1938 FIFA World Cup

The 1938 FIFA World Cup was the third edition of the World Cup, the quadrennial international football championship for senior men's national teams and was held in France from 4-19 June 1938. Italy defended its title in the final, beating Hungary 4–2. Italy's 1934 and 1938 teams hold the distinction of the sole World Cup champions under the same coach, Vittorio Pozzo. It would be the last World Cup until 1950 due to the disruption of World War II.

1938 FIFA World Cup
Coupe du Monde 1938
Official poster
Tournament details
Host countryFrance
Dates4–19 June
Teams15 (from 4 confederations)
Venue(s)10 (in 9 host cities)
Final positions
Champions Italy (2nd title)
Runners-up Hungary
Third place Brazil
Fourth place Sweden
Tournament statistics
Matches played18
Goals scored84 (4.67 per match)
Attendance374,835 (20,824 per match)
Top scorer(s) Leônidas (7 goals)

Host selection

France was chosen as host nation by FIFA in Berlin on 13 August 1936. France was chosen over Argentina and Germany in the first round of voting. The decision to hold a second consecutive tournament in Europe (after Italy in 1934) caused outrage in South America, where it was believed that the venue should alternate between the two continents. This was the last World Cup to be staged before the outbreak of the Second World War.


Because of anger over the decision to hold a second successive World Cup in Europe, neither Uruguay nor Argentina entered the competition. Spain meanwhile could not participate due to the ongoing Spanish Civil War.

It was the first time that the hosts, France, and the title holders, Italy, qualified automatically. Title holders were given an automatic entry into the World Cup from 1938 until 2002 (inclusive), since abolished.

Of the 14 remaining places, eleven were allocated to Europe, two to the Americas, and one to Asia. As a result, only three non-European nations took part: Brazil, Cuba and the Dutch East Indies. This is the smallest ever number of teams from outside the host continent to compete at a FIFA World Cup.

Austria qualified for the World Cup, but after qualification was complete, the Anschluss united Austria with Germany. Austria subsequently withdrew from the tournament, with some Austrian players joining the German squad, although not including Austrian star player Matthias Sindelar, who refused to play for the unified team.[1] Latvia was the runner-up in Austria's qualification group, but was not invited to participate; instead Austria's place remained empty, and Sweden, which would have been Austria's initial opponent, progressed directly to the second-round by default.

This tournament saw the first, and as of 2018 the only, participation in a World Cup tournament from Cuba and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). It also saw the World Cup debuts of Poland and Norway. Romania would not qualify for another World Cup until 1970, Poland and the Netherlands would not reappear at a finals tournament until 1974, and Norway would not qualify for another World Cup finals until 1994. A unified Germany team would not appear again until 1994, although Austria returned in 1954 and won third place.

List of qualified teams

The following 16 teams originally qualified for the final tournament. However, 15 teams participated after Austria's withdrawal due to the Anschluss.


The knockout format from 1934 was retained. If a match was tied after 90 minutes, then 30 minutes of extra time were played. If the score was still tied after extra time, the match would be replayed. This was the last World Cup tournament that used a straight knockout format.


Qualifying countries and their results

Germany, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Cuba and Brazil were seeded for draw taking place in Paris, on 5 March 1938. Sweden was given a bye due to Austria's withdrawal.[2]

Five of the seven first round matches required extra time to break the deadlock; two games still went to a replay. In one replay, Cuba advanced to the next round at the expense of Romania. In the other replay, Germany, which had led 1–0 in the first game against Switzerland, led 2–0 but eventually was beaten 2–4. This loss, which took place in front of a hostile, bottle-throwing crowd in Paris, was blamed by German coach Sepp Herberger on a defeatist attitude from the five Austrian players he had been forced to include; a German journalist later commented that "Germans and Austrians prefer to play against each other even when they're in the same team".[3] Until they were knocked out in the first round in 2018, this was the only time Germany had failed to advance past the first round for 80 years.[4]

Sweden advanced directly to the quarter-finals as a result of Austria's withdrawal, and they proceeded to beat Cuba 8–0. The hosts, France, were beaten by the holders, Italy, and Switzerland were seen off by Hungary. Czechoslovakia took Brazil to extra time in a notoriously feisty match in Bordeaux before succumbing in a replay; the South Americans proved too strong for the depleted Czechoslovak side (both Oldřich Nejedlý and František Plánička had suffered broken bones in the first game) and won 2–1. This was the last match to be replayed in a World Cup.

