Saturday, July 20, 2024

What if Basque national team played in Euro 2024

Unai Simon, Nico Williams, Daniel Vivian 

Spain clinched the 2024 European Championship with an impressive contingent of 8 Basque players. During the final against England, 3 Basque players secured spots in the starting lineup, while another 3 made a remarkable impact coming off the bench. Both goal scorers were from Basque. This triumph draws parallels to Spain's previous success in the 2010 World Cup, where 7 Catalonia players played a crucial role, sparking speculation that Catalonia alone could have emerged victorious.

Considering these achievements, one can't help but wonder about the possibilities if Basque had the opportunity to send their own national team to the European Championship.

Nico Williams and Mikel Oyarzabal

Eligibility issue
Athletic Bilbao, although not the official national team of the Basque Country, is widely regarded as a de facto representative of Basque football and culture. The club's distinctive policy of primarily selecting Basque players and its deep-rooted connection to Basque identity position it as a symbol of Basque sporting prowess.  I will utilize their eligibility criteria for this hypothetical national team. According to their policy, the club only signs players who fit one of the following criteria:

A) Born in the Basque Country: Players who were born in the greater Basque Country, which includes Biscay, Gipuzkoa, Álava and Navarre in Spain, as well as Labourd, Soule and Lower Navarre (in France are eligible to play for this national team.

B) Formed in the Basque Country: Players who have been trained in the youth academies of clubs located in the Basque Country can also join this team.

C) Basque heritage: Players with Basque ancestry, even if they were not born or trained in the Basque Country, may be considered for signing by this team.

Despite the notable presence of six players from this Basque team in the actual Final against England, it is worth mentioning that this team would be lacking several vital players who helped Spain to win the European Championship.  Nico Williams was the only player on this team who was named on the Team of Tournament although Unai Simon deserved a spot too.  Basque could not be the same as Spain as they missed Lamine Yamal, Rodric, Marc Cucurella and Dani Olmo.

Nonetheless, Basque should be strong to secure qualification in the first place during the Group stage. Croatia, Albania, and Italy all had underwhelming performances in the tournament. If Basque progresses to the round of 16, they would face Georgia, who earned their spot in the Euro 2024 Finals by triumphing in the playoff series. Georgia's path to the playoffs was through their victory as the group winners in League C of the Nation League in 2023. I considered this route as an easier path to reach the Finals. They finished fourth in their group behind Spain, Scotland, and Norway in the actual Euro 2024 qualifiers. Despite being perceived as weaker opponents, Georgia showcased their mettle in the Finals, led by the impressive performance of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Nevertheless, Basque should have the ability to overcome them and advance further.  

In the quarterfinal, Basque would have difficulty against the host Germany.  The outcome of the actual match between Spain and Germany in the Finals was ultimately determined by a lapse of concentration from Germany in the closing moments of extra time, allowing Spain to secure the victory. The match was a closely contested affair, and it could have easily swung in either team's favor.  It was entirely possible that Basque could not go past Germany.

GK: Unai Simón (Athlethic Bilbao)
Unai Simón made his senior international debut for Spain in 2020, playing at UEFA Euro 2020, the 2022 FIFA World Cup,  2023 UEFA Nations League and Euro 2024, winning the latter two tournaments.  He joined Athletic Bilbao's youth system in 2011.  He made his senior debut in 2018.  He helped them to win the Copa del Rey: 2023–24, and Supercopa de España in 2021.  Individually, he was named La Liga Team of the Season: 2023–24, and  won La Liga Zamora Trophy: 2023–24.
Unai Simón 
GK: Álex Remiro (Real Sociedad)
Formed at Athletic Bilbao, he played as a senior with Basconia, Bilbao Athletic, Levante, Huesca and Real Sociedad. He won the 2020 Copa del Rey with the last club, totalling more than 200 appearances since 2019. He helped them to win the Copa Del Rey in 2020.  Remiro made his full debut with Spain in 2024 playing against Colombia.  He was also a part of the squad that won Euro 2024 as a backup to Unai Simon.

GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Real Madrid)
Kepa started his careeer with Athletic Bilbao, but he played his first professional games on loan at Ponferradina and Real Valladolid, in Segunda División. Since 2016, he has been the starting keeper for Athletic Bilbao. In 2018, he joined Chelsea as the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.  In 2023, he was sent on loan to Real Maderid. Since 2017, Arrizabalaga represented Spain up to full level, winning the 2012 European Championship with the under-19 team.

RB: Óscar de Marcos (Athletic Bilbao)
Oscar de Marcos began his career at Alavés in 2008, but went on to spend most of it at Athletic Bilbao, making over 500 official appearances since 2009 and winning the 2023–24 Copa del Rey as well as two Supercopa de España titles with the club.  He was called by Spain in 2015 for two games, but never entered the field.   He has played for the unofficial Basque Country regional team.

CB: Nicolás Otamendi (Benfica/Argentina)
Nicolas Otamendi played mainly for Vélez Sarsfield and Porto in his early career, winning eight major titles with the latter including three national championships and the 2011 Europa League. In 2015, he signed for Manchester City from Valencia.  He also captained Benfica He was a member of World Cup squad in 2010, but missed out in 2014. He won the 2021 Copa América, and would then lift the 2022 World Cup the following year, playing every single minute of Argentina's campaign. In 2024, Otamendi won a second consecutive Copa América title.

CB: Aymeric Laporte  (Al Nassr)
Aymeric Laporte joined Athletic Bilbao in 2010 at the age of 16, he became only the second player born in France—after Bixente Lizarazu—to play for them, In January 2018, he signed for Manchester City. He was part of the side which won the only domestic treble in English men's football in 2019.  He moved to Al Nassr in 2023.  He represented France at the youth level, but switched to play Spain in the senior level in 2021.  He played every games in Euro 2024 as Spain won their 4th title.
Aymeric Laporte 
CB: Daniel Vivian (Athletic Bilbao)
In 2016, he moved to Athletic Bilbao, being initially a member of CD Basconia, the club's farm team in Tercera División.  He was loaned to Segunda División side CD Mirandés for the 2020–21. In 2021, he made his La Liga debut with Athletic.  In the 2023–24 season, he and Aitor Paredes formed an effective defensive partnership as the team challenged at the top end of the table.  In 2024, he made his international debut for Spain.  He played twice in the Euro 2024.

CB: Aitor Paredes  (Athletic Bilbao)
Aitor Paredes joined Athletic Bilbao in 2018.  He made his first team – and La Liga – debut on 29 August 2022.  In the 2023–24 season,  he formed a great young defensive partnership with Daniel Vivian he as they won the Copa Del Rey.  He featured in the under-18, under-19, and under-21 categories of the Spanish national team. On In 2023, he was a part of Spain Under-23 team that came second the Under-21 European Championship.  

LB/CB: Ricardo Rodriguez (Torino)
Rodríguez began his career at FC Zürich in 2010. He was sold to VfL Wolfsburg in 2012 for £7.5 million. He played 184 games across all competitions for Wolfsburg, scoring 22 goals and winning the DFB-Pokal and DFL-Supercup in 2015. In 2017, he signed for Milan.  Since 2011, he has earned over eighty caps for the country. He went to the World Cup in 2014 and 2018, and the European Championship in 2016 and 2020. In 2014, he was voted Swiss Footballer of the Year.

RB/LB: César Azpilicueta (Atletico Madrid)
Azpilicueta spent 3 seasons in Osasuna before switching to Marseille. In 2012 he moved to Chelsea. He was sixth on their list of all-time appearances when he departed in 2023., with no other non-English person having played more times for them. He captained Chelsea to win the Europa League in 2019, the Champions League in 2021, and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2021. He joined Atletico Madrid in 2023.  For Spain, he played 43 times.  He went to 2019 World Cup and Euro 2022.

