1938 – France

World Cup 1938 Final

The Italian team – 1938 World Cup champion

World Cup 1938 Facts

World Cup 1938 Poster

1938 World Cup poster

  • Date: 4 June – 19 June
  • Final: Italy – Hungary 4-2
  • 3rd place: Brazil – Sweden 4-2
  • Teams: 15
  • Stadiums: 10
  • Host cities: 9
  • Matches played: 18
  • Goals: 84
  • Attendance: 483,000
  • Top scorer: Leônidas (Brazil) (7 goals)

World Cup 1938 Background

The 3rd World Cup has been organised by Jules Rimet’s homeland France, which has beaten Argentina and Germany who wanted to host the 1938 World Cup as well. Both countries were defeated in the first voting round. Germany received 0 votes, Argentina 4 votes and France a total of 19 votes. It has been stated the reason for France to beat Argentina, was the political unrest in Latin American countries and the fact many European countries were not willing to travel such a long distance to Argentina.

After the announcement of France being the host country on August 13 1936 in Berlin, South America became outraged. For the 1934 World Cup a European country was already chosen as a host. So it would only be fair for FIFA to choose a South American country for the 1938 World Cup. It was simply believed FIFA would alternate between the 2 continents Europe and South America, especially considering the fact that Argentina showed interest as well.

The 1938 World Cup in France would be the last World Cup before World War II would break out initiating a dark era for mankind. There wouldn’t be any World Cup in the 40s decade, the next World Cup would only be held 12 years later in the year 1950.

World Cup 1938 Background

Supposed to be 10 host cities, but ended with 9 without Lyon

World Cup 1938 Participants

37 countries participated in the qualification rounds but only 16 would qualify for the 1938 World Cup.

The host country and title holder of the previous World Cup were automatically qualified for the first time in World Cup history. This meant Italy (1934 World Cup winner) and France (World Cup host) were assured for a spot in the 1938 World Cup.

10 places for Europe excluding Italy and France were allocated to the following countries: Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Romania, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Germany. Both Poland and Norway qualified for the first time.

The country Austria also qualified and was ready to participate to complete the total amount of 16 countries. However due to the Anschluss, which united Austria with Germany, Austria withdrew. This resulted in a total of 15 teams participating in the 1938 World Cup in France.

England was invited to be country number 16 but refused. Latvia which was the runner-up in the qualification group with Austria was not invited to be country number 16. No country eventually replaced Austria. Therefore Sweden which supposed to play against Austria in their first knockout match went straight to the next round, the Quarter-Finals.

Spain wasn’t able to qualify because of the Spanish Civil War that was occupying the country from 1936 till 1939.

Since a European country has been chosen as the World Cup host again, many American countries such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina protested by not qualifying for the 1938 World Cup.

1 place for South America was therefore allocated to country Brazil.

1 place for Asia was allocated to country Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) which qualified for the first and last time so far. The Dutch East Indies qualified automatically without having played any matches since Japan withdrew.

1 place for North/Central America and Caribbean was allocated to country Cuba which also qualified for the first and last time so far. Cuba also qualified automatically without having played any matches since other  North/Central America and Caribbean countries withdrew.

The 1938 World Cup contains the smallest amount of non-European countries in World Cup history. 

World Cup 1938 Match Ball

1938 World Cup match ball “Allen” – Last World Cup ball to be sewed with lace

World Cup 1938 Pools

Like in the 1934 World Cup, the 1938 World Cup in France excluded the pool stages. The 1938 World Cup was also a straight knockout tournament. This means there had to be a match winner from the beginning of the tournament. The rules implemented in the 1934 World Cup hadn’t changed. If a match ended in a draw after 90 minutes, there would be 30 minutes of extra time. If the score is still a draw, the match would be replayed.

The 1938 World Cup started again with 8 matches. Most of them started at the same day and time. The winner of each match would advance to the Quarter-Finals. Both the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals were also played at the same time.

France ’38 would be the last World Cup to implement this straight knockout system. The pool stages would be introduced again in the next World Cup in 1950.