Hungary destroyed Sweden in one of the semi-finals 5–1, while Italy and Brazil had the first of their many important World Cup clashes in the other. The Brazilians rested their star player Leônidas confident that they would qualify for the final, but the Italians won 2–1. Brazil topped Sweden 4–2 for third place.

Rumour has it, before the finals Benito Mussolini was to have sent a telegram to the team, saying "Vincere o morire!" (literally translated as "Win or die!"). This should not have been meant as a literal threat, but instead just an encouragement to win. However, no record remains of such a telegram, and World Cup player Pietro Rava said, when interviewed, "No, no, no, that's not true. He sent a telegram wishing us well, but no never 'win or die'."[5]

The final itself took place at the Stade Olympique de Colombes in Paris. Vittorio Pozzo's Italian side took the lead early, but Hungary equalised within two minutes. The Italians took the lead again shortly after, and by the end of the first half were leading the Hungarians 3–1. Hungary never really got back into the game. With the final score favouring the Italians 4–2, Italy became the first team to successfully defend the title and were once more crowned World Cup winners.

Because of World War II, the World Cup would not be held for another 12 years, until 1950. As a result, Italy were the reigning World Cup holders for a record 16 years, from 1934 to 1950. The Italian Vice-President of FIFA, Dr. Ottorino Barassi, hid the trophy in a shoe-box under his bed throughout the Second World War and thus saved it from falling into the hands of occupying troops.[6]


Eleven venues in ten cities were planned to host the tournament; of these, all hosted matches except the Stade de Gerland in Lyon, which did not due to Austria's withdrawal.

(Paris area)
Marseille Paris Bordeaux
Stade Olympique de Colombes Stade Vélodrome Parc des Princes Parc Lescure
Capacity: 60,000 Capacity: 48,000 Capacity: 40,000 Capacity: 34,694
Strasbourg Le Havre
Stade de la Meinau Stade Municipal
Capacity: 30,000 Capacity: 22,000
Reims Toulouse Lille Antibes
Vélodrome Municipal Stade du T.O.E.C. Stade Victor Boucquey Stade du Fort Carré
Capacity: 21,684 Capacity: 15,000 Capacity: 15,000 Capacity: 7,000


For a list of all squads that appeared in the final tournament, see 1938 FIFA World Cup squads.

Final tournament


Round of 16Quarter-finalsSemi-finalsFinal
5 June – Marseille
 Italy (aet)2
12 June – Colombes
5 June – Colombes
16 June – Marseille
5 June – Strasbourg
 Brazil (aet)6
12 and 14 June – Bordeaux
 Brazil1 (2)
5 June – Le Havre
 Czechoslovakia1 (1)
 Czechoslovakia (aet)3
19 June – Colombes
5 June – Reims
12 June – Lille
 Dutch East Indies0
4 and 9 June – Paris
  Switzerland1 (4)
16 June – Paris
 Germany1 (2)
5 June – Lyon
 Sweden1 Third place
 Sweden (awd.)3
12 June – Antibes19 June – Bordeaux
 Sweden8 Brazil4
5 and 9 June – Toulouse
 Cuba0  Sweden2
 Cuba3 (2)
 Romania3 (1)

Round of 16

Switzerland  1–1 (a.e.t.) Germany
Abegglen  43' Report Gauchel  29'
Attendance: 27,152

Hungary 6–0 Dutch East Indies
Kohut  13'
Toldi  15'
Sárosi  28', 89'
Zsengellér  35', 76'
Attendance: 9,000
Referee: Roger Conrié (France)

Sweden 3–0

Cuba 3–3 (a.e.t.) Romania
Socorro  44', 103'
Magriñá  69'
Report Bindea  35'
Barátky  88'
Dobay  105'
Attendance: 7,000
Referee: Giuseppe Scarpi (Italy)

France 3–1 Belgium
Veinante  1'
Nicolas  16', 69'
Report Isemborghs  38'

Italy 2–1 (a.e.t.) Norway
Ferraris  2'
Piola  94'
Report Brustad  83'
Attendance: 19,000

Brazil 6–5 (a.e.t.) Poland
Leônidas  18', 93', 104'
Romeu  25'
Perácio  44', 71'
Report Scherfke  23' (pen.)
Wilimowski  53', 59', 89', 118'
Attendance: 13,452
Referee: Ivan Eklind (Sweden)

