Jogo bonito: Pelé’s 10 most memorable goals

Pelé made scoring easy, putting the ball into the net in the most varied and beautiful way – dribbling past defenders, firing powerful shots, hitting well-placed free-kicks or using firm headers. Nearly 1,090 of his goals have come with Brazilian club Santos and 95 have been scored with the Brazil national team.

Not all of Pelé’s goals have been recorded, but there are still plenty of images of his countless outstanding scores. Pele has also scored some spectacular ‘almost goals’ throughout his career, including a shot from behind the halfway line that just missed in the 1970 World Cup.

Some of his most memorable goals:


When: September 7, 1956.

Where: Santo André, Brazil.

Opponent: Corinthians of Santo André.

How: Pelé was a teenager and had just started playing for Santos. He found the net moments after entering the game in the second half, helping Santos win the friendly 7-1. Then-Corinthians goalkeeper Zaluar later created a business card in which he identified himself as “the first goalkeeper to concede a goal to Pele.


When: August 2, 1959.

Where: Sao Paulo.

Opponent: Juventus de Sao Paulo.

Comment: The goal known as one of his greatest of all time was not recorded, but was digitally recreated for a film about Pelé based on testimonies from players, fans and journalists who were at the historic match at Rua Javari, home of Sao Paulo club Juventus. Pelé received the ball just inside the box and immediately passed it past the first defender who challenged him. He pressed the ball over another defender near the penalty spot and, without letting it touch the ground, quickly sent it over the third defender and the goalkeeper. With an open net in front of him, he headed the ball home. Juventus later honored Pelé for his goal with a statue and a commemorative plaque at the stadium.


When: June 19, 1958.

Where: Gothenburg, Sweden.

Opponent: Wales.

How: Pele’s first World Cup goal was a beauty. It happened in the 66th minute of a difficult game against Wales in the quarter-finals of the tournament. With his back to goal, 17-year-old Pelé controlled the ball with his chest and quickly sent it towards goal and past a defender, then fired a low right-footed shot into the corner.


When: June 29, 1958.

Where: Solna, Sweden.

Opponent: Sweden.

How: Pele scored six goals in his first World Cup, including two in the 5-2 final win over the hosts. His first goal gave Brazil a 3-1 lead in the 55th minute, and the second was a header near the final whistle to close the scoring. Pele’s first goal was the most impressive – he pressured a defender inside the box before hitting a firm shot near the penalty spot.


When: June 21, 1970.

Where: Mexico City.

Opponent: Italy.

How: Pelé scored his 12th and final World Cup goal with a remarkable header past Italy goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi in front of more than 107,000 people at the Azteca Stadium, paving the way for Brazil to win 4-1 and a third title global. After a cross from the left flank from Rivelino, Pelé leaped high into the air behind an Italian defender and headed the ball firmly into the corner.

THE 1,000E

When: November 19, 1969.

Where: Rio de Janeiro.

Opponent: Vasco da Gama.

Comment: The scoring goal came from a penalty in a jam-packed Maracana Stadium. Pelé was fouled to set up the penalty then calmly hit a low shot into the right corner in the 78th minute to give Santos a 2-1 victory. Vasco Andrada’s keeper guessed the team correctly but couldn’t stop. Pele raced to collect the ball inside the goal as reporters and photographers stormed the pitch to record the moment. The match was stopped for several minutes. Pele lifted the ball as it was carried off the net and celebrated as he circled the pitch near the crowd. Although it was a home game for Vasco, most of the 65,000 in the crowd were cheering for Pelé, who dedicated the goal to the children of Brazil.


When: March 5, 1961.

Where: Rio de Janeiro.

Opponent: Fluminense.

How: He became known as Gol de Placa, now synonymous with outstanding goalscoring, as he received a bronze commemorative plaque at the Maracana Stadium. It was another of Pelé’s goals that went unrecorded, but reports at the time indicated that Pelé dribbed almost the full length of the pitch past his opponents before finding the net to lead Santos to a 3-1 win over Fluminense. The Maracana’s plate still reads: « On this ground, on March 5, 1961, Pelé scored the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracana ».


When: August 10, 1976.

Where: New York.

Opponent: Miami Toros.

How: One of the few cycling goals of Pele’s career came in the New York Cosmos’ last game at Yankee Stadium, an 8-2 thrashing against the Miami Toros. After a cross from the right flank into the penalty area, Pelé thrust his body into the air and carried the ball with his right foot above the rest of his body, sending a rocket into the net.


When: October 11, 1962.

Where: Lisbon, Portugal.

Opponent: Benfica.

How: Pelé put in a stellar performance in the Intercontinental Cup decider against Benfica, scoring three goals to lead Santos to a 5-2 win and their first club world title. His second goal was the most impressive – he used his body to evade the first defender then burst into the area past two other opponents before firing a left-footed shot into the far corner.

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When: October 1, 1977.

Where: East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA.

Opponent: Santos.

How: It happened during his farewell match, a friendly between Santos and the New York Cosmos at Giants Stadium. Pele played one half for each team, but it was with Cosmos that he came on the board with a powerful free kick just before halftime. It was one of his over 60 goals in over 100 games for the Cosmos.


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