There were 8 seed countries (top teams) which were Germany, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Cuba, Brazil and Sweden. They were kept apart from each other in the first round.

The first round draw was made by the grandson of the then French FIFA president Jules Rimet.

World Cup 1938 Stadiums

10 stadiums were used in 9 host cities. 2 stadiums were used in the city Paris. It was planned though for the 1938 World Cup to be hosted in 10 cities and 11 stadiums. However due to Austria’s withdrawal from the World Cup, the match between Sweden and Austria was not played in the city Lyon. Therefore only 9 host cities and 10 stadiums were used for the 1938 World Cup.

Aside to Lyon, the following 9 cities and 10 stadiums were used in France:

Stade du Fort Carré
Location: Antibes
Opened: 1935
Capacity: 7,000
Matches: 1
Status: Still exists and is still mostly used for football matches
Stade du Parc Lescure
Location: Bordeaux
Opened: 1930
Capacity: 34,694
Matches: 3
Status: Goes by the name Stade Chaban-Delmas and has been renovated in the 80s and 90s for the 1998 World Cup
Stade Cavée Verte
Location: Le Havre
Opened: 1932
Capacity: 16,382
Matches: 1
Status: Has been replaced by Stade Océane in 2012
Stade Victor Boucquey
Location: Lille
Opened: 1902
Capacity: 15,000
Matches: 1
Status: Has been demolished in 1975
Stade Vélodrome
Location: Marseille
Opened: 1937
Capacity: 48,000
Matches: 2
Status: Still exists and has been renovated in the 80s and 90s for the 1998 World Cup
Parc des Princes
Location: Paris
Opened: 1897
Capacity: 48,712
Matches: 3
Status: Still exists and has been used for the 1998 World Cup
Stade Olympique de Colombes
Location: Paris
Opened: 1907
Capacity: 14,000
Matches: 3
Status: Still exists and has been used in the movie Victory
Stade Municipal
Location: Reims
Opened: 1935
Capacity: 21,684
Matches: 1
Status: Sill exists and goes by the name Stade Auguste-Delaune
Stade de la Meinau
Location: Strasbourg
Opened: 1914
Capacity: 30,000
Matches: 1
Status: Renovated in 2001
Stade Chapou
Location: Toulouse
Opened: 1937
Capacity: 35,472
Matches: 2
Status: Goes by the name Stadium Municipal de Toulouse and has been renovated in 1997 for the 1998 World Cup

World Cup 1938 Schedule

First Round
Date Home Team Results Away Team
04 June Switzerland 1:1 a.e.t. (1:1, 1:1) Germany
05 June Hungary 6:0 (4:0) Dutch East Indies
05 June France 3:1 (2:1) Belgium
05 June Cuba 3:3 a.e.t. (2:2, 1:1) Romania
05 June Italy 2:1 a.e.t. (1:1, 1:0) Norway
05 June Brazil 6:5 a.e.t. (4:4, 3:1) Poland
05 June Czechoslovakia 3:0 a.e.t. Netherlands
09 June Cuba 2:1 (0:1) Romania
09 June Switzerland 4:2 (1:2) Germany
Date Home Team Results Away Team
12 June Brazil 1:1 a.e.t. (1:1, 1:0) Czechoslovakia
12 June Hungary 2:0 (1:0) Switzerland
12 June Sweden 8:0 (4:0) Cuba
12 June Italy 3:1 (1:1) France
14 June Brazil 2:1 (0:1) Czechoslovakia
Date Home Team Results Away Team
16 June Hungary 5:1 (3:1) Sweden
16 June Italy 2:1 (0:0) Brazil
Match for third place
Date Home Team Results Away Team
19 June Brazil 4:2 (1:2) Sweden
Date Home Team Results Away Team
19 June Italy 4:2 (3:1) Hungary

