Brazil v Poland (1938 FIFA World Cup)

Brazil v Poland was a football match held during the 1938 FIFA World Cup in France and still remembered by many Polish fans as Poland's first ever FIFA World Cup match. It is also Brazil's highest-scoring match in a FIFA World Cups tournament. The match held the record for highest-scoring World Cup match until 1954, when Austria beat Switzerland 7–5 in extra time.

1938 FIFA World Cup
Round of 16
After extra time
Date5 June 1938
VenueStade de la Meinau, Strasbourg
RefereeIvan Eklind (Sweden)

The teamEdit

To Strasbourg, France, where Poland was going to play its first game versus Brazil (5 June 1938), Kałuża and Spoida took 15 players:

On the roster, there were two athletes who had never before put on a white-red jersey - midfielder Stanisław Baran and goalkeeper Walter Brom (who was then 17 years and 4 months old - up to this day Brom is the youngest goalkeeper on FIFA's World Cup list of participants).

In Poland, on stand-by reserve, seven players stayed behind. Those were:



By 1930s, Brazil was not regarded as the world's top team. However, Brazil had already had two previous participation in the inaugural FIFA World Cup, and it was still believed to be a very good, high quality team. The Brazilians later proved it - after defeating Sweden (4-2) they finished the 1938 tournament in 3rd place. It was this performance that gained them their reputation and marked the beginning of Brazil as a new football power.


Under these circumstances, the Polish team, which had never before advanced to such a level, was supposed to lose the game against the South Americans. Thus, the defeat was not a sensation. However, all fans were surprised at the style with which the Poles played its lone game of the tournament - white-reds got to the extra time, only then losing 5-6.

Interesting is the fact that the Polish team was gathered together just a week before the game. This was due to the Polish Football League games - coaches of the teams did not want their best players to leave their sides earlier because in the 1930s, like majority of world's athletes then, most Polish athletes were amateurs - they had to work on a daily basis. Thus, the training camp in Wągrowiec (near Poznań) lasted for a week only - just enough for some players to get acquainted with each other. A few days before the game, the Poles got into the train and went to Strasbourg.

Originally, the game was supposed to take place in Toulouse, in southern France. Polish officials, however, issued a complaint stating that the sweltering heat there would be helpful for the Brazilians, who are used to such weather. The game's location was moved to Strasbourg, but not because of the complaint. There were numerous, last moment corrections before the whole tournament. This was due to complications after the withdrawal of Austria, which after the Anschluss was incorporated into Germany.



First halfEdit

At 5 p.m. sharp Swedish referee Ivan Eklind blew his whistle for the first time. Strasbourg's Stade de la Meinau was filled with some 15,000 fans, including a several thousand group of Poles - mostly immigrants, who worked in coal mines in northern France. Brazilian fans were not numerous, and the French were mostly rooting for exotic team from South America.

Back in those days, teams were mainly concentrated on attack. So it is not surprising that in Kałuża's lineup there were as many as 5 forwards (Piec, Wilimowski, Wodarz, Piątek and Scherfke). Midfielders were Góra, Nyc and Dytko, and the defenders - only Szczepaniak (captain) and Gałecki. In the goal there was Madejski. It must be mentioned that in 1938, football regulations did not allow any replacements. As Poland lost the game vs. Brazil (5-6), which meant going back home, only the 11 players mentioned above were given the chance to appear on the field.

Little is known about the first goal, which Brazil's Leonidas da Silva (also known as Black Diamond-Diamante Negro) scored in 18th minute. There was no description of it in Polish press, Polish participants of the game did not remember it, either. However, we know that five minutes later Ernest Wilimowski dribbled past three defenders and Brazilian goalie Batatais. The latter managed to dump the Pole to the ground, which meant a penalty kick. It was scored in 23rd minute by Scherfke, who aimed at the right corner of the goal. This was the first, historical goal of Polish National Team in FIFA's World Cup.

Second halfEdit

After the first half, the Brazilians were winning 3-1 (goals by Leonidas, Romeu and Peracio) and the Poles were mainly in defense. Halftime was the turning point. First of all, Kałuża yelled loudly at his players, then it started to rain. South Americans were having problems on wet, slippery turf, while Wilimowski started his show. In 53rd and then 59th minute, Poland's top-scorer twice beat Batatais, after individual performances, which were described in the press as “circus-like”. So, in 59th minute the score was 3-3.

Soon afterwards, the rain stopped. It was a boost for the Brazilians, who in 71st minute scored (by Peracio). However, a minute before time Wilimowski scored his third goal, which meant extra time.

Extra timeEdit

After a short break, the Brazilians attacked the Polish goal. Two goals by Leonidas (in 93rd and 104th minutes) settled the game for good. Poles, led by amazing Wilimowski, fought back - in the 118th minute he slotted the ball in. During the last minutes, Brazil was desperately defending the result. Even though Wodarz, on a free kick, was close, and then Nyc's shot hit a crossbar, Poland lost 5-6.

Leonidas' goal at 93" was scored without him wearing the right boot, which tore and was left off his foot in the swampy pitch.[1] The goal was given though, as Brazil played the match with black socks and thus (also due to all the mud which covered the pitch resulting of the rain beforehand), the lack of a boot went undetected by the referee.


Brazil  6–5 (a.e.t.)  Poland
Leônidas   18'93'104'
Romeu   25'
Perácio   44'71'
Report Scherfke   23' (pen.)
Wilimowski   53'59'89'118'
Attendance: 13,452
Referee: Ivan Eklind (Sweden)
GK Batatais
RB Machado
LB Domingos da Guia
RH Zezé Procópio
CH Martim (c)
LH Afonsinho
OR Lopes
IR Romeu
IL Perácio
OL Hércules
CF Leônidas
Adhemar Pimenta
GK Edward Madejski
RB Antoni Gałecki
LB Władysław Szczepaniak (c)
RH Ewald Dytko
CH Erwin Nyc
LH Wilhelm Góra
OR Gerard Wodarz
IR Ernst Wilimowski
IL Leonard Piontek
OL Ryszard Piec
CF Friedrich Scherfke
Józef Kałuża

Assistant referees:
Louis Poissant (France)
Ernest Kissenberger (France)

Match rules

  • 90 minutes.
  • 30 minutes of extra time if necessary.
  • Replay on a later date if scores still level.
  • No substitutions.


The match has some cultural significant in both countries.

For Brazil, they went on to win the third place match, after losing to the Italians in the semi-finals. The 3rd place occupation by Brazil was seen to be Brazil's greatest football achievement by the time, and helped boosting football's popularity in the country. It was the 1938 edition that Brazil started to rise to become a football superpower, although it took them 20 years to finally win its first World Cup, against the hosts, which was surprisingly the home country of the referee who officiated the match between Brazil and Poland in 1938.

It was Poland's first and only World Cup match in the Interwar period. Poland was later invaded by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union a year later, and Poland suffered significant destruction of its sporting developments, including football. Following the end of World War II, the Polish People's Republic was established under Stalin's control. Thus, Polish football did not make any major impact until their return in 1974, where the Poles surprised the whole tournament by achieving third place, by taking vengeance on the Brazilians in their final match. Polish golden generation by then, was born.

Brazil and Poland would meet each other two more times in the FIFA World Cup, and Brazil managed to overwhelm the Poles both times.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bellos, Alex (2014). Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life. A&C Black. p. 28. ISBN 9781408854167. Retrieved 5 June 2015.