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A South American team for the Noughties

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Tim Vickery | 08:28 UK time, Monday, 28 December 2009

Last week Phil Minshull picked his European team of the decade - so I was asked to do the same for South America.

But what would be the criteria? Obviously in this globalised age the top South Americans play their club football on the other side of the Atlantic.

But European football is not my beat, and I don't watch enough of it to supply an authoritative opinion.

So if anyone wants to suggest a South American side based on club form, then use the space below - and let a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend.

I'm on stronger ground with the criteria I have chosen. Over the decade I've seen all the World Cup games, Copa America matches and all but a handful of the World Cup qualifiers involving South American countries - so my team is selected purely on the basis of performances in international football.

This led to a glaring anomaly. I could find no place in the starting XI for the man with a good claim to be the player of the noughties - Ronaldinho, who hit extraordinary heights around the middle of the decade.

But even at his peak, it was said that he was unable to reproduce his Barcelona form for his national team - the very accusation now being thrown at Lionel Messi.

Perhaps the conclusion here is that Barcelona's collective functioning is so good that their star players are able to concentrate on what they do best, and have a hard time adjusting out of their club context, when more is expected from them - but that's a separate debate for another day.

The team, in 4-4-2 formation, starts with a difficult choice in goal.

GOALKEEPER

Marcos (27 caps) was in top form in Brazil's 2002 World Cup win, but his international career is short, mainly restricted to the year that Luiz Felipe Scolari was in charge.

One of his successors, Julio Cesar (46 caps) is shaping up well, but has yet to be tested in a World Cup - so my choice is another Brazilian, Dida (91 caps).

Many will be surprised. But his high-profile blunders have come with Milan, not Brazil, for whom he has given solid service and was one of the few success stories of the last World Cup.

The fact that all the candidates are Brazilian is no coincidence - the only other keeper I considered was Ecuador's Juan Francisco Cevallos (88 caps).

Brazilian goalkeeping has come on in leaps and bounds. They now export keepers to Europe, and the calm of the giant Dida has done much to open doors for others.

CENTRE-BACKS

Another big development of the decade was the rise of Ecuador, whose eternal captain Ivan Hurtado (165 caps, 5 goals) is in my side as centre-back.

I'm a Bobby Moore nut, and if Hurtado was never that good, there is plenty of Moore in him. His timing in the tackle, distribution and quiet yet commanding leadership have been a joy to watch.

Alongside him, Brazil's Lucio (86 caps, 4 goals) is the other centre-back.

Few had faith in him on his debut in November 2000, when he was best known for head-butting a team-mate during the Sydney Olympics. But he proved an inspired selection, and has grown into a top-class performer, hard and aggressive, who spreads self-belief throughout the side.

Honourable mentions to the Colombian pair of Mario Yepes (68 caps, 4 goals) and Ivan Cordoba (71 caps, 4 goals), as well as Argentina's Roberto Ayala (115 caps, 7 goals), Juan Manuel Rey (109 caps, 11 goals) of Venezuela and Paraguay's Julio Cesar Caceres (60 caps, 2 goals).

FULL-BACKS

I flirted with the idea of Argentina's Javier Zanetti (136 caps, 5 goals) at right-back, but in the end his baffling omission from the last World Cup counted against him.

Ecuador's Ulises De La Cruz (99 caps, 6 goals) was also in the frame, but it was impossible to avoid the claims of Brazil's 2002 World Cup winning captain Cafu (142 caps, 5 goals).

His entire career is an inspirational story of a man who refused to be written off.

Argentina's Juan Pablo Sorin (75 caps, 11 goals) is a candidate at left-back, but not strong enough to get past Roberto Carlos, (125 caps, 11 goals) of Brazil.

He may not have had Sorin's capacity to cut into the penalty area, but with his pace and stamina he continually stretched the opposing defence, could hit the bye-line time and time again, and also carried a threat with his free kicks.

MIDFIELD

Unchallenged as holding midfielder is Argentina's Javier Mascherano (55 caps, 2 goals).

I was enthralled by him at Under-20 level at the start of 2003. Within months he was playing for Argentina at senior level before he had even made his River Plate debut, and by the following year he was anchoring the midfield as if he'd done it all his life, dominating the space, winning the tackles and giving quick, crisp passes.

As a mixed midfielder, with an honourable mention for Paraguay's Carlos Humberto Paredes (74 caps, 10 goals), I've gone for Edison Mendez, (92 caps, 15 goals) of Ecuador.

It's been a real pleasure watching him grow from the baby in the squad to the senior midfielder. Best known for his blistering shot, he is highly versatile.

In his younger days I can recall him carrying out marking roles and even filling in at full-back. It was a surprise to me when he moved back home from Holland earlier this year.

To run the game from midfield, it has to be Argentina's Juan Roman Riquelme (51 caps, 17 goals).

He's enigmatic and hyper-sensitive, but when on song he passes holes in the defence like Muhammad Ali jabbing his way through an opponent's guard.

Under Jose Pekerman in 2004-6 and Alfio Basile in 2007, Riquelme played some of the most aesthetically pleasing football of the decade. If nothing else, he deserves a place for being at the hub of the move that set up that wonderful Cambiasso goal against Serbia in the last World Cup.

