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International Team of the Week: World Cup Qualifying Edition

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 13, 2013

International Team of the Week: World Cup Qualifying Edition

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    We've selected the cream of the crop from this weekend's World Cup qualifying matches and produced an attacking, lopsided 3-3-4 formation.

    Robin van Persie scored his 39th, 40th and 41st international goals this weekend to place his name in the record books, and he's joined by a selection of other star performers from across the globe.

    Please note that friendlies were not considered when selecting this team.

GK: Orestis Karnezis, Greece

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    As is the norm in modern football, Greece kept a clean sheet on their way to a 1-0 victory over Slovakia.

    They remain toothless up front, relying on a Martin Skrtel own goal to make the difference this time, but continue to defend in masterful fashion.

    Goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis was unfortunate to miss out on a spot in Fernando Santos' Euro 2012 squad but has used the disappointment to fuel some fantastic performances during the qualifying campaign.

Def: Serge Aurier, Ivory Coast

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    The Ivory Coast are very, very close to sealing their place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup after beating Senegal 3-1 in the first leg.

    The Elephants were far superior in almost every aspect, and Serge Aurier presented a solid presence in both attack and defence.

    The Toulouse full-back was a bucket of energy throughout and will be disappointed not to claim a deserved clean sheet.

Def: Frickson Erazo, Ecuador

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Ecuador stood firm and beat an underwhelming Uruguay 1-0 in Quito to improve their chances of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

    La Tri had to win to keep their Celeste opponents at bay, and a draw between themselves and Chile—both on 25 points—will ensure both sides reach the tournament proper on Tuesday.

    If you keep a clean sheet, you'll always have a chance of winning, and Frickson Erazo's back line kept Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez at bay comfortably on Friday night.

Def: Levon Hayrapetyan

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Levon Hayrapetyan was one of several warriors in Armenia's defence that helped secure a 2-1 victory over nine-man Bulgaria.

    Armenia's hopes of qualification remain slim, but the very fact that this tiny footballing nation are set to take proceedings to the final day is a mark of how magical this sport can be.

Mid: Xavi, Spain

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Vicente del Bosque's Spain were looking to avoid another slip-up as they took on minnows Belarus in Palma De Mallorca on Friday.

    The visitors proved stubborn but finally relented in the 61st minute as Xavi slammed a magnificent half-volley home after a chaotic minute in and around the box.

    Alvaro Negredo went on to seal the three points after the visitors opened out a little, and la Furia Roja are all but assured of qualification now.

Mid: Arturo Vidal, Chile

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Arturo Vidal was oh-so-close to leading his side to an incredible victory away over Colombia on Friday evening.

    He slotted home a confident penalty to open the scoring for la Roja and proceeded to display his combative best to keep Colombia at bay for as long as possible.

    The comeback was inevitable—such is the strength of this Cafeteros side—and a 3-3 draw in Barranquilla can be considered an excellent result despite the circumstances.

Mid: Karlen Mkrtchyan, Armenia

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    Epsilon/Getty Images

    Karlen Mkrtchyan, a recent arrival at Anzhi Makhachkala following their summer clear-out, was instrumental in Armenia's shock 2-1 win over Bulgaria on Friday.

    The visitors may have been reduced to nine men thanks to some silly red cards, but Mkrtchyan deserves credit for rising to prominence in midfield despite the national adoration of Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

    Armenia are no longer a one-man team.

Wing: Andros Townsend, England

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Andros Townsend put in a spectacular, Man of the Match showing on his England debut at Wembley on Friday night.

    His blistering 70-yard run created the first, crucial goal for Wayne Rooney and Co., and then he killed a potential Montenegro revival off with a sweetly struck effort that kissed the post as it flew in.

    It was an all-action display with a certifiable end product—the likes of which the Three Lions aren't accustomed to—and Townsend has made it his place to lose now.

Wing: Alexis Sanchez, Chile

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Alexis Sanchez has hit a rich vein of form, and both Jorge Sampaoli and Gerardo Martino will be hoping he continues in this barnstorming fashion.

    He was played up front for Chile in Barranquilla and responded by notching two goals as his nation took a commanding 3-0 lead after 30 minutes.

    His first was an opportunistic finish after the Chileans had worked the right side well, his second a rebound tap-in after his initial diving header had been palmed clear by David Ospina.

Fwd: Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    Welcome to the international stage, Romelu Lukaku. It's about damn time.

    The Chelsea starlet, currently on loan at Everton, has chronically underperformed for his national team under heavy expectation, but he finally turned it on in the absence of Christian Benteke against Croatia.

    He's young, so the pressure affecting his form is understandable, and he chose the right moment to explode with two extremely well-taken goals in a difficult game in Zagreb.

Fwd: Robin van Persie, Netherlands

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick against a poor, beleaguered Hungary side during a surprise 8-1 thrashing.

    In doing so, the Manchester United forward became the highest-scoring Dutchman of all time, surpassing Patrick Kluivert's record of 40 goals in 80 games.

    Van Persie, now on 41, has a feasible chance of hitting the half-century, and with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar unlikely to catch up, he could be the record-holder for decades to come.

     

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