Six of the best international soccer teams, Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Portugal and Spain, are meeting tomorrow in friendly matches (in alphabetical order no less). In anticipation of these matches, I decided to combine the two teams facing each other (from their available squad lists) and see what the best starting XI would look like. Feel free to agree, disagree, or call me an idiot, but let me know what your teams would look like.
Argentina vs. Brazil (4-3-3)
GK – Sergio Romero (ARG/AZ Alkmaar) - It is a weak crop of goalkeepers to choose from, since Julio Cesar, Doni and Gomes were not called up to the Brazil squad.
RB – Dani Alves (BRA/Barcelona) - Alves has taken over the right back spot for Brazil, since Maicon has evidently aged 10 years since the World Cup.
CB – Thiago Silva (BRA/AC Milan) - Young to the international scene, Silva is one of the best defenders in the Serie A and should be a rock for Brazil’s backline.
CB – David Luiz (BRA/Benfica) – Only three caps to his name, Luiz is an up-and-coming star and will be playing for an elite club next year.
LB – Andre Santos (BRA/Fenerbahce) – Largely unknown by the casual fan, Santos will be battling with Michel Bastos and Marcelo for the left back position until the 2014 World Cup.
RM – Javier Zanetti (ARG/Inter Milan) – The ageless Zanetti could swap places with Alves, but either way he is an unflappable presence on the right.
CM – Ever Benega (ARG/Valencia) – Benega is another young stud, and at just 22 years of age, he is probably already among the top-ten holding midfielders in the world.
LM – Javier Pastore (ARG/Palermo) - An undeniable star, Pastore is an attacking force at just 21 years of age. Positional flexibility allows him to play nearly anywhere in midfield or up front.
RW – Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona) - Either the best or second best player in the world, Messi has never been great for Argentina, but he is bound to start scoring for his country soon.
ST – Gonzalo Higuain (ARG/Real Madrid) - Even as a Real Madrid fan, I am not a Higuain supporter. His dribbling is average, his first touch is hit or miss, and he is often too selfish. However, his goal poaching abilities are top notch, and he is better than anything Brazil has on its roster without Luis Fabiano.
LW – Angel di Maria (ARG/Real Madrid) – A big summer move to Madrid after an uneven display in South Africa, di Maria is another bright young star for Argentina. His start at Real was rocky, but his dribbling, passing and shooting abilities are top class. Robinho has performed better on a regular basis for Brazil, but right now he is not himself.
England vs. France (4-1-4-1)
GK – Hugo Lloris (FRA/Lyon) - Joe Hart almost won this battle, but I still can’t get Lloris’ performances from last season’s Champions League out of my mind. His ability to deal with corners and crosses this year is troubling, but he is still a better option than Hart right now.
RB – Bacary Sagna (FRA/Arsenal) - His hair is awful, but his play is first class. Sagna’s defensive abilities are still a work in progress, but his overlapping runs are what make him so valuable.
CB – John Terry (ENG/Chelsea) - After a poor 2009-10 season for the Blues, Terry struggled again in South Africa for the Three Lions. However, he is still elite and an unquestioned leader.
CB – Rio Ferdinand (ENG/Manchester United) - This selection is more a product of France’s lack of centre-backs and England’s unproven talent at the position. Rio is still the captain and thus earns this spot.
LB – Ashley Cole (ENG/Chelsea) - Cole is possibly the top left back in the world, and thus keeps Gael Clichy of this squad.
CDM – Gareth Barry (ENG/Manchester City) - A poor man’s Xabi Alonso, Barry is a very good passer, and isn’t afraid to mix it up on defense.
CM – Steven Gerrard (ENG/Liverpool) - Seen as one of the most complete players on the planet, Gerrard has struggled a bit with form this season, but without Lampard in the squad, Gerrard has no equal.
CM – Yoann Gourcuff (FRA/Lyon) - Still young, and still learning to be an all around threat, but an undeniable talent. Again, no Lampard means an opening for this up-and-coming superstar.
RW – James Milner (ENG/Manchester City) – A huge summer signing for Man City, Milner has failed to disappoint and has really emerged as an indispensable player for both the Citizens and Three Lions. Can play as a midfielder or winger.
LW – Florent Malouda (FRA/Chelsea) - A player at the top of his game, Malouda is playing unbelievable football for Chelsea. He is scoring goals, creating chances for his teammates, and is proving just how important he is for Laurent Blanc’s French squad.
ST – Karim Benzema (FRA/Real Madrid) - Hard to believe the embattled striker makes this team, but with no Wayne Rooney, who else would you take? England’s strikers are all good but nothing spectacular, and Benzema has played better since being criticized publicly by Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.
Portugal vs. Spain (4-5-1)
GK – Iker Casillas (ESP/Real Madrid) - Some believe he is the world’s best, and his experience and leadership is unquestioned. Has been up and down thus far for Real, but overall he is still first class.
RB – Sergio Ramos (ESP/Real Madrid) - Scary to think that Mourinho has made him an even better defender. His bombarding runs are still his trademark, as is his athleticism, but it is amazing how much better his defense has gotten this season.
CB – Gerard Pique (ESP/Barcelona) – Pique is a top five centre-back, no question. Tall, fast and strong, Pique has it all.
CB – Ricardo Carvalho (POR/Real Madrid) - It was hard to choose between Carvahlo and Carles Puyol, but in the end I had to go with who is playing better right now, and that is Carvahlo. His performances in the Royal White has been tremendous, and he marshaled the top defense at the World Cup.
LB – Pepe (POR/Real Madrid) - I know, I know, Pepe is central defender. But without Fabio Coentrao, there is no one else on either roster really worth putting at left back. Plus, Pepe has played defensive midfielder for Portugal in the past, and he has the athleticism and ball skills to play on the outside. He is playing to good for Madrid to be on the bench behind the other options.
CM – Xabi Alonso (ESP/Real Madrid) - His calming influence and passing ability is unbelievable. Alonso is currently playing the best football of his career.
CM – Xavi (ESP/Barcelona) – The unquestioned key to the beautiful Barcelona and Spanish attacks, Xavi is a top five player in the world.
CM – Andres Iniesta (ESP/Barcelona) - Often overlooked in the Spain and Barcelona set-ups, Iniesta is a coaches dream. Great on and off the ball, unselfish and a top notch passer, Iniesta makes everyone around him better.
RW – David Villa (ESP/Barcelona) – Spain’s all-time leading scorer, Villa can play anywhere up front and score goals. Villa has taken time to adjust to his new team Barcelona, but he is starting to rediscover his form and is one of the best strikers currently playing.
LW – Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Real Madrid) - Love him or hate him, Cristiano Ronaldo is with Lionel Messi in the discussion for world’s best player. His size, strength, speed, technical ability and goal scoring is unmatched. His attitude can rub people the wrong way, and his free kicks have been largely off the mark this season, but there is no doubting he would start for any nation on the planet.
ST – Fernando Torres (ESP/Liverpool) - Wow, a player not from Real Madrid or Barcelona. Torres is coming off a disastrous World Cup, and his 2010-11 season with Liverpool started just as poorly. However, two goals against Chelsea has him back on track, and he is a sure-fire starter when healthy.
About the Author
Written by Robert Bode
A sports die-hard through and through. I grew up playing almost every sport possible, and to this day I try to stay as active as possible. However, since I'm not a professional athlete, talking and writing about sports is the next best thing. A University of Florida graduate but living in my hometown of Washington D.C. (well Northern Virginia), my favorite teams are the Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Real Madrid, good up-tempo NBA teams (so not the Knicks), and Washington Capitals.