Tuesday, July 7, 2009

7 July 1957 - And Sometimes A Bright Start Leads To A Bright Future

On 7 July 1957, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, made his national team debut for Brazil in a 2-1 loss to Argentina. The 16-year, 9-month old forward scored Brazil's only goal, becoming the youngest person to score in international competition at that time.

He had been a professional footballer for only one year, having signed with Santos FC in 1956 at the age of fifteen. He quickly established himself in the national team and was instrumental in Brazil's title-winning run in the 1958 World Cup. He scored six goals, including a hat-trick in Brazil's semi-final match against France and a brace against Sweden in the Final.

Pelé was a member of Brazil's squad for the 1962 World Cup, but was injured in the second game and missed the rest of the tournament, including the Final in which Brazil successfully defended their title. The 1966 World Cup was similarly frustrating for him, as Brazil's opponents resorted to violent tackles in order to stop him. He had to be carried off the pitch in the third match, a 3-1 defeat to Portugal, as Brazil were eliminated. After the tournament, he was so disheartened by the treatment he received that he said he would not play in any further World Cups.

He eventually reconsidered, however, and was persuaded to rejoin the national team for the 1970 World Cup, which was to be his last. Brazil was again triumphant, defeating Italy 4-1 in a memorable Final. With the win, Pelé became the only player in the history of football to win three World Cups.

He remains the Brazilian national team's top scorer, with 77 goals in 92 appearances.

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