World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – Sweden 1958

The first glimpse of genius

The World Cup is not only the place where dreams come true (unless your English), it is the place where stars are born.

Michael Owen came to the fore 1998, Roberto Baggio built his legend in 1994 but it was Pele in 1958 that had the most shine of all.

The Brazilian, just 17 at the time of the first round game against USSR in Sweden, became the youngest player to appear in the tournament.

And the teenager, instrumental in securing the World Cup for his country, produced an astonishing display showing maturity way beyond his years.

Pele scored a stunning hat-trick against France in the semi-final and scored the trademark goal of the tournament against Sweden in the final. The goal – a delicious lob over an onrushing defender followed by a thumping volley – was the first of two and helped Brazil to a 5-2 win.

And from there his stock continued to rise, the Brazilian going on to appear at a further three World Cups, perhaps saving his best for the 1970 tournament where his attempted lob against Czechoslovakia and the outrageous dummy against Uruguay are among two of the greatest goals never scored.

While it is open for debate whether he is the best player in the history of the game – Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradonna and Franz Beckenbauer could all stake thier claim for that mantle – his effect on football is unrivalled.

With Pele reaching his peak at the same time football became a television spectacle he became the game’s first true global superstar.

And his record of 77 goals in 92 games in the gold shirt certainly speaks for itself.

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