Just Fontaine, France’s flamboyant scorer at the 1958 World Cup, has died

The world of football is losing one of its greatest goal seekers. Just Fontaine died on Wednesday March 1 at the age of 89. With the France team, the striker born in Marrakech had entered the history of the round ball. At the 1958 World Cup, “Justo” scored a record 13 goals.

He is one of the most illustrious players to have worn the jersey hit du coq. With the France team, Just Fontaine has never won the World Cup or the Euro. However, his name appears in a very good position in the pantheon of football. The formidable scoring machine bowed out on March 1.

From Morocco to the France team

It was in Marrakech, Morocco, then under French protectorate, that the future “goleador” was born on August 18, 1933. Born to a French father, a civil servant at the Régie des tabacs, and a housewife Spanish, little Just grew up in Morocco and discovered football. Athlete, he also tries his hand at basketball, a detail that will be important. But it is with the ball at his feet that “Justo” is best illustrated, threading goal on goal. He began to make people talk about him at Sporting Athlétique de Marrakech, then on the side of Casablanca, at the Moroccan Sports Union.

In 1953, Just Fontaine changes dimension. He arrived in Europe, heading to OGC Nice, thanks to Mario Zatelli. Then, the selection committee of the time – Gaston Barreau, Paul Nicolas and Jean Rigal – offered him his first cap in the French team, on December 17. Facing Luxembourg (8-0), in the 1954 World Cup qualifiers, the neophyte scored a hat-trick.

Despite these fanfare beginnings, Just Fontaine will take time to find the Blues. For 30 months, while the Algerian war was in progress, he did his military service in the Joinville battalion and played with the French military team. His Nice adventure is also a little disturbed. It was only at the end of his mobilization, in 1956, that he was finally able to devote himself fully to his career.

Just Fontaine joined the Stade de Reims, the great French club of the time, and found the selection intermittently. The French team then relied mainly on the star Raymond Kopa, Jean Vincent, Roger Piantoni… But in 1958, a twist of fate offered the Rémois the opportunity to make history.

1958 World Cup: a crazy goalscorer

In 1958, France is about to play its fifth World Cup. She has never shone in the competition so far and is not favored by the forecasts, after the last disappointing results. Just Fontaine is not supposed to play an important role. René Bliard is the preferred option of coaches Albert Batteux and Paul Nicolas to accompany Raymond Kopa in attack. Only, the player is injured and withdraws before the meeting in Sweden.

It is therefore Just Fontaine, fresh and refreshed after knee surgery a few months earlier, who will accompany Kopa and the other French arrows. And in front of the whole world, the n°17 ​​will be unleashed. In the first round, he scored a hat-trick against Paraguay (7-3), scored the two French goals against Yugoslavia (2-3) and scored once against Scotland (2-1).

No defense can resist the attacker… who does not play with his usual shoes. His pair, worn out, passed away the day before the start of the tournament. Fortunately, his teammate Stéphane Bruey, who has the same size, lends him his. Later, the goalscorer will joke about it: “ I like to tell people that some of my goals were scored because they combined two minds in one shoe. »

In the quarter-finals, Just Fontaine planted another double against Northern Ireland (4-0). But in the semi-final, against Pelé’s Brazil, the Blues lost (5-2) despite a quick goal from “Justo”. France is eliminated, but it finishes in apotheosis during the match for the third place by dominating Germany (6-3), outgoing world champion. On June 28, 1958, the infernal striker offered himself a quadruple to complete his incredible World Cup.

The numbers are crazy: Just Fontaine finished top scorer in the World Cup with 13 goals in six matches. He erases the record of 11 goals established four years earlier by the Hungarian Sandor Kocsis. Since then, his performance has remained unmatched. No player has managed to score so many times in a single edition of the World Cup. Only the German Gerd Müller came close in 1970 (10 goals).

Only three players have scored more than Just Fontaine, but in several editions: the German Miroslav Klose (16 goals in four editions), the Brazilian Ronaldo (15 goals in four editions) and therefore Gerd Müller (14 goals in two editions).

The deep respect of Lineker and Ronaldo

In 2015, “Justo” spoke at length about his career and this famous World Cup with the daily L’Équipe. The one who ended his international career with an exceptional ratio of 30 goals in 21 caps explained what made him so effective, with the Blues and in clubs (quadruple champion of France, vice-champion of Europe 1959): ” I was fast, but not the fastest. I was good in the lead, but not the best. I was kicking with both feet, but I was not the best. But I had a set of qualities, and above all, I had a great help: that of having played basketball all my youth. For the markdown, there is nothing better than basketball. »

At the end of the 1958 World Cup, Just Fontaine was offered… a shotgun. The Golden Boot trophy, rewarding the top scorer in the competition, did not yet exist. This lack was filled decades later. Englishman Gary Lineker, Golden Shoe of the 1986 World Cup (six goals), came to meet Just Fontaine in 1998. It bothered him to have a Golden Boot, whereas I had none. So he arranged to have one made for me and gave it to me. A scorer’s tribute to a scorer “, confided the French to the magazineSo Foot.

Then, in 2014, during the World Cup in Brazil, “Justo” received his own Golden Boot, 56 years after his achievement, from the hands of Michel Platini, then UEFA President, and Ronaldo, Golden Boot. 2002 World Cup gold (eight goals). “There, I feel respected“, confided the striker of 1958 to theParisian.

An irresistible record

Just Fontaine’s football career will come to an end much sooner than expected. In 1960, he suffered a double fracture of the left leg after a tackle from the Ivorian Sékou Touré. Less than a year later, the striker suffered another fracture. Too handicapped, he hung up his crampons in 1962, at only 29 years old and after two last years in dotted lines. “I would have traded my record for a few more years“, he let go.

In 1967, the ex-player became coach of the France team. The adventure will only last two matches. Then, between 1973 and 1976, he coached PSG and allowed the Parisian club to join the first division in 1974. Just Fontaine then officiated in Toulouse, the city where he settled, and held the position of coach of Morocco, 1979 to 1981.”I wanted to give back what they had given me. If I was a footballer, it’s thanks to Morocco“, he assures L’Équipe. The Atlas Lions will finish third in CAN 1980. Without their coach, victim of a road accident before the tournament and temporarily replaced.

For years, the striker has tirelessly answered the famous question: will his goalscoring record from 1958 ever fall? Just Fontaine never thought his total was unattainable. But in 2002, when he congratulated Ronaldo on his fiery World Cup in South Korea and Japan, the French striker laughed: “My record still stands. I think I’ll take it to my grave!” He was right.


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