On this day 19 June 1938 (Exactly 81 years ago) Italy became the first team to retain the FIFA World Cup after beating Hungary 4-2 in the final at the Stade Olympique de Colombes in Paris.
With war clouds gathering over Europe, the third FIFA World Cup tournament took place against a bleak backdrop yet football – not least the flamboyantly skilful brand practised by Brazil – provided a shaft of sunshine for the French crowds during a 15-day festival from which Italy, the strongest and most consistent side, emerged as worthy winners.
Together with coach Vittorio Pozzo, there were four survivors in Italy’s squad from their 1934 triumph and two of them, Giuseppe Meazza and Giovanni Ferrari, figured prominently alongside star striker Silvio Piola, scorer of two goals in the 4-2 Final win over Hungary that ensured the Azzurri became the first team to successfully defend the trophy.
The 1938 finals proved the last major international sporting event before war broke out the following year
THE 1938 FIFA WORLD CUP
Mussolini used the 1934 World Cup in Italy as a propaganda platform for his Fascist dictatorship. Two years later, Adolf Hitler did the same with the Berlin Olympics.
Wanting to put an end to the political chicanery, and with Europe on the brink of war, FIFA diplomatically awarded the 1938 competition to France, the homeland of Jules Rimet, the man who originally conceived the idea of the World Cup.
With several new and modernized stadiums – not to mention that FIFA wanted to avoid the travel nightmares of the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay – France seemed a logical choice
Once again, however, the decision did not sit well in South America. Argentina applied to stage the tournament and, working under the assumption that the honour of hosting the competition would alternate between South America and Europe, thought it was a lock.
Feeling snubbed, Argentina stayed home, as did Uruguay. Brazil was the lone South American representative.
NO QUALIFIERS FOR HOSTS, CHAMPIONS
For the first time the hosts (France) and the defending champions (Italy) qualified automatically. As in 1934, the competition followed a knockout format with replays employed when games finished tied after 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time.
Austria qualified but withdrew (having been annexed by Hitler’s Germany) and was replaced by Sweden. Because there were 15, and not 16, teams in the competition, the Swedes received automatic entry into the quarter-finals.
The newcomers included the Netherlands, the Dutch East Indies, Cuba and Norway.
Five of the first-round matches from June 4-5 went to extra time and two games required a replay. Switzerland ousted Germany (who had enlisted several Austrian players) at the Parc de Princes in Paris, while Cuba shocked Romania at Toulouse’s Chapou stadium in the replays.
Czechoslovakia, France, Brazil and Hungary all advanced, but Italy was lucky to survive against Norway. At the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, Arne Brustad’s goal late in regulation appeared to have given the Norwegians the upset victory, but it was disallowed for offside. Silvio Piola scored in extra time to lift the world champions to the victory.
Sweden entered the quarter-final with style by thrashing Cuba 8-0. Hosts France was eliminated at the hands of Italy in Paris, Hungary disposed of Switzerland, while Czechoslovakia and Brazil battled to a draw in an ill-tempered contest before the South Americans won the replay.
Hungary, an emerging soccer power at the time, displayed great skill and panache in destroying Sweden 5-1 in the semifinals. Brazil made eight changes to its starting lineup, including resting star forward Leonidas, and were bossed around by the Italians, who went on to win 2-1 and book a place in the final.
On June 19 at the Colombes stadium in Paris, Vittorio Pozzo’s Azzurri took to the field with only Hungary standing in their way to repeating as world champions.
When the Italians scored six minutes into the contest through Gino Colaussi, the rout appeared to be on. Pal Titkos levelled the score two minutes later, but the goal proved to be only a brief respite for the Hungarians.
Giovanni Ferrari and Giuseppe Meazza, Italy’s dynamic inside-forward partnership, took hold of the game and set up Piola’s goal in the 15th minute. Ten minutes before half, Ferrari and Meazza worked their magic again, this time finding the unmarked Colaussi, who netted his second of the game. Hungary’s captain Gyorgy Sarosi scored in the 70th minute, but Italy put the game away with 10 minutes left in regulation when Amedeo Biavati back-heeled a pass to Piola, who beat goalkeeper Antal Szabo with a powerful left-footed shot: 4-2 to Italy.
The 1938 World Cup, perhaps more than any tournament, clearly demonstrated the powerful nature of soccer.
Spain was being ripped apart by civil war, Hitler and the Nazis were occupying Austria, and a crisis-ridden Europe was teetering on the brink of World War II. And yet, for 15 days in June, the World Cup beamed a powerful light of hope and friendship through the ominous clouds hovering over the continent.
In the end, France was lauded for its brilliant staging of the competition and Italy retained its title, but they would be denied the chance to win a third consecutive crown – the map of Europe was about to change, and the World Cup would go on a 12-year hiatus.
Italy: Aldo Olivieri, Alfredo Foni, Pietro Rava, Pietro Serantoni, Ugo Locatelli, Michele Andreolo, Giuseppe Meazza (C), Giovanni Ferrari, Amedeo Biavati, Silvio Piola, Gino Colaussi
Manager : Vittorio Pozzo
Hungary : Antal Szabo, Sando Biro, Gyula Polgar, Gyula Lazar, Antal Szalay, Gyorgy Szucs, Gyula Zsengeller, Jeno Vincze, Pal Titkos, Gyorgy Sarosi (C), Ferenc Sas
Manager : Alfred Schaffer
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
*Vittorio Pozzo is the only manager to win two World Cups, having guided Italy to the crown in 1934 and 1938.
