France have had some quality goalscorers over the years.
Thierry Henry, Michel Platini, David Trezeguet, Zinedine Zidane, and Jean-Pierre Papin were all masters of putting the ball in the oppositions net, but 60 years ago a French-Moroccan, Just Fontaine went to Sweden with Les Bleus to participate in the 1958 World Cup and in that tournament he set a record that still stands to this very day.
Fontaine was born in Marrakech, which was part of French Morocco at that time.
He moved to Casablanca when he was young, and began his football career with USM Casablanca in 1950, before signing for Nice three years later. Whilst with Nice he helped them win a league title and a French Cup before moving to Reims in 1956.
At that time, Reims were one of the biggest clubs in French football, and he won three league titles, a French Cup, and two French Super Cups at the club.
Fontaine made his international debut in 1953, and scored a hat trick on his debut, but he wouldn’t play for France again until 1956. Remarkably, he only played once in 1956 and once in 1957 before his career defining achievements in 1958.
France were drawn into Group 2 alongside Yugoslavia, Paraguay, and Scotland in what was a 16 team tournament.
Fontaine got his campaign off to an excellent start with a hat trick in France’s 7-3 win over Paraguay, but they lost their next game 3-2 to Yugoslavia, although Fontaine scored both of France’s goals to take his personal tally to five goals.
In their final group game, France beat Scotland 2-1, with Fontaine scoring the second goal to ensure Les Bleus progressed to the quarter-finals.
Northern Ireland were comfortably dispatched in the last eight with Fontaine grabbing two goals in a 4-0 win, before a Pelé inspired Brazil defeated the French in the last four.
Pelé grabbed a hat trick – while Fontaine added one to his tally – as Brazil won 5-2, but Fontaine would still have the third place playoff to add to his haul for the tournament. Not one to waste an opportunity, Fontaine netted four times as France defeated West Germany 6-3, to take his overall tally for the tournament to a remarkable 13 goals.
To put Fontaine’s achievement into context, only three players in the history of the World Cup have scored more than Fontaine, and they all did it over multiple tournaments.
Gerd Muller scored 14 goals over two tournaments, Ronaldo scored 15 over three tournament,s and the World Cup’s record goalscorer Miroslav Klose scored his 16 goals over four tournaments.
For Fontaine to score 13 goals in six games is remarkable, especially when you consider that to win the tournament nowadays teams play seven games, and only Ronaldo in 2002 (8 goals) has scored more than six goals in any of the last 10 World Cups.
Unfortunately, Fontaine had to retire from football at the age of 29, so he was never able to return for another World Cup, but regardless of the fact his career wasn’t as long as he would have liked, he made a lasting impact on the game, and we are still talking about what seems like an impossible to beat record sixty years later.
This article originally appeared on gj2018worldcup.wordpress.com, where you can find a definite World Cup guide.