The other attacking midfielder is Brazil's Kaka (70 caps, 23 goals).

The statistics of Ronaldinho (87 caps, 31 goals) may look better, but Kaka has managed to make himself central to the side in a way that Ronaldinho was not quite able to do - though, of course, he may well be given another chance in South Africa.

Brazil's attacking play is now constructed around Kaka, with his pace, power, directness and technical excellence that makes the game look easy.

Many contemporary stars are finding it difficult to reproduce their club form at international level. Kaka is an exception. Venezuela's Juan Arango (87 caps, 17 goals) deserves an honourable mention.

STRIKERS

In contention for a place in the front two were Argentina's Hernan Crespo (64 caps, 35 goals), Joaquin Botero, (48 caps, 20 goals) of Bolivia, Paraguay's Roque Santa Cruz (66 caps, 20 goals) and Uruguay's Diego Forlan (60 caps, 22 goals).

But instead I went for Ecuador's Agustin Delgado (71 caps, 31 goals), who has the edge on Crespo because as well as shining in qualification, 'el Tin' did not disappoint in the World Cup finals.

Despite his gangling frame, Delgado was adept on the ground as well as dangerous in the air, and was a master at grabbing a goal from nowhere. The difficulty in replacing him was the main reason Ecuador failed to make it to South Africa.

And alongside, him, an obvious choice - Brazil's Ronaldo (94 caps, 62 goals).

If anything, his contribution to the 2002 World Cup win has been under-rated. Brazil were truly awful in qualification.

He came back from a knee injury which many, myself included , feared might end his career, accepted the responsibility and carried the team up to another level.

One of the all time great finishers, his talent is so outrageous that despite being out of shape he did better in the 2006 World Cup than the other members of Brazil's 'magic quartet.'

I also well recall his display against Argentina in World Cup qualification in June 2004.
He was aware that this was likely to be the biggest game he would ever play for his country on home soil, and it brought the best out of him.

He was like a creature from another planet in one of the finest individual performances I have ever seen.

With him leading the line, my South American select are ready to take on the best that Europe can throw at them!

I've gone on even longer than usual this week, and eaten into room for the questions. But normal service will be resumed next week - questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for the next column.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I wish, other than the Brazilians and Argentines, that I could see what was so good about the others that made it into the first team, youtube won't be the same but it's all I have to go on! Though I do remember Hurtado from my Football Manager days, great cheap buy!

  • Comment number 2.

    I would have Zanetti playing in midfield in a world 11 for this decade, never mind a South American one. I think he was a great midfield player in his prime.

  • Comment number 3.

    Tim,a contender for the team of the Decade,has to be an ex Gooner work horse has to Gilberto Silva.2002 WC medalist 2004 Premiership 2009 Confederation and 2007 Copa Americana.

    Some awful news on Boxing Day was the accident involving Diego Buonanotte the River Plate starlet,car crash killed 3 of his close friends.Star of the Argentina Olympic team 2008,he has broken collar bone and internal injuries.Have you any more up to date info?

  • Comment number 4.

    I guess it is down to opinion.
    I am very suprised that Delgado has been included, although I accept that you are basing it on International form. I cant help felling his inclusion has been to try and balance out the dominance of Brazil/Argentina.
    I would have found space for Batigol (Gabriel Batistuta). I know he only played for two years of the "noughties" but any chance to include such a player should be snapped up.
    I also thought Blanco of Mexico would have been in with a shout, along with team mate Marquez.
    Space is limited, but I think you have been blinded by the bright lights of Brazil/Argentina.

  • Comment number 5.

    So glad Tim plumped for Juan Roman Riquelme. I'll never understand why he was left out of the WC2002 squad and had he made it i think Argentina would have progressed past the group stage.

    Here's hoping him and Maradona see sense and he makes it to South Africa. Let's face it, Argentina didn't exactly shine after he confirmed his retirement from the team. As much as i like Messi i feel they need Riquelme next year to do anything special.

  • Comment number 6.

    Tim, I respect your team. But im surprised you have not included any Colombian players? I know that their players from the nineties side were better than their noughties side. But come on, there is not even the inclusion of one! Happy holidays.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Tim

    What about Carlos Gamarra? I know he was getting on a bit in the 00s but he still played some great football, better i would say than Caceres. Correct me if i'm wrong, but i think he managed to play the 1998 and 2002 WC group games without committing a single foul. He wasn't at his best in 2006.... that own goal against England... I think he was also selected in the 1998 WC dream team. He also played the Olympics in 2000 i think....

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi tim, great blog as usual

    The team seems fairly narrow, with Riqulme drawn to the centre to dictate play and kaka unlikely to stick it out on the wing.

    Is this a norm for South American teams, i.e to rely less on width?

  • Comment number 9.

    Veron surely?

    heres the ronaldo v argentina game tim mentions

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-JPVA9_KI8

  • Comment number 10.

    I have to say I'm impressed by the inclusion of Mendez. His club form for PSV in his time in the Netherlands was never that great. No one was sad when he left either.

  • Comment number 11.

    Mexico is NOT SOUTH AMERICA!

