Football - World Cup 1938 Facts

Posted in Sport

The third FIFA World Cup™ was played in France as the war clouds gathered throughout Europe and politics kept away a number of top nations. Austria qualified, but withdrew -- though some of their players appeared in the colours of Germany -- and Spain was ravaged by civil war. Argentina and Uruguay also stayed away.

Brazil and Poland produced one of the greatest games of all time in Strasbourg with the South Americans triumphing 6-5 after extra time, thanks to four goals from Leonidas who played barefoot for a spell. In the final, Italy beat Hungary 4-2 in Paris.

Same again for Italy!

The FIFA World Cup competition on French soil, in modernised stadiums, enjoyed immense popular success and was the last opportunity for a display of international fellowship through football before war broke out the following year.

Civil war raged in Spain, Germany had annexed Austria and a crisis-ridden Europe was preparing for hostilities when FIFA decided that the third FIFA World Cup would take place in France. To rise to the occasion, the Stade de Colombes was enlarged while the stadiums at Bordeaux and Marseille were renovated. And for the first time the host nation and the holders qualified automatically, a privilege which lives on to this day.

Once again, however, the competition was boycotted by the South Americans, who felt that the tournament should have been held in Argentina this time around and not in Europe again. Brazil did make the trip and proved to be the competition's biggest draw, playing their inimitably skilful game, getting off to a flying start and justifying their reputation by overcoming Poland after extra-time by an incredible 6 goals to 5 - Leonidas, "the black diamond", and Willimowski scoring four goals apiece! Sadly, the quarter-final game at Bordeaux between Brazil and Czechoslovakia ended in an all-out brawl: three players were sent off and five injured, two of whom were rushed to hospital with broken limbs.

Pride comes before a fall

The host nation France defeated Belgium (3-1), thanks largely to its right-winger Fred Aston, known as the "will-o'-the-wisp", whose bursting forays to the bye line were decisive. Unhappily for the 58,455 supporters crammed into the Yves-du-Manoir stadium at Colombes, near Paris, for the quarter-final match, France went down 3-1 to Italy. Unlike Uruguay and Italy in the two previous competitions, France, the host nation, would not lift the FIFA World Cup played on its own soil.

The Italy-Brazil semi-final promised to be the final before the event itself, until the Brazilian coach Adheniar Pimenta made a gross error of judgement and decided to leave out two key players, most notably his marksman Leonidas. "I am resting him for the final," declared Pimenta. Far from being overawed, the Squadra Azzurra ran out victors (2-1) and earned the right to defend their title against Hungary, easy winners over Sweden.

In the final, Meazza and Ferrari, the two Italian playmakers, called the tune and the already legendary Italian pragmatism did the rest. Italy triumphed (4-2), and with back-to-back FIFA World Cup victories entered football history as one of the all-time great national teams. Alas, war came, putting an end to the FIFA World Cup competition for 12 years to come: and perhaps depriving this talented generation of Italian footballers of even greater glory.

Did You Know?

It's 16 June 1938 and the game between Italy and Brazil in the Stade V?lodrome in Marseilles has been under way for an hour. Italy are leading 1-0 and now they are awarded a penalty. The man for such situations is normally Giuseppe Meazza, but he has a problem. The elastic holding up his shorts has broken and they are very loose about his hips"

Meazza is not deterred, however - with his left hand he holds the shorts up, with the right he places the ball on the spot and gives the Brazilian goalkeeper no chance with his shot. Italy win the game and go on to the final and a successful defence of their title.

adidas Golden Shoe winnerLEONIDAS (Brazil)


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