DM/CM: Mikel Merino  (Real Sociedad)
After starting out at Osasuna, he had short spells with Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United before signing for Real Sociedad in 2018. With the last of those clubs, he won the 2019–20 Copa del Rey. Merino represented Spain in two European Under-21 Championships, winning the 2019 edition. He made his senior debut in 2020, being selected for Euro 2024 and winning the tournament. He became one of 12 players who won both youth and senior Euro titles. He scored the winning goal against Germany.
Mikel Merino
DM/CM: Benat Turrientes (Real Sociedad)
Born in Beasáin , Guipúzcoa , he joined Real Sociedad when he was just 12 years old.  Benat Turrientes made his professional debut on 21 August 2021, starting in a 0–0 away draw against CD Lugo.  He helped his club for a promotion to the Second Division after beating Algeciras CF in the final round. He made his first team – and La Liga – debut on 26 September, starting in a 1–0 home win over Elche CF.  He represented Spain at the youth levels.  

DM/RB: Beñat Prados (Athletic Bilbao)
Prados joined Athletic Bilbao's youth setup in July 2015, from UDC Txantrea. He made his senior debut with the farm team during the 2018–19 season, in Tercera División.  In 2023, he made his La Liga debut for Athletic in his hometown of Pamplona at El Sadar against Osasuna.  He was also an under-18, under-19 and under-20 international for Spain.

DM/CM: Martín Zubimendi (Real Sociedad)
Born in San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Zubimendi joined Real Sociedad's youth setup in 2011, aged 12. He had also played for Antiguoko in the Donosti Cup between 2006 and 2013. He made his senior debut with Real Sociedad in 2019.  For Spain, Zubimendi made his senior debut in 2021 while the Under-21 acted as the senior national team against Lithuania. On 7 June 2024, he was selected in the 26-man squad for UEFA Euro 2024.
Martín Zubimendi
AM: Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Flamingo/Uruguay)
De Arrascaeta debuted for Defensor Sporting in the Uruguay in October 2012.  He later played for Cruzeiro in Brazil. He joined Flamingo in 2019. He won several awards, including the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Team of the Year in 2018, 2019, and 2022. He also received the Bola de Prata award in 2019, 2020, 2022, and 2023. In 2021, he was the top assist provider in the Copa Libertadores and was part of the tournament's Team of the Tournament in 2021 and 2022. Additionally, he was selected for the South American Team of the Year in 2019, 2021, and 2022.

AM: Oihan Sancet  (Athletic Bilbao)
Sancet He made his professional and La Liga debut on 16 August 2019 with Athletic Bilbao.   In the 2024 Copa del Rey final against Mallorca, Sancet scored Athletic's equalising goal at the start of the second half. His side went on to win the trophy via a penalty shootout.In October 2023, Sancet received his first call-up to the senior team for two UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers with Scotland and Norway. He scored against Scotland.

AM: Ivan Martin (Girona)
Martin started with Villarreal in 2019.  He moved to La Liga side Deportivo Alavés in 2021, but he could not find much successes in the two clubs.  He then joined Girona in 2021.  In July 2022, after helping the Catalans to achieve promotion to the top tier, Martín's loan was extended for a further year.  Girona had a surprise season in the 2023-2024 season.  He represented Spain at the youth level, and played for Basque regional team.

AM: Ander Herrera  (Athletic Bilbao)
Herrera began his career at Zaragoza, before moving to Athletic Bilbao in 2011 and then to Manchester United  in 2014. He moved to PSG in 2019, winning the domestic quadruple and starting in the UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich in his first season, In 2022, he returned to Athletic Bilbao.  He represented his nation at the 2012 Summer Olympics. He made his senior international debut for La Roja in November 2016, but would only ever make two appearances, his final one being in March 2017.
Ander Herrera 
LW: Ander Barrenetxea  (Real Sociedad)
Barrenetxea is a graduate of Real Sociedad's youth setup (he joined the club from Antiguoko in 2013, on the same day as Martín Zubimendi). nIn the 2018–19 season, he began to train with the senior team, while registered with the club's C-team playing in the amateur fourth tier. In early December 2018, he renewed his contract until 2025. He was selected for the 20-man Spain squad for the 2019 UEFA European Under-19 Championship.

FW/RW/LW: Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao/Ghana) 
Developed at Athletic Bilbao's academy, he made over 375 first-team appearances for the club, including a La Liga record of 251 consecutive games. He scored the winning goal of the 2020–21 Supercopa de España. Born in Spain to Ghanaian parents, Williams made his full debut for the Spain national team in 2016. In 2022, he chose to represent Ghana at international level, being selected for the 2022 World Cup.

FW/RW/LW: Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao/Spain)
Born in Pamplona, Navarre, Williams joined the youth academy of Athletic Bilbao in 2013 from hometown side CA Osasuna. He began his senior career with the club's farm team, Basconia, during the 2019–20 season. He has been a star of Athletic Bilbao first team since 2021. His borther is Inaki Williams who played for both Spain and Ghana. He himself started to represent Spain in 2022, and played in the World Cup Finals. He starred as Spain won the 2024 European Championship.
Nico Williams 
ST: Mateo Retegui (Genoa/Italy)
Retegui began his senior career with Boca Juniors, who signed him years prior from River Plate.  After several loans, he joined Genoa in 2023.  Retegui represented Argentina at U19 and U20 level, but he chose to play for Italy in 2023.  In 2024, he scored twice in a 2–1 victory over Venezuela. He was the first Genoa player to score a brace for Italy since Virgilio Levratto at the 1928 Summer Olympics. He went to Euro 2024 for Italy.

ST: Gorka Guruzeta (Athletic Bilbao)
Guruzeta joined Athletic Bilbao's youth setup in 2014, from Antiguoko KE, but he left in 2018 after a relatively unsuccessful.  
He then played for CE Sabadell and SD Amorebieta in the lower division. In 2022, he returned to Athletic Club.  In the 2023-2024, he suddenly found successes.  His club won the Copa Del Rey.  He also came close in the Zarra Trophy after scoring 14 league goals.

ST/FW: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
The Frenchman joined Real Sociedad's youth academy and made , his senior debut in 2009.  He moved to Atletico Madrid in 2014 helping the club to reach the Champions' league final in 2016.  He also played for Barcelona before returning to Atletico Madrid.  At the time of writing, he was capped 135 times for France.  He made his mark at the World Cup in 2014 while winning the 2018 edition.  He also led the team to reach the Final of Euro 2016.  He won the Golden Boot that year.

FW/WF/LW: Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad)
Oyarzabal began his senior career in 2015 with Real Sociedad. It has been only club.  In the 2019-2020 season, he helped them to win the Copa Del Rey.  At the time of writing, he played 37 times for Spain.  He went to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. He represented Spain at Euro 2020 and 2024. In the Euro finals in Germany,  he played all seven games for the champions, starting once. He scored the winning goal against England in the Final.  He featured for the non-affiliated Basque Country national team.
Mikel Oyarzabal
Players Pool
Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico), Sergio Herrera, Diego Laxalt, Leonardo Balerdi (Argentina), Jon Pacheco, Iñigo Martínez, David Garcia, Leonardo Balerdi (Argentina), Igor Zubeldia, Aritz Elustondo, 
Yeray Álvarez, Yuri Berchiche , Kévin Rodrigues (Portugal), Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta, Mikel Vesga, Alex Berenguer, Jon Moncayola, Manu Garcia, Unai Nunez, Ruiz de Galarreta, Hugo Guillamón,  Ander Herrera, Unai Gómez, Raul Garcia, Iker Muniain. 

