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France 1938

Previous: Italy 1934Next: Brazil 1950

Today let's look back at the third World Cup, held in France in 1938 and won by Italy, the first country to win it twice and the first to enjoy consecutive wins.

World Cup minnows, Cuba, were the first Caribbean country to qualify for the finals. They got there by virtue of Mexico withdrawing from their qualifying group. They were expected to the tournament's whipping boys, along with the Dutch East Indies (see below). They famously drew their first game against Romania 3-3, with their keeper apparently playing a blinder and keeping Cuba in the game. However, their keeper was dropped for the replay (yes, a replay, not a shootout) for conceding three. At the press conference prior to the replay he predicted a 2-1 win for Cuba and sure enough they won. His crystal ball deserted him in the next round though. Recalled for the quarter-final against Sweden he let in eight as Cuba went down 0-8. They've never qualified again.

The Dutch East Indies holds the record for the fewest minutes of finals football. They qualified after Japan withdrew from their two-country qualifying group after invading China. FIFA tried to stymie them by arranging a play-off against the USA. This time though, the USA, perhaps feeling a little guilty after 1934 declined to play. The Dutch East Indies, consisting of several students and many players making their debut, were defeated 6-0 by Hungary. The finals were still a straight knockout so the Dutch East Indies went home after 90 minutes of finals football. They've never qualified since and don't seem likely to again. Every other country that has made the finals has had more playing time and given that the finals now include a group stage, the Dutch East Indies seem destined to hold onto this record. (In 1947, they achieved independence from Holland and became Indonesia. Their national sport is badminton.)

Debate has long raged over who was the first player to score four goals in a World Cup final's game. The game in question saw Brazil defeat Poland 6-5 after extra time (half time 3-1, full-time 4-4). All records agree that Ernst Willimowski of Poland scored four - a second-half hat-trick and a further goal late in extra time. The records disagree over Leonidas da Silva from Brazil. Some say he scored four, others three. Some say his fourth was before Willimowski's, others after. To this day there is no agreement, although the more rigorous records lean towards da Silva getting three. What is definite though, is that Willimowski remains the only player to score four in a losing side.

Adolf Hitler allegedly detested football and only turned up to one game, which Germany promptly lost, much to his disgust. Hitler is also responsible for two unique records that are unlikely to be broken: the only finals forfeit and the longest hold over the trophy.

In March 1938, Germany invaded Austria and it was incorporated into Germany under a dictate known as Anschluss (meaning Union). Austria having qualified for the finals could no longer participate as the whole country and its F.A. had ceased to exist. The results chart from 1938 reads "Sweden Bye. Austria Forfeit. Anschluss". Occasionally a country forfeits a qualifying match, but this remains the only forfeit during the finals.

World War II, primarily instigated by Hitler and Germany meant the 1942 and 1946 World Cups were cancelled. Hence Italy, who won in 1934 and 1938, held the trophy until 1950 an unbroken run of 16 years, another record unlikely to be broken.