*Cuba only qualified because Mexico withdrew from the tournament.
*Brian Glanville, the dean of soccer journalists, writes in his book, The History of the World Cup, about Sweden’s 8-0 win over Cuba in the quarter-finals: “At 5-0 the French journalist Emmanuel Gambardella shut his typewriter. ‘Up to five goals,’ he announced, ‘is journalism. After that, it becomes statistics.’ ”
*Italian forward Giuseppe Meazza faced an unusual problem during the semifinals against Brazil. He was set to take a penalty shot when the elastic holding up his shorts snapped. Undaunted, Meazza held up his shorts with his left hand while scoring from the spot to give Italy a 2-0 lead. Meazza’s shorts fell down around his waist after he scored.
*Switzerland’s Ernst Loertscher holds the dubious distinction of scoring the first own-goal in World Cup history. Switzerland beat Germany 4-2 in the first round, but one of the German goals was mistakenly scored by Loertscher.
MATCH OF THE TOURNAMENT: Brazil’s 6-5 victory over Poland in the first round. A wet and muddy field in Strasbourg didn’t slow down Leonidas, who had a hat trick for Brazil. Polish forward Ernest Willimowski scored four times in a wildly entertaining match that went to extra time.
MAN OF THE TOURNAMENT: Leonidas. The lithe forward, known as the “Black Diamond” and the “Rubber Man,” finished the tournament as the top scorer with seven goals
SPOTLIGHT: Brazilian coach Ademar Pimenta made one of the most questionable decisions in World Cup history when he did not play Leonidas, his star forward, in the semifinals.
After the first two rounds, Leonidas proved to be the star of the competition with six goals to his credit. And yet, inexplicably, he did not take to the field against the Italians. So confident was Pimenta that his team would beat the reigning world champions that he boastfully announced he was resting Leonidas and saving him for the final.
It proved not only grossly presumptuous, but a calamitous error in judgment. Italy picked apart a helpless Brazil in a 2-1 victory to book its place in the final. Pimenta wised up and put Leonidas back in the lineup for Brazil’s third-place game. He scored two goals to lead his country to a 4-2 win over Sweden.
AND ANOTHER THING: The quarter-final between Brazil and Czechoslovakia on June 12 in Bordeaux was more of a rugby match than a soccer game. A physical encounter from the start, the game quickly boiled over.
Early in the contest, Brazilian defender Zeze hacked down Czech forward Oldrich Nejedly and was immediately expelled by the Hungarian referee. Just before the end of the half, Brazil’s Machados exchanged punches with Czechoslovakia’s Jan Riha and both were tossed.
By the end of the carnage-marred contest, three players were ejected and five were injured, including Nejedly (broken leg) and teammate Frantisek Planicka (broken arm)
On this day 19 June 1936 (Exactly 83 years ago) America was left stunned when then 27-0 (23 KO) rising heavyweight star Joe Louis was knocked out for the first time in his career by German legend Max Schmeling at a sold out Yankee Stadium, New York.
Their epic bout, scheduled for 15 rounds, ended in the 12th when Schmeling landed right hands to the body and the jaw to leave Louis on the canvas and counted out. The contest was later deemed fight of the year.
On this day 19 June 1946 (Exactly 73 years ago) Joe Louis KO Billy Conn at the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, USA
to retain his Ring and lineal heavyweight titles.
Louis vs.Billy Conn II was the first world heavyweight title fight broadcast on television. It was shown on NBC.
Except for exhibitions, neither Louis nor Conn had fought in more than four years due to their military service during World War II. Louis was a 3½ to 1 favorite. There was a crowd of 45,266, and the gross gate was $1,925,504.
Louis made $577,700, and Conn got $289,000.
Before the fight, Louis said, “He can run, but he can’t hide.”
Referee Eddie Joseph officiated both Louis-Conn fights
Unlike the first fight, which was one of the greatest title fights ever, the rematch was dull. Conn moved and boxed, while Louis pursued. In the eighth round, Louis staggered Conn with a right cross. He followed up with a right uppercut and a left hook that put Conn down for the count.
Conn, very disappointed by his performance, announced his retirement after the fight, but he soon changed his mind.
In September 1946, Conn said he wanted a third fight with Louis and would give his purse to charity. Conn fought two more times. He scored two knockout victories in November 1948 and then retired for good.
Conn’s performance against Louis was named “Flop of the Year” in the Associated Press’ annual year-end poll.
On this day 19 June 1992 (Exactly 27 years ago) Evander Holyfield beat Larry Holmes at the Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S. Retained WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal heavyweight titles.
The fight went the full 12 rounds with Evander Holyfield earning the victory via unanimous decision with two scores of 116–112 and one score of 117–111.
Holyfield was able to control most of the fight as Holmes took a more defensive approach.
Holmes’ best offensive showing came in round 2 when he was able to hit Holyfield with a combination of uppercuts and hooks in the second minute of the round. Holmes was also able to open a cut above Holyfield’s right eye after catching him with an elbow following a missed right hand.
On this day 19 June 2005 (Exactly 14 years ago) Michael Schumacher claimed a hollow win in a farcical US Grand Prix, with just six cars taking part.
Because of the Michelin tyre safety row the only cars on the starting grid were those of Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi.
STORY: GEORGE MAHAMAH