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Remembering Just Fontaine's Record-Breaking World Cup

France legend Just Fontaine has died at the age of 89.

Fontaine had spells at USM Casablanca, Nice and Reims, but his most famous work came in the colours of his national shirt. If transfer fees in Fontaine’s day were like what they are now, then he’d have been worth hundreds of millions.


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1958 World Cup 

Before Eusebio, Gerd Muller, Romario, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi, there was Just Fontaine - whose 13 goal-haul in the 1958 FIFA World Cup remains a record. 

It only took the Frenchman 6 games to reach the milestone and it remains highly unlikely that his record will ever be broken. Fontaine scored against Yugoslavia, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Brazil, and West Germany as Les Bleus reached the semi-finals and finished third. 

It was against West Germany that the late striker truly announced himself to the world as he was instrumental in his country’s demolition over the reigning champions in the third place play-off. Fontaine scored four times against the 1954 winners to claim the bronze medal, though his quest to deliver a first Jules Rimet trophy to Paris  was ultimately unsuccessful. 

Pele stole the show as Brazil and France met in the semi-finals as the young Brazilian netted a hat-trick. Fontaine struck, too, but his lone goal wasn’t enough to save the French from a 5-2 defeat. However, it remains baffling that the former Reims striker managed to score so many goals for a nation who didn’t even reach the final. Though hopes were high that Fontaine could deliver the goods in 1962, he never played in a World Cup again and retired from international duty in 1960 aged just 26. 



Retirement

He hung up his football boots entirely in 1962, finishing with a record of 258 goals from 284 league games. His record for France was even better, with Fontaine netting 30 times in just 21 games. To this day, Just Fontaine is ninth in France’s all-time scoring list and his heroics at the 1958 World Cup were enough to land him in footballing folklore. 

Just Fontaine represented a lot more than an answer to a trivia question. With a chance to win the World Cup on his own, he represented hope to a nation who were yet to make their mark on the global football stage. The striker, then aged 64, was in the stands at the Stade De France as his beloved France won the 1998 World Cup fourty years after his iconic campaign in Sweden. Fittingly, Les Bleus won their second title in 2018, on the 20th anniversary of the ‘Zidane final’ and 60th of the ‘Fontaine World Cup’. 

Just Fontaine joins Pele, George Cohen, and the tragically-young Cristian Atsu in the Great Starting XI In the Sky, but his exploits at the 1958 World Cup will forever keep his memory alive. 

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