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World Cup 1938

Leonidas (BRA)
Gyula Zsengeller (HUN)
Silvio Piola (ITA)
8 goals
7 goals
5 goals
Number of games
Total goals scored
Average per game
Sendings off
Own goals
Total attendance
Average attendance


     This World Cup held in France was the last before World War II. In 1934, Mussolini had used the World Cup in Italy to full advantage as a propaganda platform. Two years later, Adolf Hitler tried to do the same with the Berlin Olympics. Now, with Europe teetering towards the brink of war, FIFA had to be diplomatic over its choice of venue for the 1938 World Cup. Argentina had applied to stage the finals and, believing the venue would alternate between South America and Europe, they were confident of playing host to the world's leading soccer tournament. But FIFA were mindful of the problems with the first competition in Uruguay, not to mention the travelling difficulties. There was now 57 nations with membership in FIFA and most of those were from Europe. It therefore made sense to give the third World Cup to a European country, and that honour fell to France. FIFA's choice was probably out of loyalty to Jules Rimet, the man who played a big part in getting the tournament started in the first place.

     The tournament schedule was the same as in Italy four years earlier, with knockout stage all the way. Argentina and Uruguay were still absent from South America. Argentina snubbed the competition because they had not been allocated the tournament. Only Brazil represented that continent. 15 nations took part, and that meant one nation had to get a free passage into the next round. Sweden was the lucky country. It was to a very tight round, as five of the seven first round matches needed extra time or a replay. Italy was in one of those matches, they played Norway and were lucky not to get eliminated when Norway got a late goal disallowed for offside. Brazil beat Poland 6-5 when Leonidas and Willimowski scored four goals each for their countries. Cuba surprised many by beating Romania after a replay, and Germany were also knocked out after a replay when they lost to Switzerland.

     Defending champions Italy beat the hosts 3-1 in the quarterfinal, while Sweden finally entered the competition and beat Cuba 8-0. Brazil beat the runners-up from the last World Cup, Czechoslovakia after a replay. Italy marched on to the final after beating Brazil in the semifinal with 2-1. Brazil unbelievably had left the topscorer Leonidas out of the team, to save him for the final! It was one of the most controversial managerial decisions in World Cup history. The other semifinal was between Sweden and Hungary. Sweden with lots of confidence after their victory over Cuba had a disappointing afternoon as Hungary trashed them 5-1 with Zsengeller getting a hat-trick.

     Leonidas was back in the team for the bronzematch against Sweden and scored two goals as the South Americans won the game 4-2. The final in Paris produced six goals, four to Italy who defended the title. Read more about the final by clicking on the "Final" link in the left column.

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