Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.
Backgroud Argentina won the Copa America champion in 1957 with a record of 5 wins and 1 loss. They beat second-place Brazil 3-0 and third place Uruguay 4-0. However, shortly afterward, the three offensive stars of that team, Omar Sivori, Antonio Angelillo and Humberto Mashio left Argentina to play in the Serie A and goalkeeper Rogelio Dominguez also join Real Madrid. In the 1950's, most countries banned overseas-based players from their national teams. Argentina did not select the four of them for Sweden 1958 a year later. Please do not forget that the best player in the world in the late 1950's was Alfredo Di Stéfano. This policy not only barred the four of them from playing in the 1958 World Cup. Di Stefano who left Argentina in 1949 also did not go.
How good were these five European exiles?
When Omar Sivori, Antonio Angelillo and Humberto Mashio arrived in Italy, they quickly earned the nickname "The Angels with Dirty Faces" for their South American flair. They were also known as "Il Trio del la Muerte"(the deadly Trio) for their fearless playing style and clinical finishing. Juventus paid a world record transfer fee for Omar Sivori in 1957. He immediately established a formidable partnership with John Charles. In his first year with the club, he brought the scudetto back to Turin. He won the Ballon d'or in 1961. Antonio Angelillo's second year(1958-59) in Italy would be his best season. He scored 33 goals in 33 matches. No one managed to match his goal total ever since. Humberto Mashio had a 100% scoring rate with Argentina. He scored 12 goals in 12 appearances. He was top scorer at the 1957 Copa America. Before he moved to Europe, Rogelio Domínguez was voted as the best goalkeeper in South American in 1956 and 1957. In Europe, he established himself as the starting goalkeeper for Real Madrid, where he won two European Cups. However, the 1958 team would not be missing him too much. The starting keeper in 1958 was none other than the great Amadeo Carrizo, and the backup keeper Antonio Roma. Alfredo Di Stéfano needed no introduction. In 1958, he was at the peak of his career. He just won his third European Cups and also the top scorer in that edition. He was the reigning Ballon d'or winner at the time of the World Cup Finals. He would have arrived in Sweden at the top of his game.
In 1958, there were also several other Argentine of note playing their trade in Europe, namely Ernesto Grillo, Eduardo Ricagni, Miguel Montuori, Héctor Rial and Francisco Lojacono. However, Grillo, the hero of the 1955 Copa America winning team, was probably the only player who had decent chance of making the 1958 team. Despite Argentina's poor results in 1958, the actual squad consisted of many great players. As mentioned, Amadeo Carrizo started in goal. Nestor Rossi was known as Argentina's greatest defensive midfielder, and Oreste Corbatta the greatest right wing. At 22 years of age in 1958, Corbatta was at the prime of his career. He was the star of the team. Angel Labruna at age 39 probably had passed his prime. He probably would not make the team if the European exiles went to Sweden.
The Tournament Their poor results had a lot to do with the strength of their opponents too. West Germany was the defending champion in 1958, Czechoslovakia would make the Final 4 years later in Chile and Northern Ireland was led by Danny Blanchflower. Argentina had not participated in either the 50 or the 54 World Cup. So they were perhaps inexperienced.
But if Argentina was able to reinforce with their Europe-based players, they would have done better. The host Sweden banned professional players from its national team prior to the World Cup Finals, but decided to lift the professional ban right before the tournament. They brought back Nils Liedholm, Gunnar Gren, Lennart Skoglund and Kurt Hamrin. The professional players made the difference and Sweden reached the Final. Although Sweden also had home field advantage, Liedholm and Gren had passed their prime. England suffered from the Munich Air Disaster 4 months before the start of the tournament. Hungary was also disbanded after the Soviet invasion of 1956. many of its players were in exiles. The tournament was weakened by various events in the world. That left Brazil of Pele, Garrincha and Didi as their only true force at the WC Finals.
Please the WC 1958 Finals Missing Players.