Italy also won the 1938 World Cup and were still the reigning world champions in May 1948, when England again declared themselves unofficial world champions after another momentous victory. This result was more complete and less controversial, a 4-0 victory at the Stadio Communale in Turin. Stan Mortensen, Tommy Lawton and Tom Finney were twice the scoring heroes, and this was one of England’s great sides – Stanley Matthews and Wilf Mannion completed perhaps the best attacking line at five from the country. But the Italians were not left out either, their squad containing seven members of the dominant “Grande Torino” squad destined to perish in the Superga air disaster 353 days later.
England were magnificent, although they deserved to win by * four * is a moot point. Mortensen scored early, after which Italy pushed back the visitors with extreme prejudice. Romeo Menti and Guglielmo Gabetto both passed the ball past England goalkeeper Frank Swift – who was reportedly killed in the Munich crash in 1958; it was truly an unfortunate star collection – but the goals were ruled out for offside. Gabetto then saw a clear shot from the line by Laurie Scott and started hitting the ground in helpless frustration. Matthews dribbled the other end to set Lawton up. Two to zero after 24 minutes, against the course of the game. And Italy had still not finished. According to the Guardian report, Swift went on to make five spectacular saves in the lead-up to half-time, including three during a frenzied attack, with the legendary Valentino Mazzola at one point carrying the kitchen sink.
The second half continued in the same vein. Italy pressed and pressed, but grew tired of it. Their surprised players found themselves rekindled by jets of water from a soda siphon by two-time World Cup-winning manager and aspiring bartender Vittorio Pozzo. But England hit them with a punch and one of the big counterattacking goals, Swift throwing at Scott, who found Mannion, who in turn fed Lawton, who eventually slid the ball towards the ‘forward for Finney to bypass Valerio Bacigalupo for the third. Finney scored again to make four, and would later claim the result was the culmination of England’s efforts, 1966 included. England had certainly impressed the discerning public, some of whom returned home with the mistaken impression that Flash-mad Matthews had at one point pulled out a comb to comb his half-dribbling hair! Turns out he was just wiping a drop of sweat off his forehead, terrible shame, worldly truth a hammer blow. Print the legend.
But what about the English, eh? Unofficial World Champions! Unfortunately, the assertion rings a little hollow in hindsight. Italy might technically be the defending champions, but their second title had been won ten years earlier as the war hampered them. And England would be completely embarrassed in their first World Cup in Brazil two years later, with the United States and Joe Gaetjens putting everything on a shameful perspective. Italy got a shock too, swinging on a whole big, bloated cruise ship, but at least they had the excuse of not wanting to fly in the wake of Superga, who among his 31 victims claimed the aforementioned Bacigalupo. , Gabetto, Menti and Mazzola.