International Friendly Team of the Week: Neymar, Ronaldo and Iniesta Star

Dan Colasimone@@ArgentinaFWContributor IMarch 6, 2014

International Friendly Team of the Week: Neymar, Ronaldo and Iniesta Star

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    A round of midweek international friendlies was given extra significance by the prospect of the World Cup looming just over the horizon. Managers only have a few more chances to fine-tune their tactics and test out their players.

    For the players themselves—especially those on the fringes of their national team squads—this was one of the last chances to impress.

    Results are not that important in friendlies, but performances can be.

    Here are the best 11 from this week's matches, laid out in a 3-4-3 formation.

Goalkeeper: Guillermo Ochoa

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Mexico and Nigeria played out an attacking game in Atlanta, with the goalkeepers at both ends pulling off a number of tremendous saves.

    Vincent Enyeama was brilliant in the first half for Nigeria before he was replaced by Austin Ejide, who was equally impressive.

    However, Mexico's shot-stopper, Guillermo Ochoa, was sensational for the full 90 minutes, and in the end none of the outfield players could find a way past in a 0-0 draw.

Defender: Frickson Erazo

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    Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

    Ecuador trailed 3-0 to Australia at half-time and were lucky not to be more down as Tim Cahill and friends battered their defensive line.

    Frickson Erazo was introduced at the break, and while he cannot take all the credit for the turnaround which resulted in a 4-3 win for the South Americans, he did do a superb job of shoring up the defence. Erazo did well to provide his goalkeeper with more protection when the Socceroos slung balls into the area.

Defender: Florin Gardos

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    Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

    There are few greater tests for a defender in international football than facing up to Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria.

    Well, that's what Florin Gardos had to deal with when his Romania side played Argentina on Thursday, but the 25-year-old didn't put a foot wrong.

    He helped his side to an impressive 0-0 draw against the Albicelestes and did his reputation as a ruthless defender no harm in the process.

Defender: Olexandr Kucher

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    Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

    Olexandr Kucher is Ukraine's grizzled veteran at the heart of defence, and he took no prisoners against the United States.

    He simply refused to allow the opposing forwards any space at all around the area, and it helped secure a 2-0 win.

Midfielder: Gareth Bale

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Welsh wizard Gareth Bale carried on his astonishing recent club form by putting poor Iceland to the sword in Wales' 3-1 win at Cardiff City Stadium.

    The Real Madrid man laid on the first two goals for his side before scoring a fantastic third that showed his speed, strength, determination and skill all in one play.

    What a shame he won't be in Brazil!

Midfielder: Andres Iniesta

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Like the Spain team itself, the great Andres Iniesta refuses to go gentle into the night.

    In La Roja's 1-0 win over Italy, the 29-year-old was the most dangerous player on the pitch, attacking the Azzurri with plenty of crosses and through balls. He proved that he is just as wily as ever.

    Spain will be hard to beat in Brazil, and Iniesta will be very tough to stop.

Midfielder: Blaise Matuidi

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    Remy de la Mauviniere/Associated Press

    The French are looming as a force once again as the World Cup approaches, and their 2-0 win over the Netherlands was further proof of that.

    Blaise Matuidi capped a strong midfield showing with what was perhaps the goal of the week: a delightful flying volley that he somehow launched from behind his body into the top corner of the net.

Midfielder: Charles Aranguiz

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    Associated Press

    Despite ending up on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline against Germany, Chile were quite dazzling for most of the match in Stuttgart. 

    Coach Jorge Sampaoli should be quite pleased with the way his team bossed the midfield for long periods against a side many are picking as one of the World Cup favourites.

    The brightest light in Chile's midfield was Charles Aranguiz, who played his passing game to perfection and led his team in key passes. He also burst forward a number of times to trouble the German defence.

Forward: Neymar

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    He may have had an up-and-down season with Barcelona to this point, but Neymar is the undisputed top dog when he pulls on a Brazil shirt.

    South Africa were simply unable to handle the prodigiously skilled 22-year-old, who scored a sumptuous hat-trick in Brazil's 5-0 victory.

Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    Even considering everything he has achieved thus far in his career, could Cristiano Ronaldo be in career-best form leading into the 2014 World Cup?

    It's a daunting prospect for anyone who is not a Portugal fan.

    The Real Madrid star became Portugal's all-time top scorer with his brace in his team's 5-1 demolition of Cameroon.

Forward: Tim Cahill

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    The irrepressible Tim Cahill also became his country's top scorer with his brilliant brace against Ecuador.

    The Socceroos might have ended up losing the game, but they showed enough spark in the first 45 minutes to indicate they won't be a complete pushover in Brazil.

    As for Cahill, who's to say he can't score in a third straight World Cup?


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