Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 48-Italy Make It Two In A Row (1938)

With the odd Dictator or two having a crack in Europe around the mid-thirties FIFA decided to be a bit more tactful with their selection of a host for the 1938 World Cup. Mussolini had used the 1934 tournament in Italy to full propaganda effect with Hitler at the Berlin Olympics doing the same so France was chosen to host the next tournament despite the ruling of ‘Europe then South America’ as far as hosting went.

Because of this about face Argentina missed out on hosting and FIFA paid tribute to Jules Rimet by giving it to the French and withdrawing. The tournament was (like 1934) a knockout with 15 nations competing including only one from South America who was Brazil. Asia was represented by the Dutch East Indies (later to be Indonesia) and even pre-communist Cuba made the trip. The champions Italy again looked the goods and knocked out the hosts and then beat Brazil 2-1 with Brazil leaving out their star striker Leonidas for the match for some bizarre (not that Mussolini had anything to do with it) reason.

On the other half of the draw Hungary had done away with the Dutch East Indies 6-0 and then Switzerland 2-0 to make the semi finals. In the semi they overcame Sweden (who had a bye in the first round) quite easily 6-1 with goals from their star striker Gyula Zsengeller. The Italians had an answer to Zsengeller in Luigi Colaussi who had scored just as many vital goals to get the Italians to the final as well as Silvio Piola.

With the stadium not near full capacity (the locals ignoring the tournament after France were knocked out) Hungary would try their free flowing approached against the disciplined Italian side. The match was delayed when the bus carrying the Italians had been stuck due to large crowds with the coach ordering the bus back to the hotel so they wouldn’t be stuck, this seemed to help the Italians with Colaussi finishing off a great move down the left when he volleyed into the corner of the net to beat the diving Szabo.

It took Hungary only two minutes to level the scores, when Titkos hit a powerful shot into the roof of the net from an acute angle. Titkos later became secretary to the Hungarian FA and was eventually the national team coach. Piola, who was seen as the player of the tournament, got his name on the scoresheet in the 16th minute when he finished off an intricate four-pass move in the Hungarian penalty area. Italy went in at half time with a 3-1 lead after Colaussi scored his second goal in the 35th minute.

Italy played a solid defensive game in the second half, but came unstuck in the 70th minute when Hungary’s captain Sarosi brought them back into the game with a goal which made it 3-2. However, eight minutes from time, Piola, perhaps appropriately, scored the last goal of the tournament when his powerful left-foot shot from 12 yards gave the Hungarian keeper no chance.

Italy won their second cup in a row. This would be the last World Cup to be played until 1950 with war looming and bombs were dropped, atrocities were committed and refugees became the new black. Still, the tournament in a soon to be occupied France offered a brief respite from what was to come. The trophy survived the war by being hidden underneath a bed in Italy.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.

Leave a Comment