Legendary France striker and World Cup record holder Just Fontaine dies, aged 89

The striker famously scored 13 goals in just six games at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the highest-ever tally in a single edition of the tournament.

Former French striker Just Fontaine will forever be remembered for scoring 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup; Credit: Twitter/ @UEFA
By Sreejith C R | Mar 1, 2023 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Legendary France footballer Just Fontaine has died at the age of 89. The striker famously scored 13 goals in just six games at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the highest-ever tally in a single edition of the tournament. That was the only World Cup that Fontaine played in. Meanwhile, he is joint fourth on the all-time World Cup goalscorers list alongside Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Only Miroslav Klose, Ronaldo and Gerd Muller have scored more goals than Fontaine in the World Cup. The French-man netted 30 goals from 21 caps for Les Bleus between 1953-1960. 

Fontaine has the best goals-per-game ratio among any player to have played 10 or more times for France. He played a key role in helping France reach the semi-finals of the 1958 World Cup, where they lost to eventual champions Brazil 5-2, courtesy of 17-year-old Pele’s hat-trick. Meanwhile Les Bleus went on to secure third spot by defeating West Germany 6-3 in the losers final. Fontaine scored four goals in his final World Cup game. Although the 1958 World Cup is best remembered for the emergence of King Pele, Fontaine was the the unsung hero of the tournament. Only two other players, Muller with 10 in 1970 and Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis with 11 in 1954, have reached double figures at a single World Cup. 

Fontaine scored 165 goals in 200 French top flight games

The Moroccan-born striker began with USM Casablanca in the country of his birth, scoring 62 goals in 48 games before switching to Nice. There, the penalty-box poacher netted 51 times in 84 games, before moving to Reims where he added a further 145 goals in just 152 appearances. He had a stellar club career, winning four Ligue 1 titles, two Coupe de France and one Trophee des Champions, as well as helping Reims to the 1958-59 European Cup final, where they lost to Real Madrid. Fontaine won the European Cup golden boot courtesy of scoring 10 goals in that year’s tournament. Meanwhile, he twice finished as the top goal-scorer in Ligue 1 and eventually finished his career with 165 scalps to his name 200 outings in the French top flight. 

However, his career ended in 1962, aged just 29 because of injuries. He had hardly played for two years after suffering a double leg fracture. Fontaine went into coaching in 1967 and went on to take charge of France, but the spell lasted for just two games, both defeats in friendlies. He then also took charge of Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse and Morocco. He had a fruitful spell with the Parisians, taking them to the top flight in 1974. Meanwhile Fontaine’s footballing journey ended back where it started, in Morocco, as he led the Atlas Lions to third place finish at the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations. He then retired to Toulouse, in the south-west of France. 

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