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Youngest goal-scorers in men’s FIFA World Cup: Pele’s landmark strike at 17!

Pele holds the record of being the youngest footballer to score at the men’s FIFA World Cup. The Brazilian striker is also the youngest to score a World Cup hat-trick. 

5 min By Ali Asgar Nalwala
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(Picture by 2014 Getty Images)

The FIFA World Cup is one of the biggest platforms for football players to showcase their talent and leave behind a lasting legacy.

While most young players often wilt under pressure or devote years on the training grounds before making their mark on the world stage, the likes of Pele and Lionel Messi stand out among the elite few who achieved success early.

Undaunted by pressure, some of them even emerged as the youngest World Cup goal-scorers and went on to carve a niche for themselves.

Youngest footballers to score in Men’s FIFA World Cup

No.Player AgeEdition
1Pele (Brazil) 17 years, 239 daysSweden 1958
2Manuel Rosas (Mexico) 18 years, 90 daysUruguay 1930
3Gavi (Spain)18 years, 110 daysQatar 2022
4Michael Owen (England)18 years, 190 daysFrance 1998
5Nicolae Kovacs (Romania)18 years, 198 daysUruguay 1930
6Dmitri Sychev (Russia)18 years, 231 daysSouth Korea / Japan 2002
7Lionel Messi (Argentina)18 years, 358 daysGermany 2006
8Aleksander Tirnanic (Yugoslavia) 18 years, 365 daysUruguay 1930
9Julian Green (USA) 19 years, 25 daysBrazil 2014
10Divock Origi (Belgium)19 years, 65 daysBrazil 2014

Pele, Brazil - 17 years and 239 days

Pele is the youngest footballer to score a goal at the men’s FIFA World Cup. The Brazilian striker was 17 years and 239 days old when he scored his first World Cup goal during the quarter-final match against Wales in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

After his volley helped Brazil beat Wales by a solitary goal, Pele went on to become the youngest footballer to score a World Cup hat-trick in Brazil’s 5-2 win against France in the semi-finals.

To top it off, Pele scored a brace in Brazil’s other 5-2 win over hosts Sweden to become the youngest player to play and score in a football World Cup final. To this day, Pele remains the only football player to score in a FIFA World Cup before turning 18.

Pele was also part of the Brazilian teams that won the 1962 and 1970 FIFA World Cups. He is regarded as one of the greatest players to have graced the game.

Manuel Rosas, Mexico - 18 years, 90 days

Mexican defender Manuel Rosas is the second youngest goalscorer in the men’s World Cup at the age of 18 years and 90 days. However, it was an unfortunate self goal in Mexico’s group game against Chile in the inaugural Football World Cup in 1930. This was the first own-goal scored in FIFA World Cup history.

Three days later, Rosas made it up by scoring two goals albeit in the losing cause in Mexico’s 6-3 defeat against Argentina. His first goal was scored from the penalty kick and is the first penalty ever scored in the men’s FIFA World Cup.

No matter how you look at it, Rosas remains second on the list of youngest goal-scorers in the history of the competition.

Gavi, Spain - 18 years, 110 days

Gavi became the youngest footballer to score a goal at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar when he netted one against Costa Rica in their Group E match. Gavi scored in the 74th minute as Spain cruised to a 7-0 win. Gavi thus became the youngest to score at the football World Cup since Pele in 1958.

Gavi also became the youngest footballer to play for Spain in a major international tournament. Gavi’s goal was the fourth in the match. His efforts won him the FIFA's player of the match award.

"I never dreamed to be here at this age," Gavi said. "I’m so happy to be here... I'm really happy to win MVP but today we all did a really great game and I'm really happy for all of them. I know I'm the youngest in the team and I respect everyone, but on the field it's different and I bring out my best."

Michael Owen, England - 18 years and 190 days

England were trailing 1-0 against Romania in the 1998 World Cup before forward Michael Owen scored in the 83rd minute to equalise for the 1966 world champions.

Though England lost the match with Romania scoring a last-minute winner, Michael Owen, at the age of 18 years and 190 days, became England’s youngest player to score in the FIFA World Cup and third in the all-time list.

With goals in the UEFA Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup and also Euro 2004, Michael Owen is the only player to have scored in four consecutive major tournaments for England.

Nicolae Kovacs, Romania - 18 years and 198 days

Romania’s Nicolae Kovacs is fourth on the list of youngest football players to score in the FIFA World Cup. He scored for Romania against Peru in the 1930 World Cup to help his side win 3-1. He was 18 years and 198 days old on that day.

Nicolae Kovacs was one of the few players to feature in all three World Cups before the World War. Later, Kovacs also represented the Hungary football team.

Youngest footballer to score in a FIFA Women’s World Cup

*Elena Danilova, Russia - 16 years and 107 days *

Elena Danilova played for Russia in the 2003 Women’s World Cup and scored in Russia’s 7-1 defeat against eventual champions Germany in the quarter-finals. She was 16 years and 107 days old on that day.

Elena went on to play 52 matches for Russia in a career marred by injuries. She played her final match against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018.

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