Which Country Would Have Won the Lost World Cup of 1946?

Lost world cup
HAMBURG, GERMANY - MAY 25: The FIFA World Cup is pictured at the city hall on May 25, 2006 in Hamburg, Germany. The FIFA World Cup will be presented to the public on May 26, 2006 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Even though the Second World War had ended in 1946, the conflict forced FIFA to cancel the 1946 FIFA World Cup. But what if it had not been cancelled? Which country would have won the lost World Cup of 1946?

There are two main different scenarios to base the predictions on. One where the 1946 World Cup was not cancelled, despite war breaking out, and another scenario that assumes World War Two never happened. This article will be based on the ladder scenario because countries affected hard by the war would be unfairly disadvantaged at the hypothetical 1946 World Cup in that case.  

Keep in mind that Austria and Czechoslovakia were occupied by Germany in this scenario, thus exempting them from any contention of the hypothetical 1946 World Cup title. Furthermore, Germany was not expelled by FIFA.

Which Country Would Have Won the Lost World Cup of 1946?

1946 FIFA World Cup Host

The lost World Cup of 1946 would have likely been hosted by a European nation. FIFA aims to alternate the World Cup hosts between European and South American countries. A South American country would have most likely hosted the lost 1942 World Cup because the two most recent editions before 1942 had been in France and Italy retrospectively. This means it would have been Europe’s turn to host the tournament in 1946.

There is not a lot of information to go off here. Our closest clue is Germany, who applied to host the 1942 World Cup, but that does not guarantee they would have hosted it in 1946. Finding a more likely host proved near-impossible, though. France and Italy had already hosted it; Spain was recovering from a recent civil war, England was not a FIFA member, the Soviet Union did not become FIFA-affiliated until July 1946, etc. You get the idea.

The main point is that Germany is the most probable host of the 1946 World Cup. No other eligible nation had the same combination of money, footballing infrastructure and culture. Not to mention they had already expressed interest in hosting it.

Argentina: South Americas Greatest World Cup Hope

Argentina had won their second consecutive Copa America title mere months before the 1946 World Cup was going to be played, and undoubtedly had the potential to go all the way. Brazil, having finished as runners-up behind Argentina in both those championships, were slightly worse than La Albiceleste. Contenders nonetheless, though. 

A Historic Swedish Title at the Lost World Cup of 1946?

Sweden finished third at the 1950 World Cup despite leaving out all of their Serie A players and won Olympic gold in 1948. However, the Olympics would have been characterised by the Second World War, meaning we don’t know if Sweden would have actually won gold if every nation had an even playing field. Sweden had the fortune of not being left in ruins. At the same time, the impact of the war should not be overestimated either. If a country like Yugoslavia, which was largely in ruins following the war, can reach an Olympic final, there is no reason to believe other nations don’t have the same potential.

Inconsistent Italy

Italy must be included in the discussion. With two World Cup titles and ranked number one in the world according to Elo Ratings as of December 31, 1945, they would have been one of the favorites. Their 1948 Olympic performance makes them unpredictable, though. After destroying the United States 9-0 in the first round, the Azzurri lost 5-3 to Denmark in the quarter-finals. Other than that, there is little information to draw conclusions based on. They drew 4-4 with Switzerland in a friendly in 1945. 

Eight Lost German Years

(West) Germany’s national team did not play any matches between November 1942 and 1950. This makes it beyond difficult to predict how good they would have been in 1946. They were ranked seventh in the world according to 1945 and 1946 Elo Ratings and would have performed slightly better as the host nation. But this is not enough to win a World Cup title, even though it is impossible. Also, keep in mind Germany would have access to Austrian and Czechoslovak players.

Underwhelming Spain

Spain was ranked 6th in the world in 1945- and 46. Although this should be taken with a grain of salt. La Furia Roja failed to win a single game in 1946- and 47. Losing 1-0 against the Republic of Ireland in Madrid and 3-2 in Dublin, on top of being battered 4-1 by Portugal. This was no extraordinary Portugal like that of the 1960s. Three games is not a lot, but it is enough to presume Spain would not have won the lost World Cup of 1946.

Honorable Mentions

England and Scotland would be included in the discussion if they were FIFA members. Yugoslavia finished as runners-up of the 1948 Olympics and Denmark finished third. Uruguay won the 1950 World Cup and finished fourth at the 1945 and 1946 Copa America’s. Chile and Paraguay finished third at the 1945 and 1946 Copa America respectively.

Picking a Winner

Based on the available information, the two biggest contenders are Argentina and Sweden. It is impossible to distinguish them. More information would be required. Although Argentina’s Elo Rating indicates they are far superior to Sweden, Blågult’s performances prove they would be able to compete with La Albiceleste. Argentina or Sweden – that is the question.

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