A few weeks ago I did a video about seven national football teams that are overloaded in a particular position. It was an idea suggested to me by Lennart on Twitter, and given that the video has gone on to amass close to a million views, becoming the third most viewed video I’ve ever made, Lennart – I probably owe you a pint if I ever bump into you.
In the past, I have occasionally followed up a really popular video with a part two or second installment, and almost without fail the follow-up video has done absolutely terrible. I was pretty hesitant about making this video then, but there were plenty of options I left out of the original video and the demand was such that I’ve decided to give it a go.
If you haven’t yet watched the original then obviously feel free to watch that one first, and if you don’t choose to and wonder why a certain position in a certain national team hasn’t featured, it may well be that it was in the original a few weeks back. Without further ado, here are my views on 7 national teams that are overloaded in one position… part 2!
7. Netherlands – Centre-Back
It’s been a pretty rotten few years by the Netherlands standards, somewhat salvaged by reaching the first UEFA Nations League finals and qualifying for Euro 2020. Although they now look to be building a decent side once again, Ronald Koeman’s men are certainly more gifted in some areas of the pitch than they are in others. Undoubtedly the position in which they have the most depth is centre-back, and it is the Dutch centre-backs the get us started in this seven.
In the form of Virgil van Dijk, the Netherlands have arguably the finest centre-back in world football right now, and the Liverpool star captains the Oranje. The man seemingly most likely to partner him long-term is Matthijs de Ligt, who at the age of 20 has already captained Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals and has made a €75 million move to Juventus. He faces competition from the likes of Nathan Ake at Bournemouth, Stefan de Vrij at Inter Milan and both Joel Veltman and Daley Blind at Ajax. All are very good centre-backs, albeit Veltman and Blind can also play in different positions, and I haven’t even mentioned the likes of Karim Rekik, Nick Viergever, Jeffrey Bruma or even Jordy de Wijs.
6. Italy – Central Midfield
Italy are a national team who actually find themselves in a very similar boat to the Netherlands right now. Historically powerhouses of the international game, they have suffered a sharp fall from grace in recent times, notably failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Also like the Netherlands though, they have bounced back recently, qualifying for Euro 2020 with ten wins from ten games, becoming only the sixth national team to go through European qualifying with a 100% record.
There are still positions in which Robert Mancini’s side look a little light in, but central midfield isn’t one of them. Although the Italian midfield isn’t littered with superstars, there is considerable strength in depth. PSG star Marco Verratti and Chelsea regular Jorginho are probably the outstanding individuals, but they are joined by the likes of Marco Parolo, Giacomo Bonaventura and Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Italy’s fourth most capped footballer of all time Daniele De Rossi retired from international football in 2017, but there are some excellent young midfielders like Nicolo Zaniolo and Sandro Tonali who are now fully fledged internationals.
5. Croatia – Central Midfield
There are perhaps one or two national teams who are more overloaded in a specific position than Croatia are in central midfield, but a little like Poland with centre-forwards that almost made this seven, the quality Croatia have in central midfield in relation to the rest of their squad and the size of their country is pretty notable.
World Cup finalists in Russia only 18 months ago, Croatia is a nation of just four million people. In spite of that, you can count on your fingers the number of national teams who are better equipped in the middle of the park than Zlatko Dalic’s men. Croatia’s captain and star man is of course Luka Modric, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018 and has been pivotal to Real Madrid’s success over the last decade.
Next in line for Croatia in midfield would have to be Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, followed by Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic, Fiorentina loanee Milan Badeji, Inter Milan star Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Pasalic who recently topped my video on the 7 best footballers who don’t currently have work permits.
4. Brazil – Defensive Midfield
Brazil’s impressive list of deep-lying or defensive midfield players almost made my original video on this topic, so there’s no way they’re missing out in fourth. Brazil have always been synonymous with flamboyant, attacking flair players, whether they be wide players, attacking midfielder or strikers.
Unusually though, right now at least, some of their finest talent can be found in goal with the likes of Alisson, Ederson and Neto, or in defensive midfield, which is the position in question here. Brazil have three particularly outstanding defensive midfielders in the forms of Casemiro, Fabinho and Fernandinho, all of whom are among the best midfield destructors in the world game.
