Brazil rebounded after their shocking loss to Uruguay in the 1950 final to win their first (of what would be five titles) World Cup at Sweden ’58. The Brazilians, featuring a 17-year-old teen phenom named Pele, defeated Sweden, the host nation, 5-2 in the final.
Host nation: Sweden
Argentina, Chile and Mexico all expressed interest in hosting the tournament, but it was Sweden who were named host nation in 1950. The tournament was played in 12 venues. The team reached the final that year, buoyed by support from the home crowd, but eventually succumbed to the mighty Brazilians. It remains the best finish ever by Sweden at a World Cup.
Best player: Pele (Brazil)
He may have been just 17 at the time (the youngest to ever play in a World Cup final), but Pele left his mark at the World Cup by helping his country lift the Jules Rimet trophy. Indeed, a star was born that summer when Pele scored six goals at the tournament. He would go on to win two more World Cups and go down as one of the greatest players in soccer history.
Just Fontaine, who scored 13 goals for France in six games, remains the record-holder for goals tallied at one tournament. His four goals against West Germany in the semifinals and hat-trick versus Paraguay in the first round remain two of the greatest individual feats ever seen at a World Cup tournament.
Quality of play:
If the early 1950s had been dominated by the Hungarians, the 1958 tournament opened a new era in which the Brazilians would start to set the standard. Brazil featured a blend of young and old. The team featured the scoring feats of winger Garrincha, regarded as one of the game’s greatest dribblers, and full-back Nilton Santos. The team’s 4-2-4 formation featured an attack that also included Mario Zagallo and Vava. Didi in midfield was another attacking option for a team known for their potent offense that gave birth to the much-loved jogo bonito.
Yellow was a popular color (with Brazil, Sweden and Wales all sporting the color), while the Soviet Union’s iconic red shorts with the letters “CCCP” emblazoned across the front would be a staple for decades. Czechoslovakia’s all-white kit was not at all notable other than for its lack of color and imagination.
This World Cup remains the only time all four of the UK’s “home nations” (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) qualified together.