The 1942 FIFA World Cup was cancelled because of World War Two. What if the war never happened, though? Who would have gone on to win the tournament?
Austria and Czechoslovakia were occupied by Nazi Germany, exempting them from any contention of the hypothetical 1942 World Cup title. Which country would have won the lost 1942 World Cup?
Which Country Would Have Won the Lost World Cup of 1942?
1942 World Cup Host
Finding out who would have hosted the World Cup is important because home soil can play a major part in how a nation performs. Unfortunately, FIFA did not have as good foresight back then as they do now. Football fans didn’t have the luxury of knowing the host 12 years ahead of time as we did with Qatar in 2010. By 1939, and the breakout of war, a host had not been selected.
Fortunately, there were three main applicants FIFA were considering. The applicants were Germany, Brazil and Argentina, and they all had good cases to be hosts. However, considering FIFA aim to alternate the World Cup hosts between European and South American nations, Brazil and Argentina would have likely been favoured over Germany. An unofficial 1942 World Cup was held in Argentina, but it is not recognized by any football governing body and information about it is extremely scarce. We have no way of knowing if FIFA would have actually awarded it to Argentina.
Brazil were the more likely choice considering FIFA let them host it years before Argentina. As FIFA allowed Brazil to host the 1950 World Cup, it is not unreasonable to believe they already favoured Brazil as hosts over Argentina.
Contenders for the 1942 World Cup Title
Uruguay won the Copa America on home soil mere months before the lost competition of 1942 was scheduled to be played. They also finished as runners-up in 1941 and 1939. In our timeline, the 1942 edition will be played in South America, which gives La Celeste another major edge.
Brazil must be included in the discussion, too, but do keep in mind this is Brazil before they won anything. In 1942, they had not won the Copa America in 20 years. At this time, Brazil were one step behind Uruguay and Argentina in international football, even though home soil would have propelled them to potentially greater heights.
It is worth pointing out that they finished third at the 1938 World Cup, though, but a lot can change in four years.
Argentina finished as runners-up of the 1942 Copa America, where they narrowly lost 1-0 to eventual champions Uruguay. Argentina definitely had the potential to defeat Uruguay, especially if Uruguay did not have home advantage.
Italy would have also been contenders for the title, but winning three consecutive World Cup titles in unheard of, so it is unlikely they would’ve won the 1942 cup, especially since this was back when European teams struggled immensely in World Cups played in South America. This curse was only broken as recently as 2014 when Germany won the title.
Hungary finished as runners-up of the 1938 World Cup and deserve to be mentioned. The same is true for Sweden, even though they were eliminated in the semi-finals. England and Scotland would be included in this conversation as contenders if they were FIFA members at the time. Spain would be included had it not been for the Spanish Civil War that makes them too unpredictable.
South American Nations in a League of Their Own
With recent Copa America results and home continent advantage taken into consideration, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay all have better odds than any European nation. Argentina and Uruguay were both one step ahead of Brazil at this time and Brazil’s status as the host nation does not guarantee them the World Cup title. This is evident by their failure to win the 1950 World Cup.
This is further supported by the World Football Elo Ratings as of December 31, 1941, where Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil were ranked first, sixth and ninth in the world respectively. The same was true for the 1942 ratings, except that Uruguay climbed up two spots. Elo Ratings are not an exact science, but ninth place is significantly lower than first or fourth place, and the fact that they were ninth for a year proves it was not just bad luck for Brazil.
Uruguay would likely not have defeated Argentina at the 1942 Copa America if they did not have home advantage. Argentina were ranked higher than Uruguay according to Elo Ratings for a significant amount of time, which indicates that they are slightly better.
Picking a Winner
So, which country would have won the lost World Cup? If one nation must be named as the likely winner, it has to be Argentina, given all the factors. Uruguay are a worthy adversary, though.