Saturday, November 29 th, 2014
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Silvio Piola: Maradona's mano de dios 47 years earlier
SERIE A STARS IN THE WORLD CUP The Azzurri won their second world title in a row in France. This time the legendary Beppe Meazza was assisted by the Serie A best goalscorer ever
by Federico Formica
Jules Rimet, the then-FIFA president and father of the World Cup, managed to bring the 1938 tournament to his country, France. By doing so, he broke the turnover between Europe and America that was established before the first edition in 1930. Argentina – that expected to be the host country – did not participate to the World Cup as a protest. The same did Uruguay, which missed the previous edition in Italy as well. But South-America was well represented anyway, as in the 1938 edition, football addicted saw the first ever great Brazil. The team – led by Ademir Pimenta – was technically the best in that World Cup. They enchanted the French audience with a football never seen before. But the triumphal march of the Brazilians stopped in the semifinals against the defending champions of Italy with a clean 2-1 (the golden-green- then white- scored only with 3 minutes left).


We can consider Italy vs Brazil as the authentic final of France 1938: the clash between the two best football academies at that moment. Brazil committed a deadly sin: presumption. They were so confident to ovverun Italy that coach Pimenta saved the star of the team – the “black diamond” Leonidas – for the final. Leonidas was the top scorer of the World Cup with 7 goals. And – to put it mildly - he would have been very useful in that game. The semifinal was played in Marseille before an audience very hostile to Italy, as France was the main destination of Italians escaping the Fascist dictatorship. But the Azzurri weren't impressed and in the second half they punished the South-Americans with Colaussi and Piola, who scored a penalty. The final against Hungary was, in comparison, a bed of roses. Pozzo's side won 4-2 and they confirmed the title won 4 years before. Tragically, the Second World War was about to cut out that wonder-team.

Silvio Piola, 1913-1996, 34 caps and 30 goals for Italy, world champion in 1938.
With five goals (two scored in the final against Hungary) Silvio Piola was, without any doubt, the protagonist of the Italian national team and the best Serie A player of France 1938. His first goal, to Norway, earned the qualification to the quarter final against France. Piola scored two more vs. the transalpines. He failed to score only in the semifinal against Brazil and, in the final act, Piola impressed his mark twice again. In comparison with 1934, Piola was Italy's additional weapon. Pozzo considered him as the heir of Schiavio. At the end of his spell with the Nazionale, Piola had scored 30 goals in 34 games: he's still the third best goalscorer ever and the best ever for goal-average (0.88).

Piola was the opposite of the other great Italian forward Giuseppe Meazza. He was less technically-skilled but his goal instinct was even better than il Balilla's. Piola was able to score in any way, even though the bicycle kick was his favorite one. He was shy, he never aspired to be a celebrity, he didn't have any bad habit: Piola was the model of a professional athlete. And his lifestyle bore fruits, as he played until his 40. Piola is still today the best goalscorer ever in the history of Serie A with 290 goals. He's the man that Francesco Totti is desperately chasing. Despite such a goal rainfall, Piola never won the Scudetto. He played for Pro Vercelli, Lazio (with the Biancoceleste jesery he scored 147 goals), Torino (in a not-officially-recognized tournament), Juventus and Novara.

His figure of fair and loyal man was – partially – stained by an episode occurred in 1939. Incredibly, Maradona was not the first one to score a goal with his hand to England misleading the referee. Piola managed to do that 47 years before El Pibe de Oro and he admitted it some years later. The English, that at that time weren't merely opponents but political enemies, didn't enjoy it at all.

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