Carlos Alberto Torres of the famous Brazil World Cup winning side of 1970 recently compared the great team of 42 years ago to this year’s tournament winning Spain outfit. Both have drawn instant similarities with neither side playing without a recognised number nine. The free flowing fluid football has left many salivating at the mouth with others struggling to combine the two together and form the ultimate team.
GK – Iker Casillas (Spain)
The Real Madrid captain was essential to Spain’s success at Euro 2012. Having now gone 990 minutes without conceding a goal in the knockout stages of tournament football, Iker Casillas once again demonstrated that he is one of the game’s top goalkeepers in the world at the moment. Unsurprisingly, the 31-year-old secured his place in a number of bloggers and pundits place in their respective teams’ of Euro 2012 with his commanding and assuring displays ensuring Spain secured their place in history by winning three international tournaments in a row.
RB – Carlos Alberto (Brazil)
The now 67-year-old captained Brazil to their triumph in 1970 and is widely regarded as one of the best right-backs of all time. His excellent reading of the game, positional sense and ability to break forward was pivotal to the Selecao’s success in Mexico and, in the process, made history, like Spain, becoming only the third ever team to lift the Jules Rimet trophy. Part of the World Team of the 20th Century.
CB – Gerard Pique (Spain)
Gerard Pique, despite his drop in form and injury towards the end of the Barcelona season, was always guaranteed a starting spot this summer. However, his concentration levels have never been his strong point and without regular partner Carles Puyol, many felt he could struggle this summer. Yet, with Casillas behind him and Sergio Ramos his partner, Pique was a standout performer in the heart of the Spain defence.
CB – Sergio Ramos (Spain)
Like Pique, Ramos was tipped to struggle in Poland and Ukraine. Alongside an unfamiliar partner and out of position for the national side, the Real Madrid ace was another that was included in a majority of teams’ of the tournament. With Pique, the defensive partnership grew into Euro 2012 as the competition wore on. Will forever be remembered for his Panenka penalty at the semi-final stage over Portugal.
LB – Jordi Alba (Spain)
Jordi Alba came into the tournament a relative unknown to some. His excellent displays for Valencia last season saw him leap-frog Joan Capdevila in the pecking order under Vicente Del Bosque. The young Spaniard repaid the faith shown in him by the veteran tactician, performing admirably as Spain lifted the trophy. His goal in the final, a well timed one-two with compatriot Xavi, epitomised the left-back’s marauding runs. Recently secured a move to Barcelona, of whom he spent seven years with in the youth team.
CM – Xavi (Spain)
The midfield lynchpin for club and country, Xavi’s creative capabilities are second to none when the playmaking dynamo is in the mood. Was at the hub of Spain’s attacks throughout the competition, his vision, technical brilliance and passing accuracy was central to their success in Poland and Ukraine. Came close to picking up Player of the Tournament, an accolade won by his compatriot, and was exceptional once again throughout Euro 2012.
His goal in the final, a well timed one-two with compatriot Xavi, epitomised the left-back’s marauding runs.
CM – Clodoaldo (Brazil)
Alongside Xavi, holding midfielder Clodoaldo from the 1970 Brazil squad will shore things up in the middle of the park, allowing the Spaniard to break forward. Despite his position on the pitch, Clodoaldo was an astute dribbler of the ball, as witnessed by all during the final in Mexico where he dribbled past four Italian players in his own half in the build-up to Alberto’s goal. The former Santos star also scored the equaliser in the semi-final win over Uruguay in their path to glory.
RW – Jairzinho (Brazil)
‘The Hurricane’, as Jairzinho was affectionately known as, is the first striker in the front four. The Brazilian become only the third player in history to score in every game of a World Cup, the others being Alcides Ghiggia and Just Fontaine. Could play either out wide or spearheading the attack, it was unsurprising to have seen him net 35 times during his national career, having replaced footballing idol Garrincha. Was named the 27th greatest player of the 20th century by World Soccer Magazine.
CF – Pele (Brazil)
Arguably one of the greatest players to ever grace the game, Pele was always going to be included in any team involving the 1970’s Brazil side. His final tournament of his international career and one that he almost didn’t turn out for after initially refusing an initial call-up to the national team in 1969. Scored the opener in the final against Italy, before assisting Jairzinho and Alberto in the romp over the European giants. Tarcisio Burgnich, who marked Pele in the encounter, after the game is quoted as saying: “I told myself before the game ‘he’s just made of skin and bones just like everyone else’ – but I was wrong.”
CF – Cesc Fabregas (Spain)
Deployed in the unfamiliar ‘false nine’ role in the Spain team that romped to Euro 2012 glory, Cesc Fabregas was pivotal to ensuring Del Bosque’s 4-6-0 formation worked. The former Arsenal captain, who returned to Barcelona last summer, was tasked with dropping deep, much like Pele would, and linking up with the midfield to ensure Spain’s interlinking game plan proved a success. Opened his, and La Roja’s, account of the tournament in the 1-1 draw with Italy.
LW – Andres Iniesta (Spain)
The Euro 2012 Player of the Tournament, edging past Andrea Pirlo in the process, Andres Iniesta makes up the final place in the starting XI. ‘The Solution Man’, as Graham Hunter penned him in his book Barca, he was exactly that throughout the competition, with his slide pass to Fabregas for David Silva’s opener in the final epitomising his input to the national team.
With help from Champions, Blizzard and FourFourTwo writer Sheridan Bird
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