The World Cup Alphabet – G is for…




At times justification for the greatness of a player, is eometimes a fluke from a one hit wonder. When you’re top scorer at a World Cup you go down in history regardless.


The ‘Golden Boot’ is a rare and dignified honour.


The first winners of the award scored freely but had less games. Guillermo Stalibo from Argentina was the original Golden Boot with eight goals that came without playing the full quota of games. Every game he ever played for his country was in the same calendar year of 1930 too.


In 1934 Czechoslovakian Oldrich Nejedly was the scorer with five goals. His eye for goal and looks that mirrored Alfred E Newman saw him has one of the greats for his country. In 1938 The first of five Brazilians to win the award was crowned with ‘The Rubber Man’ Leonidis scoring seven goals. This was followed in 1950 by his countryman Ademir with eight.


In 1954 Hungary’s ‘Mighty Maygars’ won everything but the World Cup itself including the Golden Boot. The great Sandor Kocsis, a man who would have broken records if not for fleeing during the revolution, scored a then record 11 goals. His average of 1.1 goals a game is still the highest record average for international teams. Kocsis would tragically commit suicide in his adopted home of Barcelona aged only 46.


In 1958 the bar was lifted to a level that will probably never be bettered. The Moroccon born French star Just Fontaine scored 13 goals in just five matches for the record that still stands to this day. He is still the fourth highest ever goal scorer at a World Cup and this with a career that only lasted until the age of 28. In Chile in 1962, six players shared the honour long before assists help decided who won the award. Albert from Hungary, Ivanov from the USSR, Garrincha and Vava from Brazil, Sanchez from Chile, Jerkovich from Yugovslavia. A paltry four goals each from a forgettable tournament.


Greatness and prestige came back to the award in 1966. The great man Eusebio’s 10 goals got Portugal to third and won him the boot. By 1970 we had the arrival of a striker that could break many records and make the world wonder how with his squat body and low centre of gravity. Despite not even making the final the great Gerd Muller scored 10 goals and would, for 36 years, hold the record for most goals scored in the World Cup in total.


In 1970 Poland’s answer to the ‘Flying Doormat’ would win the Golden Boot but Gregorz Lato was no dour defender chasing after streakers to get his headband back. The balding wonder was a winger but still had an eye for goals and in a brilliant tournament for Poland scored seven times. In 1978 many things went Argentina’s way literally by hook or by crook with Mario Kempes scoring eight goals as Argentina went on to win their first title. Perhaps the only award not suspect at that tournament.


In 1982 there was one of the more extraordinary golden boots. Paolo Rossi, the shamed striker from Juve came from nowhere to score all his goals in the latter rounds to top the goalscoring with six goals. From here on in many players wouldn’t reach the tally of previous tournaments. Defences were tougher, opportunities not as common. Six goals would decided the Golden Boot winner from 1982 right through to 2002.



England’s golden boy Gary Lineker would be the best in 86 with the half dozen. In 1990 from out of nowhere the bug-eyed Sicilian Salvatore Schillaci would score his six and disappear almost just as quick. His passion and opportunism a rare highlight in a hostile World Cup where his more illustrious teammates were expected to shine. This trend of battlers winning the award would continue. The mad Bulgarian Hristo Stiochkov and Oleg Salenko, the Russian as mysterious as his country’s political set up, shared the award. The deadly Croatian striker David Suker would win it in 1998 with another six.


In 2002 another unlikely winner would come but the name was more familiar. Ronaldo, who had seemed to have gone MIA between his 1998 mystery and 2002 reemergence showed that stories of his demise had greatly exaggerated. The great striker scored eight goals and won the boot as well as the World Cup and adoration of the world. Shame about the haircut. The man Ronaldo beat to the boot in 2002, Miroslav Klose, would be a star for Germany in 2006 with five goals. His consistency for Germany over four tournaments sees him now hold the record for total goals scored in World Cups.


In 2010 in South Africa a German would win it again but from an unlikely source. Thomas Muller, the attacking midfielder burst on to the scene and showed Germany didn’t need Michael Ballack with five goals, his star had risen. To this day he could still break Klose’s all time record by mid July 2018. In 2014 another unlikely star emerged. James Rodriguez came out from the shadow left by superstar teammate Falcao’s injued shadow to score six goals. He went out of the tournament in tears after being kicked all over the pitch by a cynical and unloved Brazilian side.


Legends, battlers, candles in the wind. All players with a unique place in the history of the tournament with their ability to be on form at the right time. Good luck picking who it is if a betting man this time around.




While Holland and Australia share the Dirk Hartog Plate we also share ‘Aussie Guus’.


