French striker Just Fontaine will always have his name etched in the annals of football history.
Born in Marrakesh on August 18, 1933, Just Fontaine began his football career at the tender age of 17, playing for Moroccan team USM Casablanca. He moved to France to sign for Nice three years later and eventually went on to represent Les Bleus internationally.
Just Fontaine made his debut for France when he was 20-years-old and immediately stood out, scoring a hat-trick against Luxembourg as France beat them 8-0.
Five years later, another hat-trick would kickstart what is inarguably the greatest achievement of Just Fontaine’s life - that of scoring the most goals in a single FIFA World Cup edition.
Hat-trick on FIFA World Cup debut
Having been picked in the French team for his maiden FIFA World Cup in 1958, Just Fontaine began the tournament in Sweden with a hat-trick as France beat Paraguay 7-3 in their opening match of Group 2.
In their second match, Fontaine was on the scoresheet again, scoring twice against Yugoslavia. He gave France the lead in the fourth minute but Yugoslavia took a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute.
Just Fontaine seemed to have rescued a point for France with an equaliser in the 85th minute but Todor Veselinovic scored three minutes later to hand Yugoslavia a 3-2 win.
The Frenchman scored again in France’s final group game, getting the winning goal in a 2-1 win against Scotland to ensure his team advanced to the knockouts.
In the quarter-finals, France blanked Northern Ireland 4-0 with Fontaine getting a brace. However, France’s World Cup run was halted in the semi-finals by Brazil, the eventual champions, who won 5-2. Fontaine did score once but it was not enough as Pele, then just 17, scored a hat-trick to inspire a Brazil win.
Smashing the record in style
Having scored nine goals thus far, Just Fontaine had one match remaining - the third place playoff - to either match or break the existing record for most goals in a single FIFA World Cup - 11 by Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis in 1954.
And France’s opponents on the day happened to be West Germany, the 1954 FIFA World Cup champions, not an easy match-up by any means.
Just Fontaine, however, had other ideas. He scored two goals in the first half to equal the record and in the 78th minute, made history by completing his hat-trick and took his tally to 12 for the edition, breaking the record.
Fontaine, then just 24, wasn’t done yet and scored his fourth in the penultimate minute of the game to ensure France won 6-3 and finish third at the FIFA WC.
The number 13 may be unlucky for some, but not for Just Fontaine!
His 13 goals were more than double the next best tally at the 1958 FIFA World Cup - six by Pele and Germany’s Helmut Rahn. There was no Golden Boot award, given to the highest goal-scorer in a FIFA World Cup, in those days.
What is more remarkable is the fact that throughout the tournament, Just Fontaine did not even have his own football boots, instead borrowing a pair from fellow forward Stephane Bruey.
A premature end
Just Fontaine’s remarkable feat at the 1958 FIFA World Cup, unfortunately, never got a sequel as he was forced to retire four years later due to injury. He ended his France career with 30 goals in just 21 games.
During the course of his playing career, Just Fontaine won the French first division four times, the Coupe de France, the French Super Cup and reached the final of the European Cup.
Just Fontaine then moved into football management, coaching the France team in 1967 before taking charge of Luchon, PSG, Toulouse and the Morocco national team. He hung up his managerial boots in 1981.
Fontaine was also named as the ‘one of the 100 greatest living footballers’ by Pele in 2004.
Since Fontaine, only Germany’s Gerd Muller, with 10 goals in the 1970 FIFA World Cup, has managed to record a double-digit goals tally at a single edition of the football world championships.