Picking an All-South American World Cup XI

Hugo Chavez BarrosoFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2014

Picking an All-South American World Cup XI

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    South America had six teams looking to preserve the tradition that dictated that a World Cup in the American continent is to be won by an American national team.

    In the end, the South Americans weren't able to lift the Cup as Germany won it and took it back to Europe.

    However, some of the most memorable and dazzling performances in Brazil 2014 were from some of South America's most talented players.

    Here's the best 2014 World Cup XI of South America composed of six Argentinians, two Brazilians, two Colombians and one Chilean in a 4-4-2 diamond classic formation.

Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero (Argentina)

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    Romero spent most of his time at Monaco on the bench, and Argentina's manager Alejandro Sabella was constantly questioned on the decision of keeping him as the starting goalie.

    Sabella proved to be right, as "Chiquito" Romero made huge saves when Argentina needed him the most.

    In the penalties against the Netherlands in the semi-final, he saved two crucial penalties that allowed Argentina to move on to the final.

    He recorded four clean sheets, including three in the knockout rounds, and was close to a fifth one before Mario Gotze's goal in the 113th minute of the final.

    Of those four shootouts, two included extra time. Romero spent almost 500 minutes without conceding a single goal after Nigeria's Ahmed Musa's goal in the group stage until Gotze's strike.

    Romero's performance started to be brilliant in the second group stage match against Iran, where he saved numerous chances which allowed for Lionel Messi to become the hero in stoppage time with a superb goal.

Right-Full-Back: Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina)

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    Argentina's right-full-back was key in both the defensive wall created by the South Americans in the knockout rounds and on offensive variables.

    Zabaleta was rarely beaten on one-on-one situations against the opponents' attackers, recovered a bunch of balls throughout the tournament and usually came out playing to his teammates' feet.

    If Argentina needed someone to go deep on the right wing for attackers to have an option in that zone, Zabaleta was to be found doing the run.

Center-Back: Thiago Silva (Brazil)

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    If Brazil made it farther than its talent allowed, the team owed it to its captain and outstanding defender Thiago Silva.

    Silva was the heart and soul of a very limited Brazil up until the semi-final. His defensive contributions were so great that the poor defending from the full-backs and defensive midfielders wasn't reflected on the scoreboard on the first five games thanks to Silva's performance.

    Brazil's captain also contributed offensively on set pieces and scored the vital opening goal against Colombia in the quarter-final match.

    Thiago even made us believe at some points during the tournament that David Luiz was just as good as him, but once Luiz found himself without his partner, we all saw what happened against Germany.

    His only blameworthy action was getting himself booked in a non-transcendental play against Colombia that left him out of the semi-final match.

Center-Back: Gary Medel (Chile)

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    Medel was a true warrior and leader for Chile. He played in all four Chile matches and maintained the solid Chilean back line.

    Due to his performance, top world-class Spanish and Brazilian attackers weren't able to showcase the best of its football capabilities.

    In the second round, Medel lasted on the pitch until he could no longer physically play against Brazil on the 108th minute, but by then he had done enough for Chile to make it into the penalty shootout.

Left-Full-Back: Marcos Rojo (Argentina)

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    Marcos Rojo was a true revelation during the tournament. Rojo showed his capability as a strong, fast and skilful full-back. He was so confident of his talent that in the opener against Bosnia, he cleared the ball in a luxurious fancy way.

    His offensive contributions on the left wing were also relevant, and he even managed to score the winning goal against Nigeria.

    Argentina's back line was supposedly its weakest line, but in great measure thanks to Rojo's performance, it became one of its strongest.

Right Midfielder: Juan Cuadrado (Colombia)

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    Cuadrado consolidated himself as one of the top players in the planet with his performance in Brazil 2014.

    The tireless midfielder was seen playing along the whole right wing, on the left wing and at some points even in the middle, all in the same game.

    He perfectly understood what Jose Pekerman wanted from him and he adapted to it. Along with James Rodriguez, Cuadrado pulled the strings of Colombia's offense.

    He recorded four assists and ended the World Cup as the leading provider. Cuadrado also scored a goal against Japan.  

Center Midfielder: Javier Mascherano (Argentina)

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    Mascherano didn't need the armband under his shoulder to be the captain of Argentina; he was the leader of the South American squad through the whole tournament.

    His football contributions on the pitch were enormous, both defensively and offensively. He recovered the ball, organized his side and distributed the ball like no other player during the tournament.

    His timely slide in the last minute of regular time against Robben's shot in the semi-final was worth a ticket to the final.

    His motivational skills are not to be overlooked either, as his words were fundamental for Romero during the penalty shootout against the Netherlands.

    Mascherano carried Argentina on his back.

Left Midfielder: Angel Di Maria (Argentina)

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    The Real Madrid winger carried his momentum from the Spanish club to Argentina. His dribbling and technical skills at the speed that Di Maria executes them made him one of the most dangerous players in the World Cup.

    Di Maria was so important to Argentina that after his injury in the quarter-final, Messi's performance notably went down.

    Argentina's offense as a whole wasn't able to cope without "Fideo" on the pitch, as it wasn't able to score a single goal with him watching on the bench.

    Obviously his goal in extra time against Switzerland was one of his greatest contributions to the runner-up's campaign.

Attacking Midfielder: James Rodriguez (Colombia)

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    Colombia's historic campaign can very well be defined with two words: James Rodriguez.

    The Colombian playmaker had a memorable performance that included finishing as the top goalscorer with six goals. He actively participated in 11 of the 12 goals scored by Colombia, and the only reason he couldn't be a part of the first goal against Japan was because he was on the bench.

    Rodriguez, the engine of Colombia, made everyone forget about Radamel Falcao's absence and scored two of the most beautiful goals in the World Cup. The two masterpieces he created were the first goal against Uruguay and his goal against Japan.

    In my opinion, Rodriguez was truly deserving of the Golden Ball.

Forward: Neymar (Brazil)

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    Neymar was the only component of Brazil's offense that consistently worked.

    The Barcelona forward carried Brazil's attack on his shoulders, and his braces in the victories against Croatia and Cameroon even made the football world believe that Brazil might actually have a shot at the title despite the lack of talent in the Selecao.

    Against Chile, when emotions were taking over Brazilian players, he had the courage to take the fifth penalty and coolly scored it.

    His importance for the team went beyond his football contributions. Once he got injured, the psychological hit for the Selecao and the Brazilian fans was devastating.

    And without Neymar, Germany and the Netherlands had little to worry about defensively.

Forward: Lionel Messi (Argentina)

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    Messi hasn't been the player everyone wants to see, either in Barcelona or Argentina, for at least a year.

    But his capacity to be a factor, a game-changer, the difference maker, still remains. To add to his credentials during the World Cup, he also won the tournament’s Golden Ball.

    During the group stage, Messi shone as he scored four goals in the victories over Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria, and three of those were beautiful finishes.

    Argentina scored a total of eight goals in its entire campaign and Messi was involved in seven of them. Most notably, he set up Angel Di Maria's winning goal in extra time against Switzerland.

    In the semi-final, Messi took the responsibility of kicking Argentina's first penalty and scored. That might sound easy, but Louis van Gaal would probably disagree as two Dutch players refused to take the first one for the Netherlands, as reported by the Mirror.