Just Fontaine, French legend and top scorer at a World Cup, dies at 89

French and world soccer is in mourning. Just Fontaine (Marrakech, 1933) died at the age of 89. Legend of Les Bleus and Stade de Reims (1956-62), with whom he won three league titles, a cup, and was runner-up in the 1959 European Cup losing (2-0) the final against Real Madrid… the striker holds the record of goals in a World Cup.

In Sweden 1958, where France finished third, Fontaine scored 13 goals. He closed his national team career with 30 goals in 21 matches. In his career between USM Casablanca, Nice and Reims, Fontaine scored 258 goals in 284 matches.

A brilliant striker, who founded the French Footballers’ Union with Kopa, who in 2014 received an honorary Golden Shoe in Brazil.

“I am very proud to receive this unique award. It’s good because I am also unique. And the guys next to me who give it to me are unique,” confessed Fontaine, who received the award from Platini and Ronaldo Nazario. May he rest in peace.

Almost 65 years have gone by and Just Fontaine‘s name still comes up every time a World Cup is held. Not surprisingly, it is the longest-standing record in the history of the sport. The legendary French striker, born in Marrakech, made history in 1958 after scoring 13 goals in six matches at the 1958 World Cup. To this day, the record of the former Nice player remains intact, making the legend of the recently deceased striker bigger every year.

The statistic remains there, unalterable with the passage of time, valuable and unprecedented, untouchable for all the great figures that have gone through the history of the World Cups. The fact is that many circumstances came together to lead Fontaine to touch the sky with his hands in that World Cup. France was the first to arrive on Swedish soil, not least because many thought they would also be the first to leave. They were not. Fontaine, at that time, did not enter the first-choice XI of Batteux, despite arriving with an unbeatable letter of introduction: 34 goals with Stade de Reims, top scorer of the Ligue 1 and European Golden Shoe.

And here was the first factor to achieve the feat. Luck, or whatever you want to call it, allied with Fontaine, and the injury to first-choice striker Raymond Blair opened the door to the starting line-up. From there, to glory. What almost no one knew at the time was that the boots with which Fontaine tortured the opposing goalkeepers were not his. At the time, each player had two pairs of boots, and good old Fontaine arrived in Sweden short of equipment. Stephane Bruey, a teammate in the national team, had to lend them some. And Fontaine returned them to him, six games later and with thirteen more goals.

Three goals against Paraguay, two against Yugoslavia, one against Scotland, two against Northern Ireland, one against Brazil and four against West Germany. Four that could have been five.

Fontaine‘s humility was such that it never crossed the striker’s mind to ask his teammate Kopa to take a penalty in the battle for third and fourth place. “He was in charge of taking penalties, so it was no different that day,” Fontaine said a few years later. Despite the achievement, France came up against the Brazil of Garrincha, Didi, Vava and a very young Pele, who was taking his first steps. His partnership with Raymond Kopa was not enough. But the partnership they formed would go down in soccer history. “He was the striker who suited my game perfectly. I was sure I’d find him when I came off the dribble,” said the brilliant winger, whose international career was almost perfect. From his debut, including a hat-trick against Luxembourg, to his last match, in which he scored 30 goals in 21 games.

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