The Copa’s Best 11?

It has been a cracking tournament and a very open and attacking antidote to the cautious sterility of the World Cup last summer. So cheers to all 12 teams for making a go of it. But who are the tournament’s best players? Here’s our best 11. We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts:

GK: Ochoa (Mexico)

Very unlucky to be dropped in favour of Sánchez after some fine performances in the earlier games especially his brilliant performance against Brazil. Now that game is remembered for Castillo’s opener and a limp showing from Brazil. But if Ochoa had not been on top of his game it could all have been remembered somewhat differently.

Defence: Zanetti (Argentina) -Lugano (Uruguay) – Juan (Brazil) – Gilberto (Brazil)

Argentina’s central defence has not been properly tested yet and we suspect Ayala is vulnerable to pace. Lugano is more mobile and despite being younger has mastered the dark arts of his position. For us Juan has been Brazil’s most consistent performer for several years now. He is also a leader on the pitch and when you look at the price Barcelona paid for Milito we believe Roma have done a very clever bit of business here.

There have been no great left-backs in this tournament but Gilberto has tried to inject some attacking intent into a conservative Brazil. Zanetti is one of several Argentines enjoying a wonderful swansong. Safe, consistent but eager to get involved further up the pitch.

Midfield: Torrado (Mexico) – Mascherano (Argentina) – Cristian Rodriguez (Uruguay)

At times Mascherano has looked like he could play in a midfield of one behind an attack of five. He is, as La Nacion put it, an octopus and lion all in one. But we put him alongside Mexico’s Torrado because Torrado deserves his place and they will provide the platform for the more attack minded players we surround them with to get forward. One of these is Cristian Rodriguez on the left who tormented Brazil in the second half of the semi-final.

The No. 10: Riquelme (Argentina)

Not much more to say really. For us the tournament’s best player, the creative force of its best team and already has five goals of his own. He is a joy – and endlessly fascinating – to watch. A pity this type of player is increasingly a rarity in football these days.

Strikers: Messi (Argentina) – Robinho (Brazil)

Castillo came close in getting a place here but he did not do enough over all of Mexico’s five games and was unlucky to be hindered by injury in the last of them. On the other hand Robinho has almost single-handedly got Brazil into the final, scoring six goals along the way. His dive against Ecuador was a stain but without his sparkle you suspect Dunga’s men would already be on holiday. Messi pushes Riquelme close in the vote for best player overall. He has sublime close control aided by a centre of gravity that might defy the laws of physics, great speed and the happy habit of scoring some beautiful goals.

Coach: Coco Basile

Has got his stars working in harmony for the greater good and has made wise use of his subs to swing tight games his way. He has not been stubborn when it has come to rethinking his plans as in the way he overcame his desire for a more traditional target man when it became clear that Diego Milito did not deserve to keep out Tevez (another close candidate for our starting 11).

Maybe not surprisingly all our players come from the semi-finalists, the tournament’s four best teams. Several of the Ecuadorean squad impressed but their fragility told against them. They did after all lose all their games. Countrywise our team is made up of:

Argentina – 4
Brazil – 3
Mexico – 2
Uruguay – 2

So what are your thoughts? Comments please!



Filed under Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela

21 responses to “The Copa’s Best 11?

  1. FrankTheTank

    Tevez instead of Robinho – no debate for me

  2. negri

    We are talking best team of the tournament here but if it was to take on other teams elsewhere like the world champions then I think Messi-Robinho or Messi-Tevez would suffer from not having an obvious target man.

    Basile as you write knows what he is doing but it was late that he consented that it would be okay not to have a target man and go with Messi-Tevez. Will be interesting to see how they do with Brazil on Sunday.

    Agree with you about Juan but Alex has not convinced me

  3. anon.

    No Bolivians?
    Smacks of big team bias to me

  4. el choripan

    Robinho surely has again failed to live up to expectations. He was almost entirely marked out of the Uruguay game. Of his six goals, five were against Chile (!) including a penalty, and the other was a shootout penalty against Uruguay. I think in terms of movement, effort and skill he was outshone by Castillo.

  5. el choripan

    Sorry – Robinho’s scored seven goals, including (yet another) penalty against Ecuador.

  6. Hi Chori (Mmm…chori)

    We’re not including penalty shoot-outs in the list. Just because they do not go towards players when counting top scorers for tournaments.

    Technically the game is over and drawn when it goes to penalties, which is just to decide who goes to the next round.

    Robinho-Castillo was the most debated point here but we went with Robinho because without him Brazil would have risked going home after the group stages and Castillo did it early against Brazil and Ecuador and shone again against 10-man Paraguay but (most likely because of injury) just didn’t when his team needed him most against Argentina. Unlike Robinho – so far.

    But a very close call in our view.

  7. el choripan

    I think even Forlan has an edge over Robinho – in terms of stepping up to score when it matters. Like Robinho, he was awol every now and then, but the first against Brazil was absolutely crucial, as was the first against Venezuela in the quarterfinals.

  8. Our fear about Forlán – who we admire a lot – is that he misses too many easy chances. He did very well this Copa but his misses reel and loss of nerve on the penalty do weigh against him in the scales.