    Gamarra of Paraguay -a great player, but at his best in the 90s (born feb 71 if memory serves me right)

    No Colombians? Mentiones for Yepes and Cordoba - i would have liked to include the former, a player who really deserved a World Cup. But Colombiafell short for the entire decade - with the excpetion of the 2001 Copa America, on home ground with lots of weakened sides about.

    People seem to be surprised by the Ecuadorians, but i think their cast iron choices. Remember the criteria I chose was not club football - as recently as 20 years ago Ecuador were merely making up the numbers in south america - this generation got them through to the last 16 in 2006 - it's an extraordinary rise - i think it might be difficult for them to replace some of these players.

    Rather than no Colombians, more controversial perhaps is no Paraguayans - they've qualified for all the World Cup this decade. Two reasons for this - their srrength is collective, their capacity to pull together. And also some of their top players - Gamarra, Ayala, Chilavert, Arce, were at their best in the 90s. Though they didn't get into the 11, i mentioned Caceres, Paredes and Santa Cruz as contenders.

  • Comment number 12.

    Ronaldo always had a place in history being the top scorer he is. His ability to score in so many different ways and spots put him amongst the best there can be, our own Rooney has similar qualities but in vision, which is deadly, and passing. Rooney and Ronaldo's scoring, not Cristiano, are lethal and are certainly compared as being top and and hard to defend against.

    I really admire Brazillian culture and their football loving way of life...it suits me to a cuppa tee!

  • Comment number 13.

    For what it's worth heres my team:



    DIDA


    CAFU CORDOBA AYALA ROBERTO CARLOS


    GILBERTO SILVA


    MESSI RIQUELME VERON KAKA



    RONALDO



    SUBS: JULIO CESAR, j.ZANETTI, LUCIO, MASCHERANO, RONALDINHO, FORLAN, CRESPO.

  • Comment number 14.

    4 - i know that consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative, but i think your position is glaringly incoherent.

    You accuse me of being blinded by brazil and argentina - after having a go at the omission of batistuta - great player, but only played until mid 2002, and flopped at that year's World Cup. Team of the 90s - no problem. But this one - no chance.

  • Comment number 15.

    A truly awesome article. I am bumbling my way through a preview write-up for all of this years world cup entries for my own enjoyment and this lump of nostalgia has inspired me to complete it.

    I wondered if you envisioned your team playing a kind of 4-2-2-2 or more of a 4-3-3. The 4-2-2-2 has always baffled me and I didn't consider Riquelme, as sublime as he is, to be someone willing to cover the ground as one of two attacking midfielders.

    I will be looking forward to your opinions on Argentina's prospects in terms of formations and playing staff as the World Cup draws near. I am rooting for third but am struggling to look past Maradona's shortcomings, not least of which is alienating Juan Roman.

  • Comment number 16.

    Oh, I would have picked Zanetti. :P

  • Comment number 17.

    15 - i saw the shape of the side as a diamond midfield, mascherano at the bottom, riquelme up top and Mendez and Kaka free to swap sides, with Mendez dropping more to provide balance.

    But to be honest the shape of the thing was very much a secondary consideration - the idea was to pay tribute to players who have had an exceptional decade with their national teams.

  • Comment number 18.

    What about Nolberto Solano and Claudio Pizarro?

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi Tim, love your blogs... they are assuming cult status these days.
    But Tim... you have failed to say whether you think your team would have beaten the European one ? I think the defence of Europe would probably be too tight...

    The team is great... but I also agree with 2. and Zanetti should be in the team. I remember watching him years and years ago and thought... crikey, he's almost as good as our Ryan. (The legend that is Giggs)... interestingly, they are both still playing to a high standard as well even though they are in their 60s now.

    And no Cambiasso... I know midfield was difficult but Kaka AND Riquelme... surely you would only need Juan Roman rather than both of them, with both I think it is a little unbalanced and as Delgado and Ronaldo aren't, shall we say, exactly the hardest workers poor Javier in midfield probably wouldn't be able to cope ! Esteban alongside him would maybe be slightly better, no ?

  • Comment number 20.

    18 - oh sergio, please! look at what has happened to peru! none of their players deserve to get into 4 teams!
    perhaps team of the 90s - solano, palacios and reynoso might have been contenders, but this decade is one to forget.

  • Comment number 21.

    Tim,

    Great post. I'm a big fan of these lists and have been drawing my noughties favourites for the past few weeks. Despite not entirely agreeing with your criteria (usually doesn't get the best out of players), I truly respect your decisions. Kaka has delivered for Brazil more often than Ronaldinho, the calls for Zanetti in midfield are nonsense and the Equatorians have been outstsading (although I wouldn't have Tin Delgado anywhere near my squad). However, since you have given special mention to a few, you have omitted others. For instance, Nobby Solano has been a tireless worker for an awful Peru. And mainly Rivaldo, the forgotten man, most under-rated player of the 90s and 00s altogether! Even though his international form faded after WC02, he was the only lucid brain during qualifiers and absolutely majestic at the WC. Worthy of a mention.

