The Lost World Cups

If there are any football (soccer) historians out there,  perhaps you can help me answer a theoretical question that I wonder about from time to time.

There were no World Cups in 1942 or 1946–obviously because of world events.  The last World Cup before World War II was in 1938 in France.  It was won by Italy.  The next World Cup was held in 1950 in Brazil.  It was won by Uruguay.

Had there been World Cups in 1942 and 1946 who would have won?  Or, I guess more accurately, who could have won?  Assuming all nations played, even the Home Nations, who are the contenders?  Uruguay, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, England, Scotland?  I am having trouble thinking who would be strong enough.

I do not know much about the state of the football world in 1942, but 1946 would have been an extremely interesting tournament.  Argentina could draw upon the legendary River Plate side known as La Máquina.  Italy’s national team was made up almost entirely of players from Il Grande Torino (before the Superga tragedy of 1949.)  Brazil’s 1950 side was starting to take shape, and Hungary was a regional powerhouse, even before the Golden Team.  England would have had Stanley Matthews at the height of his powers.

Tournament location plays a part, and of course the best team does not always win.  So, dear reader who do you think would have won the lost World Cups?  Assume whatever host country you want.


4 responses to “The Lost World Cups

  1. World Cup 1942 Berlin, Germany
    Argentina 4-2 Spain 1942 final
    >Stanley Matthews(England) named player of the the tournament
    >José Manuel Moreno(Argentina) top scorer 8 goals

    World Cup 1946 Rio De Janerio, Brazil
    Argentina 4-5 England final
    >Valentino Mazzola (Italy) named player of the the tournament
    >Tommy Lawton(England) & Alfredo Di Stefano(Argentina) top scorers 7 goals each

  2. Excellent topic…


    Following two back to back World Cups in Europe in the 1930’s, the 1942 World Cup returned to South America – to Argentina.

    Once again, the “home nations” decline to send a team, and the great hope of Europe lies with the holders Italy. Made up mainly of players from the great Torino side, they were extremely powerful, and among the clear favourites.

    However, the great rivals Argentina and Uruguay were brimming with talent also, and Brazil were quietly confident.

    Uruguay would meet Brazil in one semi final, and it comfortably went the way of the Uruguayans. In the other semi, the hosts defeat Italy in an epic contest.

    Italy defeat Brazil to finish third, and a very close contest, Argentina defeat Uruguay by a single goal to nil.

    Champions – Argentina.

    Belgium 1 – 4 Germany
    Spain 1 – 4 Argentina
    Italy 3 – 2 Chile
    Brazil 8 – 0 USA
    Uruguay 12 – 0 Japan
    USSR 7 – 0 Egypt
    Yugoslavia 2 – 1 Sweden
    Hungary 3 – 1 Paraguay

    Germany 1 – 2 Italy
    Argentina 4 – 2 USSR
    Uruguay 3 – 2 Hungary
    Brazil 2 – 0 Yugoslavia

    Argentina 3 – 2 Italy
    Uruguay 4 – 0 Brazil

    Italy 3 – 1 Brazil

    Argentina 1 – 0 Uruguay


    With Europe’s cities in ruins, there was a very short list of nations that could realistically host the World Cup in 1946. FIFA decided against choosing a host from the Americas, under threat of a mass European boycott. Up stepped Sweden – neutral during the war, thus avoiding the bombs of the warring nations – it was the obvious candidate.

    A good footballing nation themselves, Sweden would progress well. No German or Soviet team would participate.

    England and Scotland also entered for the first time, but were eliminated early – with embarrassing defeats to the mighty Argentinians (5-2) and Uruguayans (6-1) respectively.

    The Brazilians suffered a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Italy, and Yugoslavia overcame the highly fancied Hungarians.

    In a precursor to their Olympic final meeting in two years time, Sweden defeated Yugoslavia by 2 goals to 1 to set up a semi final meeting with Italy.

    Uruguay overcame Spain in a close contest to set up a grudge match with champions Argentina, who had hammered England.

    Semi FInals:
    Sweden 1 – 3 Italy
    Argentina 2 – 1 Uruguay

    3rd place:
    Sweden 1 – 4 Uruguay

    The swansong for the great Torino players at international level prior to their deaths in the aircrash the next year, the World Cup final would go Italy’s way for the third time. They would beat a magnificent Argentina by two goals to one.

    Champions – Italy.

    England 7 – 0 Turkey
    Brazil 2 – 1 Denmark
    Yugoslavia 2 – 1 Hungary
    Norway 0 – 7 Argentina
    Scotland 1 – 6 Uruguay
    Spain 4 – 2 France
    Italy 11 – 0 India
    Sweden 5 – 1 USA

    England 2 – 5 Argentina
    Italy 5 – 1 Brazil
    Sweden 2 – 1 Yugoslavia
    Spain 0 – 1 Uruguay

    Argentina 2 – 1 Uruguay
    Sweden 1 – 3 Italy

    Sweden 1 – 4 Uruguay

    Italy 2 – 1 Argentina

    • What a fantastic analysis; thank you so much for that. I love the idea of a final pitting Il Grande Torino against River Plate’s mighty Maquina. Do you think that this would be the tournament where Alfredo Di Stefano would announce himself to the world, a la Pele 1958? And if so, do you think that Di Stefano would be frequently considered the best in the world alongside Pele/Maradona/Messi?

  3. Argentina versus Italy in a World Cup final in 1946 would have been an awesome encounter. I think 1942-46 would have been pretty much a three-way war between Italy, Argentina and Uruguay, based on the strength of their national teams and top clubs at the time. Hungary might have progressed farther than I mentioned above, and Yugoslavia (as usual, I suppose) would have been major darkhorses. Brazil would have been eclipsed by their South American rivals, just as they were during the Copa Americas of those days. I also don’t think it far-fetched to guess that England and Scotland would have had a rude awakening if they had met the South Americans in that period.

    I didn’t mention Di Stefano because he had been loaned by River to Huracán in 1946 (why?) and didn’t actually make his Argentina debut until 1947 – when in fairness it seems he set the Copa America on fire. I think the only games he played for Argentina were the 6 he played in that tournament.

    Luckily, people in know consider him equal to-if not better than Pele and Diego!

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