The 1934 World Cup was the first for which teams had to qualify to take part. Thirty-two nations entered the competition, and after qualification, 16 teams participated in the finals tournament. Reigning champions Uruguay refused to participate due to the fact that just four European teams had accepted their invitation to the 1930 tournament. Italy became the second World Cup champions and the first European team to win, beating Czechoslovakia 2–1 in the final.
Like the Berlin Olympics two years later, the 1934 World Cup was a high-profile instance of a sporting event being used for overt political gain. Benito Mussolini was keen to use the tournament as a means of promoting fascism.
The Federale 102, which was manufactured in Italy, was the match ball provided for the 1934 World Cup.
After a lengthy decision-making process in which FIFA's executive committee met eight times, Italy was chosen as the host nation at a meeting in Stockholm on 9 October 1932. The decision was taken by the executive committee without a ballot of members. The Italian bid was chosen in preference to one from Sweden; the Italian government assigned a budget of 3.5 million lire to the tournament.
36 countries applied to enter the tournament, so qualifying matches were required to thin the field to 16. Even so, there were several notable absentees. Reigning World Cup holders Uruguay declined to participate, in protest at the refusal of several European countries to travel to South America for the previous World Cup, which Uruguay had hosted in 1930. As a result, the 1934 World Cup is the only one in which the reigning champions did not participate. The British Home Nations, in a period of self-imposed exile from FIFA, also refused to participate, even though FIFA had offered England and Scotland direct entry to the tournament without qualification. Football Association committee member Charles Sutcliffe called the tournament "a joke" and claimed that "the national associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have quite enough to do in their own International Championship which seems to me a far better World Championship than the one to be staged in Rome".
Despite their role as hosts, Italy were still required to qualify, the first and only time the host nation needed to do so. The qualifying matches were arranged on a geographical basis. Withdrawals by Chile and Peru meant Argentina and Brazil qualified without playing a single match.
Twelve of the 16 places were allocated to Europe, three to the Americas, and one to Africa or Asia (including Turkey). Only 10 of the 32 entrants, and four of the 16 qualified teams (Brazil, Argentina, United States and Egypt, the first African team to qualify for a World Cup finals tournament), were from outside Europe. The last place in the finals was contested between the United States and Mexico only three days before the start of the tournament in a one-off match in Rome, which the United States won.
The following 16 teams qualified for the final tournament.
10 of these teams made their first World Cup appearance. This included 9 of the 12 European teams (Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Austria, and Switzerland) as well as Egypt. Egypt was the first team from Africa in the finals and would not qualify again until the next time the competition was held in Italy, in 1990.
The number of supporters travelling from other countries was higher than at any previous football tournament, including 7,000 from the Netherlands and 10,000 each from Austria and Switzerland.
|Stadio Littoriale||Stadio Giovanni Berta||Stadio Luigi Ferraris|
|Capacity: 50,100||Capacity: 47,290||Capacity: 36,703|
|Stadio San Siro|
|Stadio Benito Mussolini|
|Stadio Giorgio Ascarelli||Stadio Nazionale PNF||Stadio Littorio|
|Capacity: 40,000||Capacity: 47,300||Capacity: 8,000|
The group stage used in the first World Cup was discarded in favour of a straight knockout tournament. If a match was tied after ninety minutes, then thirty minutes of extra time were played. If the score was still tied after extra time, the match was replayed the next day.
The eight seeded teams – Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary – were kept apart in the first round.
All eight first round matches kicked off at the same time. Hosts and favourites Italy won handsomely, defeating the USA 7–1; The New York Times correspondent wrote that "only the fine goal-tending of Julius Hjulian of Chicago kept the score as low as it was".
Internal disputes meant Argentina's squad for the tournament did not contain a single member of the team which had reached the final in 1930. Against Sweden in Bologna, Argentina twice took the lead, but two goals by Sven Jonasson and a winner by Knut Kroon gave Sweden a 3–2 victory. Fellow South Americans Brazil also suffered an early exit. Spain beat them comfortably; 3–1 the final score.
For the only time in World Cup history, the last eight consisted entirely of European teams – Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. All four non-European teams who made the journey to Italy were eliminated after one match.
In the quarter-finals, the first replayed match in World Cup history took place, when Italy and Spain drew 1–1 after extra time. The match was played in a highly aggressive manner with several players of both sides injured: rough play injured the Spanish goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora in the first match, leaving him unable to participate in the replay, while on the other side rough play by Spaniards broke the leg of the Italian Mario Pizziolo who would not play in the national team again. Italy won the replay 1–0; their play so physical that at least three Spaniards had to depart the field with injuries. Italy then went on to beat Austria in the semi-finals by the same score. Meanwhile, Czechoslovakia secured their place in the final by beating Germany 3–1.
The Stadium of the National Fascist Party was the venue for the final. With 80 minutes played, the Czechoslovaks led 1–0. The Italians managed to score before the final whistle, and then added another goal in extra time to be crowned World Cup winners.
For a list of all squads that appeared in the final tournament, see 1934 FIFA World Cup squads.
|Round of 16||Quarter-finals||Semi-finals||Final|
|27 May – Rome|
|31 May and 1 June – Florence|
|27 May – Genoa|
|3 June – Milan|
|27 May – Turin|
|31 May – Bologna|
|27 May – Naples|
|10 June – Rome|
|27 May – Trieste|
|31 May – Turin|
|27 May – Milan|
|3 June – Rome|
|27 May – Florence|
|31 May – Milan||7 June – Naples|
|27 May – Bologna|
|Iraragorri 18' (pen.), 25'
Toldi 31', 61'
|Report||Fawzi 35', 39'|
|Kielholz 7', 43'
|Schiavio 18', 29', 64'
Orsi 20', 69'
|Jonasson 9', 67'
Verriest 116' (pen.)
Conen 66', 70', 87'
|Report||Voorhoof 29', 43'|
|Report||Sárosi 60' (pen.)|
|Ferrari 44'||Report||Regueiro 30'|
|Hohmann 60', 63'||Report||Dunker 82'|
|Nejedlý 21', 69', 80'||Report||Noack 62'|
|Lehner 1', 42'
With five goals, Oldřich Nejedlý was the top scorer in the tournament. In total, 70 goals were scored by 45 players, with none of them credited as an own goal.
In 1986, FIFA published a report that ranked all teams in each World Cup up to and including 1986, based on progress in the competition, overall results and quality of the opposition (not counting replay results). The rankings for the 1934 tournament were as follows:
|Eliminated in the quarter-finals|
|Eliminated in the round of 16|
Throughout the years, several sources have reported that the tournament could have been marred by corruption and influenced by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who used the tournament as a propaganda tool for fascism. According to these accusations, Mussolini personally selected referees for the matches where the Italian national team were playing, while the Italian government meddled in FIFA's organisation of events, re-organizing the logistics of the matches to further promote fascism. Nonetheless, Italy also won the following edition of the World Cup (held in France) as well as the Olympic football tournament in 1936.
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