World Cup 1938 Memorable Matches

First Round

Switzerland – Germany 1-1, 4-2
Parc des Princes, Paris – attendance: 27,162

This match was easily predictable according to many. Due to the Anschluss (Austria uniting with Germany), several Austrian players from the Wunderteam were put with Germany in 1 team. Germany was expecting amazing results from this team, but ended up with disappointment only. Switzerland used a unique system, the so-called ‘verrou‘ or Swiss bolt which is an early forerunner of the catenaccio system. Swiss coach Karl Rappan created this system, which consisted of 5 players in defense, using 1 of them as a “security bolt” supporting the other 3 players. This system apparently worked. The first match ended in 1-1 scored by German striker Josef Gauchel and Swiss striker André Abegglen. The rematch however showed a very different result. The rematch was played 5 days later in the same stadium. 2 goals were scored for Germany by Wilhelm Hahnemann and an own goal by Swiss Ernst Lörtscher. Miraculously, Switzerland won the match with a 4-2 score. Eugen Walaschek, Alfred Bickel and André Abegglen (2x) were the goalscorers. The German coach Sepp Herberger was blamed for including the Austrian players, who supposedly were the reason for the defeat. This is the only World Cup where Germany was eliminated in the first round.

Hungary – Dutch East Indies 6-0
Vélodrome Municipal, Reims – attendance: 9,000

For the first time in World Cup history an Asian country played a World Cup match. It was the country Dutch East indies which had this privilege. As has happened with the first World Cup match containing a South American (1930) or an African country (1934), Dutch East indies lost the first match. Players Vilmos Kohut, Géza Toldi, György Sárosi (2x) and Gyula Zsengellér (2x) scored the 6 goals for Hungary.

Cuba – Romania 3-3, 2-1
Stade Chapou, Toulouse – attendance: 8,000

Against all expectations, Romania wasn’t able to defeat Cuba. Cuba was keeping up with Romania by goal scorers Héctor Socorro, Tomás Fernández and Juan Tuñas. Silviu Bindea, Iuliu Barátky and Ștefan Dobay scored for Romania. Due to the 3-3 score, the match had to be replayed 4 days later. Cuba, happy with their performance scored 2 goals in 10 minutes time in the 2nd half. Héctor Socorro scored again for Cuba and Carlos Oliveira scored the 2nd goal. Romania which led the score with 1-0 scored by Ștefan Dobay, wasn’t able to overcome the 2 goals. Cuba however, which was full of confidence, were torn into shreds by Sweden in the Quarter-Final with an 8-0 score.

Brazil – Poland 6-5
Stade de la Meinau, Strasbourg – attendance: 13,452

A then record of 11 goals in total were scored in this match. The focus was highly on attack and extra time was needed in order to decide who would advance. Normal time ended in a 4-4 score. Leônidas, Romeu Pellicciari and José Perácio (2x) scored for Brazil. Leônidas was Brazil’s star player who described himself as the inventor of the Bicycle kick. The players Friedrich Scherfke and Ernst Wilimowski (3x) scored for Poland. In extra time Leônidas (nicknamed Black Diamond and The Rubber Man) scored 2 more goals, resulting in a hat-trick. Leônidas interestingly enough preferred to play barefoot, but this was not allowed by the referee. Ernst Wilimowski scored his 4th goal. This means Leônidas and Ernst Wilimowski were together responsible for 7 goals of the 11. This was the first time in World Cup history Brazil made it to the 2nd round of a World Cup.

Czechoslovakia – Netherlands 3-0
Stade de la Cavée Verte, Le Havre – attendance: 11,000

This match became memorable since the 3 goals were scored in extra time. The Netherlands managed to keep the score 0-0 for 90 minutes. Somehow though Czechoslovakia found a way to break through the Dutch defense and scored 3 goals in 25 minutes time. The 3 goals were scored by Josef Košťálek, Oldřich Nejedlý and Josef Zeman.


Brazil – Czechoslovakia 1-1, 2-1 (Battle of Bordeaux)
Parc Lescure, Bordeaux – attendance: 22,021

This highly aggressive match is called “Battle of Bordeaux”. Many players including Leônidas were injured due to brutal fouls. Oldřich Nejedlý  broke his right arm and goalkeeper František Plánička broke his right leg and were unable to play the rematch. Both would never play an international match again. 3 players were sent off which was a record. Only in the 2006 World Cup Round of 16 match Netherlands against Portugal this record was beaten. The score ended in 1-1 by goals scored by Brazilian Leônidas and Czechoslovak Oldřich Nejedlý who scored a penalty. The rematch included many reserve players. It was Brazil that won the match due to 2 goals scored by Leônidas and Roberto. Striker Vlastimil Kopecký scored the first goal of the match but ended up being the only goal for Czechoslovakia.


