B/R Football Ranks: The 10 Best International 5-a-Side Teams

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 18, 2019

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 9: Kylian Mbappe of France, Paul Pogba of France, Antoine Griezmann of France, Ngolo Kante of France   during the  UEFA Nations league match between France  v Holland  at the Stade de France on September 9, 2018 in Paris France (Photo by Geert van Erven/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

This last week's international pause got us thinking laterally: Which of the nations on show would be able to field the best five-a-side teams were they to enter a hypothetical World Cup and compete?

Using the national selection pools, we've mocked up each country's best V—rather than XI—in the format of a five-a-side team.

One goalkeeper and one defender (or defensive player) accompany three attackers in each selection. A player's quality was kept in mind when constructing the teams, but so were vital five-a-side attributes, such as two-footedness, defensive work rate and skill.

We built around 20 sides from every continent's major nations, assessed their strength and ranked them, resulting in the top 10 below.



10. England 

Jordan Pickford, Ben Chilwell, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Harry Kane

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 09:  Raheem Sterling  and Jadon Sancho of England during a training session at Staplewood on September 09, 2019 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)
Robin Jones/Getty Images

Sneaking in at 10th and narrowly edging out Uruguay in the process are England, whose team of five look a little unorthodox, but there's no doubt they would be effective.

With no centre-back or holding midfielder who combines the duties required to hold the fort, Chilwell steps forward and brings his all-action style to the pitch. 

Ahead of him is the silk of Sterling and Sancho, two players built for this format, and Kane spearheads the collective, with his clever playmaking and relentless shooting making him more useful than your traditional No. 9 in five-a-side.


9. Italy

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Verratti, Stefano Sensi, Lorenzo Insigne

ZENICA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - NOVEMBER 15:  Lorenzo Insigne of Italy celebrates after scoring the second goal of his team during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Italy on November 15, 2019 in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovin
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

With Verratti and Sensi on hand, there's no doubt Italy would rack up serious possession numbers. Both dance away from pressure easily and love to dictate proceedings.

Insigne is the Azzurri's best option up top; Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile are better goalscorers, but you would take Insigne's ability in tight spaces over their more brutish styles.

No solution at the back feels perfect, but Bonucci's mix of passing and defensive nous is preferable to just about every other option. Donnarumma's huge frame would be tough to beat in a smaller goal.


8. Spain

David De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Paco Alcacer

LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 18:  Isco Alarcon of Spain in action during the international friendly match between Spain and Bosnia & Herzegovina at Estadio de Gran Canaria on November 18, 2018 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.  (Photo
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Spain have a few clear strengths but also some concerns.

In Thiago, they would have one of the best five-a-side players on earth, with his silken touch and ingenious passing a real weapon on that small pitch. Isco is similarly tidy, and the two would work together well.

The issue is they might well end up a little exposed at the back, as Ramos' love for a forward run could leave a lot of space to attack for opponents.

They also lack a lethal finisher, whichever striker you pick to spearhead the group. Alcacer beats Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa to the call, though if you fancied going solely on form, perhaps Gerard Moreno would be the pick.


7. Argentina

Sergio Romero, Nicolas Tagliafico, Lautaro Martinez, Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala

Argentina's Lionel Messi warms up ahead of the friendly football match between Brazil and Argentina at the King Saud University stadium in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 15, 2019. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP) (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Ge

True to tradition, Argentina's selection is a little top-heavy.

Their overwhelming glut of attacking options made narrowing it to three difficult. Martinez was picked as it was hoped his insatiable will for the defensive side of the game will help balance things out.

Tagliafico is the nominated defender, and he'll have plenty to do, but chances are he'll embrace the task: Like Martinez, his stamina is endless, and his aggression really helps set the tone.

That just leaves Messi and Dybala to weave their magic in attack.


6. Netherlands

Jasper Cillessen, Virgil van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum, Memphis Depay

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - NOVEMBER 16: Frenckie de Jong of Netherlands in action during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Northern Ireland  and The Netherlands at Windsor Park on November 16, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/G
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It's not a flashy team; it lacks the flair others possess, but it's extremely functional and would likely do very well in this tournament.