Squad Explanation
-- Eric Cantona, a French Catalan, controversially claimed that the 2010 World Cup victory belonged to Catalonia rather than Spain.  Spain's World Cup winning team in 2010 included 7 players from Catalonia. Only four of them started in the Final against the Netherlands with a fifth player coming off from the bench.  By comparison, Spain featured 8 players from Basque in the European Championship in 2024.  Three of them started in the Final against England while three more came off the bench.  Both of Spain goals came from players from Basque.
-- The Basque players on Spain's Euro 2024 team were Álex Remiro, Unai Simón, Daniel Vivian, Aymeric Laporte, Mikel Merino, Martín Zubimendi, Nico Williams and Mikel Oyarzabal.
-- Eight players from Spain's winning team in Euro 2024 represented Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad. Aymeric Laporte, a former player of Athletic Bilbao, brings the total to nine players associated with these two clubs. It's worth noting that Real Sociedad Robin Le Normand is a naturalized player from France.  He is not on this team. His eligibility issue is explained below. 
-- Ten players on this hypothetical team played for Athletic Bilbao while six players from Real Sociedad.  Kepa Arrizabalaga, Aymeric Laporte and Antoine Griezmann were former members of either clubs. César Azpilicueta is the only Spaniard among the team members who has never been associated with either Athletic Bilbao or Real Sociedad.
-- In Euro Finals, Mikel Merino scored the winning goal against Germany.  The match against Germany was widely regarded as Spain's most challenging encounter in the tournament. Nico Williams and Mikel Oyarzabal were the two goal scorers in the Final against England.
-- When assembling my Catalonia World Cup 2010 team, my aim was to avoid selecting any non-Spanish players. Although Lionel Messi and Hugo Lloris would have been eligible to play for the team, I opted to prioritize Spanish players. However, given the limited talent pool in Basque, I was more open to considering non-Spanish players for this particular team.  So I naturalised four players, namely Antoine Griezmann (France), Mateo Retegui (Italy), Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Flamingo/Uruguay) and Nicolás Otamendi (Argentina).  Griezmann and Retegui went to the Euro 2024 Finals, and actually played against Spain.  De Arrascaeta and Otamendi went to the Copa America held around the same time. Meanwhile, I also created a Ghana team that featured many naturalised players.
-- Athletic Bilbao won the Copa Del Rey in the 2023-2024 season.  In the league, they finished 5th that year, and they were followed by Real Sociedad in the 6th place. La Real has qualified for European football for four straight seasons. This season, they topped their Champions' League group ahead of Inter Milan, Benfica and Red Bull Salzburg before PSG eliminated them in the next round.
-- Xabi Alonso, hailing from the Basque region, guided Bayer Leverkusen to an extraordinary season that will be remembered as one of the greatest in German club football history. Under his leadership, the team accomplished an unprecedented feat in the Bundesliga by completing the entire season without a single loss. Their remarkable record of 28 wins, six draws, and zero losses showcases their unparalleled excellence on the field. They narrowly missed out on securing the treble crown after losing the European League title to Atalanta.  
-- Two of Spain's goalkeepers in Germany were Basque.  Both Alex Remiro and Unai Simon came from the youth academy of Athletic Bilbao, and they have established themselves as some of the finest goalkeepers in La Liga.
Alex Remiro
-- Guillermo Ochoa's Spanish surname, Ochoa, has Basque origins (Otxoa or Otsoa). This suggests the possibility of him having Basque ancestry, which could make him a potential candidate for this team.  He was less than a month from turning 40 years old at the time of Euro 2024, but his name should still command respect.  However, I considered Kepa Arrizabalaga, a native-born Basque, to be a more fitting representative of the Basque nation compared to Ochoa, who hails from Mexico. Kepa represented Spain on two occasions during the qualification for Euro 2024 in 2023.  Regarding his fitness level in the 2023-2024 season, he joined Real Madrid on loan at the beginning of the season following a serious injury to Thibaut Courtois. However, his time as the starter was cut short when Andriy Lunin took over the position. Subsequently, Kepa found himself predominantly serving as a bench player in Madrid, but he would be good enough to be Basque's third goalkeeper. 
-- Sergio Herrera who went through the youth ranks of Deportivo Alves should also be eligible.
-- Robin Le Normand was a naturalised player from France. Was he  "formed" in the Basque Country? He was already 19 years old when he joined Real Sociedad from Brest in 2016.  He was assigned to their B-team playing in Segunda División B, but the team was not necessarily considered to be the academy team of the club.  The origin of his surname also came from Normandy.  He was born in Brittany in northwestern France.  So his connection to Basque was just about playing for La Real.  I ruled him ineligible.  Meanwhile, Aymeric Laporte was also born in France, but he qualified through the "homegrown" rule by playing for Alethic Bilbao youth academy.  His great-grandparents were also from the French Basque region.  He is actually an automatic selection alongside Daniel Vivian, both of whom were part of the winning team in Euro 2024. Then, I reunited Vivian with his club mate Aitor Paredes who was ever presented for Athletic Bilbao in the 2023-2024 season.  He made a breakthrough into the starting line-up of the club earlier this season, forming a formidable partnership with Vivian.  They have the second highest winning percentage in La Liga, among partnerships surpassing the 500-minute mark. They won 57.8% of the games they started together (11 wins out of 19 starts), while only Real Madrid's duo of Antonio Rüdiger and David Alaba has a higher winning percentage. 
Daniel Vivian
-- Iñigo Martínez and David Garcia would have been excellent additions to the defensive unit, but unfortunately they suffered injuries during the 2023-2024 season. Before joining Barcelona in the summer of 2023, Iñigo Martínez was a part of the Spanish national team pool, but his 2023-2024 season was plagued by injuries, losing his place on the team to Pau Cubarsí in Barcelona. David García was included as a member of Spain's Nation League squad in the summer of 2023, but an injury prevented him from playing in the Finals. He was replaced by Nacho. Then, he had a season filled with injuries as well.  Instead of the two Spaniards, I decided to naturalise Argentine Nicolas Otamendi.  In the summer of 2024, he represented Argentina in the Copa America.  He is also invited as one of the overaged players at the upcoming Olympics in Paris.  He would be the most famous central defender on this team.
-- Leonardo Balerdi was another great candidate from Argentina.  Throughout the season, he was enjoying the best form of his career in Marseilles.  He was on the bench for Argentina as late as June 2024, but he failed to make the team for Copa America.  I also considered Jon Pacheco, Igor Zubeldia, Aritz Elustondo and Yeray Álvarez.
