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Picking a Basque Starting XI to Win the World Cup

Michael CernaCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2013

Picking a Basque Starting XI to Win the World Cup

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    Spain are currently the greatest national team in football and will be the favorites to retain their title in 2014.

    Barcelona's wild success of the last half-decade has put Catalunya in the spotlight for producing some of the greatest footballers we've ever seen, and it is those players who lead La Roja's charge.

    However, the Catalan talent in Spain alone might not quite be enough to maintain their current dominance.

    Thankfully, Catalunya is not the only region in Spain consistently churning out potentially world-class talent.

    In terms of depth and the amount of Spanish talent produced, Basque Country is almost unrivaled for their production of footballers.

    This list will look at many of the best Basque players in football to make a team capable of winning the World Cup in Brazil.

     

    Note: To be eligible for this list, players need to have been born in the greater region of the Basque Country that includes Navarre or have second-generation Basque heritage.

Gorka Iraizoz—GK

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    Place of Birth: Pamplona, Navarre

    Current Club: Athletic Bilbao

     

    Athletic Bilbao's well-loved No. 1 has been one of the league's elite keepers for years now.

    Despite having one of the lesser defenses protecting him, Gorka Iraizoz consistently manages to have a top-five save percentage every season while facing more shots than most of his peers.

    Few national teams have a better shot-stopper to keep goals out than the Basques would.

Cesar Azpilicueta—RB

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    Place of Birth: Pamplona, Navarre

    Current Club: Chelsea

     

    Cesar Azpilicueta is one of the primary candidates to take over one of football's most coveted national team spots—right-back for Spain.

    The Pamplonan will face very stiff competition from the likes of Hugo Mallo, Martin Montoya and Dani Carvajal, but playing for a club like Chelsea will help his chances.

Inigo Martinez—CB

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    Place of Birth: Ondarroa, Basque Country

    Current Club: Real Sociedad

     

    His physique remains a problem, but Inigo Martinez's awareness and positioning make him one of the most promising young defenders in Spain.

    Martinez's ability to shut Lionel Messi down for almost an hour was a major reason Barcelona suffered their first loss of the season.

    Who knows, that might end up being a winning audition for the Catalan giants.

Javi Martinez—CB

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    Place of Birth: Estella, Navarre

    Current Club: Bayern Munich

     

    Javi Martinez is not a world-class center-back, but he does have some good experience in the position, even in high-pressure matches.

    In this starting XI, the former Athletic Bilbao star could play more as a midfield sweeper in front of the back line anyway, playing more to his natural strengths.

Nacho Monreal—LB

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    Place of Birth: Pamplona, Navarre

    Current Club: Malaga

     

    Nacho Monreal hails from the same academy that turned Javi Martinez and Cesar Azpilicueta into some of Spain's brightest prospects.

    He is now one of Spain's elite full-backs and is playing a major role in Malaga's surprisingly successful season, just like he did last year.

Xabi Alonso—DM

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    Place of Birth: Tolosa, Basque Country

    Current Club: Real Madrid

     

    Xabi Alonso would probably captain this team, and Basque residents would be ecstatic to have the former hero of San Sebastian back home after so long.

    Alonso became one of the world's greatest midfielders while playing for Liverpool and is now a mainstay in one of the greatest national teams in history.

Mikel Arteta—CM

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    Place of Birth: San Sebastian, Basque Country

    Current Club: Arsenal

     

    Xabi Alonso would be even more comfortable leading this team with his childhood friend, Mikel Arteta, playing alongside him.

    The La Masia graduate never quite had what it takes during his time in La Liga, but the late bloomer excelled in England and is now one of the premier central midfielders in football.

Benat—CM

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    Place of Birth: Igorre, Basque Country

    Current Club: Real Betis

     

    Premier League fans have been calling for Arteta to get his first cap with Spain for a few years now, but he will really struggle to get that chance with the emergence of Benat.

    The Betis star is already nearing the level of Arteta and is one of the most complete, gifted midfielders in all of Spain.

    The trio of Benat, Arteta and Alonso would rival any in all of football.

Markel Susaeta—RW

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    Place of Birth: Eibar, Basque Country

    Current Club: Athletic Bilbao

     

    Markel Susaeta is probably the most underrated player on this list.

    He has long been one of the top wingers in Spain but has gone a bit under the radar because of his team's lack of success.

    The Bilbao man finally got his first cap last year and hopes to continue being a part of the Spanish Golden Age.

Iker Muniain—LW

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    Place of Birth: Pamplona, Navarre

    Current Club: Athletic Bilbao

     

    He may have ruined his chances of playing for Spain (for now), but Iker Muniain would be more than welcome playing for Basque Country.

    The versatile midfielder has had problems becoming a leader this season, but that is rather expected for a 20-year-old who is about to lose his second close friend in less than a year.

    The ceiling is still very high for Muniain, and no one can deny his talent.

Fernando Llorente—S

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    Place of Birth: Pamplona, Navarre

    Current Club: Athletic Bilbao

     

    Marcelo Bielsa and Athletic Bilbao fans may have given up on this great striker, but his fellow countrymen would surely love to have him leading this Basque attack.

    Llorente has been one of La Liga's greatest strikers over the past few seasons and is still very much in his prime.

    Having his height and technical skill would help make the Basques real contenders for a World Cup title.

Defensive and Attacking Alternatives

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    The weakest part of this Basque team is in defense and attack, just like La Roja itself.

    Fernando Llorente is good enough to lead a team to a World Cup title, but beyond him the Basque team is rather low on world-class talent, even with Aritz Aduriz's resurgence.

    It's a good thing the midfield is full of world-class players to help protect the back line and create for the attack.

     

    Keeper and Defenders

    Asier Riesgo (Deba, Basque Country), Osasuna

    Fernando Amorebieta (Cantaura, Venezuela), Athletic Bilbao

    Carlos Martinez (Lodosa, Navarre), Real Sociedad

    Andoni Iraola (Usurbil, Basque Country), Athletic Bilbao

    Mikel Gonzalez (Mondragon, Basque Country), Real Sociedad

    Mikel San Jose (Pamplona, Navarre), Athletic Bilbao

     

    Forwards

    Aritz Aduriz (San Sebastian, Basque Country), Athletic Bilbao

    Imanol Agirretxe (Usurbil, Basque Country), Real Sociedad

    Kike Sola (Cascante, Navarre), Osasuna

    Gaizka Toquero (Vitoria, Basque Country), Athletic Bilbao

Midfield Alternatives

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    Catalunya is the talk of the town these days due to Barcelona's success, but no region in Spain has more top-class midfield talent than Basque Country.

    Just like the country as a whole, this is the Golden Generation for Basque midfielders.

    Just take a look at the names listed here who wouldn't even break into the starting XI for the region.

     

    Midfielders

    Raul Garcia (Pamplona, Navarre), Atletico Madrid

    Xabi Prieto (San Sebastian, Basque Country), Real Sociedad

    Ander Herrera (Bilbao, Basque Country), Athletic Bilbao

    Asier Illarramendi (Mutriku, Basque Country), Real Sociedad

    Jose Barkero (Aretxabaleta, Basque Country), Levante

    Carlos Gurpegui (Pamplona, Navarre), Athletic Bilbao

    Oscar de Marcos (Laguardia, Basque Country), Athletic Bilbao

     

    What do you think, could Basque Country win a World Cup title?

    How would the Basques do against Catalunya's Best XI?


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