France 1938 World Cup
The decision by FIFA to host the 1938 World Cup in Europe was met with anger from many South American nations, as they had believed that Football’s governing body would alternate the hosting of the tournament between the two continents. As a result powerhouses Argentina and Uruguay refused to enter the tournament. Spain became the first nation to withdraw from the competition due to war. The Spaniards were unable to take their place because of the civil war. Sixteen teams originally qualified for the tournament but Austria were forced to pull out because their annexation by Germany.
It was also the first time that the hosts and holders qualified automatically and this was a tradition that continued until the 2006 World Cup where reigning champions Brazil were required to qualify for the tournament in Germany. It was also the last World Cup that was contested without a first round group stage.
In the two previous tournaments, the Samba Stars had flattered to deceive and had failed to progress past the first round. At the third time of asking the Boys from Brazil progressed to round two after overcoming Poland 6 goals to 5 in an eleven goal thriller with Brazil star Leonidas scoring a hat trick. In other matches Switzerland and Cuba and triumphed after replays and winners and beaten finalists from four years previous, Italy and Czechoslovakia both won after extra time. In other games, Hungary thrashed the Dutch East Indies 6-0, France beat Belgium 3-1 and Sweden were given a bye due to Austria’s withdrawal.
In the second round, they faced against the runners up from four years before, Czechoslovakia. After extra time, a replay was needed to separate the two sides and Brazil triumphing two goals to one with Leonidas again scoring one in each game. In other quarter final matches Hungary again emerged victorious; Sweden thrashed first round winners Cuba eight goals to nil and reigning champions Italy continued the defence of their crown by eliminating the host nation.
In the semifinals, Brazil was paired with reigning champions Italy. The South Americans were so confident of progressing they rested their star player Leonidas. The gamble failed to pay off as the winners from 1934 triumphed with a hard fought 2-1 victory. In the second semifinal Sweden got off to a flying start scoring a goal in the first minute of the match, the first Hungary had conceded in the tournament, but any thoughts of them repeating their result against Cuba were dashed when Hungary replied with five unanswered goals to put them into their first final.
Brazil then restored their star man to their starting line up and he responded by netting a brace to win the golden boot and take his tally to seven and the Brazilians overcame Sweden 4-2 to finish third. In the final, two goals in the first ten minutes got the final off to an exciting start as both team found the back of the net. Two more goals in the first half would give Italy a three goals to one half time lead. Both sides would score in the second half and Italy would once again emerge as victors and take their second successive crown.
Goals: 84 (average 4.7 per match)
Attendance: 376 000 (average 20 088 per match)
Golden Boot Winner: Leonidas (Brazil) 8 goals