France Football magazine named Just Fontaine1 as the fifth-best French player of all time, behind Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane, Raymond Kopa and Laurent Blanc. You could say that he has one of the coolest names in world football, but is best-known internationally as the holder of a World Cup record that is unlikely to be broken. At the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, Fontaine scored in all six games, notching an unprecedented 13 goals. Over 40 years later, the French striker's record still stands as the best of any player in a single World Cup. The achievement was all the more remarkable because Fontaine had been lucky just to get a game in the France side.
Born in Marrakesh in Morocco in 1933, Just Fontaine began his career playing three seasons for US Marocaine Casablanca, before moving to France and making his name with Nice, with whom he won the French league title in 1956. He made his international debut against Hungary that year, before being recruited by the great Reims side that dominated French football of the era - as replacement for the legendary Raymond Kopa, who'd been snapped up by Real Madrid. According to Total Football magazine2, Fontaine 'had it all; he was two-footed3, great in the air and had speed to burn'. In the 1957-58 season, his goals helped Reims claim the French League and Cup double, but he wasn't expecting to get on the pitch at the World Cup that year. France had persuaded Real Madrid to let them have the use of the brilliant Raymond Kopa4, so a place among the reserves looked likely for Just. But when Reims team-mate Rene Bliard was ruled out with an ankle injury, Fontaine got his chance and formed a prolific partnership with Kopa to take a France side that had not won all year to an unexpected Third Place in the tournament.
A Veritable Fountain of Goals
Just Fontaine announced his arrival on the World Cup stage with a hat-trick as France thrashed Paraguay 7-3. In the next three group games, he bagged another five against Yugoslavia, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to set up a semi-final meeting with eventual winners Brazil. Fontaine scored one to take his tournament total to nine, but it wasn't enough as Brazil triumphed 5-2, and a teenage superstar took centre stage - the difference between the two teams could be summed up in one word: Pelé. Undeterred, Fontaine commiserated in the best possible way by scoring four against West Germany in the third place play-off.
There wasn't a Golden Boot award or anything like that in 1958, so no one thought about it. That probably gave me an advantage. Nowadays, as soon as a striker scores three goals, everyone starts asking him about it. As soon as he thinks about the record, he's finished. The secret is to put it out of your mind. In those days there was not so much pressure on us. Only two journalists followed the team around. Our team bosses were so convinced we would be knocked out that they only gave us three shirts each, so we were totally free from pressure. My mind was not on the goals record at all. I even turned down the chance to take a penalty in the third-place game!
After the World Cup, Just picked up a European Cup runners-up medal with Reims in 19595 and helped them to another league title in 1960, twice finishing as the league's top scorer. But during a league game in the following season, he broke his leg in two places and the injury forced him to retire from the game early, at the peak of his powers. Fontaine had played in 21 internationals for France and scored 30 goals, and his overall record was a prolific 200 goals in 213 games.
I was forced to retire when I was 26 - right at the moment when I was due to go and play abroad. You never know, I could have done the same thing as Platini. His career really took off when he signed for Juventus.
Just For The Record
Fontaine also holds a much less coveted record - he was in charge of the French national team in 1967 for two games, on 22 March and 3 June, which is the shortest reign anyone has had as manager of France. He also managed Paris St Germain in the 1980s, and then Morocco - he later supported their unsuccessful bid to host the 2006 World Cup.
But only West Germany's Gerd 'Der Bomber' Muller has scored more goals in World Cup finals, with 10 in 1970 and four in 1974. Ronaldo, of Brazil, is the leading scorer in the modern game, coming up fast on the rails with a grand total of 12 scored in 1998 and 2002. But we'll leave the final word to Fontaine, who justly believes that his single tournament record is likely to stand for all time:
Teams are less attacking now. To beat my record, a side would really have to go for it, or a player would need to go on a goal spree in the group matches. Because the group games are like a mini-tournament, teams tend to be very calculating, so it becomes very difficult.