This is the second in a series of posts entitled Best World Cup Player Of The Decade. Taking each decade in turn, the idea is to critically evaluate the teams and players before honouring one player for his performances during the tournaments.
Three tournaments were held in the fifties, Brazil hosting Uruguay’s second win (1950), Switzerland West Germany’s first (1954) and Sweden providing the base for our first glimpse of Pele (1958).
In 1950 a curiously organised tournament featured an unusual first-round format. 13 sides split into two groups of four, another group of three and a fourth comprising just Uruguay and Bolivia. Brazil scored eight goals and blitzed their way through the first group phase. Uruguay matched their total in the one game against a hapless Bolivia. The hosts continued their scoring streak in the final mini-league, putting seven past Sweden and another six against Spain as the Uruguayans struggled. Of course they won the last game 2 – 1 and Brazil mourned. A Golden Shoe for Ademir, who scored nine goals, was little consolation.
Switzerland in 1954 was witness to the ‘Miracle of Berne’, although in truth it probably should have seen a resounding Hungarian triumph. Once again the leading team savaged opponents on the way to the final, Hungary smashing nine past South Korea and eight past West Germany. Then they proceeded to score four against defending champions Uruguay and put four more past Brazil. The Hungarians were even two-nil up in the final but somehow lost to West Germany. The favourites and losing finalists won the Golden Shoe for the second successive competition, the prize this time being taken away by Sandor Kocsis for his 11 goals.
A young Pele and France’s Just Fontaine caught the eye in Sweden in 1958. While defending champions West Germany reached the semis again with an experienced team they fell to the hosts as Brazil unleashed Pele against the free-scoring French. The seventeen-year-old then added two more in the final to fully announce his arrival on the world stage.
Since no one player dominated the three tournaments, the choice of Best World Cup Player Of The 1950s goes to a forward who scored the winning goal in 1954 and was still scoring four years later as his team made it to the semi finals. He was also the first player ever to score at least 4 goals in two different World Cups: Helmut Rahn
The series continues soon with Best World Cup Player of the Decade Part 3: the 1960s.