Italy – Brazil 2-1
Stade Vélodrome, Marseille – attendance: 33,000

This is the very first time both countries met in a World Cup. Both would create beautiful World Cup history in the many World Cups to come. When Brazil lost to Italy in their first match together, the Brazilians immediately blamed 1 particular person. The Brazilians blamed the Brazilian coach Ademar Pimenta since he didn’t let star player Leônidas play this important match. The reason was he could rest sufficient in order to be 100% fit for the Final. However this Final was never played by Brazil. Romeu Pellicciari scored the only goal for Brazil 3 minutes before the end of the match. Italian Gino Colaussi scored the first goal and Giuseppe Meazza scored the 2nd goal which was a penalty. Brazil lost and had to play the match for the third place where Leônidas would score his final 2 World Cup goals. He became the 1938 World Cup top scorer with 7 goals in total. Italy advanced to the Final for the 2nd time in a row. Giuseppe Meazza by the way showed how he managed stress excellently. When taking the penalty, his shorts fell down due to the elastic that was snapped, and had to pull it up with one hand. He scored the penalty while holding his shorts, and his team mates surrounded him until a new pair of shorts was given.

Hungary – Sweden 5-1
Parc des Princes, Paris – attendance: 14,800

Apparently Hungary was not impressed by Sweden’s 8-0 win against Cuba. Sweden started of well to score in the first minute by Arne Nyberg. Because of an own goal scored by Swedish midfielder Sven Jacobsson, the score changed into 1-1. Hungary then took ownership of the match by scoring 4 goals by Pál Titkos, Gyula Zsengellér (2x) and György Sárosi. Hungary entered the Final for the very first time.

World Cup 1938 Final

The 1938 World Cup was a knockout tournament. This meant every match had to be won from the start in order to reach the Final. It was both Italy and Hungary which made it to the Final. Italy became the first country to play a World Cup Final twice.

On the 19th of June, the Final was held in Stade Olympique de Colombes in Paris with 45,000 attendees. In the first 10 minutes of the Final 2 goals were scored. The first goal was scored by Italian Gino Colaussi (6′) and 2 minutes later Hungarian Pál Titkos (8′) corrected the score into 1-1. Italy however, would not accept this and before the 15 minutes break, 2 goals were scored by the Italians Silvio Piola (16′) and Gino Colaussi (35′) (again). In the 2nd half Hungarian Gyorgy Sarosi created hope by changing the score to 3-2 (70′). But Italian Silvio Piola changed this quickly after 12 minutes by scoring the final goal (82′) resulting in a 4-2 end score.

World Cup 1938 Final

Italian Giovanni Ferrari tries to score a header but Hungarian goalkeeper Antal Szabó saves it

Italy is the last country to win the World Cup before World War II. Italy became the first country to win a World Cup twice and became the first non host country to win a World Cup. If there was any doubt Italy deserved to win the previous World Cup in 1934, Italy has proven they are indeed a very good team.

World Cup 1938 Final

Italy became the first country to win 2 World Cups

But it would take 32 years before Italy would play another Final. Hungary would play another World Cup Final only 20 years later. This upcoming Final with Hungary is considered as 1 of the biggest World Cup upsets ever in history.

