“Just Fantastic” – Just Fontaine
Just Fontaine is a name etched in the folklore of the World Cup. His goalscoring exploits for France in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where he scored 13 goals in the tournament, are legendary and the record he set there has yet to be surpassed by any player since.
Born in Marrakech, Morrocco in 1933, Just Fontaine made his professional debut playing for Casablanca, where he grew up. There, he won the Moroccan championship and the North African championship in 1952. Three seasons later, he made the move to France in joining OGC Nice, making a name for himself as a goalscorer by scoring 44 goals in 69 league matches for the club and winning the Coupe de France and French league title.
In 1956, Fontaine signed for Stade de Reims to cover the departure of Raymond Kopa, who left the club for the allure of Spanish side Real Madrid. Kopa, though, would later return to Reims to play alongside Fontaine in Fontaine’s final few seasons with the club. It was at Reims where Fontaine really made his mark, scoring a legendary 122 goals in 131 league appearances for the club.
With Reims, Fontaine managed to win three league titles, the Coupe de France and the Trophée des Champions on two occasions. He also contributed to a European Cup final with Reims in 1959 and was named top goalscorer in that competition. His goalscoring exploits in the league competition meant that he was twice named top goalscorer with 34 goals in 1958 and 28 goals in 1960.
However, it was at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden where Just Fontaine really became a legend, making his name synonymous with World Cup records. Fontaine scored a hat-trick in France’s first game of the tournament against Paraguay before following it up with two more against Yugoslavia. This was added to a goal scored against Scotland and another two in the quarter final against Northern Ireland. France were eliminated from the tournament by eventual-winners Brazil in the semi-final, with the game finishing 5-2.
Despite the exit, Fontaine was not finished with his goalscoring run at the tournament scoring a massive four goals in the 3rd-place playoff match against West Germany. This took the goals tally to 13 for the tournament and the record was set. The tournament is also known for being Brazil’s first of five World Cup wins.
The record for most World Cup goals scored has since been beaten, leaving Just Fontaine in fourth place. Ronaldo scored 15 in three World Cups for Brazil whilst Gerd Müller and Miroslav Klose both scored 14 for Germany in two and three tournaments respectively. No one, however, has yet surpassed the massive 13 goals in one single tournament scored by Just Fontaine for France.
Just Fontaine was forced to call a halt to his playing career prematurely at the age of just 28 due to injury problems which had haunted him since breaking his leg in a match against Sochaux in 1960. Fontaine played his final match in July 1962 for Stade de Reims. His international goalscoring record stood at a hugely impressive 30 goals in 21 matches for France, almost half of which were scored in that famous World Cup campaign of 1958.
Following his retirement, Just Fontaine entered the world of management but was unable to replicate his international success as manager of France, being replaced after two defeats in two friendly matches. Fontaine did, however, manage to promote Paris Saint-Germain to top flight French football in his three seasons with the club. He also had spells as manager of Toulouse and the Moroccan international selection.
In March 2004, Fontaine was included in a list of the 125 greatest living football players, a list compiled by football legend Pelé. 1958 World Cup team-mate Raymond Kopa was also included in this list.
It is a great honour to induct a player who created a legend for himself and set the bar for others to attempt to surpass with regards to goalscoring exploits. Just Fontaine is, without a doubt, a very deserving inductee into the French Football Weekly Hall of Fame and a true legend of French football.