The 1958 FIFA World
Cup, the sixth staging of the World Cup, was hosted by Sweden from 8 June to 29 June. Sweden was chosen as hosts by FIFA in June 1950. It was won by Brazil, who beat Sweden 5–2 in the final for their first title. The World Cup marked the debut on the world stage of a precocious, largely unknown 17-year-old known as Pelé.
Main article: 1958 FIFA World Cup qualification
This World Cup saw the entry and qualification of the Soviet Union for the first time, and the qualification of all the United Kingdom's Home Nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, with Northern Ireland eliminating Italy for the first (and only) time in the competition's history.
Aside from the main European zone matches, Wales, which finished second in its group behind Czechoslovakia, were drawn into a play-off with Israel after Israel won their group without playing a match due to the withdrawals of the three opponents, Turkey, Indonesia and Sudan. FIFA had imposed a rule that no team would qualify without playing at least one match because many teams qualified for previous World Cups without playing due to withdrawals of their opponents. Wales won the play-off and qualified.
On 8 February, in Solna, Lennart Hyland and Sven Jerring presented the results of the draw where the qualified teams were divided into four groups. There was no seeding, apart from each group containing one western European team, one eastern European team, one of the four British teams that had qualified, and one from American continent.
SummaryThe format of the competition changed from 1954: 16 teams still competed in four groups of four, but this time each team played each of the other teams in its group at least once, without extra time in the event of a draw. Instead, if second and third place finished on the same points, then there would be a play-off with the winner going through. If a play-off resulted in a draw, then goal average from the group games would have been used to determine who went through to the next round. If the goal averages were equal then lots would have been drawn. If the first two teams finished on equal points then goal average would decide who was placed first and second. These arrangements had not been finalised by the time the tournament started and were still being debated as it progressed. The organizing committee even released press statements stating that goal average would be counted before resorting to playoffs. However this idea was eventually rejected.
The official 1958 FIFA World Cup poster.
In Group 4, Pelé did not play until the last of Brazil's group games, against the Soviet Union. He failed to score, but Brazil won the game 2–0 (much thanks to an impressive exhibition of dribbling prowess by his partner Garrincha) and the group by two points. Previously, they had drawn 0–0 with England in what was the first ever goalless game in World Cup history. Eventually, the Soviet Union and England went to a playoff game, in which Anatoli Ilyin scored in the 67th minute to knock England out, while Austria had already been eliminated. The English side had been weakened by the Munich Air Disaster which killed 3 internationals on the books of Manchester United, including England's young star Duncan Edwards.
Playoffs were also needed in Group 1 (Northern Ireland beat Czechoslovakia to join the defending champions West Germany in the quarter-finals) and Group 3 (Wales topped Hungary to advance with hosts Sweden). Hungary had become a spent force after their appearance in the final of the previous tournament. They had lost their best players two years before, when they fled in the wake of the failed uprising against the communist regime. In a rather restrictive sense, from the 1954 team, only goalkeeper Gyula Grosics, defender Jozsef Bozsik and forward Nándor Hidegkuti remained.
Of the British nations, it was arguably Scotland who had the toughest group, having to face Yugoslavia, Paraguay, and France. France topped Group 2, with Just Fontaine netting six goals. Yugoslavia finished second, while Scotland came in last.
The quarter-finals saw France's Just Fontaine continue in similar form to the group stage, managing another two goals as France triumphed over Northern Ireland. West Germany's Helmut Rahn put them into the semi-finals with a single goal against Yugoslavia, while Sweden went though at the expense of USSR. The other game in the quarter-finals saw Pelé score the only goal against Wales.
In the semi-finals, Sweden continued their strong run as they defeated West Germany 3–1 in a vicious game that saw the German player Erich Juskowiak sent off (the first ever German player to be sent off in an international game) and German team captain Fritz Walter injured, which further weakened the German team (substitutes were first allowed in the 1970 FIFA World Cup).
While another goal from Fontaine of France added to his impressive tally, it was not enough to prevent Brazil thundering into the Final as a Pelé hat-trick gave them a 5–2 victory. The French were effectively down to ten men from the 30th minute onwards when their most experienced defender and captain Robert Jonquet got incapacitated after a clash with Vavá. The third place match saw Fontaine score four more goals as France defeated Germany 6-3. This brought his total to 13 goals in one competition, a record that still stands.
The final was played in Solna, in the Råsunda Stadium, as 50,000 people watched in amazement as the Brazilians went a goal down after four minutes. The Brazilians were not dismayed, and Vavá equalised shortly afterwards and then put them a goal ahead before half time. In the second half Pelé outshone everyone, notching up two goals, including the first one where he lobbed the ball over Bengt Gustavsson then followed it with a precise volley shot. Zagallo added a goal in between, and Sweden managed a consolation goal. But the game really belonged to Pelé, and the Jules Rimet trophy belonged to Brazil - the World Cup winners.