The 1934 World Cup

Written in 2009 by Emma Anspach, Hilah Almog, and Taylor.

Edited & Updated in 2013 by Brittney Balser and Alessandro Santalbano


The second World Cup was held in Italy, an honor the relatively young Italian fascist regime worked hard to attain. Mussolini was not the first leader to see the political usefulness of sport, Stalin had made wide use of it within the Soviet Union, but while Stalin refused to let the USSR’s athletes compete internationally, Mussolini saw international competition as a powerful nationalist propaganda tool.

The 1934 football World Cup took place between May 27 and June 10, 1934 in eight Italian cities: Bologna, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Rome, Trieste, and Turin.[1] Thirty-two teams, including the host nation who did not yet automatically qualify, entered the qualifiers.[2] Sixteen teams made it through to the actual tournament.[3]

Italy eventually won the final against Czechoslovakia with a two to one come from behind victory at the Stadio Flaminio or Fascist National Party Stadium in Rome on June 10.[4] This World Cup triumph would be but one in a string for Italy who went on to win the gold medal in football at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and become the first repeat champions in World Cup history with a victory in 1938.

The World Cup victory in 1934 has entered into the world of Italian legend, “In truth, however, very little is known about the games themselves.”[5] Without television, except for those who saw matches in person, the reality of the games was largely shaped by the media personalities and press that reported on the matches. In Italy, this largely meant a very nationalistic interpretation of the events by the Fascist controlled media.


The 1934 World Cup Poster

One of the more hard fought contests was the quarterfinal between Italy and Spain. It was one of the most physical games of the tournament and Belgian referee Louis Baert, “let many fouls go unpunished.”[6] Many argue that this officiating played to the favor of the Italians. Gianni Brera, an Italian football journalist, later wrote of the match, “the referee Baert behaved as if he was well aware where the game was taking place.”[7] The match ended in a one to one tie.

Questions of biased officiating escalated with the replay of the quarterfinal—the first replay in World Cup history—where the game winning goal by Guisseppe Meazza could have been disallowed.[8] Still, as John Foot points out, possibly legitimate claims of bias toward the host nation by officials is not something unique to the Fascists or this World Cup.

The semifinal between Italy and Austria took place in a downpour at San Siro stadium in Milan in front of 60,000 fans.[9] The Match against the Austrian “Wunderteam,” “had all the talent and intensity of a final.”[10] The Italians were able to muster a one to nil victory and were through to face Czechoslovakia in the final in Rome. The night before the match Mussolini himself game the Azzurri a pep talk. He urged, “If the Czechs play fair, we’ll play fair. That’s the most important thing, but if they want to play dirty, then we Italians have to play dirtier.”[11]

After seventy scoreless minutes, the Czechs went ahead with a goal from Puc off of a corner.[12] With ten minutes left to play the Italians equalized with a score by Orsi off of a pass from Guaita.[13] It wasn’t until early in overtime that the decisive goal was scored. An injured Meazze was left unmarked and was able to initiate a play that went through Guaita and then to Schiavio for the championship winning goal in the 95th minute.[14] As time expired, Vittorio Pozzo was carried off the pitch by his players.[15]

(Clips from the 1934 World Cup Final between Italy and Czechoslovakia)

Mussolini stood and applauded his Azzurri from the stands. After the match, Mussolini’s newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia described the moment, “In the name and in the presence of the Duce, the azzurri win a new world title.”[16] This World Championship would be but the first in an unprecedented string of victories for the Italian national team under Mussolini’s Fascist rule.

(Clips from Italian matches throughout the 1934 World Cup)

Check Out this photo slideshow from FIFA


Check Out this 1934 World Cup Summary


Main Topics:

Football and Politics in Europe

Hitler, Nazi Philosophy, and Sport

Mussolini’s Football



The Death Match

Magical Magyars

Ferenc Puskás


How to cite this article: “Football and Politics in Europe, 1930s-1950s” Written by Emma Anspach, Hilah Almog, and Taylor (2009), Edited and Updated by Brittney Balser and Alessandro Santalbano (2013), Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).


[1] Gordon, “Italy 1934: Football and Fascism,” 41.

[2] Gordon, “Italy 1934: Football and Fascism,” 41.

[3] Gordon, “Italy 1934: Football and Fascism,” 41.

[4] Gordon, “Italy 1934: Football and Fascism,” 41.

[5] Foot, Calcio: A History of Italian Football, 442.

[6] Clemente Angelo Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2007), 28

[7] Foot, Calcio: A History of Italian Football, 440.

[8] Foot, Calcio: A History of Italian Football, 440.

[9] Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006, 28.

[10] Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006, 28.

[11] Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006, 30.

[12] Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006, 30.

[13] Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006, 30-31.

[14] Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006, 31.

[15] Lisi, A History of the World Cup 1930-2006, 31.

[16] Gordon, “Italy 1934: Football and Fascism,” 49.

5 thoughts on “The 1934 World Cup

  1. Adam Hyde

    I was under the impression that the first televised football game was the 1937 Arsenal v Arsenal reserves game. Shows how wrong I am!

    Sport was an important tool throughout the Fascist world. Hitler quite enjoyed the attention German F1 drivers got during the 1930s, put a lot of money and effort into running and performing at the Olympics, and received a huge propaganda coup when the England team were forced to do the salute before the 1939 game.

    In Nazi Germany, winning on the international stage confirmed the narrative of progress. Victory confirmed the supremacy of the ‘racially pure’ over the ‘race mixers’, and the success of the Fascist’s physical way of life.

    Its weird to think of football as political, but all sport is to far right leaders with something to prove. Really messed up.

  2. Danial

    Thanks you gave the knowledge 1934 world cup soccer.. I see these videos.. this match was very interesting.. i got more information about the match of soccer.. for further details about the soccer, than click our link.. you will like it definitely and take some benefits with getting knowledge about this can get more information in deeply with visit our site.thanks again for sharing.. 🙂

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