Pele was and still is the best soccer player of all-time.
‘O Rei do Futebol (The King of Football)’ graced the World Cup stage on 4 occasions – 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970, with Brazil taking the title home on 3 of those occasions – 1958, 1962, and 1970.
Over the course of these tournaments, Pele changed the way the game was played on the field and watched by the fans. Needless to say there are plenty of great moments on and off the field and during and after his career and Soccer365 takes a look at the Top 10.
10. OK, the list opens with a non-World Cup moment but sets the tone for Pele’s vision and skills to set up what he does best, score goals. The former player explained in the movie Escape to Victory how he would score for his team of makeshift prisoner’s or war. The best scene from the movie.
9. Pele was the youngest player at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. After missing the first 2 group matches, Pele made an assist in the 3rd match. He opened his World Cup account with the lone goal in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Wales in the quarterfinal. The striker was 17-years and 239 days old.
8. Pele may have been the best player of all-time but he probably should leave prognostication to Paul the Octopus of World Cup 2006 fame. The teams surely know it is the kiss of death to be picked by Pele. The Brazilian picked Colombia to win the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Los Cafeteros lost to the home side and were dumped out after the group stage. Spain and then France & Argentina were tipped as the best heading to the World Cups in 1998 and 2002 respectively and once again neither advanced from the group stage.
He can’t even pick the good sides…saying Brazil had no chance to win the 2002 World Cup. 1 guess on who won that year?
7. Prowess of his predictions aside, it was on the field where Pele made his mark. Surprisingly, some of the best plays for Pele did not end up with the ball in the back of the net but just illustrated how he was always thinking 1-step ahead of the other players on the field. The 1st such example came from his shot from his own half that caught Czechoslovakia goalkeeper Ivo Viktor by surprise. With arms flailing and looking over his head, the goalkeeper’s only pardon came from the ball being just wide. Nevertheless, Brazil went on to win the match4-1 with Pele scoring the 2nd goal. (see minute 2:55 of video for the midfield shot.)
6. After seeing his dad cry after Brazil came up short in the 1950 World Cup, Pele told his crying father he would win a World Cup for him and the country. Pele made good on that promise 8 years later helping Brazil win their 1st World Cup and openly cries on the shoulder of teammate Gilmar. He accomplished this feat as the youngest player, the youngest ever scorer, and the youngest ever winner.
5. Pele was a danger with the ball at his feet or when he did not even touch the ball as seen in 1 of the best dummies of all-time. Pele completely sold Uruguayan goalkeeper Mazurkiewicz on his winning the ball when all the while he was planning on letting it run through on its own. The magician, however, could not make the goalkeeper pay the ultimate price. Brazil won the match 3-1.
4. The only time on the list where Pele’s moment was stolen by another player. Brazil was facing current World Cup holders England and goalkeeper Gordon Banks was having a superb game, really keeping the Three Lions in it. Pele rose up and placed a clinical header on frame that somehow Banks managed to save. It is considered 1 of the best saves in World Cup history although Brazil went on to win the game 1-0.
“Wherever I go people bring that up all the time,” Banks told the Daily Mail. “After I got my hand to it, I thought it was going in. I didn’t know where it had gone. Then I saw it bounce behind the goal.”
3. Pele and England’s Bobby Moore exchanged jerseys after their meeting in 1970 with some pointing to that moment and the iconic photograph as the reason the custom is so popular. The moment was between 2 World Cup winners. Pele said after Moore passed away in 1993, “He was my friend as well as the greatest defender I ever played against. The shirt he wore against me in that 1970 match is my prize possession.”
2. Pele ended all hopes of the home side at the 1958 World Cup with Brazil’s 3rd goal. Pele controls the ball off his chest at the penalty spot, flicks it over the last defender before volleying it home.
1. Pele is the best goal scorer of all-time but the reason he is the greatest is due to more than just his goal scoring. His unselfish attitude is summed up best when he opted to head a ball to Jairzinho rather than put it on goal (and most likely in the goal) from inside the 6-yard box. The 71st minute goal for Jairzinho gave the winger his 7th goal of the tournament and 1 goal in each of Brazil’s games during the tournament.