The World Cup: An Introduction
| 1930: Uruguay
| 1934: Italy
| 1938: France
| 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea
At last, a World Cup Finals tournament was played under a system that really made sense. The curious 'seeding' system that had been used in the group stage of the competition in Switzerland in 1954 was dropped. Now, all the teams in each first-round group would meet.
55 countries entered the 1958 World Cup, setting a new record. The qualifying tournament produced some major surprises: Italy, Spain, Uruguay, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland all failed to qualify, but Wales and Northern Ireland both made it to Sweden.
The 1958 World Cup will always be remembered for the emergence on to the world stage of a 17-year-old genius: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé. He didn't actually make it into Brazil's starting eleven until their third game of their tournament - a 2-0 win over the Soviet Union. Brazil coach Vincente Feola was initially reluctant to throw the youngster into the World Cup finals, and only relented at the insistence of some of the other Brazilian players. But the players were soon proved right, as Pelé's dazzling skills began to thrill the watching world.
France were superb in Sweden, scoring freely thanks to a potent strike force of Just Fontaine, Raymond Kopa and Roger Piantoni. Fontaine's total of 13 goals in the finals set a record that has never been broken.
The surprise results continued in the finals. Wales reached the last eight after drawing all three of their group games - 1-1 against Hungary and Mexico, 0-0 with Sweden - then coming from behind to notch a 2-1 win in a play-off against the once-mighty Hungarians. Northern Ireland joined them in the quarter-finals after beating Czechoslovakia 1-0, holding West Germany to a 2-2 draw and then beating Czechoslovakia again, 2-1 after extra time in a play-off.
It was at the quarter-final stage that Pelé really began to show what he could do, scoring a superb goal to help Brazil edge past Wales 1-0. Meanwhile, the strong French side easily overcame Northern Ireland 4-0, setting up a Brazil-France semi-final whose winners would be clear favourites to win the Cup.
The biggest difference between Brazil and France in the semi-final can be summed up in one word: Pelé. The teenage genius scored a second-half hat-trick, as Brazil triumphed 5-2. Meanwhile, in the other semi-final, the hosts beat the holders as Sweden saw off West Germany 3-1.
The final got off to a sensational start as Brazil went behind for the first time in the tournament, Nils Leidholm scoring for Sweden in the third minute. But Vava equalised six minutes later, and after that Brazil took command. Vava scored again before half-time to give Brazil a 2-1 lead at the interval.
Then, in the 55th minute, Pelé scored a simply stunning goal, chipping the ball over a defender from close range, darting past the defender and scoring with a volley. Mario Zagallo then extended Brazil's lead to 4-1, before Agne Simonsson pulled one back for the Swedes.
Fittingly, the last word went to Pelé, whose glancing header in the 90th minute brought a final score of 5-2. Brazil had won the World Cup for the first time, and the world had been introduced to perhaps the finest footballer who ever played the game.
The 1958 World Cup was the first to receive international television coverage.
1958 was the only World Cup at which all four UK countries - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - reached the finals. Welsh and Northern Irish fans must have been delighted by the fact that their teams made it through to the quarter-finals, while England and Scotland went out in the group stage.
The Northern Ireland team were put under pressure by Ulster religious groups not to play any of their matches which were scheduled for Sundays.
For The Record
Northern Ireland 2 : 1 Czechoslovakia after extra time
Wales 2 : 1 Hungary
Soviet Union 1 : 0 England
West Germany 1 : 0 Yugoslavia
Sweden 2 : 0 Soviet Union
France 4 : 0 Northern Ireland
Brazil 1 : 0 Wales
Sweden 3 : 1 West Germany
Brazil 5 : 2 France
Third Place Play-Off
France 6 : 3 West Germany
Brazil 5 : 2 Sweden
Tournament Top Goalscorer
Fontaine (France) - 13 goals
Other Entries in This Project
- Football World Cup, 1930, Uruguay
- Football World Cup, 1934, Italy
- Football World Cup, 1938, France
- Football World Cup, 1950, Brazil
- Football World Cup, 1954, Switzerland
- Football World Cup, 1962, Chile
- Football World Cup, 1966, England
- Football World Cup, 1970, Mexico
- Football World Cup, 1974, West Germany
- Football World Cup, 1978, Argentina
- Football World Cup, 1982, Spain
- Football World Cup, 1986, Mexico
- Football World Cup, 1990, Italy
- Football World Cup, 1994, USA
- Football World Cup, 1998, France
- Football World Cup, 2002, Japan and South Korea