With the World Cup underway, we’ve decided to scroll through the archives and remember some record-breaking feats from past editions.
Here are the five youngest goalscorers in World Cup history.
5. Dmitri Sychev – 18 years and 231 days
Dmitri Sychev was hailed as the future of Russian football following his exciting emergence at the turn of the millennium, with the forward earning comparisons to Michael Owen for his precocious talent, electric pace and finishing ability.
Sychev was included in Russia’s squad for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea and was the youngest member of their traveling party. He became the youngest player to appear for either the Soviet Union or Russia at a World Cup against Tunisia, before scoring in a 3-2 defeat to Belgium.
That goal made Sychev the fifth-youngest goalscorer in World Cup history, although he was unable to prevent Russia from exiting at the group stage.
Despite his potential, he never truly lived up to early expectations. His most successful period came with Lokomotiv Moscow as he was named Footballer of the Year in Russia in 2004. At the international level, he scored 15 goals in 47 appearances and formed part of the team that reached the semi-final at Euro 2008.
4. Nicolae Kovacs – 18 years and 198 days
Nicolae Kovacs is one of just five players to have featured in all three pre-war World Cups, having made his debut during the inaugural tournament in Uruguay in 1930.
The 18-year-old scored as Romania beat Peru 3-1, although the Romanians were eliminated after finishing behind eventual champions Uruguay in the group stage.
Kovacs won 37 caps for Romania and scored six goals, also representing the nation at both the 1934 and 1938 editions of the World Cup. Later in his career he became a dual-nationality player, after earning one cap for Hungary.
3. Michael Owen – 18 years and 190 days
Michael Owen burst onto the scene at the 1998 World Cup, as the teenager made his mark in France.
Owen had enjoyed a spectacular first full season at Liverpool, as he became the first teenager to win the Premier League’s Golden Boot and England’s youngest ever debutant and goalscorer at that time.
Included in the Three Lions’ squad for the World Cup, he began the campaign on the bench before making a goalscoring contribution from the bench against Romania. He was then included from the start for a classic last-16 encounter with Argentina and scored one of England’s greatest goals with a scintillating solo run against the South Americans.
🏴 Goalscorer at both the 2002 and 1998 #WorldCupsincluding a hugely memorable solo effort in Saint-Etienne ⚽️🥅
🥳 It’s time to wish Michael Owen a very happy birthday 🎂 pic.twitter.com/moXrEc55zy
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 14, 2021
England lost to Argentina on penalties following David Beckham’s red card, but Owen’s was a star firmly on the rise.
He went on to win the Ballon d’Or in 2001 and scored 40 goals in 89 appearances for England. He is the only player to have scored in four major tournaments for England, having netted goals at the 2002 World Cup and 2000 and 2004 European Championships.
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2. Manuel Rosas – 18 years and 94 days
Manuel Rosas appeared hell-bent on breaking records at the 1930 World Cup, as the Mexican defender set several landmarks at the inaugural tournament.
He became the first player to score an own goal during a 3-0 defeat to Chile, before going on to become the youngest goalscorer at a World Cup against Argentina. He scored twice in a 6-3 defeat to La Albiceleste, with his first coming from the penalty spot.
It was the first-ever penalty scored at a World Cup, with Rosas claiming a hat-trick of milestone moments despite Mexico’s winless campaign in Uruguay. It took 28 years before his record as the youngest goalscorer was beaten…
1. Pele – 17 years and 234 days
Pele’s impact at the 1958 World Cup is among the most iconic imagery in the competition’s history.
The 17-year-old inspired Brazil to a first ever title in Sweden, scoring six goals. After a knee problem delayed his start to the tournament, Pele returned to action with the winning goal as Brazil beat Wales in the quarter-final.
That goal saw Pele become the World Cup’s youngest-ever goalscorer, before he became the youngest hat-trick scorer with a treble in the semi-final thrashing of France.
He added two more goals – becoming the first teenager to score in a final – against the host nation, as Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 to be crowned world champions.
One of the greatest to ever play the game 🇧🇷⚽️
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) October 23, 2022
It was the beginning of a glorious story for Pele in the World Cup, as he became the only player to win the trophy on three occasions. Brazil successfully defended their title in 1962, before winning a third World Cup in 1970.
The word legend is often banded around too easily, but Pele’s achievements cemented his status as one of the game’s all-time greats.
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