The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is almost upon us. To get you in the mood for this summer’s tournament, in the week leading up to kickoff, we’ll be taking a look back at the stories behind some of the most significant world records set on the beautiful game’s biggest stage.
Today: France's Just Fontaine and his magical 1958 tournament.
Looking back at the 1958 World Cup is like stepping through the closet that takes you to Narnia. None of it makes sense.
They held playoffs to find out who escaped the group stages?
The countries were seeded in pots based on geography?
The man who scored the most goals ever in a single World Cup tournament didn’t even make the team of the tournament as selected by journalists?!
Amazingly, that’s the case of Just Fontaine, the French striker to whom we dedicate today’s piece of our World Cup preview.
We’ve already told you yesterday about Ronaldo, the Brazilian phenom who owns the record for most goals scored in a World Cup career with 15.
But the story of Fontaine’s singular 1958 performance is perhaps even more legendary.
Fontaine scored 13 goals in Sweden that year, across the six matches that France played. It remains the high-water mark for the most goals scored in a single World Cup tournament. Amazingly, it was the only World Cup in which Fontaine would ever play. And, despite more than a half century having passed, his tally of 13 in one tournament still has him sitting third all-time on the career goals list.
That's Fontaine pictured up top, in 1978, posing with his Golden Boot.
To put it in perspective, Ronaldo needed 19 matches across three World Cups to earn his 15. Miroslav Klose and Gerd Mueller – the German duo tied for second with 14 each – required 19 and 13 matches, respectively, to hit their marks. Again, Fontaine needed only six. That’s a ballistic 2.17 goals per game average, the second-highest of any player to have ever scored 10 or more goals in a World Cup career (Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis hit 2.2/game with 11 goals in five matches in 1954).
Fontaine netted a hat trick in France’s opening match, then proceeded to score in every game for Les Bleus thereafter. And he didn’t simply load up in one or two matches. He scored multiple times in four of the six contests, including a four-goal virtuosity against defending champs West Germany in the third-place game.
Sadly, Fontaine’s career was cut short at just 28 years old due to chronic injury. But he showed across a mere three weeks in the Swedish summer of ’58 the kind of historic touch he held in those boots.
And yet, to revisit the point, Fontaine still couldn’t even crack the media’s all-tournament team. This was despite earning more votes than any other forward. The reason? The votes for Fontaine were split between the “inside forward” and “outside forward” position, meaning he didn’t have enough at one position to make the squad.
Like I said – none of it made sense.
World Cup Rewind: Ronaldo sets all-time goals world record
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