The declaration of World War II in 1939 had a severe impact on football. Many players died as a result of the suspension of competitions and the signing up of players to fight. With the Anschluss in 1938, the Republic of Austria ceased to exist, and the Austrian league became a member of the German football league system, known as Gauliga Ostmark. In Germany and England, leagues were halted. Some players, including Norman Corbett, have stated that the war destroyed their careers.
Due to the war, the 1940s era was erased from the map of football history. Football regained strength after 1945 and that is why we have skipped the 1940s Best XI article. Here we take a look at the best XI of the 1950s era. The formation is 3-2-5, a popular one in that era.
Goalkeeper: Lev Yashin (the Soviet Union, now Russia)
Yashin earned the nickname "Black Spider" or "Black Panther" and is widely recognised as the finest goalkeeper in the sport's history. At the 1958 World Cup, the first to be telecast internationally, his performances left an indelible effect on a global audience. From 1958 through 1970, Yashin played in four World Cups, and in 2002, he was named to the FIFA World Cup Dream Team. He was named to the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team in 1994. Yashin was the only goalkeeper to ever win the Ballon d'Or, which he received in 1963.
Right Full-Back: Djalma Santos (Brazil)
Djalma Santos was a Brazilian footballer who played in four World Cups for Brazil, winning two of them in 1958 and 1962. Santos is regarded as one of the best right-backs in history. He is one of just three players, along with Franz Beckenbauer and Philipp Lahm, to have been named to three FIFA World Cup All-Star teams. He was never sent off the pitch despite his reputation as a great player.
Full-Back: Jose Santamaria (Uruguay & Spain)
Santamaria won 17 titles throughout an 18-year career with Nacional and Real Madrid, including four European Cups with the latter. Santamaria was born in Uruguay and has played for both the Uruguayan and Spanish national teams. He was named to the 1954 World Cup All-Star team.
Right Full-Back: Nilton Santos (Brazil)
Nilton Santos was a Brazilian fullback who mostly played in the midfield. On the international stage, he was a member of the Brazil teams that won the World Cups in 1958 and 1962. Nilton was a vital defensive player in 1954, 1958, and 1962 World Cup finals, and is best known for scoring a spectacular goal against Austria in the 1958 tournament. In his professional career, Nilton Santos only played for two teams: Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas and the Brazilian national team, where he earned 75 caps and scored three goals.
Half-Back: Didi (Brazil)
Didi was a Brazilian footballer who played as a midfielder and is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. He participated in three FIFA World Cups (1954, 1958, and 1962), winning the last two. He was awarded the Golden Ball for his performance at the 1958 competition, which is presented to the tournament's best player. He was also a specialist in free kicks, having invented the folha seca (dry leaf) dead ball free kicks.
Half-Back: Ernst Ocwirk (Austria)
Playing for FK Austria Vienna and Serie A club Sampdoria, Ocwirk spent the majority of his playing and coaching years in Austria and Italy. He later became a member of the Austrian national team, which he captained to a third-place finish in the 1954 World Cup. Ocwirk earned 62 caps for his country and scored six goals.
Right-Forward: Stanley Matthews (England)
Matthews was an outside right player for the English national team. He is the only player to be knighted while still playing football, as well as the first recipient of both the European Footballer of the Year and the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year awards. He is widely recognised as one of the finest players in the British game. In 1953, he won the FA Cup with Blackpool.
Right Centre-Forward: Fritz Walter (West Germany)
Walter was a German footballer who played for 1. FC Kaiserslautern his entire senior career. He was most often used as an offensive midfielder or an inside forward. He played in 61 games for the German national team, scoring 33 goals, and was captain of the side that won the 1954 FIFA World Cup. In 1985, FC Kaiserslautern's home stadium was renamed the Fritz-Walter-Stadion. In 1958, Fritz Walter was chosen honorary captain of the German national football team.
Centre-Forward: Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina, Colombia & Spain)
Real Madrid dominated the scene of football during the decade, winning four league titles and four consecutive European Cups, and while they had other notable players, including Francisco Gento, Alfredo Di Stefano deserves to be recognised as the best of the 1950s. He played international football for three countries during his career, but only represented Spain in the 1950s. Di Stefano was a part of all of Real Madrid's trophy victories and scored over 300 goals for the club.
Left Centre-Forward: Ferenc Puskas (Hungary)
Puskas was a forward who scored 84 goals in 85 international matches for Hungary, four international matches for Spain, and 514 goals in 529 league appearances in Hungary and Spain. In 1952, he won the Olympic gold medal and led his country to the World Cup final in 1954. He was the winner of three European Cups (1959, 1960, 1966), ten national titles (five Hungarian and five Spanish Primera División), and eight best individual scoring awards.
Left-Forward: Franciso Gento (Spain)
Francisco Gento, better known by his nickname Paco Gento, is a retired Spanish footballer who played left flank. Gento began his career in 1952 with Racing Santander before joining Real Madrid the following year. He played in an unprecedented eight European Cup finals, winning six of them, and he also won 12 La Liga titles. Gento won 43 caps for Spain during his 14-year international career, including appearances in the 1962 and 1966 World Cups.
Also Read | Best Football XI 1930s