Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This edition of the Under-20 World Cup was characterized by an excess of attacking talent. Consequently, most games were open, free-flowing, and easy on the eyes. As a result, this year's NSC U-20 Best XI is an attack-minded machine built to score goals.

Keep in mind as you read along that this lineup was constructed with the future in mind. Players that seemed to find success almost solely on the backs of their athletic talent have no place on this team. Those that combined their god-given physical gifts with an apt soccer brain however, are more than welcome.


Luis Muriel was the talisman for the captivating host nation. He embodied the role of a striker's striker in that he was willing to try just about anything on the ball. Oozing confidence, and with more than enough game to back it up, Muriel is still dancing in many an opposing defender's nightmares.

French forward Alexandre Lacazette completes is the other half of this potent striking duo. The combination of his strong hold-up play and pace is enough to trouble any defense. Better yet, he has an innate poacher's instinct inside the box. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that he averaged a goal for every 70 minutes he played.


Erik Lamela was natural choice to play in the hole. Nearly all of Argentina's most promising moments went through this young midfield maestro. His menacing dribbling skills coupled with equally stellar vision made him a man among boys even in the talent-packer Argentine midfield.

Classic wingers seem to be a dying breed, but Nigeria's No. 7 Ahmed Musa fits the bill with his world-class pace and pristine left foot. His willingness to take players on adds a third dimension to his game. FIFA and I differ on his candidacy for Goal of the Tournament, but he did manage to bag three total in five matches.

Sergio Canales fits more snugly into the modern wide midfielder's role with his penchant for pinching in and play-making. He did the job beautifully for Spain, despite being underutilized by the quarterfinalists. His passing range and vision stood out even amongst his pedigreed teammates.

Another of the Spanish midfielders, Koke did everything one would expect and then some. Playing as a deep-lying playmaker alongside Chelsea's adolescent acquisition, Koke facilitated the tip-tapping of the ball all throughout the Spanish team. For all of the attacking skill on display for the young Spaniards, this young midfielder stood out for his ability to clean up the occasionally overzealous excesses of La Roja's passing game.

Also deployable as a defender, Portugal's Danilo makes the shortlist for his all-around prowess. As complete a footballer as there is on this list, he was never shy in getting stuck in, but also anticipated attacks well. On the rare occasion he was caught in traffic, dribbling out and starting an attack was always an option. I typically avoid the historical references, but think of a young poor-man's Beckenbauer.


A team like this would have more than its fair share of possession. When pressed though, men like Cameroon's Banana Yaya are just what the doctor ordered. Strong in the air and quick in the tackle, Yaya also gets bonus points for having by the tournament's coolest name.

For all of Brazil's attacking mastery, only five goals were scored against them in seven matches. Captain Bruno Uvini was in the middle of it all, organizing the defenders that were often left to fend for themselves behind the forward-flowing Brazilian offense. His efforts insured Brazil's status, not just as champions, but as the team with the best goal differential by a comfortable three goals.

Roderick will likely go somewhat overlooked in the shadows of his Golden Gloves winning backstop, but no other player was as timely in the back for Portugal. Helping to nearly set a U-20 record for longest scoreless streak at the World Cup, he always seemed to be at the right place when the Portuguese defense looked shaky. He even managed to escape Brazil's cup-winning comeback without blood on his hands.


No team is complete without a safe set of hands in the back and the aforementioned Mika patrols between the posts for this dream team. Where other young keepers struggled with positioning and decision-making, Mika excelled. A select few other net-minders may have had more spectacular individual saves, but nobody was anywhere near as steady as Mika.

How they'd line up:

That about does it for this years Under-20s. If you caught some of the tournament and would like to post an XI of your own, feel free to do so in the comments section. I look forward to being told how and why you think I'm wrong.

- Jacob Klinger


DrewVT6 said...

Interesting that another reliable source leaves Oscar off the tournaments top XI. My feeling on the kid: he took his opportunities, but he'll go the way of Salvatore Schillacci or Gary Lineker.

Jacob Klinger said...

You could do a heck of a lot worse than those two, but I certainly don't expect him to pan out as a any sort of world-beater.

Darius said...

Reading this tournament best XI makes me wish the U.S. had made it. We coulda been contenders.

SPA2TACU5 said...

"Classic wingers seem to be a dying breed, but Nigeria's No. 7 Ahmed Musa fits the bill with his world-class pace and pristine left foot."

Uhm, typo? 'Cause Musa does everything with his right foot. And I mean everything.

SPA2TACU5 said...

Or maybe you meant left foot is in pristine shape since it has never kicked a football. In that case you re correct.

Jacob Klinger said...

Upon further review...

The kid does cut in onto his right more than I had originally recalled, but he did play left mid for Nigeria and got off a number of mean crosses and shots with his left foot.

Grayson said...

Have you ever watched Ahmed Musa(ab) play? He has almost no left foot. He is a totally right-foot only player.

Oh, now I see that you have already been set straight by SPA2TACU5. Adding to your discussion with him, I am highly skeptical that he put in good crosses or shots with his left foot. I think you were confused about what player did what. Sorry, buddy.

Grayson said...

LOL! Fair play to you for your second comment, SPA2TACU5! Very well said :)

Jacob Klinger said...

Check out the Nigeria highlights from FIFA's tournament site. He and his left foot are in there.