil's opening round match against Poland. The score after 90 minutes was 4-4, with Brazil sneaking through 6-5 after extra time.

Over-confidence was to be Brazil's undoing later on in the tournament, when they decided to rest their star striker Leonidas for the semi-final against Italy. Without their ace goalscorer, Brazil were inadequate in front of goal, and an Italian victory was inevitable.

Italy had reached a second succesive World Cup final, where they faced Hungary in Paris on 19 June. The game got off to a lively start, with Gino Colaussi putting Italy ahead in the sixth minute, only for Pal Titkos to equalise for Hungary two minutes later. But Italy took control as the first half continued, and led 3-1 lead, at the interval.

A 70th-minute strike from Gyorgy Sarosi brought Hungary back into the game, but then Silvio Piola sealed the victory for Italy eight minutes from the end. Italy won their second consecutive World Cup final by four goals to two, with Colaussi and Piola scoring two goals each. Italy had now won two World Cups and the Olympic gold medal in the space of four years.

Within 15 months, football was swept aside by the outbreak of World War II. It was 12 years before another World Cup match was played.

Tournament Trivia

With an hour played in the semi-final match between Italy and Brazil, Italy were leading 1-0 when they were awarded a penalty. Giuseppe Meazza was Italy's regular penalty taker, but he found himself with a potentially embarrassing problem. The elastic in his shorts had snapped, and they were hanging loosely on his hips.

However, Meazza refused to be beaten. He placed the ball on the penalty spot with his right hand, and held his shorts up with his left. He then converted the penalty, for what proved to be the winning goal. Brazil pulled one back later in the game, but Italy held on to win 2-1. Meazza's shorts just about held on, too.

For The Record

First Round

Switzerland 1 : 1 Germany (after extra time)
Switzerland 4 : 2 Germany

Cuba 3 : 3 Romania (after extra time)
Cuba 2 : 1 Romania

Hungary 6 : 1 Dutch East Indies

France 3 : 1 Belgium

Czechoslovakia 3 : 0 Holland

Brazil 6 : 5 Poland (after extra time)

Italy 2 : 1 Norway


Sweden 8 : 0 Cuba

Hungary 2 : 0 Switzerland

Brazil 1 : 1 Czechoslovakia (after extra time)
Brazil 2 : 1 Czechoslovakia


Italy 2 : 1 Brazil

Hungary 5 : 1 Sweden

Third Place Play-Off
Brazil 4 : 2 Sweden


Italy 4 : 2 Hungary

Tournament Leading Goalscorer
da Silva (Brazil) - 8 goals

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