--  In absence of a healthy young rightback, I opted for the experienced César Azpilicueta.  Due to his age, César Azpilicueta was not automatically included into the team.  Originally a right-back, his versatility became evident during his time at Chelsea, where he transformed into one of the top left-backs in Europe. Last season, he was redeployed to the rightback pistion. Óscar de Marcos is a veteran for his club team Athletic Bilboa.  He captained them as they won the Copa del Rey because their regular captain Iker Muniain operated out from the bench.  During this season, he played his 500th game for the club.  Due to his age, he is not the ideal rightback for this team, but I don't have another suitable choice. Aritz Elustondo could operate as either rightback or central defender. He also struggled with injuries throughout the season. Álvaro Odriozola is a famous player because he has played for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.  In the 2019-2020 season, he won both La Liga and Bundesliga on the same year after playing half of a season between each club.  However, he did not play much with Real Sociedad this season.  
-- Ricardo Rodriguez's mother is a Chilean of Basque descent.  He is one of the most accomplished players from Switzerland.  In recent years, he is playing more of a centerback, but he locked down one of the leftback position on this team.  I looked into other leftbacks for the backup position. Aihen Muñoz sufferred a season-ending injury in January, 2024.  I ruled him out of the team. Yuri Berchiche was well-known because of his stint with PSG in the 2017-2018 season.  Due to his injury record this season, he shared his playing time with Iñigo Lekue.   Kévin Rodrigues who was capped by Portugal was a French-born player who had Basque blood in him.  In 2024, he is playing in Saudi Arabia. So I decided not to take another leftback. As mentioned, César Azpilicueta was a leftback with Chelsea so he could easily cover the position.  And Beñat Prados could operate as a rightback.  So I actually had two playerss each to cover boh sides of the fullback positions.
César Azpilicueta
-- Both Mikel Merino and Martín Zubimendi went to Germany for Spain.  They are also teammates with La Real.  Their exceptional versatility enables them to excel in a multitude of midfield positions, including as a deep-lying playmaker, defensive midfielder, or in a box-to-box role.  In actual Euro Finals, Merino scored the winning goal against Germany.
-- I decided to select Benat Turrientes who was a starting midfielder for Real Sociedad. Beñat Prados made his first time debut in La Liga this season.  He emerged as one of Athletic Bilboa's pleasant surprises of the season.  Initially deployed as a right back or central defender, he eventually found his place in the team as a midfielder.  I took him over the more experienced Hugo Guillamón. Guillamón was a member of Spain's 2022 World Cup team.  However, he has fell out of favour since Ruben Baraja became the manager of his club team Valencia in February, 2023.   He did regain some playing time in the 2023-2024 season, but I opted for the other midfielders. I also compared the estimated value of the three players from Transfermarkt.  Benat Turrientes and Beñat Prados were estimated at 20 million and 15 million euros respectively, while Guillamon was only 8 million.
-- For attack midfielder, I initially selected Oihan Sancet, who has been an outstanding player for Athletic Bilbao. Although he didn't make it to the Euro 2024 Finals in Germany, he has been a part of Spain's national team pool and has earned four caps since 2023. Notably, in the 2024 Copa del Rey final, he scored Athletic's crucial equalizing goal against Mallorca.  Despite not being a part of Euro 2024, he was one of the undisputed selections on this team.
Oihan Sancet
-- Additionally, I added the talented Uruguayan attacking midfielder/left winger, Giorgian de Arrascaeta, to the team. He has been a shining star in the Brazilian league for several years. During the 2020 World Cup Finals, he scored two goals for Uruguay against Ghana. He also represented Uruguay in the recent 2024 Copa America.  He is of Basque and Italian descent, which made him eligible for this team.
-- After that, I studied two veteran players from Basque, namely Raul Garcia and Ander Herrera.  At the conclusion of the 2023-2024 season, Raul Garcia decided to retire from professional football. His remarkable career spanned 609 matches in La Liga, placing him third on the all-time list. Only Joaquín and Andoni Zubizarreta, with 622 matches each, surpassed his impressive record.  But he has passed his prime.   Instead, I went for Ander Herrera for his experiences.  He was actually plagued by injuries during that season, and only played 23 leagues matches.  However, he was rewarded with a renewal at the end of season from Ahtletic Bilbao.  His renewed contract highlights the trust and belief that Athletic Bilbao has in his abilities and the significant role he plays within the team. I think his experiences would be valuable assets on this team.
-- I also brought in Ivan Martin from Girona.  Martin might not be the best player on the Girona team this year, but certainly, he has been one of the reasons for Griona's dream season.  Girona finished third in the league and qualified for the Champions' League.
-- Unai Gómez was another surprise of the season for Athletic Bilbao, but I took players with better experiences.  
-- Iñaki and his brother Nico Williams has become two of the best wingers in La Liga.  Iñaki played his best season and has secured his place on the right side of the field.  In Germany, Nico was selected as a member of the Team of the Tournament.  Ander Barrenetxea usually plays as a left winger, though he can also play on the right. So he could backup both of Williams brothers. He created history on December 22, 2018, when he made his La Liga debut for Real Sociedad. Coming on as a substitute in a 1-0 home defeat against Deportivo Alavés, he became the first player born in the 21st century to grace the competition. I left off Alex Berenguer who was mainly used as a substitute for Athletic Bilbao. In Bilbao, he lost many of his playing times to Nico Williams.  Mikel Oyarzabal is also a wing-forward.
Iñaki Williams 
-- Mikel Oyarzabal has been a fixture for the Spanish national team since the 2020 World Cup Finals.   A few days before the start of Euro 2024, he scored a hat-trick against Andorra.  In Germany, he played every single game for Spain while scoring the winning goal against England in the Final.  He is more of a left side wing-forward, but in Germany, he played well in the center.
-- Iker Muniain retired at the end of the 2023-2024 season.  Instead, I took his club mate Gorka Guruzeta.  He is the top scorer for Athletic Bilbao this season.  He was one of the main reasons for the resurgence of the club this year.  This Basque team also lacked a pure striker. 
-- Then, I decided to naturalise Mateo Retegui who is also a pure number 9.  For Genoa, he only scored 9 goals that season.  However, he made his debut with Italy in 2023.  He already scored 4 goals before the start of the Euro 2024 Finals.  In addition, he achieved the remarkable feat of being the first player since Pierino Prati in 1968 to score in his first two competitive matches for the national side.  In Germany, he started against Croatia, and came off the bench in two other matches. 
-- Antoine Griezmann is eligible for this team because he spent 4 years in the youth academy of Real Sociedad. He was home-grown in Basque, which was a criterion for Athletic Bilbao.  In the 2023-2024 season, he scored 24 goals in all competitions.  Heading into Euro 2024, he would be the most famous player on this Basque national team. In Atletico Madrid this season, he evolved into a player who enjoyed the freedom to attack.  He is now a cross between a number 10 and 9. However, in Germany, he seemed to have lost a step.  His starting streak with the national team also came to an end.
Antoine Griezmann 
The formation is similar what Spain fielded in Germany.  Mikel Oyarzabal might be a better wing-forward, but Spain utilized him effectively in the center.  He responded by scoring the winning goal in the Final against England.   Zubimendi and Merino played together in Real Sociedad.  Griezmann, who thrived in a free role at Atletico Madrid, would relish a similar position in the team.  

