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Five Aside: Di Maria a skillful crosser

Five Aside 17 hours ago
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Serie A season preview: Inter Milan

Inter Milan about an hour ago
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Apr 17, 2006

World Cup 1938 - Hosts France

Just as Mussolini had in Italy, Hitler had used the 1936 Olympics as a weapon of propaganda.

So, to avoid any further political chicanery FIFA chose a 'neutral' venue, the federation's birthplace, France. But, as before, there were some high profile absentees.

Argentina, who had expected to be the host as part of alternation between South America and Europe, refused to travel. Uruguay were still staying away, leaving Brazil as Latin America's sole representative.

They would make quite an impact.

As in 1934, and despite the distances some teams had travelled, it was a knock-out competition from the start. The first round saw holders Italy get lucky against Norway, when they won in extra-time having had a Norwegian goal disallowed for offside.

The tie of the round, the tournament and perhaps any World Cup, saw Brazil beat Poland 6-5 with strikers Leonidas and Willimowski grabbing four goals each. Elsewhere, the Germans, incorporating many of the 1934 Austrian 'Wunderteam', lost in a replay to Switzerland.

Hosts France perished at the hands of Italy in the quarter-finals, while Brazil's Leonidas scored two goals in a two-match thriller with the Czechs.

The Brazilians were playing wonderful football while Leonidas was shaping up to be the man of the tournament. Believed to be the inventor of the overhead or bicycle-kick, he was a samba-style Brazilian player of the type the world would become used to.

But then the Brazilian management made one of the craziest decisions in World Cup history when, having played those gruelling two matches with the Czechs, they decided to rest Leonidas and fellow striker Tim to keep them fresh for the final.

Such over-confidence was their downfall as the Italians, with Giuseppe Meazza still starring, beat them easily. A late goal from Romeo was Brazil's only consolation.

'The Black Diamond' returned for the third place match with Sweden and, sure enough, he scored a brace as Brazil recorded their highest finish yet in the championships with Leonidas as top scorer. Without the farcical 'resting' decision it could have been so much more.

In the final the Italians faced Hungary, a surprise package, playing a similar brand of flowing football to that of the Wunderteam. With the Italians having defeated France, home fans were well and truly behind the Magyars and hoped they could spring a surprise.

But with centre-forward Silvio Piola in superb form, Italy were even better than they had been four years earlier. Piola and Gino Colaussi scored two each as the Hungarians were swept away by superior tactical nous of Italian coach Vittorio Pozzo.

Having taken the lead they defended in numbers but, when Hungary got back into the game with Gyorgy Sarosi to make it 3-2, Piola scored the decisive goal.

Pozzo had moulded two largely different teams and won the championship twice. Though in later years he would be criticised as being the puppet of Mussolini's Fascist Italy, he would eventually be remembered as Italy's greatest ever coach.

Sadly, it was to be the last championship for twelve years as the world broke out into war. When football resumed, the map of world football had changed considerably.