    To finish my post, here's my team of the noughties, based on overall contribution:
    R. Ceni; Cafu, Lucio, Ayala, R. Carlos; Mascherano, Kaká, Riquelme; Messi, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo

    alternative team to include other south-americans!
    Bravo; Zanetti, Hurtado, Cordoba, Sorin; Gilberto Silva, Mendez, Solano, Veron; Carlitos Tevez, Forlan

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree he's not in the same class as other players mentioned here, but according to rsssf.com he scored 11 goals between 2000 and 2004, against teams like Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Paraguay (he scored 3 times against us). I think it's quite remarkable considering he was playing for Peru.

  • Comment number 23.

    That video included by greavesy1984 of Ronaldo is sick...

  • Comment number 24.

    Firstly, that was a great blog. It's great to hear about some of the under-rated heroes of the game and get an insight into football outside of Europe.

    Couple of quick questions about Ronaldo. I've heard he's playing for Corinthians and every now and again I see he's on the score sheet for them and seems to be playing ok. Can you tell me though, is there any chance of him being included for South Africa or am I just being romantic? Also is he back in shape again like when he joined AC Milan or is still over-weight.

  • Comment number 25.

    Further to Danny's comment on the chance of Ronaldo being selected for Brazil next summer. What chance has Riquelme got of making it into Argentina's squad with Maradona in charge?

  • Comment number 26.

    @ joao danado

    I don't think Rogerio Ceni played enough international games to be considered for this article. He was mostly second or third choice keeper for brazil. I do agree that he was a quality keeper though.

    Tim, who do you think are the players to watch over the next 5 years?

  • Comment number 27.

    Tim..... Find it hard to believe that you haven't found room for Seba Veron in your team.

  • Comment number 28.

    Nice blog Tim, while you've done a good job drawing up a good team I wonder who the manager of the decade was? Bielsa with Argentina and now Chile or Scolari with Brazil in 2002 or Dunga presently in with a shout.
    I'd also like to know what happened to a certain Hector Cuper of Valencia and Inter. Do have a great 2010.

  • Comment number 29.

    27 - it's a team of the decade, and some of veron's best stuff for argentina was late 90s.

    this decade - excellent in qualification 2000/1, flopped in the world cup , mini recalls in 2003, 2007 and this year under maradona - not enough in the noughties to get in

  • Comment number 30.

    Agree with Dan Moore. I wish Maradonna has the sense to pick Requilme in the first team. He is invaluable and infinately better than Veron!

    He makes the game easier for his team mates by giving them simple options and his range of passing.

  • Comment number 31.

    Tim, how do you rate Justo Villar compared to the other keepers you have mentioned? I heard recently he was voted in the top 10 keepers in the world. Not sure if that is true or not.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ 26 - Sergio Lahaye

    I understand your point, and Tim's. But, if you note my post, I've chosen a team based on overall contribution, which includes team form where I feel 90% of players express their best football.
    Tim is right when he says Dida has been solid throughout his Brazil career. However, Brazilian keepers have been fantastic this decade, I think Marcos, Dida and Ceni were par to any European keeper.
    Ceni has played well, won all possible titles plus scored some 70 goals, so that's why I chose him. He's scored 20 goals one season and he's a goalkeeper! 20 goals! I don't think people in England realise that.

  • Comment number 33.

    @ #25 + #30

    Maradona was often quoted as saying the team should have Riquelme as one if its star attractions before he was a manager. After becoming manager he made it clear that Riquelme was part of his plans as well. The story developed when Riquelme was left out of a friendly squad and consequently felt Maradona didn't value him properly. I guess the bad blood between them developed.

    As far as re-selection goes, Riquelme is quoted as saying he will never play under Maradona as they cannot work together. He has a highly sensitive personality to begin with and throwing him in the ring with Maradona was never going to be a recipe for success. Maradona seems to also value loyalty fiercly and I don't think his pride would allow him to pick Riquelme again either, especially as he seemed content to just move on.

  • Comment number 34.

    31 - i like villar, but for my mind he's too short to be genuinely world class.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 32 I agree with you there. I was never really a fan because i didn't want him to score more goals than Chilavert, but once he had achieved that feat, i became a fan again. He was one of the biggest characters in brazilian football. I'm not sure why he never made the move to Europe. Maybe that's why people in England don't know much about him, but maybe liverpool fans remember him!

  • Comment number 36.

    @34 fair point. most of our keepers seem to be dodgy in the air, even if they are tall, like bobadilla.

    Does anyone know why s. american keepers always try to punch the ball clear instead of catching it, as is the norm in England?

  • Comment number 37.

    Excellent article and this team would beat the European team that Phil Minshull picked, mainly because it has much better balance with Mascherano protecting the back four.

    As to the selections, I think Julio Cesar has a strong case to pip Dida. Can't argue with any of the defenders although Gamarra is unlucky that his prime straddled two decades. In midfield, the team possibly lacks a bit of width, so I might have found a place for Messi, even if he hasn't always shown his Barcelona form for his country. And up front, I would have gone with Santa Cruz instead of Delgado. Both are good in the air and would complement Ronaldo well but Santa Cruz's technical ability is superior and this is a team that would rely on a short passing game.

  • Comment number 38.

    Tim,

    I would have Ronaldinho in place of Edison Mendes, I don't think you need more than one defensive minded midfielder in the side especially when you have Kaka who is strong on the ball, powerful and a very good tackler.

