Combined XI as Brazil battle Argentina in World Cup qualifier
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | November 10, 2015
To celebrate South American heavyweights Brazil and Argentina’s encounter in Buenos Aires with both in need of victory to properly kick-start their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, Coral football experts got thinking.
Who would make a combined XI of current, fit footballers from these countries that love the game as passionately as any nation on the planet?
There’s no Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero to select in La Albiceleste’s attack, yet they’re 13/10 favourite for victory, while 21/10 chances the Samba Boys have left out Liverpool duo Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. Odds of 9/4 say there will be a draw in this midnight kick-off UK time on Thursday night/Friday morning!
There’s still talent aplenty to pick from, so who made our all-star side? Read on below to find out…
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
Manchester United backup stopper Romero is the best of a very average bunch of current Argentine and Brazilian custodians, but at least he’s played in a top European team – unlike the Samba Boys competition.
Right back: Danilo
There’s a tough call to make at right back between Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Real Madrid summer signing Danilo, but we’ve gone with the future rather than a player whose days at the top are numbered.
Pablo Zabaleta’s injury absence for La Albiceleste continues a frustrating season for the Manchester City man, with understudies Facundo Roncaglia and Gino Peruzzi never reaching his heights.
Centre back: Miranda
It’s no accident that Inter Milan boast the fewest goals conceded in Serie A this season after swooping for underrated Brazil defender Miranda, who has helped them to six of their eight clean sheets.
He’s the best of the Brazilian bunch at centre half, often having to clear up David Luiz’s mess and Arsenal player Gabriel Paulista is yet to earn a cap, while young Marquinhos misses out injured.
Centre back: Nicolas Otamendi
A big money buy for Man City this summer, Otamendi’s potential at Porto was vindicated at Valencia and his recent powerful set-piece header against Norwich City shows what a commanding aerial presence Manuel Pellegrini and Tata Martino have in him for club and country.
Regular Argentina centre back partner Ezequiel Garay misses the Brazil game, so it’ll be interesting to see who partners Otamendi in the heart of defence from clubmate Martin Demichelis or Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori.
Left back: Marcos Rojo
Current options in this berth are a far cry from the wing back brilliance of Roberto Carlos and Juan Pablo Sorin, but Rojo is quietly going about his business with Manchester United. He helped them keep a sixth clean sheet in seven across all competitions against West Bromwich Albion.
Filipe Luis, who flopped at Chelsea, is the only thing like stiff competition to Rojo’s nomination here, with Real Madrid man Marcelo missing through injury.
Defensive midfield: Javier Mascherano
A massive 120 caps, two Champions League triumphs, three La Liga titles and a couple of Copa del Rey crowns make Barcelona anchorman and centre half Mascherano a must-have. He plays in front of the back four for La Albiceleste, so that’s where we’ve selected him.
None of Argentina’s other engine room operators have quite the same drive and determination as magnificent Mascherano. Lazio’s Lucas Biglia has the bite, but not the success to go with it; while Valencia players past and present Ever Banega and Enzo Perez lack consistency.
Defensive midfield: Luiz Gustavo
Further grit is added to our all-star Samba Boys and La Albiceleste side by Wolfsburg destroyer Gustavo. His success with Bayern Munich and Die Wolfe far outweighs Man City counterpart Fernandinho or Corinthians’ Elias, who is a favourite with Brazil boss Dunga.
Right wing: Hulk
It seems harsh to omit Willian, who is becoming an increasingly influential figure for club Chelsea and country, but physical specimen Hulk deserves his place in the attack because he offers more goal threat.
Spurs winger Erik Lamela’s improvement under Mauricio Pochettino pales in comparison with previous Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas favourite Hulk, who boasts 10 goals and 17 assists in 20 outings for Zenit St Petersburg.
Attacking midfield: Angel Di Maria
While Man Utd proved an unhappy move for 15/8 anytime score chance Di Maria, his PSG career to date has been impressive with five goals and four assists in 13 outings for the French champions.
Edging out Parc des Princes teammate Javier Pastore and Brazil duo Oscar and Kaka, with the later’s inclusion on another Dunga roster somewhat smacking of desperation, deploying Di Maria in a central supporting role has been used to great effect. Real Madrid were indebted to his man of the match performance in the 2014 Champions League final from this berth.
Left wing: Neymar
With Aguero and Messi missing, the real X-factor in attack comes from Samba Boys skipper Neymar, 7/1 to net two or more against Argentina, who has been prolific for his country and is now relishing the limelight at Barcelona. The weight of expectation doesn’t seem to faze him.
Neymar leads La Liga’s scoring charts this term with 11 in just 10 outings and that is more than enough to edge out improving compatriot Douglas Costa, who is proving he can do the business at Bayern Munich. Argentina pair Nico Gaitan and Ezequiel Lavezzi, meanwhile, are yet to fulfil their promise.
Striker: Gonzalo Higuain
It follows that we should also have Serie A’s joint-highest marksman leading our line, and that’s precisely what Napoli hotshot Higuain is, as well as a 9/2 chance to net the opener in Buenos Aires.
More prolific in an elite European league this term than La Albiceleste youngsters Paulo Dybala and Angel Correa, he is also ahead of experienced alternatives Ricardo Oliveira and Carlos Tevez, who both play domestic football in their homelands nowadays.