On This Day In 1958: Pelé Announces Himself To The World Against Wales

Pele announced himself on the biggest stage by scoring the only goal as Brazil defeated Wales in the quarter finals of the 1958 World Cup
07:00, 19 Jun 2023

At the 1958 FIFA World Cup, an unknown 17-year-old saw off Wales in the quarterfinals, scored a hat-trick in the semis and bagged a brace against the host in the final as he announced himself to the world in the most spectacular way imaginable.

Much like his time on the football field, Pelé’s timing was perfect.

Although previous World Cups had been televised, the 1958 staging was the first to receive global coverage meaning that an audience of millions could now watch the game’s most promising youngster compete in the sport’s showcase event.


The combination of international television coverage and the biggest sporting event on the planet provided the perfect platform from which the career of the most famous athlete of the 20th century and the greatest footballer of his generation was launched.

Pelé had not been involved in Brazil’s first two matches because of injury and made his debut against the USSR in the final group match, but it wasn’t until the quarter-final encounter against Wales that he really showed everyone what he was capable of.

That’s when a 17-year-old Edson Arantes do Nascimento announced himself on the biggest stage possible by scoring the only goal as Brazil defeated Wales in the quarter finals of that summer’s World Cup.

It was a strike worthy of winning any game as, in the 66th minute with his back turned, Pelé controlled the ball with his chest and quickly flicked it toward the goal and past a defender, then fired a right-footed low shot low into the corner.

"The game I remember most was against Brazil in the quarter-finals, perhaps just for one reason. Pelé,” Wales legend Cliff Jones later revealed when remembering his appearance at the World Cup.

"Nobody had heard of him, but my word they were going to. In that World Cup, he showed everybody what a great player he was. I always say he's the greatest player the game has seen. 

“In many ways, it was a privilege to see the emergence of such a player."

At 17 years and 239 days, he had become the youngest scorer in a World Cup - but, though few knew it at the time - this would just be a taste of things to come.

In the semi-final against France, he bagged the last three goals as Brazil beat France 5-2, pouncing on two loose balls in the goalmouth for a pair of well-taken poacher's goals and completing his hat-trick with a thumping volley.

If his goal against Wales had put him on the map, his performance against host Sweden in the final allowed Pelé to demonstrate that he was no flash in the pan.

Sweden took the lead after four minutes before Vavá scored two goals to give Brazil the lead and if anybody feared that Pelé might be overawed by playing on the world’s biggest stage, they needn’t have worried.

On 55 minutes Nílton Santos delivered a cross into the penalty area where Pelé, standing with his back to goal, controlled the ball on his chest and twisted away from the closest marker before impudently lobbing the ball over the head of the next defender and volleying it into the net.

In the dying moments and with Brazil leading 4-2, Pelé produced a perfectly executed back-flick to Mário Zagallo before rising to receive the resulting centre, powering the ball home for the fifth and final goal.

So impressed was the King of Sweden that he came down from the stands to personally shake Pelé’s hand.

Pelé would eventually score 12 goals in 14 World Cup appearances for Brazil at the World Cup, winning the famous old trophy no fewer than three times to cement his place as one of the game’s greatest of all time.

But it all started on June 19th, 1958, and that first strike against Wales which heralded the arrival of probably the most recognisable names the game has ever known who would dominate the world stage for years to come.

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