This question comes up very often. Who would win if you gathered the best players from Europe and the best from the Americas. With the Euros and Copa America Centenario now complete, we can look at the Best XI’s from both tournaments and compare. The Best XI’s below are courtesy of WhoScored.com, who build their teams based on statistical and tactical output instead of the narrative-based selection process the media tends to follow.
In our analysis of both teams, we’ll split up the tactical sections in the formations and decide who has the best keeper, defense, midfield, and attack. Then, we’ll stack the two teams up and see how they would compare, and who would fair better in a match. But, first up, the Best XI’s:
Copa America Centenario:
Teams of the Tournament provided by WhoScored.com
This is one of the tougher match ups. Both Bravo and Courtois are incredible keepers. At a push, Courtois may hedge out Bravo on his day, but only just and only when he is at his best. Neither of these two men will cause the team to lose. The best answer to give here is that it’s a draw between the two.
Now, this is the easiest match up. The Euro defense is solid, which probably is a reflection of the overall defensive nature that many teams took during that tournament. The Copa backline may boast an incredible attacking wingback in Alvez, it also hosts Rojo, who is fairly error prone. This does match up well against Euro fullbacks Srna and Guerreiro. Srna is experienced defender, while Guerreiro is the more attacking of the two. In Chiellini and Schar, they have a strong backline with a healthy mix of youth and experience. The biggest worry with the Copa center defense is the lack of experience, with the older of the two being only 24.
Here is where it begins to get a bit trickier. While WhoScored listed the formations as 4-4-2’s, both best XI’s feature lineups that are much more free flowing. For example, in the Copa midfield, both Di Maria and Messi will play more centrally, with Aranguiz and Vidal dropping deeper, creating almost a 4-2-2-2 or even a 4-2-3-1 (with Sanchez dropping back). The same can be said of the Euro Best XI. The midfield laid out is very natural and could very easily also become the 4-2-2-2 or a 4-2-3-1, with De Bruyne dropping deeper in this case. For the sake of comparison, a 4 man midfield with all of the players is pretty even. The midfield of Ramsey and Kroos beats out Vidal and Aranguiz. They are perfectly balanced and could control a game. Di Maria and Payet are closer, but if I had to choose it would be Payet. He is having an incredible year. Griezmann may have also been the player of the tournament, but he’s up against Leo Messi, who is not only arguably the best player in the world but also had a pretty tournament. Individually, the midfield is won by the Euros.
The strange thing about both teams’ strikers is they are pushing players into attack that aren’t really strikers. Only Paolo Guerrero is a true striker, while the rest are wingers or false nines at their most attacking. While De Bruyne and Bale may be better players together, Guerrero and Sanchez offer a more balanced attacking threat. This group goes to the Copas.
So after going through and looking at each part of the teams, the Euros come out on top, winning two of the sections. Soccer is rarely won on paper, however. If these two teams were to play each other, how would they fare? Looking at how the teams are set up, the game will be won in the midfield.
The Euros defense is very strong, but come up against an experienced and skillful Copa attack. Individually, the Euro midfield may have better players, but in an actual match, the Copa midfield would overrun them. The Euro central midfielders are not defensive enough to counteract how attacking the wingers are. Both players work in their respective teams because they are balanced with other midfielders who can cover for them.
With the two French wingers bombing forward, though, they would be taken out of the game by the more defensive central midfield that the Copa team boasts. With Vidal and Aranguiz disrupting the middle of the park, the Copa team wouldn’t be able to feed the ball to their more dangerous players. The game would be essentially a standstill for much of the match. What would ultimately decide it would be the match up of either Messi and Guerreiro at left back or Sanchez against Chiellini. Messi is a magic player and Guerreiro could struggle against the premier attacking player on the planet. Chiellini may be a great defender, but Sanchez’s speed may be enough to put him off. With that attack down the left side and Copa’s defense shutting down the Euro midfield, the game would go to the Copa America Best XI.