PARIS — Just Fontaine, the French soccer great who scored a record 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup, has died. He was 89.
Fontaine’s former club Reims and the French soccer federation confirmed his death on Wednesday.
Fontaine took six games to achieve his feat at the 1958 tournament in Sweden, shortly after winning a French league and French Cup double with Reims and leading the league with 34 goals.
“Justo is, and will remain a legend of the French team,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Entering the World Cup tournament, the Moroccan-born Fontaine was a little-known forward outside of the French league. Yet he tormented opponents with his speed and finishing touch – and even with someone else’s boots. He had to borrow a pair of cleats after damaging his own boots in practice.
Fontaine scored four goals in the third-place game against West Germany, but could have had five if he had taken the penalty kick.
In addition to his feats with the national team, Fontaine won the French league title four times, the French Cup and reached the final of the 1959 European Cup during his club career with USM Casablanca, Nice and Reims.
After he retired, Fontaine co-founded France’s players’ union and served as chairman for a few years. He also briefly coached France’s national team before stints with Luchon, Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse and the Moroccan national team.
“A French football icon has passed, and Paris Saint-Germain would like to pay tribute to the man who led them to the first division some 50 years ago,” PSG said in a statement, referring to Fontaine guiding the club to the top league after a playoff win in 1974.
The French soccer federation said tributes to Fontaine will take place across France this weekend with a “minute of homage” that will also be observed on Wednesday before French Cup games at Toulouse, Marseille and Nantes.
“The death of Just Fontaine plunges French soccer into deep emotion and immense sadness,” said Philippe Diallo, the French federation’s interim president. “He was an emblematic figure, with his incredible record of 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup. He wrote one of the most beautiful pages in the history of the French national team.”
The highest scorer at a World Cup tournament is now acknowledged with the Golden Boot award. Fontaine set the record when FIFA did not present a specific award for the tournament’s top scorer.
“Beating my record? I don’t think it can ever be done,” Fontaine told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. “The person who wants to beat me has a massive task, doesn’t he? He has to score two goals per game over seven games.”
Playing in the days when no substitutions were allowed, France lost 5-2 in the semifinals against a Brazil team featuring 17-year-old Pele.
Fontaine, who scored in every match, gave France an early lead with the first goal Brazil allowed in the tournament. But at 1-1, France defender Robert Jonquet broke his leg. Amazingly, he played on, trying to contend with the genius of Pele, but the French defense was considerably weakened.
The men’s record for most goals scored in a World Cup career is 16 by Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who played in four tournaments. Fontaine, who broke the record of 11 goals scored by Hungary striker Sándor Kocsis at the 1954 tournament, only played at one World Cup.
Brazil striker Marta has scored 17 goals at the Women’s World Cup, playing in five tournaments.
Fontaine’s meteoric rise as a scorer saw him get 200 goals in 213 games. He scored 30 goals in 21 games for France
Fontaine’s career was dramatically cut short when he was only 28. The Frenchman – renowned for his lightning pace and ruthless finishing – suffered a horrendous leg fracture after a mistimed tackle in March 1960.
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