You only have to look at the names to realize the quality of the forward line that was on display
France’s Raymond Kopa was the first French player to win the European Cup. Initially he had lead Reims to the first European Cup Final in 1956 only to lose to Real Madrid.
However, Real Madrid signed Kopa (yes, they have been at this for a long time) and he played on the Madrid side that won the next three cups.
In 1958 he was voted the player of the tournament at the World Cup Finals and in the same year he was pronounced European Player of the Year.
Scotland’s Denis Law had returned to English football just over a year before after an unhappy stint in Italy with Torino. Manchester City was the team to sell Law to Torino but it was Manchester United that brought him back.
Law played on the Scotland side that missed out on a trip to the 1962 World Cup Finals when they lost in extra time to Czechoslovakia after leading 2-1 with just six minutes left.
Law was voted European Player of the Year in 1964 became a legend at Old Trafford and would eventually make it to the World Cup Finals in 1974.
There are entire books dedicated to Alfredo Di Stefano so would hope is there to cover it in a few sentences.
Di Stefano is regarded as being a complete player excelling in every facet of the game.
He is best known as a Real Madrid player but enjoyed great success in his native Argentina and Colombia before his move to Spain.
Without Di Stefano’s arrival in 1953 the Real Madrid we know today would not exist. He was twice voted European Player of the Year.
Eusebio was only 21 at the time he was invited to play and had only arrived in Europe two years before from Mozambique.
His impact on European football was almost immediate and he scored twice in the European Cup Final against Real Madrid in 1962 when Benfica won 5-3.
Eusebio would later win the European Player of the Year and was of the great stars of the 1966 World Cup Finals.
His pace, power and shooting made him one of the most dominant players of the 1960s and the primary reason for Benfica’s success and a key to the emergence of Portugal as a feared soccer nation.
Francisco Gento was one of the quickest players ever to play the game as well as one of the most successful.
Gento was part of the great Real Madrid side and would eventually win the European Cup six times- a record still unbroken. Along with Paolo Maldini he holds the record for most appearances in the final – 8.
The substitutes were not half bad either. Goalkeeper Milutin Soskic (Yugoslavia), Luis Eizaguirre (Chile), Jim Baxter (Scotland), Uwe Seller (West Germany) were all magnificent players while the great Ferenc Puskas (Hungary/Spain) replaced Eusebio at half time.
The only two players who were noticeable by their absence were Pele and Garrincha.
Pele was injured at the 62 World Cup Finals so that might explain his absence; in the case of Garrincha there was no clue as to his non-appearance.
However, anyone who read Ruy Castro’s biography of Garrincha would know that he was not the most reliable character in the world – to put it mildly.
Interestingly only four of the England starters that day would be on the same Wembley turf less than three years later when Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup.
Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson and Bobby Charlton would all make the journey although there were others who played in the finals or made the England squad of 22.
Canadian fans will recognize the back-up goalkeeper to Gordon Banks that day.
Tony Waiters would part of Ramsey’s 40-man squad but failed to make the 22 in 1966.
Of course Waiters would manage the Canada side in the 1986 World Cup Finals so he did eventually make it to the World Cup Finals – just not as a player.
Oh yes – and the result was? England won 2-1 with Southampton’s Terry Paine scoring on the hour and Denis Law equalizing with 8 minutes remaining. However, Jimmy Greaves would score the winner right on full time.
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