Czechoslovakia 3–0 (a.e.t.) Netherlands
Košťálek  93'
Zeman  111'
Nejedlý  118'
Attendance: 11,000
Referee: Lucien Leclerq (France)
Switzerland  4–2 Germany
Walaschek  42'
Bickel  64'
Abegglen  75', 78'
Report Hahnemann  8'
Lörtscher  22' (o.g.)
Attendance: 20,025
Referee: Ivan Eklind (Sweden)

Cuba 2–1 Romania
Socorro  51'
Fernández  57'
Report Dobay  35'
Attendance: 8,000
Referee: Alfred Birlem (Germany)


Switzerland  0–2 Hungary
Report Sárosi  40'
Zsengellér  89'[9]
Attendance: 15,000
Referee: Rinaldo Barlassina (Italy)

Sweden 8–0 Cuba
H. Andersson  9', 81', 89'[10]
Wetterström  22', 37', 44'
Keller  80'[11]
Nyberg  84'[12]

France 1–3 Italy
Heisserer  10' Report Colaussi  9'
Piola  51', 72'

Brazil 1–1 (a.e.t.) Czechoslovakia
Leônidas  30' Report Nejedlý  65' (pen.)
Attendance: 22,021
Referee: Pál von Hertzka (Hungary)
Brazil 2–1 Czechoslovakia
Leônidas  57'
Roberto  62'[13]
Report Kopecký  25'
Attendance: 18,141


Hungary 5–1 Sweden
Jacobsson  19' (o.g.)
Titkos  37'
Zsengellér  39', 85'
Sárosi  65'
Report Nyberg  1'
Attendance: 20,000
Referee: Lucien Leclerq (France)

Italy 2–1 Brazil
Colaussi  51'
Meazza  60' (pen.)
Report Romeu  87'

Third place play-off

Sweden 2–4 Brazil
Jonasson  28'
Nyberg  38'
Report Romeu  44'
Leônidas  63', 74'
Perácio  80'
Attendance: 12,000


Italy 4–2 Hungary
Colaussi  6', 35'
Piola  16', 82'
Report Titkos  8'
Sárosi  70'


With seven goals, Leônidas was the top scorer in the tournament. In total, 84 goals were scored by 42 players, with two of them credited as own goals.

7 goals
5 goals
4 goals
3 goals
2 goals
1 goal
1 own goal

FIFA retrospective ranking

A ball from the tournament

In 1986, FIFA published a report that ranked all teams in each World Cup up to and including 1986, based on progress in the competition, overall results and quality of the opposition.[14][15] The rankings for the 1938 tournament were as follows:

R Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts.
1 Italy4400115+68
2 Hungary4301155+106
3 Brazil53111411+37
4 Sweden3102119+22
Eliminated in the quarter-finals
5 Czechoslovakia311153+23
6  Switzerland31115503
7 Cuba3111512−73
8 France21014402
Eliminated in the round of 16
9 Romania201145-11
10 Germany201135-21
11 Poland100156−10
12 Norway100112−10
13 Belgium100113−20
14 Netherlands100103−30
15 Dutch East Indies100106−60


  1. Ashdown, John (22 April 2014). "World Cup: 25 stunning moments … No11: Austria's Wunderteam". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  2. "History of the World Cup Final Draw" (PDF). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  3. Hesse-Lichtenberger, Ulrich (2003). Tor!: The Story of German Football. London: WSC Books. p. 85. ISBN 095401345X.
  4. Steinberg, Jacob (27 June 2018). "South Korea 2-0 Germany: World Cup 2018 – as it happened". Retrieved 20 September 2018 via www.theguardian.com.
  5. Martin, Simon (1 April 2014): "World Cup: 25 stunning moments … No8: Mussolini's blackshirts' 1938 win". theguardian.com. Läst 22 April 2016.
  6. "Jules Rimet Cup". FIFAWorldCup.com. Archived from the original on 20 March 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  7. Sweden were awarded a 3–0 as Austria were unable to compete because of the Austrian Anschluss in March 1938.
  8. Actually from Austria, but finally representing the German Football Association because of the Anschluss.
  9. RSSSF credits this goal as coming in the 90th minute.
  10. RSSSF credits goal in the 81st minute as coming in the 61st minute.
  11. RSSSF credits goal in the 80th minute as coming in the 60th minute.
  12. RSSSF credits this goal as coming in the 89th minute.
  13. FIFA initially credits this goal to Leônidas, but changed it to Roberto in 2006."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 November 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. "page 45" (PDF). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  15. "FIFA World Cup: Milestones, facts & figures. Statistical Kit 7" (PDF). FIFA. 26 March 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 May 2013.