Monday, April 15, 2024

What if Argentina World Cup 1946

South American Champion 1946

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

La Máquina, which translates to "The Machine" in English, is a term commonly used to refer to the legendary football team of Club Atlético River Plate.   They played during the 1940s and is renowned for its remarkable attacking prowess and technical excellence. The core of the team was composed of five exceptional players: Ángel Labruna, José Manuel Moreno, Adolfo Pedernera, Félix Loustau, and Juan Carlos Muñoz. These players formed a formidable attacking unit that dominated Argentine football during their time together.  Sometimes, Alfredo Di Stefano, Nestor Rossi and goalkeeper Amadeo Carrizo were considered a part of the team.  Unfortunately, the prime years of La Máquina coincided with the outbreak of World War II, leading to the cancellation of the World Cup Finals in both 1942 and 1946. The global conflict disrupted international sports events, including the prestigious tournament. Consequently, the players from this team were unable to showcase their talents on the world stage during this period.  So, what if a World Cup Finals were held in 1946 with the participation of Argentina?

Why do I choose to create an alternative 1946 team for Argentina instead of 1942? First, Argentina won three straight South American Championship from 1945 to 1947, which showcased the talents of the Argentine national team.  I could use this as a basis for the 1946 World Cup Finals.  José Manuel Moreno also did not play in the 1946 South America Championship making this team more interesting than just copying the actual Argentine team in 1946.  Meanwhile, Alfredo Di Stefano and Nestor Rossi were not around in 1942.  By 1946, both were emerging young players.  I could have created a 1950 team as Argentina did not participate in that World Cup Finals, but by that time, Moreno was serious decline.
 Boye, Mendes, Di Stefano, Moreno and Lustau

The Other Contenders
I am not going to predict the outcome of the 1946 World Cup Finals.  Instead, I looked into some of the major teams during this period.  England, Italy, Brazil, Hungary and perhaps Sweden alongside Argentina were probably the best teams in 1946.  Argentina probably would be the favorite because they had depth on the team.  Norberto Méndez, René Pontoni and Rinaldo Martino were as good as the players from La Maquina. 

Austria: Most of the Wunderteam was gone by 1946, but Frnaz Binder still represented Austria in 1946.  In fact, he played against Czechoslovakia and Josef Bican in 1946. Bican switched to represent Czechoslovakia from 1938 to 1949. Ernst Ocwirk already made his Austria national team debut in 1945 before appearing at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Walter Zemen and Ernst Stojaspal also had earned their first senior cap by then, but Ernst Happel was not even 21 years old in 1946. Karl Decker was also an important player for them in this period.

Brazil: By the time the 1950 World Cup Finals arrived, Brazil had assembled a team that would go down in history as one of their finest. Prior to that, in 1946, they were recognized as the team that had relinquished the South America Championship title to Argentina in both 1945 and 1946. Taking a break from the 1947 tournament, Brazil emerged triumphant in 1949, ending a 27-year drought by clinching their first championship. It's worth noting that Argentina chose to boycott that particular tournament.  In 1946, however, Brazil would have feature a team of Zizinho, Leonidas, Ademir de Menezes, Jair, Moacir Barbosa, Tesourinha, Danilo Alvim and Domingos da Guia.  Domingos da Guia was named the Player of the Tournament in the 1945 South American Championship.  Meanwhile, Leonidas would be almost 33 years at the time of the 1946 World Cup Finals.  During the 1946 South American Championship, he suffered a muscle strain, which limited his participation to only one game.  He was a key player as Brazil beat Argentina in the1945 Copa Roca.  The Copa Roca tournament was a month before the 1946 South America Championship and about 6 months before the imaginary 1946 World Cup Finals.

Czechoslovakia: Josef Bican represented Czechoslovakia 15 times scoring 15 goals. Meanwhile, László Kubala also appeared in six games and scored four goals for Czechoslovakia between 1946 and 1947, but he only played alongside Josef Bican twice. One of the matches was against Austria in October 1946.  Their next game was against Poland in August 1947, where they scored two goals each for a 6-3 victory.  

England: England and the other Home Nations rejoined FIFA in 1947, marking their return to international football. However, it is plausible to speculate that without the war, their return could have occurred earlier. The 1946-1947 season marked the official return of the English league, but the British Victory Home Championship took place the season before. The matches were not formally recognized as full internationals, they were referred to as Victory Internationals. It is worth noting that Scotland emerged as the victor in this championship. The following year, England went on to win the 1946-1947 Home International Championship. Frank Swift, Franklin Neil, Bill Wright, Tommy Lawton, Stanley Matthew, Wilf Mannion, Raich Carter, Tom Finney and Stan Mortensen were some of the top English players in 1946. Jack Rowley perhaps might make the team.
England vs Argentina 1951
France: Larbi Ben Barek was a big star in France whole playing for Stade Francais in 1946.  Julien Darui was one the best goalkeepers in the 1940's.  Roger Marche was an emerging player who would earn his first cap in 1947. 

Hungary: Ferenc Deak rather than Ferenc Puskas was the top player in Hungary.  In the 1945-1946 season, he netted 66 goals. It remained a world record for the number of goals scored in a single season.  The same season, Puskas scored 36 goals in 34 games.  The other top players in that era included Ferenc Szusza and Ferenc Rudas. József Bozsik was 20 years old in 1946.  He had not made his national team debut. István Nyers had a brief spell playing in Czechoslovakia in 1946, but he was in the national team players' pool in 1946.  Sándor Szűcs was still alive in 1946. György Sárosi was still an active player, but he was 33 years in 1946.  He no longer played for Hungary.  Gyula Zsengellér was Europe's top goalscorer in 1945.  His last cap was in 1947. While playing with ŠK Slovan Bratislava, László Kubala appeared in six games and scored four goals for Czechoslovakia between 1946 and 1947. After returning to Budapest in 1948, he played three games for Hungary but failed to score.  I also created a 1950 World Cup team for Hungary

Italy: Valentino Mazzola served as the captain and iconic figure of the renowned "Grande Torino" team, widely acknowledged as one of the strongest in the world during the latter half of the 1940s. In the 1946-1947 season, Mazzola concluded the season as the league's top scorer, netting an impressive 29 goals. Notably, on April 20, 1946, Mazzola etched his name in Italian football history by scoring the fastest hat-trick ever recorded, achieving this remarkable feat with three goals in just three minutes against Vicenza.  This exceptional team formed the core of the Italian national team during that period. Silvio Piola served as the national side's captain from 1940 until 1947.  Giampiero Boniperti, Amedeo Biavati, Virgilio Maroso Virgilio Maroso, Carlo Parola and Pietro Rava were also members of the national team.  Gino Capello was still uncapped in 1946. Giuseppe Meazza was still an active player but had passed his prime.

Scotland: Liked England, Scotland returned to FIFA in 1947.  They won the 1945–46 British Victory Home Championship. They also played two international matches in 1946.  They drew with Belgium 2-2 in January 1946 and beat Switzerland 3-1 in May.  They were counted by the Scottish Football Association as official matches.  Billy Liddell of Liverpool FC was an active player.

Spain:  Spain was unable to participate in any competitive matches between the 1934 World Cup and the 1950 World Cup qualifiers due to the disruptions caused by the Spanish Civil War and World War II. They finished fourth in the 1950 World Cup Finals.  In 1946, they only played a single friendly match.  Telmo Zarra was in his prime.  The other top players included Agustín Gaínza, Ignacio Eizaguirre and César Rodríguez.  Both Estanislau Basora and Luis Molowny joined Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively in 1946.  

Sweden: The "Gre-No-Li" helped Sweden to win the 1948 Olympic Gold Medal.  It was the first major football tournament since the end of the War.  Six Swedish players turned professional after the Olympics. In the 1950's, the Swedish football association did not allow any professional footballers to play for the national team. Consequently, Sweden only fielded amateur players during the World Cup Finals in 1950.  Despite of that, Sweden managed to finish third and the best European team in the tournament.  Besides the "Gre-No-Li", Sweden could also feature Henry Carlsson, Erik Nilsson and the other two Nordahl brothers in this 1946 World Cup Finals.  Sune Andersson was uncapped at this point.  I also did an alternative team for Sweden in the 1950 World Cup Finals.

Uruguay: Uruguay only finished 4th in the 1946 South American Championship.  Walter Gómez had not made a name with River Plate in 1946, but he played in that tournament alongside Roque Máspoli and Obdulio Varela. José María Medina was the overall top scorer of the tournament. Juan Alberto Schiaffino made national debut in 1946 while Alcides Ghiggia was still an unknown player in Uruguay. Argentine-born Atilio García represented them in 1945, but not in 1946. Roberto Porta also ended his national team career, but Schubert Gambetta and Eusebio Tejera were available. 