    The only other change is Crespo other than 'El Tin'. In short, Crespo was crispy (pardon the pun). A fantastic and neat finisher who made scoring goals look so effortless and this probably makes him very underrated but his stats are incredible as are his touch and placing of the ball.

    By the way, not even Pele, Maradona or Messi can dribble like Ronaldinho. I still don't think he is from this world, hardly human that guy! Shame indiscipline took over.

    What do you think?

  • Comment number 39.

    Nice to see De La Cruz get a mention, he was (and still is) the record signing for my club - Hibernian, and on his day showed quality rarely seen outside the Old Firm in Scottish football. His frequent trips back and forth across the Atlantic when helping Ecuador's World Cup qualification campaign hindered his integration to the SPL but the fact he moved for double the money to Aston Villa after one season showed the impact he made.

  • Comment number 40.

    DIDA


    CAFU LUCIO HURTADO R. CARLOS


    MASCHERANO


    KAKA RIQUELME RONALDINHO



    CRESPO RONALDO

  • Comment number 41.

    A good read not much to disagree with Tim!

    Would have picked Crespo ahead of TinTin. His goalscoring record through the decade superb only let down by not winning anything.

    Cant really argue with the rest much as i dont rate Dida!

  • Comment number 42.

    Tim, i think rivaldo did a very good world cup in 2002

  • Comment number 43.

    Mascherano? He doesn't seem to have done much that I can see. He just about got West Ham relegated and is a fixture in the poorest Liverpool team I can remember. Cambiasso (Argetina and Inter) would get my vote every time.

    And you cannot leave out Javier Zanetti from any team of the decade - probably at right midfield, although he's so talented and professional he can play in eith fullback position too.

  • Comment number 44.

    @3 it looks like they are thinking of charging him with manslaughter, if he was under the influence or speeding.

  • Comment number 45.

    redonionbag (comment 4) - how can you accuse Tim of being 'blinded by the bright lights of Brazil and Argentina'?!

    Given the performances the top two at the Copas and WCs of this decade its a remarkable selection that includes less than 11 from Brazil and Argentina! Especially Zanetti and one of a plethora of fine Brazilian strikers who burned brightly but perhaps too briefly during the decade (Elber, Adriano, Luis Fabiano, Diego, even Robinho). I saw Agustin Delgado play once, and maybe it was just a bad day, but he was simply not in the same league as, say, Luis Fabiano.

    So I would certainly not say this team is overly Brazilian or Argentinian focused, arguably its not enough!

  • Comment number 46.

    Ronaldinho over Kaka any day of the week! After Ronaldo being so influential on Brazil's World Cup win in 2002, Ronaldinho was one of the best in that tournament. What he did against England was brilliant. Not just the 'fluke' free kick, but caused Ashley Cole a nightmare all afternoon. He also got in to the All Star Fifa team in that tournament. Kaka hardly made an appearance of the bench! What has Kaka done for Brazil yet? He's the central figure now because he plays down the middle where he gets a bit more involved. Ronaldinho is a player who drifts out in the wing, coming in from the left side. I think its mad not having Ronaldinho, the player who was recently named player of the decade!!

  • Comment number 47.

    I'm a Messi nut & a GOONER to boost,

  • Comment number 48.

    Fat chance of Riquelme ever playing for the NT again, a damn shame too. Looking back on his resignation, it's as if he already knew up front all the drama and bs Diego was going to bring to the Albiceleste. And decided he didn't want any part of it.

    Sigh...

  • Comment number 49.

    Having read both of these features with interest, it strikes me that there were about two hundred comments on the European one suggesting South American players. In the interests of balance, here's my South American X1:

    GK: Andrew Strauss (England). A controversial one, since as well as not being South American, he plays a different sport, but the press love to describe him as 'a safe pair of hands'.

    Full Backs: Napoleon (France (c)). A born leader, which in my book makes up for him being dead; Scott Hiley (England). Exeter City legend. Nutmegged Cristiano Ronaldo, which is compulsory youtube viewing.

    Centre Backs: Nick Griffin (England). Well, this is all about healthy debate, and he created that when he was on Question Time; Peter Griffin (Family Guy). Ok, so he has nothing to do with this, and he's not even real, but he's in anyway.

    Midfield: Socrates (Greece). Has the same name as a South American; Plato (Greece). The two of these had an uncanny understanding; Penelope Cruz (Spain). Looks quite hot in most of her films; Till Lindemann (Germany). The Rammstein frontman would put some fear into more technically gifted opponents.

    Strikers: Pope Benedict (Italy). Used to dealing with rough treatment, which international defenders are notorious for dishing out; Mata Hari (Holland). Femme Fatale spy, whose guile would complement the Pope's strength and aerial power.



  • Comment number 50.

    Oops. Pope Benedict is not Italian, is he? Well, nobody in their right mind is going to read that far anyway.

  • Comment number 51.

    49 - nick griffin has to play in europe's side on the extreme right wing.

  • Comment number 52.

    Martin Palermo!! If he's good enough for Thierry Henry, he's good enough for me.. then again, Henry's dream strike force would be Palermo and Kevin Davies of Bolton.

  • Comment number 53.

