Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 56-Mussolini’s ‘Italians’ Win the First Cup For Europe (1934)

For the second ever World Cup FIFA decided that despite growing political tensions it would be best to take the tournament to Europe for the first time. The tournament was doubled with 16 sides now in the straight knockout competition with radio coverage even introduced for the countries taking part. Italy would host the tournament (even though they had to qualify too) with defending champions Uruguay refusing to take part of Italy’s snub four years earlier which meant this would be the only tournament in which the champions never took part to defend their crown. The home nations also refused to take part claiming their British championship was far batter than the fledgling World Cup in a last hurrah of British Empire stiff upper lip.

Benito Mussolini saw this tournament as a chance to show everything that was great about fascism and wearing jack boots much like what Hitler would do two years later in Berlin. Apart from the odd march and showing off of military might Mussolini even had his own trophy forged to give to the winning team that was twice as big and spectacular as the World Cup trophy which he dubbed Coppa Del Duce. Italy would be favourites for the tournament with the soon to be annexed Austria another fancied side. Italy were helped by the fact they had drafted in a number of Argentinians from across the ditch who had remarkably been given Italian passports out of nowhere. Though they still featured the legendary Giuseppe Meazza of which the San Siro was named after.

In the knockout stages Brazil took weeks to sail to Italy and turnaround straightaway after they went out in the first round along with Argentina, Egypt and the USA. With an all European final 8, the hosts snuck past Spain with the help of a replay, then defeated the Austrians easily in the semi finals. Their opponents in the final would be the Czechs who had defeated another fancied team in the Swiss and then eliminated Germany. Both sides were also captained by their goalkeepers in Planicka and Schiavio which was a rare occurrence in this era.

The final would be played at the ‘delightfully’ named National Stadium of the National Fascist Party in Rome with the game very even thanks to Italy being under a heap of pressure to perform in front of one short guy dressed in black and 50,000 screaming fans along with the Czechs attacking style. Late in the second half the Czechs did the unthinkable when they hit the lead through the striker Puc (who would go on to become the record goal scorer for his country) with a goal that came from a corner being cleared and then sent straight back in and past the keeper.

With 19 minutes left the Czechs had to hold out Italy and then think of a way to get out of the stadium alive. They almost got there for a remarkable upset and missed two sitters to put the result beyond doubt with one hitting the upright and going out. Italy found a way some 10 minutes after the goal when Orsi scored to spare blushes and perhaps lives. The goal from Orsi (another Argentine) ran around a number of Czech players before dummying a shot with his left and hitting the ball with the outside of his right.

A winner couldn’t be found so the game when in to extra time for the first time. There would be only one winner in extra time of course and it was Italy. The Bolognan striker Schiavio rounded a defender and beat Planicka with a shot which crept in just under the crossbar. Coach Vittorio Pozzo’s team were the champions as they were expected to be and the first of five European winners of the cup was crowned.

This was the first foray in to Europe for the competition with much work still to be done but it was 2 out of 2 for hosts winning the tournament.

About Dennis Gedling

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


  1. Skip of Skipton says

    Alot of Italians emigrated to Argentina back in the era, and earlier. Around the turn of the 20th Century, Argentina had one of the highest living standards in the world.

    Look at current names like Messi, or Simeone the coach of the all-conquering Atletico Madrid. The great Di Stefano from times yore at Real Madrid. All Argies with Italian names.

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