“Win or die!”: How Italy was inspired to win the 1938 World Cup 

It is said that the telegram contained the Italian phrase, "Vincere o Morire!" which in English means "Win or die!"  

Although it is said by some that, the “Vincere o morire!” which means in English “Win or die!” was a  treat from Benito Mussolini to the Italian team of 1938, facts have it that it was nothing but an inspiration from the then Prime Minister. 

After the first World Cup was hosted and won by Uraguay in 1930, the Italian dictator, having tried to use sport as one of the tools to mobilize the nation behind his regime, was more than determined to show the world that Italy has what it takes to lift the trophy.

Thus, the following edition of the tournament was hosted and won by Italy in 1934.

However, four years later when the competition was played in France, Italy was already known and widely hated for being a fascist nation ( an ideology often considered as another form of Germany’s narcism). 

Yet, they were not deterred.

The team would even approach the tournament with an uncompromising desire to retain the trophy it had won at home four years earlier.

In their opening match against Norway, they lined-up military style with raised hands to give the fascist salute twice before the game.

Such was the fearlessness they displayed that after the salute was met with a deafening barrage of whistles and insults, they raised their hands the second time to consolidate their stand. 

With intimidation ensued, the Italians defeated the Norwegians two goals to one. They would proceed to the quarter-finals in the same fashion, stunning the French national side, three goals to one.

At the end of the semi-final against Brazil which Italy won two goals to one, it became obvious to spectators of the competition that the Italian side was playing with inspiration:

The team had received a telegram on the eve of the tournament from Benito Mussolini- the Italian dictator- who ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943.

It is said that the telegram contained the Italian phrase, “Vincere o Morire!” which in English means “Win or die!”  

Playing the Hungarian side in the finals of the competition, the Mussolini men approached the game with the spirit of “Vincere o Morire,” and defeated their opponent four goals to two; making them the only country in the history of the competition to win the World Cup twice with the same coach- Vittorio Pozzo.


When the Hungarian goalkeeper- netminder Antal Szabó- was interviewed after the tournament, he said: “I may have let in four goals, but I saved their lives.” 

An excuse believed as one of the best in the history of goalkeeping.

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