    Good point Tim, and also frees up a space in my team. On reflection, I'm going to go for the Sabre Tooth Tiger from the Flintstones credits. He is (wait for it...) almost impossible to leave out.

    On a more serious note, the European team had a manager, while this one doesn't. Any suggestions on this?

  • Comment number 54.

    Thank you Tim for at least giving an honorable mention to Juan Pablo Sorin. he was a great leader for Argentina and brough at lot to the team. its ashamed that injuries robbed him of the last few years of his career. lots of people are up in arms for Riquelme to come back and as a Boca Supporter i can not express my love for the man who brought me so much joy over the years, BUT i think he has gotten a little full of himself since the Germany '06 i dont think he works on his fitness and now that he is getting older it is showing with all his injury problems. he still has the skill, there is no doubt about that, but his fitness and his attitude may actually make a poor Argentina squad worse.
    i'd love to hear your thoughts on his preparation. thanks

  • Comment number 55.

    Tim what about Alvaro Recoba? Quite often the best player for his national side in my opinion.

  • Comment number 56.

    Tim,

    How about Romario or Rivaldo or even Adriano?
    And you missed one of the best goalkeepers in all South American football history: Jose Chilavert.

  • Comment number 57.

    chilavert was past his best by 2000, ditto Romario. Rivaldo had a good 2002 World Cup and that's it - was not good in qualification 00/01 and faded soon afterwards - not enough.
    Adriano - hasn't done enough yet.

    Recoba - never realised his massive potential.

  • Comment number 58.

    What abou ex S African coach Joel Santana,just for enterainment value,my ff sent me a youtube of him it was really quite funny!!

    What about the Arsenal favouites,Edu and Sylviano in the squad? Or subs bench at least!!

  • Comment number 59.

    i thought you would consider the chileans gary medel and arturo vidal

  • Comment number 60.

    perhaps when we're looking back in ten years time medel, vidal, alexis sanchez, mati fernandez and co will be in consideration for a place in the team of the next decade. Not this one.

    They've only witten the first chapter of their international careers - or better, the preface.

  • Comment number 61.

    My club of the decade is Boca Juniors!

  • Comment number 62.

    Tim,

    Glad you mentioned Carlos Humberto Paredes, one of the most under rated players of the past decade. He was always excellent for Paraguay and even though he did not do much at club level (in Europe), for many years he was one of the best midfielders in the world. It´s a shame he moved out too early from Porto and spent 4 years in Reggina, just too small of a club for him.

  • Comment number 63.

    Whilst I do agree with your midfield in general personally I would have chosen Pablo Aimar over Riquelme. Granted his career with the national side has been hardly glittering I feel his attitude and the fact that he can do everything Riquelme can coupled with his better work-rate would make him a better choice. Any chance of you reconsidering Tim?

  • Comment number 64.

    62 - agree entirely. don't know what happened at porto and always thought it was a waste him playing at reggina.

    It's unfortunate he didn't go to england - he was at his best as an agrressive, box to box player and i think he would have fitted in well there - and maybe the same is true of his successor in the paraguay team, cristian riveros.

  • Comment number 65.

    63 - no chance whatsoever!

  • Comment number 66.

    Speaking of Chilean players Tim. What do you think of Udinese's Mauricio Isla or even Reggina's Carlos Carmona?
    I reckon they're both underrated players, what with the hype about the likes of Vidal, Fernandez,and Alexis Sanchez, etc. these two have slipped into the national team and I reckon they're the real future of the team (not trying at all to discredit the others.
    I reckon they both have all the aspects to be great players. Things look good.
    Trust me, in 10 years time you'll be looking at a team of the decade stacked full of Chilean players!
    But as for this one, Humberto Suazo maybe? :P

  • Comment number 67.

    Was just thinking about Recoba and that massively unfilled potential he had and so came up with this team of massively disappointing South Americans from the noughties;

    Fabian Carini

    Gabriel Heinze
    Fabricio Coloccini
    Roque Junior
    Gonzalo Sorondo

    Emerson
    Pablo Aimar
    Denilson
    Jaime Moreno


    Adriano
    Saviola

  • Comment number 68.

    67- I'd put in Jose Kleberson in that team. From Scolari's driving force behind the world cup to the biggest waste of space ever to occupy a Manchester United shirt.

  • Comment number 69.

    67- you could put oscar cardozo in as well, if we're going purely on international form.

  • Comment number 70.

    How come whilst you reply to some, I don't seem to ever get any replies from you Tim?

  • Comment number 71.

    Hi Phil, ive got a name for you, and i want to know what you think about him..

    Edinson Cavani, Uraguayan Striker currently at palermo in Serie A

    Have you seen much of him, and whats your opinion on his future in the game?

  • Comment number 72.

    70 - sorry, shouldn't really reply as much as i do - got a stack of work to get through, and end up coming back to the blog as an excuse for not doing it.

    I love Ronaldinho - absurd talent. But when have he and Kaka ever worked well together? And Mendez is one of those players who are maybe not so famous in Europe, bt have kept on coming up big for their countries - he has a habit of scoring goals that are both spectacular and important.

  • Comment number 73.

