Goal.com looks at the top 10 moments of Pele's glorious international career with the samba kings ...
At an age of just 16 years Pele made his first international debut for Brazil against arch-rivals Argentina. He managed to score in that game which ended 2-1 in Argentina's favour. Nevertheless, Pele became the youngest ever player to score in International football. The debutant had created history and it was evident that a star was born.
World Cup at 17
Pele must have been ecstatic when he received the call for his first ever World Cup Finals. At the tender age of 17 Pele became the youngest player to play in a World Cup. In his first match against the USSR he contributed by providing an assist which led to Vava’s second goal.
First ever World Cup goal
Pele scored his first ever World Cup goal for Brazil in the quarter finals of the 1958 World Cup. Pele scored the winner which sent Brazil into the semi finals against a strong Welsh side. Pele called for the ball and Didi obliged with a measured pass towards the striker. Defenders surrounded Pele but he tricked his way past them to come face to face with the Welsh goalkeeper and coolly slotted the ball home.
The Semi Final hat-trick hero
Pele emphatically proved that the quarter-final goal was no fluke as he scored a hat-trick against a resurgent French side in the semi final of the 1958 World Cup. Having led 2-1 in the first half, Pele did not want to rely on a one goal lead as he scored three back to back goals to set up an amazing 5-2 win over France. A goalkeeper error saw Pele tap in the ball for his first goal. Brazil’s second saw Pele capitalising on a defensive error to drill the ball home. He completed his hat-trick by controlling the ball brilliantly before volleying in low to the keeper’s left.
The Final showdown
The 1958 World Cup final saw Pele rise to the occasion once again. Pele scored the team’s third and the fifth goal in the 5-2 win over Sweden. His first goal was a brilliant one which involved a stunning peice of control on his chest, a clever clip over the defender’s head to see himself through and a cool finish to wrap a wonderful piece of artistry. His second goal was a looping header. Pele became the youngest player to play in the World Cup final. This moment of Pele holding his first ever World Cup will never get erased from the football history books.
A touch of misfortune
In the 1962 World Cup, Pele won Brazil the first game against Mexico by creating one and scoring the second. He did so by leaving 4 players in his wake. Unfortunately Pele’s stay with the Brazil side was cut short as his long range attempt against Czechoslovakia saw him getting injured and out for the rest of the tournament. To Pele’s great relief Brazil went on to win the World Cup.
The 1966 disappointment
Pele had not recovered from his injury but was still called back against the Portuguese side for the final group game. In that match Joao Morais of Portugal fouled Pele with a crunching tackle which Pele described later as a ‘Murder’. The referee did not send Morais off as Pele limped for the rest of the match. After this match Pele vowed never to play again in a World Cup.
The bicycle kick
A bicycle kick is one of the most difficult kicks to execute on a football field. Pele executed one with ease against Belgium in 1968. A cross from the left saw Pele facing his back towards the goal. As the world wondered what he was upto, Pele tilted his body backwards and sprung in the air to meet the ball flush with his gifted right foot. The keeper looked stunned as the ball fizzed past him into the net.
The legendary exchange
This exchange of shirts is a moment worth remembering. In the 1970 World Cup Pele returned after his denial to partcipate in the prestigious competition ever again. Brazil met their match against England but ultimately went on to win the game by a narrow 1-0 scoreline. At the end of the match a beautiful sight awaited the fans. A friendly gesture between Bobby Moore and Pele saw them exchanging shirts. This popularized the shirt-swapping ritual- a great gesture by two footballing geniuses. Brazil won the tournament and Pele had his third World Cup.
Pele made a highly emotional announcement on 18th July, 1971. He played his last match against Yugoslavia and retired from the international scene.
A 13 year international journey saw Pele provide the fans with thrilling performances that included winning three World Cups. The footballing fraternity will always be indebted to Pele for his magical performances on the field and will always remember his contributions to the game.