    Another striker we didn’t forget but didn’t see him do just enough that we liked was Roque Santa Cruz.

    If our Basile really was in charge (instead of coaching our selection) he might have picked him to play alongside Messi.

  9. marcela

    i could never be a manager or coach because i could never ever pick a ‘best eleven’ 🙂

    agree about riquelme, obviously, but would be tempted to position a reliable sportpsychologist very near him for the next 36 hours or so to make sure he remains as confident and collected as he seems to be. problem is, if one were to suggest a sport spych he would probably walk out of the tournament…

    i really liked lugano – i really liked roque santa cruz too.

    and i rate vagner love more than several, judging by comments i’ve been reading.

    don’t know how people do this ‘picking teams’ business but really enjoyed your selection and justification.

    great blog!

  10. Hi Marcela

    Agree it is somewhat of a fantasy exercise (unless you are Florentino Pérez) – but it’s fun!

    We’ve been big fans of Lugano since his São Paulo days, where he was a huge hit and with all respect to Turkish football we expect he will one day play at one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

    We also wrote about Roque Santa Cruz earlier in the Copa who we rate highly and cannot believe there is not more of a rush to get his signature now that Bayern – for whatever reason – are letting him leave.

    Would be interested to hear why you like Vagner Love. Thanks for the plug on your always excellent blog on FU.

    Enjoy the game Sunday

  11. Gallego

    Chile’s Suazo was hurt by his team’s unraveling in the quarters, but his goals against a tough Ecuadorean team and his general peskiness up front in the group stage merit at least an honorable mention. Of the lesser-known players in the tournament, he was the most impressive.

  12. Not to mention his golazo against Brazil, sadly to be forgotten amidst the general humiliation. Here it is again:

    One of the individual moment of the tournament. Messi’s lob was absolutely brilliant but you could argue that Tevez teed him up nicely and he had time and space to work with.

    Suazo had to create his own room to get his chip in with defenders around him meaning less time and had to get his lob up and down in less space. Brilliant.

  13. I think most of the best players in this tournament would be from Argentina. The goalkeeper and some of the defense needs to come from other teams.

  14. footballjones

    negri, you mentioned the lack of a target man when pairing messi with tevez. certainly regarding argentina’s final versus brazil, i fancy a lack of height may not be a problem. the reason being that argentina have not built a squad designed to play the ball in the air, but rather to feet, and in tevez argentina have one of the best in the world when it comes to receiving the ball to feet, holding off defenders, and laying the ball on to team-mates.

    i would be surprised if argentina try and match brazil pound for pound. they will surely keep playing the way they have dispatched all comers – including the tournament’s other form side, Mexico – and provided they are solid at the back they should have no problems wresting the trophy back from brazil

  15. laurent

    As a left back, I really liked dario rodriguez of uruguay.

    In defense, I think I would put Zanetti – Ayala – Alex – Rodriguez right now. I don’t know why you rate fran over alex in the brazil back, to me there is no contest, and I feel that Ayala has not been proven slow so far – although I do agree this is his weakness.

    Going back, my 11:
    ZAnetti – Ayala – Alex – Rodriguez
    Riquelme – Mascherano – Rodriguez
    Robinho – Suazo – Castillo

    If Tevez or Messi has a breakthrough game in the final, they would probably take a starting place in my 11.

  16. messi the best ………riquelme played very good it;s true …..robinho too……….but ,messi the best ….this year

  17. Hi laurent

    Alex has his supporters in Brazil who remember him from his Santos championship winning days. But we’d pick Juan over him every time.

    Alex has been at fault for several goals this tournament and got a bit of a runaround from Castillo in the Mexico game. He was also very lucky not to have a penalty awarded against him in the Ecuador game in a case of shameful cowardice by the referee.

    He poses a threat going forward – especially from set-pieces – but it is Juan who’s got on the score sheet this Copa instead.

    Finally Juan is a clear leader on and off the pitch and not surprisingly Dunga has made him captain in the place of the suspended Gilberto Silva and this is another quality we like about him.

  18. Nino Dorado

    Alex is great in the air but he is bulky and cumbersome. I don’t know why Mouinho needs him when he has Terry. If I were a Chelsa fan I’d be looking for more of a Rafael Marquez to compliment Terry than another man to attack headers. That is unless he’s being brought in to replace Terry or as a back up to him….

  19. Joel


    G Milito

    C Rodriguez


  20. ei phan

    My best 11 😀


    Zanetti G Milito Lugano Fucile


    Torrado Riquelme

    Messi Castillo Robinho

    Sorry to say that, all the players are semifinalists. I would have chosen Roque Santa Cruz if Paraguay progressed to semifinal. I also had an eye on Edixon Perea from Columbia and Bolivian Moreno and I can slot them into substitute. Ayala did not really impresses me especially during semifinal against Mexico when he allowed fast and furious Castillo to intercept the ball which could have been converted into Goal.
    Hernan Crespo was very unlucky. I am always admired him but he was injured earlier and could not showcase to me for my best 11.

  21. Joel

    Ah, the guy above just reminded me of Fucile. I should have picked him over Gilberto at left-back.

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