FIFA World Cup 1938: Italy defends title before World War II breaks out | Football news

WC 1938 was held in the shadow of the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi annexation of Austria, Mussolini’s acts of Italian rebellion and the ongoing boycott of Uruguay.

Host: France
Team: 16
Format: Knockout, Semi-Final, Final
Matches: 18
Goal: 84
Winner: Italy
runner-up: Hungary
Golden shoe: Leonidas (Brazil)


The 1938 World Cup was held in the shadow of the Spanish Civil War, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, the acts of Italian rebellion by Benito Mussolini and the ongoing boycott of Uruguay.

When France was chosen to host the World Cup two years before the tournament, two South American giants, Uruguay and Argentina, announced a boycott. The finalists of the first World Cup believe that hosting rights should be split between Europe and South America.

Despite these controversies, Brazil and Cuba ensure representation of the continent, with the former presenting a first glimpse of the brilliance and sophistication that will befall them in the years to come.

How the last World Cup was born in 1930

Controversies and concussions at the 1934 FIFA World Cup

Austria, meanwhile, was abolished a few months before the tournament and was incorporated into Germany.

This has led to supposed rifts within the German team and left some spectators in trouble during German matches.

The Italian team also caused controversy by offering a fascist salute before the match and choosing to wear black as their away shirt, matching the colors of the Fascist Party.

The Italians marked their authority into the competition by becoming the first team to successfully defend their title.

Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo will make his name on the list of the game’s first legendary coaches as he leads the Azzurri to a second consecutive world championship, as well as an Olympic gold medal in 1936.

High level

Asia was represented for the first time in the tournament called Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, qualifying while other Asian teams withdrew.

The tournament saw an average of 4.66 goals per game delighting spectators across the 10 host cities.

Six games went into extra time with a penalty shootout yet to be announced.


The tournament has been marred by political unrest across Europe, as well as continental instability between South America and Europe.

It resulted in several major soccer nations missing out on the tournament.

The third World Cup turned out to be the last in the pre-World War II era. The world had to wait 12 years before the next tournament took place.


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