West Germany: Fritz Walter had returned from the war by 1946. He played for Kaiserslautern.  Bert Trautmann who never played for West Germany had not started his football career.  They were banned from playing in FIFA matches until 1950.

Yugoslavia: Stjepan Bobek, Rajko Mitić, Zlatko Čajkovski, Branko Stanković and Ivica Horvat were active national team players in 1946.  They won the silver medal in the 1948 Olympics.

Other top Players in the 1940's: Fernando Peyroteo scored 56 goals in the 1945-1946 season. It was his best output in a single season. There were also John Hansen (Denmark) and Sergio Livingston (Chile).  Arseni Erico just passed his prime.

GK: Claudio Vacca (Boca Juniors)
Vacca began his career at Huracán and later joined Boca Juniors in 1938. Initially a substitute goalkeeper, he made his official debut in 1938 and became a regular starter in 1943. Vacca won six titles with Boca Juniors and also represented the Argentina national football team seven times. After leaving Boca Juniors in 1950, he played for Defensor Sporting in Uruguay before retiring in 1951. He won the South American Champion in 1946.

GK: Julio Cozzi (Club Atlético Platense)
Cozzi started his career in 1941 with Club Atlético Platense. He played for the club until 1949 when he joined Millonarios of Colombia where his teammates included Alfredo di Stéfano and Adolfo Pedernera. He returned to Platense in 1955, he went on to play for Independiente between 1956 and 1959 and then Banfield of the Argentine 2nd division. He played 6 times for Argentina winning the South American Champion in 1947.

Julio Cozzi
RCB: Carlos Sosa (Boca Juniors)
Carlos Sosa started his career with Atlanta in 1939.  He joined Boca Juniors in the 1941, wherhestablished as one of the best defenders of his generation.  He won two Argentine Primera División. He went to play in France in 1952.  He played for Racing Paris and Red Stars in Paris.  With Argentina, he was capped 12 times between 1942 and 1946. He won two Copa Americas(1945 and 1946). he was considered one of  Argentina's greatest ever defenders.

RCB: Norberto Yacon (River Plate)
Noberto Yacon was a member of River Plate's "La Máquina" in 1940's. He made his debut in 1938. He remained with the club until 1953, when he moved to play in Mexico for America.  He also played in Canada. The highlight of his career with Argentina was the South American Championship 1947 in which La Selección won the tournament undefeated. He earned 15 caps between 1942 and 1951.

CB: Juan Carlos Fonda (Platense)
Juan Carlos Fonda, born on October 5, 1919, in Vedia, Buenos Aires, began his professional career at Boca Juniors in 1941. After playing for Vélez, Boca (briefly), and Platense, he eventually joined Racing Club in 1946. Racing Club signed him due to his consistent performances at Vicente López's team.  He played 10 times for Argentina winning the 1946 South American Championship.

LCB: José Marante (Boca Juniors)
Marante began his career at Boca Juniors in 1934. He was Domingos da Guía's backup. In 1938, Marante played 25 games alongside Menéndez and Valussi. During that time, Claudio Vacca joined Boca Juniors, forming a notable trio. In 1939, Marante was loaned to Ferro Carril Oeste, but returned to Boca Juniors in 1940, winning consecutive championships in 1943 and 1944.  he won two South American championship in 1946 and 1947.
Norberto Yacon against England
LCB: Eduardo Rodríguez (River Plate)
Rodríguez made his debut with Estudiantes de La Plata in 1939 and became a regular player in the early 1940s. He joined River Plate in 1945, winning championships in 1945 and 1947. He later moved to Colombia during the El Dorado period. Rodríguez had three appearances and a goal for the national team between 1943 and 1946. He was a part of the team that won the 1946 South American Championship.

LCB: Juan Carlos Sobrero (Newell's Old Boys)
Sobrero started his football career with Newell's Old Boys in 1939. He represented Argentina in the 1946 and 1947 Copa América helping Argentina win the title. He also participated in the 1947 Copa América.  In 1949, he joined Racing Club de Avellaneda and won the Argentine league title. Sobrero retired in 1950, concluding his career with Newell's Old Boys. Throughout his career, he played 244 matches in the Argentine league and scored two goals.

DM: Nestor Rossi (River Plate)
Nestor Rossi is one of Argentina's greatest defensive midfielders.  Nicknamed "Pipo", he started his career at River Plate, playing from 1945 to 1949, and then again from 1955 to 1958, winning a total of 5 Argentine leagues. He played with La Maquina, but at the end of their peak.  he also played in Colombia. He also won 6 more with Millonarios in Colombia. He played in the 1958 World Cup Finals and was a part of their 1957 Copa America winning team.
Nestor Rossi 
CM: Natalio Pescia (Boca Juniors)
Pescia was part of one of the most remembered midfield lines in the history of Boca Juniors, along with Carlos Sosa and Ernesto Lazzatti between 1943 and 1947 when Boca Juniros won the 1943 and 1944 domestic leagues, apart from one Copa Ibarguren, one Copa de Competencia Británica and two Copa Escobar-Gerona. At the international level, he received his first callus in 1945, but made his debut in 1946. He was capped 12 times 

LB/LM: Jose Ramos  (River Plate)
Born in 1918, Jose Ramos started with Lanus, where he played a single season in 1939.  He was also a member of River Plate's "La Máquina" in 1940's. He played left back and midfield.  He retired in 1952.  At the international level, he was capped 11 times between 1942 and 1946.  He was a key midfielder as Argentina won Copa America in 1946.

CM: León Strembel (Racing Club)
Strembel began his career with Club Atlético Lanús in 1939. He played for the club until 1944, before joining Racing Club de Avellaneda from 1945 to 1946. He also played for Argentina appearing in the South American Championship 1946. In 1947 he joined Club Atlético Atlanta. Strembel returned to Lanús for the following season where he played until his retirement in 1956.

IR: José Manuel Moreno (Espana, Mexico)
José Manuel Moreno was the star of  "La Máquina" of River Plate in the 1940's.  Some older fans in Argentina considered him better than Diego Maradona and Alfredo Di Stefano. He never played in the World Cup Finals due to the World War II, but won the South American Championships of 1941, 1942 and 1947. He also played club football in Mexico and Colombia.  He was the first footballer ever to have won first division league titles in four countries 
José Manuel Moreno 
IR: Vicente De la Mata (Independiente)
Vicente De la Mata emerged from the youth team of Central Córdoba in 1936, he was soon signed by Independiente where he spent 14 seasons, scoring 151 goals in 362 games for the club. He played alongside Antonio Sastre and Arsenio Erico.  Capped 13 times between 1937 and 1946, scoring six goals. He won Copa América on three occasions. In 1937 he scored both goals in the 2–0 win over Brazil in the final. 

IR: Norberto Méndez (Racing Club)
Norberto Méndez started his playing career with Huracán in 1941. In 1947 he moved to Racing Club where he helped the club become tricampeones (triple champions) by winning the Primera Division Argentina titles of 1949, 1950 and 1951. He played 33 games for Argentina and won 3 Copa América titles. He is perhaps most famous for being the all-time top scorer in the history of the Copa América with 17 goals.

IL/FW: Ángel Labruna (River Plate)
Ángel Labruna is the second top scorer of the Argentine First Division with 293 goals. He was also part of River Plate's La Máquina (The Machine), and he was considered one of the best South-American footballers of his generation.  He played 37 matches for Argentina, scoring 17 goals. He also won two South American Championships (1946 and 1955) and as a nearly 40-year-old he played in the final phase of 1958 World Cup held in Sweden.
Ángel Labruna 
IL: Rinaldo Martino (San Lorenzo)
Rinaldo Martino was signed by San Lorenzo in 1941 at the age of 19 from Belgrano de Rosario.  In 1949 Martino joined Juventus in Italy, helping them to record their first championship since the 1930s. He retuned to South America.  He played with Nacional in Uruguay, Boca Juniors and C.A. Cerro. He earned over 20 caps for Argentina before moving to play in Italy, where he earned a single cap for Italy.

