With UEFA’s Team of the Year just announced, we look at what the lineups of a continental championship may look like.
In part one of this series we looked at XIs made up of players from North America, Asia/Australia and Africa. Now we turn our attentions to South America and Europe.
Many ’80s and ’90s kids may remember the all-continental XIs of EA Sports game FIFA 2002 World Cup. These XIs may bring back memories of that game and open discussion for what each continent’s best team is.
It is impossible keep everyone happy with these kind of selections, as every fan will have a different view and opinion.
They have, however, been picked with a focus on balance across the pitch, so each side includes:
- A goalkeeper.
- Two centre-backs and a left and right-back.
- Two central midfielders, with an effort to have one holding midfielder.
- Two wingers and an attacking player.
- One striker.
Therefore, some big names miss out. It is also important not to have a single national side dominating a continental team so an effort has been made not to include more than five starting players from the same national team.
As mentioned, the UEFA team of the year has already been announced, so we have tried to pick a slightly different team to that selected rather than recycle what UEFA have provided.
Claudio Bravo (Chile) is perhaps a shock inclusion. However, having captained Chile to two consecutive Copa America victories and one of the only South American number ones starting domestically, he is favoured over David Ospina (Columbia) or Sergio Romero (Argentina.)
Dani Alves (Brazil) has been one of the best right backs of the last decade and one of the most consistent performers in world football.
Javier Mascherano (Argentina) has proven to be an effective centre-back despite his preferred midfield role and is one of the leaders of Barcelona. Diego Godin (Uruguay) epitomises Diego Simeone’s physical style at Atletico Madrid and is the vice captain of the Spanish heavyweights. Like Alves, Marcelo (Brazil) is a consistent player who has won two Champions League winners medals with Real Madrid.
Arturo Vidal (Chile) was the driving force behind Chile’s back-to-back Copa America wins and given the sheer talent of the South American team is their only representative along with Bravo while Alexis Sanchez just about misses out. James Rodriguez (Columbia), an attacking midfielder by trade, is too good to leave out and partners Vidal in the centre of midfield. He pips Gary Medel, who has struggled domestically.
South America provides a terrifying attack. Barcelona’s forward line of Neymar (Brazil) Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Luis Suarez (Uruguay) need no introduction but to stick Sergio Aguero (Argentina) ahead of them is a mouth-watering prospect. Sanchez and Edinson Cavani are extremely unlucky to miss out but only four attacking slots are available.
Subs: David Ospina (Columbia), Gary Medel (Chile), Pablo Zabaletta (Argentina), Charles Aranguiz (Chile), Willian (Brazil), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Like this entire European selection, the goalkeeping position is certainly up for discussion. It is a close call between Manuel Neuer, David de Gea and Gianluigi Buffon. As we are trying to provide some alternatives to the UEFA Team of the Year, Neuer takes the spot ahead of the selected Buffon and ever impressive De Gea but ultimately could all be considered as Europe’s number one.
Jerome Boateng (Germany) has seen a revival in his career where he has become an accomplished defender in a successful Bayern team. Pepe’s (Portugal) heroic performances in the Euros put his ahead of Real teammate Sergio Ramos and Barca rival Gerard Pique (both Spain). Leonardo Bonucci (Italy) has formed an impressive trio with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli for both club and country and seems to rarely let crosses past him. David Alaba is a controversial choice at left-back given his mediocre start to the season but his versatility and undoubted quality earns him a place.
Andres Iniesta simply cannot be ignored for a European selection. At 32 he is still one of the best midfielders to play the game and is becoming increasingly comfortable in this newfound deeper role at Barca. Luka Modric would probably take the other central position but again trying to provide a slightly different team to that of UEFA’s, Paul Pogba is included now that he is finally showing the potential to become the world’s most complete midfielder.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Gareth Bale (Wales) serve up an attack full of power and creativity. The pair has over 220 league goals between them for Real Madrid. Antoine Griezmann (France) is becoming one of Europe’s most dangerous attackers, with the Atletico Madrid man just about edging out Thomas Muller (Germany). Muller’s Bayern teammate Robert Lewandowski (Poland) does make the cut with the all-round striker rounding off a ruthless and physical European attack.
Subs: David de Gea (Spain)/Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Giorgio Chiellini (Italy), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Luka Modric (Croatia), N’Golo Kante (France), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Thomas Muller (Germany)
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena