1938 World Cup, held in France

The A to Z of the 1938 tournament...


Austria, one of the great football powers of the era, was now no longer a country, swallowed up by the Anschluss. They qualified in October, but by April the FA ceased to exist. So some of the Austrian squad was added to the Germans. Not Matthias Sindelar though, who now had to wear the Star of David on his clothing.


The first player that played on his birthday at the finals was Emile Veinante - on his 31st.


Coach Vittorio Pozzo was again the Italian manager, and the only one to win 2 World Cups back to back. He also sent his team out v France in an all black fascist kit.


Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) became the first Asian qualifiers. Their captain Nawir was a doctor who played in glasses, and the majority were students. A compromising 6-0 score by the Hungarians ended their only World Cup dream.


Still no England or any of the Home Nations. England, who had won in Germany and France, would have been one of the favourites, but the FA turned down an invitation to take Austria's place.


France were hosts of the 3rd World cup, so didn't have to qualify (which was a first). Argentina didn't enter the tournament on the grounds that they should have hosted the tournament. France won one game, then lost to Italy in the quarter-finals. 10 cities hosted the games, the final being played in the Stade Olympique de Colombes.


Germany, to the delight of Europe, were knocked out in the first round after a replay against Switzerland, who refused to give a Nazi salute. The Germans led the replay 2-0, against 10 men, and still lost 4-2. What a shame !


Hungary became runners up. Their keeper Szabo misunderstood a message that read Vincere O Morire which he thought meant 'Win or Die'. Relieved, thinking that he had spared the lives of the Italian players by losing, he later discovered that the message read 'Victory or Bust', a slogan of encouragement from the fascist era.


Italy were victorious again, the first team to win back to back World Cups. Only Meazza and Ferrari were left from 1934 final and it was a much more athletic Italian team than before with pace and fitness rapidly turning defence into attack throughout the tournament. As previous winners they didn't have to qualify (another tournament first.)


Jack Butler became the first English coach at a World Cup. He coached the Belgians, but suffered a 2-1 defeat against hosts France.


The keeper with the worst World Cup blunder has to be France's Laurent Di Lorto. With an easy volley heading towards him, he hopped up for an easy catch then decided to push it away. He then palmed it sideways, tried to follow it as it fell into the net, crashed into the post, then kicked the ball away in disgust. All his own doing, and he never played for France again.


Leonidas da Silva was top scorer with 7 goals. The sturdy little Brazilian with the pencil moustache stood out even more when he started the game v Poland in his socks because of the muddy pitch. The ref Eklind made him put his boots back on though.


Manager with the distinction of making one of the worst decisions in World Cup history was Pimenta of Brazil. Thinking that they would easily beat Italy in the Semi's he dropped Leonidas to rest him for the final. Brazil were duly knocked out 2-1.


Norway nearly beat Italy in the first round, running the reigning champions ragged. A disallowed goal, and fine keeping kept the Italians in the tournament after extra time, and they eventually became the winners.


The oldest hat-trick scorer in World Cup history is Tore Keller from Sweden v Cuba. He was allegedly 33 years and 159 days.


Silvio Piola was Italy's star striker, and the best player in Europe at the time with 30 goals in 34 games. He excelled alongside the Azzuri's use of wingers, especially Biavati, and scored 2 in the final.


Qualification consisted of 37 teams, but only 27 played. The rest withdrew for numerous reasons. Spain was in a civil war so Cuba, Dutch East Indies, Brazil and Romania qualified without playing. Poor old Latvia, who were 2nd in Austria's group were not invited (despite the withdrawal of the Austrians), so only 15 teams were actually named in the finals.


Replays were used again, this time three times, but now with more time between the games.


Sweden got a bye in the 1st round, played Cuba and won 8-0 (only WC apps) to book a semi final place v Hungary who hammered them 5-1, but only after Arne Nyberg had scored the then fastest World Cup goal after 35 seconds


The top scorers in the tournament with 15 goals were Hungary. They were easily the most exciting going forward, and had 2 formidable strikers in Zsengeller and Sarosi, who netted 10 between them.


Underdogs of the tournament Cuba caused an upset by beating Romania after a replay, to become the first Wprld Cuo shocks. They then played Sweden 3 days later, probably exhaustion played a part in their 8-0 trouncing. Sweden's Wetterstrom scored 4 of the goals.


Vice-President of FIFA, Dr. Ottorino Barassi, hid the trophy in a shoe-box under his bed throughout the Second World War and thus saved it from falling into the hands of occupying troops.


Ernest Wilimowski of Poland goes in the record books as the first player to score 4 goals in a match (v Brazil), and still be on the losing side as it finished 6 goals to 5. He was later press-ganged into playing for Germany during the war, and scored 13 goals.


The Final XI's

Italy: Olivieri, Foni, Rava, Serantoni, Andreolo, Locatelli, Biavati, Meazza, Piola 16, 82, Ferrari, Colaussi 6, 35

Hungary: Szabo, Gyula, Polgar, Biro, Szalay, Gyorgy, Szucs, Lazar, Sas, Vincze, Sarosi 69, Zsengaller, Titkos 7


Y-fronts were nearly on display in the Semi's when Meazza who had just scored a penalty, ran to the sidelines to change his shorts. Whilst putting the ball on the spot for the peno, he bent down and snapped the elastic in his shorts.


Zaniest game of the tournament was between Brazil and Czechoslovakia. This was a war on a football pitch, broken bones for Planicka and Nejedly, who were out for the replay, and 3 men sent off. Planika never played for his country again afterwards.