1934 Italy

When eight FIFA meetings were done
They chose Italy the World Cup to run
The Czechs went ahead
Before the host nation led
In extra time the Italians had won

The 1934 World Cup moved to Europe for the first time, destination, Mussolini's Italy. His spectre wold loom large over the event, and nobody had any doubt at all about what the outcome of this World Cup would be; it was unthinkable that anyone but italy could win.

What was going on in the world in 1934?

  • Alcatraz becomes a prison
  • Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are ambushed and killed by Texas Ranger Cordell Walker
  • In the 'Night of the long knives' the Nazis purged the SA and assumed absolute control in Germany
  • Stanley Matthews makes his England debut, commencing a 23-year career
  • Catalonian separtists rebel against the government in Spain

Famous births and deaths in 1934 include

  • Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and Judi Dench were all born
  • Norman Schwarzkopf, Charles Manson and Henry Cooper were all born
  • It was a bad year for composers, as Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst and Frederick Delius all died

Back to the World Cup – the format

With the shift of venue from South America to Europe, there were certain reprisals over the lukewarm participation of the European nations in the 1930 World Cup, which inevitably meant that particpation in 1934 from the Americas was sparse. Indeed Uruguay did not come to defend their title.

With Uruguay staying away, Argentina chose to attend, as did Brazil. Unfortunately, FIFA changed the format to a straight knockout event and both Argentina and Brazil travelled a long way to play a single match. 16 teams entered and it was elimination all the way.


Again, there were a lot, mainly European nations, but augmented by Egypt, who became the first representatives from Africa to particpate in the World Cup. All 8 quarter-finalists were rookies, along with first round losers Egypt and the Netherlands.

Losing quarter-finalists were Spain, Sweden, Hungary and Switzerland, with Germany and Austria progressing to the semi-finals, and Czechoslovakia finishing as runners-up to the host nation, Italy.

Who should have won but didn't?

Austria started as one of the clear favourites. Their wunderteam was still reckoned to be close to its peak, and it was to have been a clash between the two top teams and rival coaches, Vittorio Pozzo and Hugo Meisl, when Italy met Austria in the final. But it never happened. Austria arrived tired and pessimistic about their chances and lost relatively tamely to Italy in the semi-final. Although Czechoslovakia led in the final and took the match to extra time, it was not a classic, and reports state that Italy were much the better side. Here are some highlights.

Heroes and Villains

Villain: Jules Rimet

If you are looking for someone to blame for FIFA's bureaucracy, then take a bow, Jules Rimet. It took 8 meetings to decide on where to hold the 1934 World Cup, including 60 delegates attending FIFA's Congress in 1932 in Stockholm. And then, they ended up choosing a country in the throes of a Fascist dictator. Benito Mussolini milked every possible opportunity to use the World Cup to showcase Fascism, and Rimet has not been forgiven for this apparent act of appeasement.

When eight FIFA meetings wree done
They chose Italy the World Cup to run
The Czechs went ahead
Before the host nation led
Ine xtra time the Italians had won.

Hero: Giuseppe Meazza

Giuseppe Meazza played inside-right for Italy and won two World Cup winners' medals in 1934 and 1938. He captained Italy in 1938 but was effectively the outfield leader in 1934 as well, as captain Combi was the goalkeeper. In 1934 he not only set up the winning goal, but also won the Golden Ball Award as the tournament's best player.

Meazza is widely considered the best player of his generation, and one of the greatest of all time. He was ranked fourth-best player in the history of the World Cup, in a Sunday Times ranking published in 2010. Luigi Veronelli, Italian gastronome and intellectual said of Meazza: "I also saw Pelé playing. He did not achieve Meazza's elegant style of playing. One day, at the Arena, I witnessed him doing something astonishing: he stopped the ball with a bicycle kick, elevating himself two meters from the ground. Then he landed with the ball glued at his foot, dribbled over an astonished defender, and then went on scoring a goal with one of his hallmark shots, sardonic and accurate to the millimeter."

At club level, Meazza scored 242 goals in 365 games for Internazionale. When given his club debut at 17 years of age, team mate Leopoldo Conti commented "now we even take players from kindergarten!", but he had to eat his words after Meazza scored two goals on debut in a 6-2 win.

He loved his cabriolet, champagne and women and was the only player on the national team that was allowed to smoke. Meazza was famous for humiliating the best defenders of the era and for sleeping at a brothel the night before a match. With his plush touch on the ball, he would cause panic in the robust defenders from an era where two footed tackles from behind were often waved on. He also loved the tango and used this proficiency to make him unpredictable on the field and could score goals at fox-trot tempo. He was a superb dribbler who despite his speed, never had a single brylcreemed hair out of place.

His trademark goals were ones where he would collect the ball at the half-line, dribble through several opponents with a series of twinkle-toed shuffles, and turns, until arriving in front of the goal, where he would stop and invite the goalkeeper to attack him like a matador, before faking a shot, then dribbling past the beaten goalkeeper to slot home easily. Meazza once said, "There is nothing worse than having a penalty kick saved by a keeper who didn't understand the fake."

Italian coach, Vittorio Pozzo saif that having Meazza in the team was "like starting the game 1-0 ahead"; tribute indeed.

Quick Facts

  • Teams: 16
  • When: 27 May 1934 to 10 June 1934
  • Final: 10 June 1934
  • Matches: 17
  • Goals Scored: 70 (average 4.1 per match)
  • Attendance: 363,000 (average 21,352)

Verdict: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Ugly, but there is no denying Italy were the right winners. Austria should have been stronger competition but showed up under prepared. The lack of adequate representation from outside Europe and the political situation also detracted from the tournament.


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