From Sweden 1958 to Mexico 1970, his reputation in the FIFA World Cups earned him the respect and recognition which can be seen worldwide. Read ahead for a tournamentby-tournament breakdown of his career in the sport’s largest event.
Due to an injury the 17-yearold Pele missed the opening two matches of the group stages and thus made his debut against the Soviet Union. Hitting the nets for the first time, Pele scored against Wales in the 1-0 quarter-final win. His streak continued in the semi-final against France, he stunned the world with a hat-trick after which Brazil made his way into the Finals. 17 years and 239 days, Pele became the youngest player ever to make an appearance in a World Cup final and scored a brace. In style, his first goal came with a flick over a defender and a volley past the Swedish goalkeeper. Brazil defeated hosts Sweden 5-2 to lift the trophy and Pele became the youngest to win a FIFA world cup.
Although Pele had by then been recognised as a rising star, his run in the 1962 World cup saw an unfortunate turn. The goal-scoring talisman missed most of the tournament through injury. In the opening match, Pele provided the team with an assist and later went on to score an iconic goal, dashing past four Mexican defenders he netted the ball. In the second group stage clash against Czechoslovakia, Pele faced an uneventful thigh muscle tear which brought an ill-timed end to his tournament. Nevertheless, Brazil went onto retain their trophy with Garrincha stepping up as they beat Czechoslovakia 3-1 in the finals.
The travel to England proved futile for the Latin American side, however Pele set a record of scoring in three successive tournaments after finding the net with a free-kick. As a target for most of the teams, Pele was singled out and he received quite brutal treatment in the first match against Bulgaria. Due to his injuries, Pele was forced to miss the following loss to Hungary but was reinstated for the match against Portugal, who delivered some more appalling tackles as Brazil was effectively eliminated from the competition.
Ahead of the Mexican FIFA World Cup Pele was heard vowing that he would not contest any further, with a change of heart he continued his journey and successfully grabbed a third winners’ medal. For the then 30-year-old Brazilian the tournament proved to be a memorable one with many favourable instances. Against England, the hosts’ goalkeeper Gordon Banks recorded an unforgettable save with a shot from Pele. Moving ahead, he also almost scored from the halfway line against Czechoslovakia. This time Brazil came face-to-face against Italy in the in the final where they won with a dominating score of 4-1. His assist to Carlos Alberto for the winning goal has been executed with such perfection rounding it off as one of the all-time great moves. Throughout his era it can be said that they were the finest team in FIFA World Cup history.