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A Football XI For Each Continent: Part 1

SAITAMA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 06: Keisuke Honda # 4 of Japan passes the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers match between Japan and Iraq at Saitama Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

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 we will focus on North America, Asia/Australia and Africa.

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.

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North America

Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) is by far North America’s best keeper and one of the world’s most athletic. Fabian Johnson (USA), who has starred for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League and Porto’s former Watford player Miguel Layun (Mexico) take the full-back slots. Both are exciting attacking players who pip Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron. Premier League-winning captain Wes Morgan (Jamaica) and evergreen defender Rafael Marquez (Mexico) complete the defence.

Bob Bradley’s son, Michael (USA), is one of North America’s greatest midfield exports to Europe and enjoyed spells in Germany, Italy and a brief loan at Aston Villa. He is joined by Skilful Porto man Hector Herrera (Mexico), who is one of the best midfielders in Portugal.

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Hector Herrera #16 of Mexico controls the ball against Christian Pulisic #10 of the United States in the first half during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier at MAPFRE Stadium on November 11, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Hector Herrera of Mexico controls the ball against Christian Pulisic of the United States.

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Winger Leon Bailey (Jamaica) is one of the highest rated players in Europe. The 19-year-old has been linked with Chelsea and Manchester United in the past. Borussia Dortmund player Christian Pulisic (USA) is the other winger for North America, he has the potential to be one of America’s greatest players and has been linked with Liverpool this season.

Arsenal’s Joel Campbell (Costa Rica), who is on loan at Sporting Lisbon, supports one of European football’s most dangerous strikers in Javier Hernandez (Mexico).

na-xi

Subs: Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico), Hector Moreno (Mexico), Geoff Cameron (USA), Scott Arfield (Canada), Andres Gurdardo (Mexico), Clint Dempsey (USA), Raul Jimenez (Mexico)

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Asia/Australia

Decorated Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi (Oman) takes the netminder slot. With 118 international caps, Al-Habsi is one of the Arabian Gulf’s best ever football exports. Yuto Nagatoma (Japan) of Inter Milan is an exciting full-back who burst onto the scene during his country’s 2011 Asian Cup victory.

Centre-back Maya Yoshida (Japan) is a household name for most Premier League fans and is a regular for Southampton. Fellow defender Matthew Spiranovic (Australia) is perhaps less known, but the Hangzou Greentown is one of the highest rated players in the star-studded Chinese Super League. Ali Adnan (Iraq) of Udinese has drawn comparisons to Roberto Carlos. He possesses a thunderous left foot and is a free-kick specialist.

Mile Jedinak (Australia) has forged a good career for himself in England and took the drop to try and help Aston Villa return to the Premier League. A physical player, Jedinak captained Australia to last year’s Asia Cup.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 01: Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak holds aloft the Asian Cup during celebrations at Westfield Sydney on February 1, 2015, after the Socceroos won the 2015 Asian Cup last night, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak holds aloft the Asian Cup.

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Keisuke Honda (Japan) was one of the star players at the 2010 World Cup. The AC Milan midfielder remains one of the most technically gifted midfielders to come from Asia.

Spurs man Son Heung-min (South Korea) is proving a key player for the Londoners and was named Asian International Footballer of the Year in 2015.

Tom Rogic (Australia) is finally realising his potential at Celtic and was impressive in this season’s Champions League campaign and pips Shinji Kagawa, who has struggled for form since his first spell at Borussia Dortmund.

Hiroshi Kiyotake (Japan), who currently plays with Sevilla, made a name for himself in Germany and is now enjoying a strong season with the Europa League champions. Premier League winner Shinji Okazaki (Japan) is one goal shy of 50 international goals and is a key player for the Foxes.

asia

Subs: Matthew Ryan (Australia), Hiroki Sakai (Japan), Park Joo-ho (South Korea), Ki Sung-yeung (South Korea), Koo Ja-Cheul (South Korea), Shinji Kagawa (Japan), Tim Cahill (Australia)

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Africa

Penalty-taking goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria) is the netminder who plays his club football with Lille. Newly converted right wingback Victor Moses (Nigeria) is enjoying a revival at Chelsea with highly rated Napoli left-back Faouzi Ghoulum (Algeria) the other full-back.

Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast) is justifying his big money move to Manchester United and Moroccan Medhi Benatia is one of Africa’s best centre-halves in many years. He is on loan at Juventus from Bayern Munich.

GENOA, ITALY - NOVEMBER 27: Medhi Benatia of Juventus FC in action during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and Juventus FC at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on November 27, 2016 in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Medhi Benatia of Juventus FC.

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Another Juve player, Kwadwo Asamoah takes the holding midfield slot ahead of Victor Wanyama (Kenya). Lively Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny (Egypt) takes the other midfield berth. The former Basel man is an exciting player to watch and capable of scoring some stunning goals.

Algerian pair Yacine Brahimi and Riyad Mahrez add an exciting wide attack for Africa. PFA Player of the Year Mahrez is joined by Liverpool attacker Sadio Mane (Senegal) in this team with one of Europe’s best strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon).

africa

Subs: Essam El Hadary (Egypt), Aymen Abdennour (Tunisia), Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast), Victor Wanyama (Kenya), Yannick Bolasie (DR Congo), Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Kelechi Iheanachu (Nigeria)

Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena

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Author: Nick Menezes

Nick is a soccer, GAA and rugby fanatic who has a worrying obsession with the Irish football team. His articles focus on Irish football and he also writes some light-hearted pieces, particularly quirky starting XIs.