• Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sweden 1958

Fontaine: Just 13!

A third-choice striker for France going into the 1958 World Cup, Just Fontaine was to set the tournament alight with a record-breaking performance. Fontaine's astonishing mark of 13 goals in six matches in Sweden remains the record tally for a single player in the World Cup.
Born in Marrakech in Morocco, Fontaine signed for US Marocaine de Casablanca where he spent three seasons before leaving for France and joining Nice, a team he helped win the French Cup during his second season. In December 1953, Fontaine marked his international debut with a hattrick against Luxembourg and helped Nice and later Reims to the French championship titles, setting scoring records on the way.
His excellent run of form guaranteed his inclusion in the French squad for the World Cup in Sweden and Fontaine scored three against Paraguay as France run out 7-3 winners.
That win set the tone for his country's drive to the semifinals and Fontaine kept scoring notching two against Yugoslavia and another in the final group game against Scotland. He thumped two in the next match against Ireland and was rewarded with a match against Brazil, where they came up against Pele and company who proved too strong, ending the French dream with a 5-2 defeat. Almost inevitably Fontaine found the net in that match.
However, there was still the consolation of the third-place match, which proved decisive in setting Fontaine's record mark as he scored four times in a 6-3 win over Germany that took his record to 13.
The 1958 World Cup should have been the start of a long career for Fontaine but within a few years he was forced to retire after he twice broke his leg within nine months. Having played his last international at the age of 27, Fontaine finished with a record of 30 goals in 21 appearances.
Fontaine's scoring feats in the World Cup are even more improbable in view of the fact that he was not even wearing his own boots: he had to borrow a pair from teammate Stephane Bruey.

He went on to manage France, Luchon, Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse and Morocco, with mixed success. Now, at the age of 83, Fontaine lives in Toulouse, owns two Lacoste shops and predicts results for the French pools. "I spend my days playing belote [a French card game]," he says. "Other than that I watch the African Nations Cup, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga ..."
Fontaine has regularly dismissed the idea that goals were a cheaper currency in his day. "No, it wasn't easier to score in 1958," he said. "The state of the ball, the length of the trip over and the amateurism of the backroom staff made everything much more complicated than today….Above all else, referees protect strikers much more than they did in my day. So let me repeat it: 13 goals is an enormous total. Beating my record? I don't think it can ever be done."

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2014

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