The World Cup has always been the showcase for the top strikers to prove their worth. Football Italia highlights some of the men who have etched their names forever on the history of the tournament with their exploits in front of goal.
Only given a place because of injury to skipper Walter Ferreira, Guillermo Stabile took his chance superbly to finish as top scorer in the first World Cup of 1930. His eight goals included three in the 6-3 win over Mexico, also making him the first man to score a hat-trick. But all this wasn’t enough to stop hosts Uruguay lifting the trophy by beating Stabile's Argentina 4-2 in the Final.
Born in 1905, Stabile was playing for Huracan at the time of the inaugural World Cup, but like so many other top South Americans in the 1930s, he found the lure of the Italian Lira too great and joined Genoa. After scoring a hat-trick on his debut against League leaders Bologna, he was soon acclaimed a local hero. Like fellow Argentine idol Diego Maradona was to do in the 1980s, Stabile later moved to Napoli before finishing his career in the French League with Red Star Paris. He was also capped by France and once scored four goals against Austria. The World Cup's very first individual star died on December 27, 1966.
While Ferenc Puskas was the star to go on to most world fame later with Real Madrid, Hungary's great hero of the 1954 tournament was his teammate, Sandor Kocsis. Top scorer in that tournament with 11 goals, Kocsis became known as 'The Man With The Golden Head' because of his superb ability in the air. In 68 internationals he scored an incredible 75 goals, including a record seven hat-tricks. Born in Budapest in September 1929, he helped Ferencvaros to win the 1949 Hungarian title. After they were amalgamated into the new Honved team, he established a great partnership with Puskas, the ‘Galloping Major’, at both club an international level.
Kocsis made his international debut in 1949 and was in the team that beat England 6-3 a Wembley in 1953. H scored two extra time goals in the 1954 World Cup semi-final against Uruguay, but could not add to his 1952 Olympic Gold medal. In 1956 when Honved were playing in Spain during the Hungarian uprising, Kocsis, Puskas and others decided not to return home. Kocsis became Player-Coach of Young Boys Berne, then joined Barcelona in 1957 and scored in their defeat by Benfica in the 1961 European Cup Final. He retired in 1966, at the age of 37, and died only 12 years later.
French ace Just Fontaine played in only one tournament, but his record 13 goals in 1958 – including four in the third place play-off against West Germany – are unlikely to be bettered. Only making the squad for Sweden after an injury to Rene Biliard, he combined with Raymond Kopa to provide one of the competition's most lethal strike forces. He scored in every game. Fontaine netted 30 goals in 21 internationals, moving to Reims shortly after his World Cup exploits and appeared for them in the 1959 European Cup Final, when they lost to Kopa’s Real Madrid.
Born in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 1933, Fontaine began his career with Nice and won League and Cup winners' medals before making his international debut against Hungary in October 1956. His career was cut tragically short at the age of 27 when he broke a leg for a second time. He became President of the French Footballers' Union and had brief spells in charge of the national team and PSG.
Top scorer in the 1966 tournament with nine goals, many felt this great Portuguese striker deserved more than a third placed medal. Eusebio won the first of his 64 caps in 1961, but will best be remembered for his contribution to the 1966 World Cup. The 'Black Pearl' scored some outstanding goals including four in Portugal's remarkable fight-back against North Korea to reach the semis.
Born Eusebio da Silva Ferreira in Mozambique during 1942, he joined Benfica and became one of Europe’s most lethal strikers with 41 international goals. He scored twice in the 5-3 defeat of Real Madrid in the 1962 European Cup Final and gained runners-up medals in 1963 and 1968.
He was the 1965 European Player of the Year and, in 1968, was the first winner of the Golden Boot award as Europe’s leading scorer, a feat repeated five years later. The Portuguese League’s top scorer every year from 1964 to 1973, he helped Benfica win 10 League titles and five Cup wins. He died in January 2014.