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Quattro Stelle: 1934 - “Group Stages” & Quarterfinals


This is the second post in a weekly series highlighting Italy’s four World Cup wins from qualifications to the finals. Read the first post here.

The tournament was set. It would run from May 27th through June 10th and featured the 16 teams that had qualified, 12 of them being European.



The matches would be played in eight different sites and stadiums throughout Italy: Stadio Littoriale, Bologna; Stadio Giovanni Berta, Florence; Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa; Stadio San Siro, Milan; Stadio Giorgio Ascarelli, Naples; Stadio Nazionale PNF, Rome, Stadio Littorio, Trieste; and Stadio Benito Mussolini, Turin.

However, unlike the 1930 World Cup, the actual group stage was dropped in favor of a knockout round. So at the end of 90 minutes, if the match was tied, 30 minutes of added extra time was played. If it was still tied at the end of extra time, the match would be replayed the following day.

The 16 teams who qualified from the original 32 were: Italy, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Spain, Hungary, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Argentina, Romania, Egypt, Brazil, Belgium, United States. Most of these teams were actually making their first World Cup appearance, particularly the European teams.

Of these teams, eight were seeded so that they could not face each other in the knockout round. The eight seeded teams were: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

The knockout round matches were all played simultaneously in the eight different venues, kicking off at the same time. Italy faced latecomers the United States. The Referee was Swiss, Rene Mercet. Approximately 30,000 fans came to the Stadio Nazionale PNF in Rome to watch their National Team play on opening day.

The US team walk out ahead of their knockout match vs. Italy

Let the Games Begin
The United States, who had reached the semifinals in Uruguay, were not at all the same team from four years prior. They only had three returning players from that squad, including the oldest player in the tournament, a 37 year-old, and they also had to play three days prior to even qualify.

But they held their own against the European giants - at least for the first 18 minutes, anyway. Schiavio scored in the 18th minute, and Orsi scored just two minutes later, in the 20th minute. The outcome of the game became more clear when Schiavo netted a second goal in the 29th minute.

The second half saw the Americans return with resolve, despite being down by three goals. In the 57th minute, American Donelli scored the only goal for the US. To which Italy replied with a goal from Ferrari in the 63rd, another goal to complete a hat trick from Schiavio in the 64th, and a second goal from Orsi in the 69th. Known bad boy Giuseppe Meazza put the 7th and final nail in the coffin in the 90th minute to seal a victory and a new World Cup scoring record for Italy. (Meazza was the only member of the National Team who was allowed to smoke, and had the reputation of drinking rather heavily before games.)

So a stunning 7-1 victory in front of Mussolini and 30,000 Italian fans saw the United States sent home after one match, perhaps a fitting ending for the team who sent Mexico home three days before the tournament. An American paper wrote that the great performance by the American keeper was the only reason that the score was as low as it was. And with that Italy were on to the quarterfinals.

Pozzo speaks to his team

Quarterfinals
Their quarterfinal matchup was vs. Spain, and became a match of great notoriety. All of the quarterfinals were played simultaneously on May 31st, and Italy were to play in Florence. Giampiero Combi, the keeper, wore the captain’s armband, as Virginio Rosetta had been injured in the knockout game.

Speaking of injuries, this was a very violent match. Belgian referee Louis Baert favored “play on” to the whistle, for which many injuries were incurred. Spain scored first in the 31st minute on a mistake by Combi. But Ferrari scored right after the half for Italy, despite protests that Schiavio had impeded the Spanish keeper. Perhaps this is where Italy’s flirtation with controversy began. A draw at 90 minutes saw an additional 30 minutes of added extra time play out with the same score.




This meant that a replay was required. But there was no way that the lineups were going to be the same after such a long an brutal contest just 24 hours prior. Spain fielded seven new players from the previous day, and Italy fielded five. Even the referee was changed, Mercet, who had reffed the US match, was given the charge to do a better job than his fellow match official the day before. The style of play was still rough, with Mercet being questioned as much or more than Baert for his calls. In fact, immediately after the game, he was investigated and subsequently suspended by the Swiss Football Association.

Perhaps it was for the two goals Spain scored that were called back for offside. Certainly, there was much protest on these goals. But it was a goal in the 12th minute by Meazza that decided this game and sent Italy into the finals. Certainly, VIP Benito Mussolini was not going to protest this result or the ref’s calls on the Spain goals. And considering the hot, humid weather that caused more than one player to collapse, probably most of the players were just glad that their two-in-one game brutal battle was over. The Italians would need to regroup and rest up as they would be facing Meisl’s Austrian Wunderteam in the semifinals.






This is part two of a 12 week series I originally wrote for the now defunct Italy World Cup Blog five years ago. The series will now appear here weekly as a tribute to the Azzurri teams of the past.