1938 World Cup, France
By 1938, the membership of FIFA had expanded to 57 countries, but Europe was on the brink of war which led to severe political impacts on the tournament. Spain, ravaged by civil war, withdrew, while between qualification and the finals Austria literally disappeared as a nation, Germany happily annexing four of their star players as well as their territory.
Hosts France were unlucky enough to meet defending Champions Italy in the quarter-finals. The "Azzuri" won 3-1, and went into a semi-final against the new rising power in South American football - Brazil. Brazil were one of only three non-European teams to appear in the finals, the others being rank outsiders Cuba and the Dutch East Indies. They had beaten the 1934 finalists Czechoslovakia but could not match Italy who won the semi-final 2-1.
Italy now stood on the verge of two World Cup firsts; defending the title and winning on foreign soil, and they achieved victory over Hungary in some style, with a 4-2 scoreline. The postponement of the tournament during the Second World War meant that Italy were officially World Champions for 16 years!