    Tim, it reads a bit like you and Phil were instructed, rather than asked, to perform a 'fantasy-football team-of-the-decade' exercise!
    But it's still good, authoritative reading, because you take care to define the limits of your knowledge.
    ...and I know far less, so I hope to keep reading your blogs in the next decade. Happy new year.

  • Comment number 74.

    71 - picked Cavani out in World Soccer magazine as one to watch from the South American Under-20 Championships at the start of 2007.

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    Great picks on the team of the decade Tim but I would like to ask you about a player who is putting up the numbers currently and that is the Chilean striker Humberto Suazo. He just won the Apertura tournament in Mexico with his club side Monterrey. He had an inspired performance in the two-legged final scoring 3 goals and assisting 2 others where Monterrey ended up winning 6-4. So, my question is how do you rate him? Also, now that he is looking for a move to Europe where can you see him fitting in (league or team)? Tried to call in to the Phone-In last weekend but I couldn't get through so I hope you can answer my questions here, Thanks.

  • Comment number 77.

    My teamsssssss

    Dida - J.Cesar
    Cafu - Zanetti
    Lucio - Samuel
    Ayala - Cordoba
    R.Carlos - Sorin
    Emerson - Cambiasso
    Riquelme - Veron
    Kaka - Recoba
    Messi - Robinho
    Rivaldo - Ronaldinho
    Ronaldo - Crespo

  • Comment number 78.

    I know statistically he isnt the greatest, but just a personal favourite of mine, Pablo Aimar in the midfield please.

  • Comment number 79.

    Tim,

    I note that only three of your selected players are still playing to their highest level (Kaka, Lucio, Mascherano). This isn't a significant as such but it does make me wonder, do you feel that South American (International) teams are stonger than they were in 2000, weaker or about the same?

    The exodus of club players at a young age has increased significantly since then, and the reluctance of major teams to release their players for friendlies has definately gone up. Also more players seem to be opting for Int careers with their adopted homes in Europe (Deco, Senna etc.) but I confess I don't know if this is something that has become more common in the 21st century.

    I believe you've stated on multiple occassions that you think these major changes in attitudes and practises by European clubs have affected the S.Am domestic game negatively, but do you feel the competitiveness of South American national teams overall has been affected?

    P.S Happy New Year

  • Comment number 80.

    great shout with hurtado tim a cracking centre back

    78.

    tim id love to see a post in detail about aimar and saviola , when they played well against everton in the uefa i saw message boards full of comment saying how they were must signings for the premiership...

    for me they are overated on there name alone and both failed in spain after bright starts, not to say there bad players but there is a reason they have ended up at benfica.

  • Comment number 81.

    #78 - I agree with you.

    My South American team of the decade

    Dida
    Cafu
    Lucio
    Ayala
    R. Carlos
    Gilberto Silva
    Pablo Aimar
    Kaka
    Messi
    Ronaldinho
    Ronaldo

    Subs - Zanneti, Veron, Cambiasso, Adriano, Crespo, Forlan

  • Comment number 82.

    Good call GunnerFan 243, see Phil's European team had over 500 posts,Messi appeared in many European team selections.

    Sad new about River Plate star Buananotte,badly hurt in Boxing Day car crash that killed 3 close friends.Sunderland and Ath Madrid target,serious lung injury,broken collar bone and humerous. Out of action for 6/7 months according to medical sources,no WC2010 for him.Any more up to date info anyone.

  • Comment number 83.

    As an ecuadorian it's still surprising to see such recognition for our team and it is well deserved. Not only did we managed to qualify for the first time in 02 but also managed to impress in 06 and if it wasn't for a.cole deflecting tenorio's shot against the crossbar and bad goalkeeping for beckham's free kick we could have caused a major upset against england. Whereas Paraguay who consistently qualify for the world cup and excel in south america, they always manage to underperform at the world cup. Given the group they are in next year this may change

    It seems to me that most people don't realize that for such a small country what these players did was simply astonishing.

  • Comment number 84.

    Hi Tim, as usual, great blog, also a big fan of your work on the phone-in.

    Great list, tough to put together given a number of great players who went across two decades, or who didn't perform internationally.

    Two players mentioned were, at their prime, head, shoulders and body above mere mortals in the game of football, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (maybe one day Messi will make the list).

    I was wondering, any signs of a new 'Ronaldo' or new Ronaldinho coming through? I know Pato is highly rated, but on Ronaldo's level he isn't. Are there players with their potential out there, or have we just been blessed with two of the greatest talents in football, both now on the decline? If so, is it just me or more should be made of these magical players (and the criminally underrated Rivaldo)?

  • Comment number 85.

    Tim,
    Glad you make the positive point about Ronaldo in 2006 in comparison to Ronaldinho. It seems to me that Ronaldo got dogs abuse in that World Cup which, in the UK at least, deflected attention away from the rest of the magic quartet. I remember the France game in particular where Zidane ran the show... Ronaldo clearly tried to make things happen, despite being out of shape, whilst the rest of the Brazilians allowed the game to drift by. It struck me that Zidane and Ronaldo had the character to be 'The Man' in big games whilst the sublimely gifted Ronaldinho and Henry (despite scoring) weren't quite at that level mentally.

  • Comment number 86.

