So we know that nine of the 10 World Cups to be held in Europe have been won by a European side, and although there are plenty of contenders for this year’s crown, can one of the lesser nations really make a run for the title? Okay, so the likes of Germany, France and Spain may be the people you would expect to challenge, but we decided to take a look at what sort of team we could make if we only took the best of the rest from Europe.
First of all, the rules. For the purposes of this dream team, it is the eight sides we have labelled as the smaller European nations. These are the Russia, Iceland, Switzerland, Poland, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark and Serbia. The players must be selected in the 23 man squad the nations have taken to this year’s World Cup and they have been picked on both reputation and their performance in the World Cup so far.
For the purposes of our team, we have selected a 4-2-3-1 formation due to the embarrassment of riches available in midfield.
Club: Leicester City
Okay, so after keeping out Messi and co in the opening round, Iceland’s Hannes Thor Halldorsson can count himself unlucky not to be wearing our number 1 jersey in this fantasy team. Instead, we have opted for Schmeichel as the Dane has a commanding presence in the box and has little weakness in his overall game. He is the clear number one at club level and is playing at one of the best league’s in the world. It’s not as if he has done anything wrong in the World Cup either, as the two games played so far have only seen him beaten from the penalty spot.
Player: Aleksandar Kolarov
As captain of his nation, Kolarov had plenty of responsibility on his shoulders heading into Serbia’s opening match against Costa Rica. With the match tied at 0-0 and heading into the latter stages, the Roma man stepped up and put a brilliant free kick into the back of the net to secure the points. Although the full back’s attacking qualities have earned him plenty of praise, his defensive capabilities are not to be underestimated as his understanding of the game often leads to him being in the right place at the right time.
Players: Andreas Granqvist and Manuel Akanji
Clubs: Helsingborgs IF and Borussia Dortmund
Nations: Sweden and Switzerland
As captain of his country, you might expect Andreas Granqvist to show plenty of passion and drive as he leads a nation which is not expected to challenge the bigger sides in the competition. However, his leadership skills did not end there as he was the one to step up and take the responsibility of a penalty to ensure his side earned all three points against South Korea. Against Germany he ensured his back four remained disciplined and although his side were eventually defeated, the centre back’s inspiration almost led Sweden to a historic result.
Manuel Akanji is an up and coming talent at centre back and his performances for Basel already earned him a move to Borussia Dortmund in January. The 22-years-old was excellent in winning possession for his side in Switzerland’s brilliant 1-1 draw with pre-tournament favourites Brazil and he backed that up by proving he can cope with the physical side of the game against Aleksandar Mitrovic in the 2-1 victory over Serbia.
Player: Mario Fernandes
Club: CSKA Moscow
Despite being born and raised in Brazil, and even playing for them in a 4-0 friendly victory over Japan in 2014, Mario Fernandes moved to Russia in 2012 and has gone on to represent his adopted nation. Fernandes has made 151 appearances for CSKA Moscow and clearly feels at home as he has gone on to make a couple of excellent performances as Russia have impressed in the opening fixtures.
Players: Nemanja Matić and Ivan Rakitić
Clubs: Manchester United and Barcelona
Nations: Serbia and Croatia
In the engine room of a team which, as you will see lower down, is full of talent going forward, you need a player with discipline and who can keep things simple. In Nemanja Matić, Serbia have a master of exactly this and at 29-years-old, the Manchester United man has the experience to realise when his side need to keep the ball and when they need to put their foot on the gas.
The fact that Ivan Rakitić plays his club football for Barcelona tells you all you need to know about the caliber of player he is and the 30-years-old is part of a Croatian midfield which is immensely talented. Excellent on the ball, Rakitić is able to dictate play from deep and, as proven by his performances in the World Cup so far, he is not fazed by any opponent put in front of him.
Left Attacking Midfield
Player: Denis Cheryshev
Club: Villarreal CF
Okay, so playing his football regularly in La Liga means that it is not as if Denis Cheryshev was an unknown heading into the World Cup. He was always going to be key to any success found by Russia but with three goals in his first two matches of the World Cup, he is certainly exceeding any expectations anyone had of him.
Centre Attacking Midfield
Player: Luka Modric
Club: Real Madrid
Luka Modric is one of the world’s best players and his performance against Argentina was testament to that fact. The 32-years-old has won many trophies at club level and whilst it is unlikely he will be able to add international honours to his list of accomplishments, his Croatia side could go far into the competition. As well as being able to dictate play, Modric is so technically gifted that he has the capability to score the type of goal he grabbed in that historic match with Argentina.
Right Attacking Midfield
Player: Christian Eriksen
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Although Christian Eriksen typically prefers to play in the middle of the park, we have taken a little creative licence in order to fit the talented Dane into our team. For the last few years Eriksen has been lighting up the Premier League for Spurs and there can surely be no team in the world who would not be interested should his signiture become available.
Player: Robert Lewandowski
Club: Bayern Munich
So at the time of writing, Robert Lewandowski and Poland have not exactly lit up the World Cup. However, a look at the numbers the centre forward has achieved in the last few years will tell you exactly why he is our pick to lead the line in this fantasy side. The 29-years-old has 55 goals in 96 caps for his country and at club level he has an extraordinary record of 106 goals in 126 appearances for Bayern Munich.
So there you have it, our pick of the best 11 the Euro nations qualified for this year’s World Cup who are not expected to win it can muster. Seven of the eight nations in question have got representation, with only Iceland failing to make the cut. We would love to hear from you if you disagree with anything we have said. Simply get in touch on the Twitter details below.
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