World Cups remembered: Sweden 1958

A Pele-inspired Brazil lifted the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. A star was born in the colour of yellow.

Teenager Pele inspires Brazil

It was a tournament also remembered for its excellent home support, France’s Just Fontaine and all the home nations being involved for the first time – and all of this received international television coverage.

The 16 sides that qualified were divided among four groups, this time each nation played each other without extra-time scheduled if the game ended in a draw.

The final took place in Rasunda Stadium in front of 50,000 supporters. Few gave Sweden any real hope of beating brilliant Brazil, however the home nation’s route to the showpiece at least attracted many fascinated football enthusiasts.

Englishman George Raynor, head coach of Sweden, felt his side could cause an upset if they scored early. And that they did, with Nils Liedholm shocking the world with a strike after just four minutes.

But a fairytale result was not to be for the Swedes as Brazil’s classy attack soon shone through; Vava hitting a brace before half-time to turn the game on its head.

Pele and Zagallo also got in on the scoring act before a consolation from Agne Simonsson was soon forgotten when Pele ensured Brazil tasted World Cup glory for the first time via a 5-2 triumph.

England’s tough draw

Group 4 was arguably the toughest of them all with Brazil, Soviet Union, Austria and England all in action.

Brazil began brightly with a 3-0 win against Austria but England had to rely on a late Tom Finney penalty to salvage a point from their clash with the Soviet Union, who were competing at the World Cup for the first time.

The Soviet Union then downed Austria 2-0 while Brazil and England played out the first goalless draw in World Cup history.

The Three Lions battled for a 2-2 stalemate with Austria while Brazil introduced 17-year-old Pele for the first time to help them finish top of the standings with a 2-0 success against Soviet Union.

With England and Soviet Union both level on points, a play-off fixture was played in Gothenburg. It was the latter that triumphed at the former’s expense courtesy of Anatoli Ilin’s 68th minute strike.

Elsewhere, West Germany edged out Yugoslavia while hosts Sweden overcame the Soviet Union.

Brazil then took on France in what turned out to be the game of the tournament. The scoreline ended 5-2 in favour of the Brazilians as Pele scored three goals to book his nation’s place in the final.

In the other last-four encounter, the brilliant home support, that would religiously wave flags while cheerleaders also looked to inspire their troops, willed on a Sweden 3-2 success over the Germans via a dramatically late goal from Kurt Hamrin.

West Germany and France contested the third-place match. The French triumphed as Fontaine took his goals tally for the tournament to a remarkable 13 – which remains a record still today.

Player of the tournament: Didi

Pele of course shone, but lest we forget Didi. From midfield, the Brazilian pulled the strings as his country landed its first world international trophy. His trademark free-kicks were a specific highlight.

Game of the tournament: Brazil 5 France 2

France’s semi-final against Brazil proved the game of the tournament. Vava broke the deadlock but free-scoring Fontaine netted to level matters.

Instead of being set back by France’s response, the Brazilians turned on the style and netted a further four goals while Les Bleus scored a consolation.

All this while France were forced to play part of the game with 10 men following an injury to defender Bob Jonquet.

Home nations

England qualified after they finished top of their group ahead of the Republic of Ireland and Denmark – but they were reeling after losing key players in the Munich air crash that February.

The Three Lions snatched a 2-2 draw in their opening game of the tournament against USSR as an 85th minute penalty from Tom Finney salvaged a point.

They were then held to a 0-0 draw versus the impressive Brazilians before another 2-2 stalemate, this time against Austria, set up a play-off against the Soviet Union, who won 1-0.

The Welsh qualified for Sweden by virtue of a play-off against Israel, whose original opponents had all withdrawn for political reasons.

They performed admirably after three draws against Hungary, Mexico and Sweden set them up for a crunch play-off encounter versus the Hungarians.

Wales went a goal down at Rasunda Stadium but they battled back for a memorable triumph thanks to goals from Ivor Allchurch and Terry Medwin.

But their campaign came to an end when they came up against Brazil. Despite fighting tooth and nail, a Pele strike downed the Welsh.

Scotland qualified at the expense of Spain and Switzerland but they endured a difficult World Cup. After drawing their opening game versus Yugoslavia, the Scots then lost to Paraguay before suffering a 2-1 defeat against France to send them home.

Northern Ireland, having qualified ahead of Italy and Portugal, were considered an impressive force for their team ethic and the class of Danny Blanchflower.

They managed to advance from the group stage after winning their opening clash against Czechoslovakia thanks to Wilbur Cush’s goal. They were then beaten 3-1 against Argentina while a 2-2 draw against West Germany set up a play-off versus the Czechs.

The clash went to extra-time after a 1-1 draw during normal time, and Peter McParland’s second goal of the game booked their passage to the knockout stage. But their quarter-final fixture with France was best forgotten after they suffered a 4-0 defeat.

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