Past those three, you have the likes of Allan at Napoli, Luiz Gustavo at Fenerbahce, Thiago Mendes at Lyon, Fred at Manchester United, Bruno Guimarães who still plays in Brazil with Atlético Paranaense, Gabriel of Corinthians and Lucas Leiva at Lazio. Some of those players have never even been capped by Brazil, and I could have named more, which rather emphasises their strength in depth in the position. What’s more, I’ve only really mentioned proper defensive midfielders, the list is even longer if one accounts for deep-lying playmakers like Barcelona star Arthur.
3. Portugal – Right-Back
Having a disproportionate number of quality players in a position like centre-back or central midfield might be frustrating, but it is at least possible to accommodate as many as three centre-backs or even four central midfield players in a starting XI, it is much more difficult when it comes to a really specialist position like full-back or goalkeeper. Whilst England’s right-back dilemma featured in the original video in December, Portugal’s embarrassment of riches on the right side of their back four features in this video.
Contrary to popular opinion, Portugal do have players other than Cristiano Ronaldo, and some of the best ones just so happen to be right-backs. There are three outstanding right-backs who are currently vying for that spot, namely Manchester City loanee Joao Cancelo, Barcelona full-back Nelson Semedo and Leicester City star Ricardo Perreira. Cancelo is arguably the pick of the bunch, as an excellent attacking full-back with bags of flair and pace, and he has won the most caps of the three with 16. He’s followed by Nelson Semedo, who is now in his third season with Barcelona, meanwhile Ricardo Perreira has made a really positive impression since arriving in the Premier League with Leicester City. As if three good right-backs weren’t enough, further down the pecking order you have the likes of Diogo Dalot at Manchester United, Andre Almeida of Benfica, and Southampton’s Cedric Soares.
2. France – Centre-Back
It’s no secret that France possesses the most depth of any national team in world football right now, and having been the only nation to feature twice in part one of this video, they feature for a third time in part two. As far as I’m concerned, France’s best centre-back has never played for them, which is a tad bizarre, but rather a reflection of the sheer depth available to Didier Deschamps at the heart of his back four.
I am referring of course to Manchester City star Aymeric Laporte, who Pep Guardiola’s side have missed so sorely this season. When everyone is firing on all cylinders, La Liga duo Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti appear to be Didier Deschamps’ preferred pairing, and both were excellent when France won the World Cup in Russia.
They are supported by Clement Lenglet, also of Barcelona, PSG’s Presnel Kimpembe and Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma. France have so many centre-backs in fact, that Didier Deschamps can often be found playing two of them at full-back, namely Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez. I am yet to mention the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Bakary Sakho and Willy Boly, so it would be fair to say France were good value for a place in this seven at centre-back.
1. Brazil – Left Wing
Brazil join France as the only team to feature three times across the two videos, having featured once for their considerable talent at left-back in part one, and twice for their strength in depth in defensive midfield and on the left flank in part two. Looking at some of the names Brazil can boast on the left wing, it is a bit of a travesty that I didn’t include them in part one to be honest. The nation’s finest player and the outstanding left winger on Earth, if one now considers Cristiano Ronaldo to be a striker, is Neymar. Closing in on Pele for the crown of Brazil’s all time leading goal scorer, it’s hardly a great surprise that the world’s most expensive footballer sees off even pretty formidable competition on the left wing.
Snapping at his heels though, Brazil have the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk star Taison, pacy Juventus wide man Douglas Costa and West Ham star Felipe Anderson. Staying in the Premier League, Brazil have further strength on the left flank in the forms of Bernard and Richarlison at Everton. Speaking of Everton, and yes, I know these segways are as seamless as they come, both Everton Ribeiro of Flamengo and particularly Gremio star Everton Soares are two of the best players in Brazil right now, and both like to operate out wide on the left.
Flamboyant Palmeiras wide man Dudu is also among the finest players in the Campeonato Brasileiro, meanwhile the likes of Alexandre Pato and Vincius Junior both often play on the left flank, although they are capable of playing through the middle as well. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve just named eleven left wingers ranging from the world class to the very good, and almost every one of them would be a regular fixture in over 95% of all national teams on Earth.