    79 - no, i don't think it's that significant that only 3 of the team are still playing at the top level - the need to span 10 years means that inevitably others will have passed their best. If we were naming this team in a year's time I'm sure there would be plenty of new candidates after strong performances in south africa.

    I don't think that the standard of international football in south america is in decline, despite the points you raise about globalisation. The saviour has been the one big group system of world cupqualification, brought in in 1996. It's given the sides the structure that european national teams take for granted - regular competitive games - it's played a huge part in the extraordinary rise of ecuador and venezuela and a raising in the level of competition.

  • Comment number 87.

    85 - this mental strength and conviction on the big occasion are a huge part of the phenomenon which is ronaldo.

    The beauty of him coming back in 2002 was that brazil got two top class players - him and rivaldo. With ronaldo missing in qualification, rivaldo was all over the place. An incredibly gifted player, but a very starnge one - hugey uncomfortable with the pressure of being the star man - even retired from international football for a few minutes cos the crowd were having a go at him. In his long internatnal career, rivaldo only managed to click with one striker - ronaldo. I remember games where rivaldo was the playmaker and romario the striker, and they didn't exchange a single pass.

    I don't know how he did it, but ronaldo managed to get rivaldo on board - part of it, perhaps, was that ronaldo was only too pleased to accept the responsibility for leading the attack, and rivaldo benefited from having the strain taken off him.

  • Comment number 88.

    Tim,

    Many thanks for your response, I may have expressed myself poorly, I was actually saying I didn't think that was in any way a significant stat that only 3 were still top class.

    The 3 players thing was just the stat that prompted me to ask the question rather than in any way implying I thought there had been a decline. 3 current top players seems a relatively balanced reflection of a decade when picking an 11.

  • Comment number 89.

    :D

  • Comment number 90.

    @san 24

    Not sure i agree with your comment about paraguay underperforming at world cups. In 1998 we qualified from the group stages and lost to the eventual winners, France, with what i believe is the only golden goal in world cup history. In 2002 we again qualified only to lose to the finalists, Germany, in the next round, 1-0. I do agree that we underperformed in the 2006 world cup, playing with very dodgy tactics against England and going down to an own goal. As you say, hopefully we will do better this time round, with a more offensive team.

    Come on Albirroja!

  • Comment number 91.

    by offensive i mean attacking....

  • Comment number 92.

    GK: Taffarel

    DEF: Cafu
    Lucio
    Ayala
    R Carlos

    MID: J Zanetti
    Kaka
    Riquelme
    Ronaldinho

    AMF: Messi

    ATT: Ronaldo (9)


    SUBS:
    Dida
    Hurtado
    Arce
    Veron
    Crespo

  • Comment number 93.

    92 - no place for taffarel in a noughties team - strictly 90s!

  • Comment number 94.

    taffarel played in 2001-2003 for Parma in Seria A :)

  • Comment number 95.

    but he didnt play for the national side after 98 if i'm not mistaken

  • Comment number 96.

    4-2-3-1
    Dida

    Cafu
    Lucio
    Ayala
    Sorin

    Masch
    Gilberto Silva

    Ron
    Kaka
    Messi

    Ronaldo

  • Comment number 97.

    Tim's blogs always makes me wish I watched more South American football.

    Must say my 11 would have to be almost entirely, if not entirely, Brazilian or Argentinian,

    Dida (J Cesar is a far better keeper, probably the best in the world, but not played enough yet)

    Cafu (who else?)
    Lucio
    Ayala
    Roberto Carlos
    Macherano
    Gilberto Silva (I, like Tim, don't like him much as a player, but he really does and always has done the job for Brazil)
    Riquelme
    Kaka
    Diego Forlan (ok, not seen too much of his international form, but he gets in for just being so prolific and because I had to get another nationality in the team)
    Ronaldo. Easily the best player in the world since Maradona

    Desperately wanted Ronaldinho and Rivaldo in there, but under Tims criteria they really woulnt make it, same with Messi. Also Luis Fabiano is a goal freak...

  • Comment number 98.

    Oh and this team would simply walk all over the European team

  • Comment number 99.

    Spot on.

    Tim aside from picking the best players, is reflecting how did these players AND their teams perform.

    Some may be asking for some Colombians, but the likes of Yepes, Ivan Cordoba and Oscar Cordoba, failed to deliver and continue with that momentum of the 90's generation, despite of winning the Copa America 2001 and the Confederations Cup participation. Giovanni Hernandez could have been a hell of a player with Colombia, same goes with Grisales and Angel, but they simple fell flat.

    On the other hand, Ecuador in this decade managed to qualify to two WC in a row, over Colombia, Chile and Uruguay with arguments, I mean, with good football and good players that ended up being Ecuador's golden generation.

    Paraguay may have done the same and they may be pretty constant with good players, but that's it. They just got the job done, but the team and the individualities didn't shine as we expected from South America's third football potency.

  • Comment number 100.

    Very nice article, Tim.

    Phil Munshell named Marcello Lippi as the coach of his European XI; I was wondering who you'd have coaching your lot?

    Also, I know this steps slightly outside the parameters, but which of your honorable mentions would make a substitutes' bench of, say, seven? And for that matter, do Ronaldinho or Messi count as honorable mentions?

 

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