RW: Mario Boye  (Boca Juniors)  
"El Atómico (The Atomic One)" Mario Boye made his debut with Boca Juniors in 1941. With Boca he won the 1943 and 1944 Argentine leagues, and was the league's top-scorer in 1946 with 24 goals.  He also played for Genoa in Italy where he became "Il Matadore" (The Killer), but returned to Argentina four seasons later.  He played for Racing and Huracán. He earned 17 caps winning 3 straight Copa Americas.
Mario Boye
LW:  Félix Loustau (River Plate)
Félix Loustau was a member of River Plate's "La Máquina. He won 8 national titles during his time at the club. He is considered to be one of Argentina's greatest wingers. His international career was very limited because of the war. Nevertheless, he played 28 times for Argentina scoring ten goals between 1942 and 1958.  He won three straight Copa America in 1945, 1946, and 1947 with Argentina.

CF/SS: Adolfo Pedernera (River Plate)
Adolfo Pedernera was a member of "La Máquina".  He is still considered by many to be one of the greatest Argentine players of all-time. He was elected the 12th best South american footballer of the 20th century in a poll by the IFFHS in 2000. He moved to Atlanta in 1947 and Millonarios in Colombia.  Because of the Second World War, he did not play many games for Argentina. He still won the Copa America 1941 and 1945.

CF: Rene Pontoni (San Lorenzo)
Rene Pontoni started his career with Gimnasia y Esgrima de Santa Fe before joining Newell's Old Boys in 1940.  In 1944 Pontoni joined San Lorenzo where he helped the team to win the Primera División in 1946.  He also played for Independiente Santa Fe in Colombia and Portuguesa in Brazil. Pontoni made his debut for the Argentina  in 1942. He scored 19 goals in 19 games for his country, helping them to become South American champions in 1945, 1946 and 1947.

CF:   Alfredo Di Stefano (Huracán)
Alfredo Di Stefano was considered the best player in the world before the emerge of Pele and Maradona. He was one of the younger member of the great River Plate in the 1940's.  In 1949, he moved to play in Colombia before moving to Europe in 1953.  He won 5 straight European Cups with Real Madrid. He was credited in turning Real Madrid into a legendary club. His international career was limited to the fact that Argentina did not select overseas players.  He played for Argentina, Colombia and Spain.
Alfredo Di Stefano

