11 days after the conclusion of a mesmerizing 2022 World Cup, football lost one of its greats. Brazilian legend, Pelé, passed away at the age of 82, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. The striker is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time. The OG, he was dubbed the greatest of all time before there was internet and social media, and when goats were just farm animals. Decades before Messi and Ronaldo had “to prove themselves” on the world’s biggest stage, his performances in the FIFA World Cup cemented his legacy as a true legend of the sport.
Over the course of his career, Pelé participated in four World Cups, and his contributions to the Brazil national team are still remembered and celebrated to this day. Following the tournament in Qatar, he sits joint sixth in the tournament’s top scorer list with 12 goals, were he was recently joined by Kylian Mbappé.
Being the only player to have won three titles, it’s hard to pick his top moments, and still we took on the challenge:
5. 1970 World Cup Group Stage Performance
Pele’s two goals against Romania in the 1970 World Cup proved once again Pelé is a key player for Brazil. The first goal was a stunning overhead kick, and the second was a well-placed header that sealed Brazil’s victory. As a bonus, he was part of one of the most memorable saves in history, with his header forcing England’s Gordon Banks to dive and deny him a goal.
4. 1958 World Cup Debut
At just 17 years old, Pele made his World Cup debut in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, and he quickly made a name for himself as a promising young talent. In his first match against the Soviet Union, Pele scored a hat-trick, and he continued to impress throughout the tournament, scoring a total of six goals. Brazil ultimately went on to win the 1958 World Cup, and Pelé’s performances played a key role in their success.
3. 1966 World Cup Injury
One of Pele’s most famous World Cup moments came in the 1966 World Cup, when he was injured in Brazil’s group stage match against Portugal. He was forced to sit out the rest of the tournament, and Brazil was eliminated in the group stage. Despite not being able to play in the rest of the tournament, Pele’s injury and the team’s early exit are still remembered as one of the most memorable moments in World Cup history.
2. “Phantom Goal”
During Brazil’s 1st match in the group stage of the 1970 World Cup against Czechoslovakia, Pelé scored a goal that is still remembered as one of the greatest in World Cup history. As the ball was headed towards the goal, Pelé jumped and kicked it with the back of his heel, sending it into the back of the net. The goal has since been referred to as the “Phantom Goal,” and it is considered one of Pelé’s most iconic moments in the World Cup.
1. 1970 World Cup Final
In the final match against Italy, Pelé provided the assist on Brazil’s fourth and final goal, which helped seal their victory and earn them their third World Cup title in Pelé’s last appearance in a world cup. Sounds familiar?
Pelé’s 1970 World Cup performances earned him the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player and cemented his status as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and his legacy lives on to this day.
Pelé’s performances in FIFA World Cups are some of the most iconic and memorable in the history of the sport. Alongside Just Fontaine, he was the first to become a World Cup icon, long before Gerd Muller, Maradona, Ronaldo, Klose, and Messi. His skill, goalscoring ability, and leadership on the pitch helped him leave an indelible mark on the World Cup and cement his place as one of the greatest players of all time. May he rest in peace.