Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. In 1938, Italy became the first World Cup holders to retain their crown as they returned from neighbouring France as winners.
The reigning champions arrived in France having added the Olympic title in 1936 and with a desire to prove their 1934 triumph was based on ability and not any off-the-pitch helping hand from Mussolini. Meazza and Giovanni Ferrari were the only survivors from 1934 selected by Pozzo, and it was the latter who got the campaign off to a flyer with a second minute goal against Norway. The amateurs, who Italy beat in the 1936 Olympic semi-final, put up a good fight though and in the closing minutes Arne Brustad levelled – avenging an earlier debatable offside effort. Four minutes into extra-time, though, Silvio Piola secured the win.
Next up were hosts France. In a hostile atmosphere at Paris’ Stade Colombes the Azzurri needed a strong and confident display – and gave just that. Gino Colaussi’s cross-shot eluded the French ‘keeper to give Pozzo’s side an early lead but within 60 seconds Les Bleus were level. After the interval France opened up their play, leaving holes for Piola to twice exploit on the counter-attack.
The semi-final provided the first clash between Italy and Brazil in a game between the favourites. The hoped for face-off between Piola and Brazil’s ‘Black Diamond’ Leonidas – scorer of six in the tournament – never happened as Brazil coach Ademar Pimenta presumptuously rested him for the Final. A tight game came alive in a five-minute spell in the second half as Colaussi put Italy ahead and then Piola was brought down for a penalty, converted by Meazza. Brazil got a late consolation but first blood in this eternal duel went to Italy.
The Final pitted the Azzurri against Hungary and clamour to see if the free-flowing Magyars could contain Piola caused such crowds in Paris that initially Pozzo’s team were unable to get their bus to the stadium. Once again Colaussi was the instigator, netting an early opener. Hungary hit straight back but by half-time Piola and Colaussi had crafted a 3-1 lead. Hungary skipper György Sarosi pegged one back but, fittingly, Piola wrapped it up with his fifth of the event to ensure Italy retained the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Italy faced their first World Cup clash of shirt colours in the Round Two game with France and consequently took to the field in an all-black kit.
The World Cup Finals went into hibernation for 12 years due to World War II, although early plans had been made for the 1942 tournament to be held in Germany.
During World War II the Jules Rimet Trophy was hidden under the bed of FIFA’s Italian vice-president Ottorino Barassi in order to keep it in safe hands.