Just Fontaine is a legend in French football. So much so that they even named the stand at the Stade de France after him. The striker from Algeria was one of the most important players for Les Bleus in their successful campaign for the 1958 World Cup. He scored six goals, which is still a record for an individual player in one World Cup tournament. Just Fontaine was born on May 21, 1932, in Oujda, Morocco. He started his career as an attacking midfielder and played for several clubs in France, including AS Strasbourg and FC Grenoble. With these teams, he also gained experience playing at a high level. However, his biggest break came when he joined Olympique Lyonnais in 1953, where he scored 121 goals in three seasons and became their top scorer of all time.
France at the 1958 World Cup
The French team in 1958 was a team on a mission. They had been runners-up in 1950 and many believed they were unlucky to have lost in such a close match against the Uruguayans. Now, in 1958, the French squad contained many familiar names and a few new faces. The captain was the goalkeeper and Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper, Jacques Swoboda. In central defense were the experienced Robert Jonquet and the young man from Lille, Raymond Jacquet. The two fullbacks were Roger Piantoni from Nice and Jacques Follet from Bordeaux. Up front were Just Fontaine, Henri Cristea, Raymond Braine, and Robert Herbin. The only change from the team of the 1950 World Cup was Jacquet replacing the injured Roger Garreau.
The Last 16 against Sweden
The first game of the 1958 competition was against the Swedish team. Les Bleus started with a 3-2-3 formation, with Swoboda in goal, Jacquet and Herbin as the full-backs and Jonquet, Jacquet, and Braine as the central defenders. Up front, they had Fontaine with Cristea and Herbin. The game got off to a slow start and Sweden controlled the play for a while, but Les Bleus slowly got into the game and took the lead. This was thanks to a Cristea goal in the 23rd minute. Just before halftime, Sweden equalized and the teams went into the break on level terms. The second half was a different story, as France controlled the game and scored three goals. The first two were from Fontaine in the 51st and 61st minute, and the third was from Herbin in the 81st minute to give France a 3-1 victory and a place in the Quarter-Finals.
The Quarter-Final against West Germany
In the Quarter-Final, France played the reigning World Champions, West Germany. This was the game that everyone had been waiting for, as these two teams were the favorites to win the tournament. The game was played on a hot day in front of 90,000 spectators. Many expected the French to win, but the game did not go their way. The Germans had better chances and controlled the game until they finally scored in the 63rd minute. France tried to push forward, but they gave away too many free kicks and corners, which the Germans used to good effect. France had a few chances to score, but they didn’t take them, and the Germans scored again in the 78th minute. The last French chance came at the last minute of the game, but it was too late.
The Semi-Final against Brazil
France was out of the tournament, but they still had another game against the hosts, Brazil, to play. This was their last chance to show the world just how good they were, and they did not disappoint. The game was played in front of a packed Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The French showed that they were a team to be reckoned with, and they created several chances to score. They had the better of the play in the first half, but the score remained 0-0. In the second half, the French stepped up their game even more and created even more chances. They were hitting the crossbar and posts several times, but Brazil was defending well for the most part. In the 68th minute, France scored a goal. It was a very unlucky goal for the Brazilians, as the ball deflected off a defender and looped over the Brazilian goalkeeper, Gilmar. The Brazilians tried everything they could to equalize, but the French defense was resolute and they held on to win 1-0.
Just Fontaine is one of the best French footballers of all time, and he showed this in the 1958 World Cup. In the group stage, he scored four goals to help France finish first in the group, and in the knock-out stage, he scored another two goals, which is still an individual record for one tournament. France reached the Semi-Final, where they lost to Brazil, but they left their mark on the tournament. Fontaine was rewarded for his performance by being named the best forward of the tournament. He also finished joint third for the Golden Ball award, which is awarded to the best player of the tournament. These awards show that he was one of the best players at the 1958 World Cup.