Van Dijk's combination of defensive steeliness and excellence on the ball make for a great base. De Jong is almost impossible to dispossess and would dance around tacklers even on a smaller pitch. Wijnaldum's combination of attacking opportunism and defensive grit make him the ideal five-a-side player.

The questions come in goal and up front. Memphis is very good but not an elite striker, while Cillessen would be one of the weakest goalkeepers at the tournament.


5. Germany

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Joshua Kimmich, Kai Havertz, Marco Reus, Timo Werner

MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 16: Joshua Kimmich of Germany looks on during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier between Germany and Belarus on November 16, 2019 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

The first task when it comes to selecting Germany's five-a-side team is putting their best goalkeeper, Ter Stegen, in goal. With Kimmich ahead of him, distributing and holding the fort, we're off to a world-class start.

Further ahead we've opted for Reus and Havertz, two creators who are both excellent in tight spaces and have a clear eye for goal, rather than the speedier Serge Gnabry.

Timo Werner isn't exactly tailor-made for five-a-side, but he's the best finisher Die Mannschaft have, so he gets the nod up top.


4. Portugal

Rui Patricio, Florentino Luis, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Cristiano Ronaldo

FARO, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 14:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Juventus celebrates with teammate Bernardo Silva of Portugal and Manchester City after scoring a goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier match between Portugal and Lithuania at Estadio Alga
Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Portugal's five-a-side team looks incredibly well suited to the rigours of a small-sided game.

Florentino Luis is N'Golo Kante-esque in the way he covers ground and sets an aggressive tone, and he'll be feeding Bernardo and Felix—two players who excel in tight spots, are brilliant in one-on-one duels and can each score a hatful.

Leading the formation is Ronaldo, whose shooting technique of low and extremely hard will make his shots difficult to save from the range five-a-side offers. 

This is a complete team with no real question marks, though it perhaps lacks a star goalkeeper if you're being picky.


3. Belgium

Thibaut Courtois, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens

TOPSHOT - Belgium's forward Eden Hazard (L) celebrates with Belgium's forward Dries Mertens (R) and Belgium's midfielder Kevin De Bruyne after scoring their second goal during their Russia 2018 World Cup play-off for third place football match between Bel

Romelu Lukaku is Belgium's all-time top goalscorer—so why isn't he in the side?

There's a strong argument you would need a more refined, graceful touch in five-a-side, something Mertens provides, as well as an ability to tot up the goals.

He would be feeding off service from De Bruyne and making use of space that Hazard creates for him, while Witsel sweeps up at the back. In other words, Mertens would have an awful lot of fun.


2. France

Alphonse Areola, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe

France's forward Antoine Griezmann celebrates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2020 Group H football qualification match between Albania and France at the Air Albania Stadium in Tirana, on November 17, 2019. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRAN
FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

If you thought France's extreme depth of talent made Didier Deschamps' 23-man squad decisions hard, spare a thought for us having to pick just five!

With Hugo Lloris error-prone and injured, we've selected Areola in goal, while Griezmann's defensive work rate and expert finishing beats the two-footed Ousmane Dembele to a spot in attack.

The other three selections were easy; Kante and Pogba would be incredible in five-a-side, and although Mbappe may not have so much space to use on a smaller pitch, his acceleration in tight spots, ingenuity and drilled finishing are all must-haves.


1. Brazil

Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Philippe Coutinho, Neymar, Roberto Firmino

Brazil's Neymar celebrates during the friendly international football match between Brazil and Senegal at the National Stadium in Singapore on October 10, 2019. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

With arguably the best goalkeeper (Alisson) in the world, arguably the best holding midfielder (Fabinho) in the world and three of the trickiest, most skilful attacking players in the world, Brazil would represent some force in the five-a-side game.

Fabinho's loping legs would be difficult to get around for opponents, and all he would have to do with the ball is hand it to one of the three ahead.

Neymar and Coutinho are devastating in these scenarios, and Firmino's flicks and cute passes—as well as his good finishing—make him the ideal foil for the attack.

It's tight picking between the top three in this ranking, but on balance, Brazil's selection looks just about the strongest.

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All statistics via WhoScored.com.