World Cup 1938 Final

Italy = Blue (Coach: Vittorio Pozzo)
Hungary = White (Coach: Alfred Schaffer)

World Cup 1938 Records

  • 4 countries qualified for the first time: Poland, Norway, Cuba and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia)
  • Asia participated for the first time in a World Cup, which was country Dutch East Indies
  • First and last time so far Cuba and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) qualified for a World Cup
  • First time a country (Italy) won 2 consecutive World Cups (1934,1938)
  • 2nd time Italy won every match before winning the Final (first time: 1934)
  • First World Cup where both the host country and previous World Cup winner automatically qualified for the World Cup
  • Only World Cup where Germany didn’t make it to the 2nd round
  • Both the 1938 and 1958 World Cups have the record of highest number of rematches: 3
  • Italian coach Vittorio Pozzo ‘Il Vecchio Maestro’ (the old master) is the only coach who has won 2 World Cups (1934 and 1938)
  • Hungary player György Sárosi is the first player to have scored in each World Cup match including the Final
  • Sweden is the first country to have advanced to the Quarter-Finals without having won a match (due to Austria’s withdrawal)
  • The only ‘walkover’ occurred in this World Cup, where Sweden gained victory in their first match since opponent Austria withdrew
  • Polish player Ernest Wilimowski is the first player to have scored 4 goals in a World Cup match (against Brazil)
  • Polish player Ernest Wilimowski is the only player who has scored 4 goals but still lost the match (against Brazil 5-6)
  • Matches Sweden – Cuba (8-0) and Brazil – Poland (6-5) are together with the match Austria – Switzerland (7-5) of the 1954 World Cup, the only matches in World Cup history where 2 hat-tricks have been scored

Did You Know

  • Spain is the first country which couldn’t qualify due to war
  • Norway would only qualify for their next World Cup in 1994
  • Poland and the Netherlands would only qualify for their next World Cup in 1974
  • Switzerland used a unique system, the verrou or Swiss bolt (early forerunner of the catenaccio system), which is invented by Swiss coach Karl Rappan and consists of 5 players in defense, using 1 of them as a “security bolt” supporting the other 3 players

  • Together with the 1934 World Cup, the 1938 World Cup is perceived as a knockout tournament, already in the first round there had to be a match winner
  • 5 first round matches had to play extra time to determine a winner
  • 3 rematches had to be played to determine the winner
  • Next time Germany would play as Germany in a World Cup, would be in 1994
  • On the eve of the Final, the Italian players reportedly received a telegram from Benito Mussolini that stated: “Win or die”
  • Allen match ball had 13 leather panels instead of 12 which was normally the case with balls from that time, but the part where the lace is inflated consisted of 3 panels and  the rest of the ball in groups of 2 panels
  • Allen match ball is the last World Cup ball which needed to be sewed with lace
  • Allen match ball was made by local supplier Allen in France

World Cup 1938 FIFA Awards

  • Golden Ball: Leônidas (Brazil)
  • Silver Ball: Silvio Piola (Italy)
  • Bronze Ball: György Sárosi (Hungary)
  • Golden Boot: Leônidas (Brazil) (7 goals)
  • Silver Boot: György Sárosi (Hungary), Gyula Zsengellér (Hungary), Silvio Piola (Italy) (5 goals)
  • Bronze Boot: Ernst Wilimowski (Poland), Gino Colaussi (Italy) (4 goals)
World Cup 1938 FIFA Awards

Leônidas (Brazil)

World Cup 1938 FIFA Awards

Silvio Piola (Italy)




World Cup 1938 FIFA All-Star Team

This is the first World Cup FIFA All-Star Team which included Brazilian and Hungarian players.

František Plánička (Czechoslovakia)Pietro Rava (Italy)
Alfredo Foni (Italy)
Domingos da Guia (Brazil)
Michele Andreolo (Italy)
Ugo Locatelli (Italy)
Silvio Piola (Italy)
Gino Colaussi (Italy)
György Sárosi (Hungary)
Gyula Zsengellér (Hungary)
Leônidas (Brazil)

World Cup 1938 in Action

FIFA released official World Cup documentary films, with the 1954 World Cup being the first to have such a documentary. However there exists a ‘forgotten film’ about the 1938 World Cup which is in French without English subtitles unfortunately. Check it out below.

Rumour has it FIFA doesn’t acknowledge this film since some controversial images are visible related to the soon to arrive World War II. It is possible FIFA doesn’t want to be associated to much with the 1934 and 1938 World Cup which included political controversies (Mussolini-era Italy and the political situation in Germany and Austria).

1938 World Cup documentary

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