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World Cup 1934

Final : Italy 2-1 Czechoslovakia.
Results of all matches.
Winners : Italy.

Football and propaganda

Although a great sporting success, the second World Cup took place in an environment where fanaticism was running high. In 1934, the fascists in Italy were well aware that football could be a potent tool for propaganda...
Though four years earlier it had refused to participate in the first World Cup, Italy became the competition's chief advocate in 1934, when the sporting and financial stakes were doubled by enormous political pressure. Propaganda was the order of the day for Mussolini, who saw the World Cup as an opportunity to vaunt his fascist regime. He was helped in this task by the "Giocco Calcio" federation President, General Vaccaro, a staunch supporter of Il Duce. Staged between 27 May and 10 June 1934, this World Cup was markedly more ambitious than its forerunner. 32 nations took part and for the first time a preliminary round was necessary, which qualified 16 teams for the finals. Sadly, as a retort to the many withdrawals of European teams four years earlier, several South American nations, such as Argentina and Brazil, did not send their best teams to Italy. Uruguay did not even defend its title.

A tough struggle

Predictably then, only European teams reached the quarter-finals. The battle reached its height in Florence. In gruelling heat, a steely Spanish defence bravely resisted the onslaught of the Squadra Azzurra and at the end of extra-time the score stood at 2-2. The match would have to be replayed....the next day. In an effort to rejuvenate their troops, both coaches called on fresh legs (5 changes in the Italian team and 7 for Spain), but player after player collapsed from sheer exhaustion...Happily for the locals, the Squadra centre forward Giuseppe Meazza scored the only goal of the game. Two days later, the same scenario took place in the semi-final against Austria, in Milan. On a San Siro pitch resembling a quagmire after a torrential storm, it was again Meazza, playing his fourth game in a week, who scored the winning goal and qualified his team for the Final. Italy's opponent was to be Czechoslovakia, conqueror of Germany.

Forza Italia

On Sunday 10 June, the whole of Italy was holding its breath. In his private box draped in purple, Mussolini awaited the triumph of the Squadra like a Roman emperor. For two whole hours the crowd chanted " I-ta-lia...Du-ce... I-ta-lia...Du-ce... ! " But there were still twenty minutes remaining when, from a corner, the Czechoslovakia left-winger Puc put his team ahead, and the del Partiti stadium was silenced. With only a few minutes to go, however, the Italo-Argentinian Orsi equalised for Italy, forcing the game into extra-time. Italy suffered a blow when its marksman Meazza was injured in a tackle, but he recovered sufficiently to lay on the winning goal for his team mate Schiavio. But while the Squadra Azzurra had displayed undeniable footballing abilities and truly deserved to win, Mussolini's ensuing fascist salute to the crowd cast a sinister shadow over this particular World Cup victory.

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