The 1934 FIFA World Cup was the second FIFA World Cup, the world championship for men’s national association football teams.
It 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 just four European teams had accepted their invitation to the 1930 tournament.
Sources claim that the tournament was marred by corruption and considerable outside interference by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who used the tournament as a propaganda tool for fascism.
The group stage used in the first World Cup was discarded in favor 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.
All eight first round matches kicked off at the same time. Hosts and favorites Italy won handsomely, defeating the USA 7–1. 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, Argentina twice took the lead, but two goals by Sven Jonasson and 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 even rougher 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.
Italy’s total of three goals conceded in five matches was a record low for a team winning the World Cup. It was matched by England in 1966 (who played six matches) and Brazil in 1994 (who played seven), but was not surpassed until 1998 when France won the World Cup conceding only two goals over seven games, a record later matched by Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010.
Czechoslovakia’s Oldřich Nejedlý was the top scorer of the tournament with five goals while Ernesto Antonio Belis of Argentina scored the tournament’s opening goal.