1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden™

8 June - 29 June

1958 FIFA World Cup™

O Rei hits the goal trail

© Getty Images

"We didn't know anything at all about him. The ones we were focused on were Garrincha and Didi. This young kid, 17 years of age, playing for Brazil... who was he? We didn't know. But we found out.”

This was how Cliff Jones reflected, over five decades later, on his first encounter with the then little-known, less-feared Pele. Education, he acknowledged, followed swiftly and brutally. “You didn't have to be an expert to know, half hour into the game, that this kid was very special,” recalled the Tottenham Hotspur legend. “He broke our hearts.”

It was Pele’s first-ever FIFA World Cup™ goal that settled this keenly contested 1958 quarter-final, the 58th anniversary of which fell this week. A flash of genius preceded it, with the teenager controlling on his chest and pulling off an audacious turn, leaving Mel Charles for dead with a touch and swivel before poking a shot home.

“Wales marked very tightly at the back and I remember getting the ball, turning and squeezing it into the corner of the net,” said the great man himself in 2013. “I consider it the most important goal I’ve ever scored.”

It made Pele the youngest player ever to score at a World Cup, and his celebration - captured in the image above – was one of sheer euphoria. Twice he leapt in the air before throwing himself into the net to clutch the ball that had made history, by which point grateful team-mates were beginning to converge.

Yet given all the goals that followed – including three across the Final victories of ‘58 and 1970 – Pele’s description of this one as his “most important” might seem strange.

His explanation? “It boosted my confidence completely. [After that goal], the world knew about Pele. I was on a roll."

Did you know? 
Pele and the 1958 FIFA World Cup are celebrated extensively at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich, with O Rei’s tracksuit top from the tournament among several unique items on display.

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