Squad Explanation
-- Argentina experienced remarkable success in the South American Championship (Copa América) during the 1940s. They clinched the championship title in multiple editions of the tournament. Firstly, they emerged victorious in the 1941 edition. Then, they went on an impressive three-year winning streak, securing consecutive titles in 1945, 1946, and 1947. Of particular note was the 1946 edition, which coincided with the year of the World Cup. The final match between Argentina and Brazil in that tournament is often regarded as an unofficial World Cup final.
-- I based this team on the 1946 South American winning team, but I dropped five players. Julio Cozzi, Nestor Rossi, Alredo Di Stefano, Juan Manual Moreno and Noberto Yacon were added to the team.  I kept José Salomón out of the team because of a career ending injury he suffered in 1946.  He was Aregentina's most famous defender.
-- A total of five players participated in the three consecutive Copa Américas from 1945 to 1947. These players were Natalio Pescia, René Pontoni, Norberto Méndez, Mario Boyé, and Félix Loustau. Among them, only Félix Loustau had the distinction of being a starter in all three tournaments. 
-- The 1942 World Cup was originally awarded to Brazil, but the tournament was canceled in 1941 due to the escalation of the war and the logistical challenges it posed. Similarly, the 1946 World Cup, which was supposed to be held in Germany, was also canceled as the world was still recovering from the war's aftermath.
-- La Marquina won the Primera División in 1941, 1942, 1945 and 1947.  Boca Juniors took the 1943 and 1944 titles. The 1946 title went to San Lorenzo.  Both Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo also had one of their great teams in that era.
-- In 1944, Boca Juniors secured their second consecutive championship in the club's history. The decisive victory came in the final match against Racing, where Boca Juniors emerged triumphant with a resounding 3-0 scoreline. Due to incidents of hooliganism, the match took place at the River Plate stadium as the Bombonera, Boca Juniors' iconic home ground, was temporarily closed. Over the course of the season, Boca Juniors showcased their dominance, winning 19 out of 30 games played. They also recorded 8 draws and suffered only 3 losses. They also achieved an impressive unbeaten run of 26 consecutive matches, setting a new record in the professional era. This feat remained unmatched until Racing surpassed it in 1966, going undefeated for 39 matches. The lineup for the memorable clash against Racing is still revered as one of the greatest Boca Juniors' teams ever assembled. Vacca, Marante, Carlos Sosa, Pescia and Boyé made this team.
-- In 1946, San Lorenzo won the league title after 10 seasons. They scored a record of 90 goals in 30 games played while giving up only 37 goals. On the same year, San Lorenzo embarked on a remarkable tour of Spain and Portugal, which stands out as one of the most memorable moments in the club's history.  During their time in Europe, they played a total of 10 matches, including impressive victories over the Spanish national team by scores of 7-5 and 6-1. The Spanish crowd in the stadiums showered San Lorenzo with admiration, hailing them as "Son els millor del mon" (meaning "You are the best in the world" in Catalan). In Portugal, they thrashed Porto with a staggering 9-4 victory. Additionally, they showcased their prowess by defeating the Portugal national team with a convincing scoreline of 10-4. They faced their sole defeat during the tour at the hands of Real Madrid, who emerged triumphant with a 4-1 result.  As a result of the successful tour, player René Pontoni was offered a contract with Barcelona, but declined to leave Argentina (Barcelona then drafted River Plate's Alfredo Di Stéfano). Fellow player Rinaldo Martino did stay in European football and would later become a star with Juventus.
René Pontoni and Rinaldo Martino
-- La Máquina, under the guidance of coach Renato Cesarini, achieved remarkable success in the world of football. From 1941 to 1944, they secured four consecutive league championships, demonstrating their dominance in the sport. I took 7 players from their team in 1946.  Juan Manuel Moreno was playing in Mexico that year while Di Stefano was out on loan.
-- Argentina won three consecutive South American Championship titles between 1945 and 1947 with six different goalkeepers.  
-- In 1945, Argentina featured Fernando Bello and Hector Ricardo. Bello also helped Argentina to win the South America in 1937.  He had retired by 1946.  Ricardo started four of his team's six games in the 1945 edition, but he never played for Argentina again after 1945.  he would be 22 years in 1946.
-- The two goalkeepers on the 1946 team were Claudio Vacca and Gabriel Ogando. Vacca who played for Boca Juniors was the starter in the South America Championship. 
-- Julio Cozzi was the starting goalkeeper for the 1947 team.  His backup Obdulio Diano was a teammate of Claudio Vacca in Boca Juniors.  I did not know the goalkeeping situating with Boca Juniors between 1946 and 1947. 
Julio Cozzi 
-- Amadeo Carrizo made his first team debut in 1945, but he was mainly a backup for a few more years.  Sebastián Gualco had retired.
-- I decided to retain Claudio Vacca since he was the starter on the 1946 team.  For the second goalkeeper, I took Julio Cozzi.  He was probably the best goalkeeper on this list.  He would have been ranked higher in the All-Time list for Argentine goalkeeper if he played for a bigger club than Platense.  Later, he would make a name while playing for Millonarios in Colombia alongside Alfredo di Stéfano, Nestor Rossi and Adolfo Pedernera. Both Amadeo Carrizo and Alfredo di Stéfano considered him as the greatest goalkeepers of all-time.  
-- José Salomón or Carlos Sosa were the greatest defenders of their generations.  I selected Carlos Sosa for my Argentina All-Time team while José Salomón is on my Argentina All-Time Team before 1978.
-- Jose Salomon was the captain and stalwart of the team.  In the 1946 Final, he broke his tibia and fibula from a tackle by Jair Rosa Pinto.  The injury would eventually end his career and fueled the football rivalry between Argentina and Brazil.  It was partially a reason why Argentina did not play in the 1948 South American Championship as well as the 1950 World Cup Finals, both held in Brazil.  He would never play for Argentina again.  What should we do with him for the 1946 World Cup Finals held in the Summer?
-- For my Great Britain 1970 World Cup team, I took an injured Denis Law to Mexico so that I could reunite him with the "United Trinity" in a World Cup Finals.  On the other hand, my Hungry 1950 World Cup team dropped Ferenc Rudas who suffered a career ending injury before the Finals.  Liked Solomon, he was one of the best defenders in the post-War period, but never recovered to his former self.  His situation was similar with Solomon.  However, Denis Law's career did continue after 1970, which still seemed realistic to include him.   Law, being a legendry player, added a level of prestige, glamour and excitement to that team. 
-- Argentina did not play any international match between the 1946 Final in February and the first match of the next South American Championship 21 months later.   For the 1947 South American Championship team, they added Nicolas Palma, Norberto Yácono, Juan Carlos Colman and Nestor Rossi (who also operated as a central defender would make his debut in December 1947). 
-- Norberto Yácono was brought back after a 4-year absence.  I checked his record.  He played regularly in 1946 and 1947 for River Plate.  There was no reason why not to select him earlier in 1946.  He was Argentina's best man-marker of his time.
-- For the rest of the defenders, I retained José Marante, Juan Carlos Fonda, Eduardo Rodríguez and Juan Carlos Sobrero from the 1946 South American Championship winning team.  Sobrero played many times for Argentina in 1946 and 1947.
Juan Carlos Fonda
-- Saúl Ongaro who was a Centre-half was playing for Estudiantes de La Plata in 1946.  He later joined Racing Club in 1947, winning two league titles in 1949 and 1950.  Nestor Rossi in a World Cup Finals alongside his River Plate teammates added a much more romance to the team.  Was it realistic? Rossi made his River Plate debut in June 1945.  He immediately became a starter.  Many considered him the best player for River Plate the following season in 1946, but if the World Cup Finals would have been held in June, the season would still be on Match Day 5 at the beginning of the World Cup Finals.  Logically, it was still premature to select him in June 1946 when his first cap came in December 1947, but I decided to take him.
-- Víctor Valussi of Boca Juniors was also a player of note in the 1940's, but he was 34 years old in 1946 and his last cap was in 1942.  Ricardo Vaghi never played for Argentina.  He was out of question.  I also did not consider Armando Renganeschi who was born in Argentina but played club football in Brazil.
-- I did not want to change much from Argentina's South America Championship winning team. So, I retained Natalio Pescia, José Ramos, León Strembel.  Carlos Sosa, Norberto Yácono and Nestor Rossi could also be considered to be midfielders.  Both Carlos Sosa and Yacono were right half-back.  Rossi would be a centrehalf.
-- Natalio Pescia was one of the five players who won three South American Championship 3 times in a row.   He was a part of the famous midfield for Boca Juniors that won two league titles in 1943 and 1944.   This midfield was made up of his teammates Carlos Sosa and Ernesto Lazzatti. Lazzatti won the South American Championship in 1937.
-- Jose Ramos and Norberto Yácono formed the midfield for La Maquina.  Ramos was a left midfielder while Yacono played on the right.  He was either the right midfielder or the fullback.  Bruno Rodolfi played in the middle for them, but he was at the end of his career by 1946.  His last cap came in 1943.  So, I selected Rossi over him.  
-- In 1946, Leon Strembel was playing for Racing Club.  He left in 1947 before the club won three straight league titles between 1949 and 1951.
-- Inside-Right Antonio Sastre was also a big star in South America, but by 1946, he had passed his prime. So, I kept Norberto Mendez and Vicente De la Mata.  At Independiente, Vincente De La Mata formed a famous line with Antonio Sastre and Arsenio Erico.  He was also the hero of the 1937 South American Championship Final.  Mendez was a key player in the actual 1946 tournament.  He was Argentina's top scorer for the tournaments in 1945, 1946 and 1947.
Norberto Méndez
-- José Manuel Moreno was one of the five forwards of La Maquina, but his role was to track back and covered the whole right side. He nominally played as an inside right or left which is a position known as an attacking midfielder today. He was a total footballer ahead of his time.
-- In 1944, due to contractual issues with River Plate, Jose Manuel Moreno left for Mexico and join Club España. During his time there, he formed a formidable partnership with Isidro Lángara, and won the 1946 championship. Due to his decision to move to Mexico, Moreno was unable to participate in both the 1945 and 1946 South American Championships.  On July 28, 1946, at the age of 27, Moreno made his highly anticipated return to River Plate.  The 1946 World Cup Finals would have played a month earlier in June. In real life, he played in the 1947 South American Championship and was voted as the best player of the tournament.  So, he was still a top player in South America.
-- For inside-left, I took Rinaldo Martino.  He helped San Lorenzo to win the league that year.  And then, I took Ángel Labruna.
-- Bartholomew Colombo was a part of San Lorenzo that won the league that year.  Angel Perucca went to both 1945 and 1947 South American Championship.  Ernesto Gutiérrez was only 18 years old in 1946.   I decided not to alter the team too much.  So, I left them off the team.
-- The right-wing position on the 1946 was occupied by Mario Boyé who was a star with Boca Juniors and Juan Carlos Salvini.  Juan Carlos Muñoz of River Plate went to the 1945 South American Championship but was not on the 1946 team. He was famous due to playing for La Maquina. I decided to take Boye only.
-- On the left, I first took Félix Loustau. Manuel Pelegrina might be a more famous left winger than Ezra Sued, but he was not on the 1946 team.  I also only took Loustau.
-- The Inside Right and left positions were actually considered to be forwards, but I put them on the midfielders/wingers section.
-- Alfredo Di Stéfano was a similar player as Moreno, but he played as a central forward in 1946.  He only played a single game for River Plate for the 1945 season before going on loan to Club Atlético Huracán in 1946. In the 1946 season, he immediately made an impact, but the World Cup Finals would be held in June.  Liked Rossi would Di Stefano be ready for the World Cup Finals?  It was noteworthy that Guillermo Stábile was the coach for both Huracan and the Argentine national team at the same time.  So, he did know about Di Stefano very well by June. 1946. Furthermore, one of main points of this blog team was to incorporate Di Stefano onto the team. 
-- René Pontoni was one of the players who won three straight South American Championship. That season, he helped San Lorenzo to win the league title. Other top central forwards in their period included Jaime Sarlanga.  Herminio Masantonio had retired.  
-- Adolfo Pedernera would also withdraw to midfield, confounding the central defenders who were supposed to mark him, and opening spaces for the wingers.
Adolfo Pedernera 

I did not think Alfredo Di Stefano was ready to start, but I gambled on Nestor Rossi. Because of Juan Manuel Moreno, Norberto Mendez had to sit on the bench.  Rinaldo Martino could also start as the inside left,