We had known about his exploits as a coach long before he appeared in front of the Australian press in a driz-a-bone in 2005. He had taken PSV to an unlikely European Cup, Holland to within a penalty shootout of a World Cup Final in 1998 and made history with South Korea in 2002. At that 2002 tournament they were expected to be also rans, a token side that had never won a match. They went through their group undefeated, knocked off Italy and Spain and then made it to the semi finals. Cynical people would say some of the wins were dodgy, some just believed in the brilliant narrative of their amazing run.


Guus answered the call from Frank Lowy at our most desperate hour in mid 2005. Frank Farina had been sacked after an awful Confederations Cup appearance and the new order in Australian football wanted results and a berth in the World Cup. Guus came in and cancelled a friendly so they could do a camp instead, unprecedented. He took risks like making Mark Viduka captain, dropping Harry Kewell and making Scott Chipperfield a defender but Guus loved a gamble. He was a shark at cards with the Dutch game Bonaken his favourite. His gambles for Australia paid off more often than not. He couldn’t get over “these crazy Aussie guys and their flip flops.”


There was the mistake of picking Kalac for the Croatia game and not pulling the trigger against a 10-man Italy but he got the best out of our ‘golden generation’ giving us happy memories after so many years of hurt.


After we saw him off at the station, dabbing our eyes with a handkerchief but glad it happened, he went full mercenary. He took Russia to the Euro 2008 semi finals but not the World Cup. Turkey was a bust, as was his second stint in charge of the Dutch. He plugged a hole at Chelsea winning an FA Cup after the super villian club owner had sacked another overpaid soul.


Now 71, it’s doubtful we’ll see Guus again but perhaps it’s a good thing. His magic was wearing off in his later years. Let’s just remember 2005-06 and Guus like an old lover and be thankful it happened.




Around the time of 1958-1970 there was Pele this and Pele that for Brazil’s first three World Cup Triumphs but 1962 was the time of Garrincha.


He was never meant to be a footballer having several birth defects. His spine was crooked. His right leg bent inwards. His left leg was six centimeters (more than two inches) longer than the right, and curved outwards following childhood surgery. He was selected for his first game that also happened to be the debut for Pele too.



While Pele was a refined and respectful talent, Garrincha was a punk trying to showboat and shame his minders. He was tabloid fodder married to a famous Samba singer, was a borderline alcoholic and apparently loved goats just a little too much. For all his faults he took Brazil to their second World Cup in 1962 off his own boot much like Maradona did for Argentina in 1962.


Brazil thought they were done when Pele went down in their second game not to return for the rest of the tournament but Garrincha delivered when it mattered. There were two goals in the quarter finals against England (the dog game) and then two in the semi finals against hosts Chile. The trouble was the volatile rough diamond was sent off so would miss the final. FIFA relented to allow to him to play and whilst not scoring was part of the victorious side and even won the raffle for the dog.


This would be his high point though. He drank too much, smoked at will and made the local bordello his first port of call wherever he went. When he died, aged just 49, in penury and an alcoholic he left three ex-wives, and 14 children to five different women, one in Sweden.


He played football the same way he lived his life, pleasing himself and disregarding most other things. Perhaps the finest dribbler the world has ever seen, he regularly beat a man and then waited for him to recover position, simply to have the pleasure of beating him again. A Brazilian Harlem Globetrotter. His style of play filled fans with joy, but there was something else about his appearance and irreverence that chimed with Brazilians. They loved him because he was a reflection of themselves, providing hope in the way we triumphed despite himself. He turned a physical limitation into an advantage. His rags-to-riches story showed their country to be a land of opportunity.


This was all during a time when Brazil was trying to modernise but still were blighted by poverty and criminality in a industrialised world.


Garrincha reaffirmed an order of priorities. That it was important to enjoy the journey rather than focus too intently on the final destination. For all its many problems, Brazil can still teach the rest of the world a trick or two about having fun and being happy, which is why Garrincha remains such a popular and important figure today.


About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.


  1. george smith says

    How about g for Germany, and that awesome display against the Brazilians as reminisced recently in the Guardian. It was world football’s equivalent of the 1988 grand final, where the ruthless Hawks humiliated Melbourne.
    (World Cup stunning moments: Germany humiliate Brazil 7-1 Guardian Football
    Simon Burnton @Simon_Burnton Wed 23 May 2018 20.00 AEST)

    Surely we can celebrate our Little Big Horns as well as our Miracles of Bern?

  2. Mick Jeffrey says

    I kind of remember Oleg Salenko scoring 5 of his 6 in 1994 in one game against Cameroon (that game finished something like 6-1 and Roger Milla scored the 1).

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