Afternoon all, and welcome to this instalment of George Orwell’s 1984 World Cup. Today we escape from the Thought Police (or do we?), as we venture out into the woods to take a look at the men of Oceania and seeing just what sort of football team we can cobble together with like, half the world’s population.
For those who are unaware, Orwell’s Oceania covers; all of the Americas, the southern half of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the rest of the continent of Oceania, Iceland and the British Isles. And I know what you’re thinking, the possibilities with this team are limitless. That’s what I thought as well. But it turns out there isn’t as much footballing talent outside of England, Brazil and Argentina. There’s some, but I’m afraid this list is going to be comprised a lot of players from those three nations. Disappointing I’m sure, but it’s still pretty awesome to imagine this team actually playing together in the real world. At least if you’re sad like me it is. Also, since there’s so many incredible players to work with here, there’s inevitably going to be some/a lot of decisions you, the reader, will inevitably disagree with. But, if my journey through life has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t please anyone so you should just pick whatever players you want.
Anyway, let’s jump into it and see who’s doing the Party proud today.
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson & Keylor Navas
Kicking things off in goal (or should that be ‘handling’ us off) we have two Brazilians and a Costa Rican, and even though that sounds like the start of some awful joke, I can assure you the talents of this trio are no laughing matter. In fact, there’s a strong case for Alisson and Ederson to be considered the best two goalkeepers in the world right now, as their teams fight for Premier League supremacy and they fight for number one jersey for both Brazil and this team. Alisson gets the nod ahead of his Brazilian counterpart, but there really isn’t a whole lot to separate the two of them.
The fact that Keylor Navas only comes in as third choice in this team shows the ridiculous amount of quality we have to work with here, as the experienced stopper has been performing at the highest level since his heroics at the 2014 World Cup. He’s a fine third choice, and keeps the likes of Jordan Pickford, Dean Henderson, Claudio Bravo, David Ospina, Gerónimo Rulli and Fernando Muslera (among others) firmly off the team sheet.
Right-Backs: Trent Alexander-Arnold & Dani Alves
In at right-back we’ve got the current best in the world and the man he took over the title from. Joining his Liverpool teammate Alisson on the pitch is, of course, Trent Alexander-Arnold, since it would be completely stupid to not put him in the team, and that’s all I really need to say about him, since everyone knows how good his crossing and pace are. And as far as back-ups go, you can’t really do much better than Dani Alves, the worlds’ best in the position for pretty much an entire decade, and even at 36 he’s still competing at the highest level after winning basically every honour it was possible for him to win.
The reserves list is very British Isles-centric, with Kyle Walker and Aaron Wan-Bissaka the most logical options to call up in case of emergency, but we should also remember that Wolves’ Irish star Matt Doherty is one of the best the Premier League has to offer. Seamus Coleman’s also on offer too, if anyone wants him.
Centre-Backs: Diego Godín, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva & José Giménez
Taking a much needed break from Liverpool, we turn our attention to centre-back, where Diego Godín of Uruguay and Marquinhos, another Brazilian, await further instruction. Godín is both captain of his country and their all-time appearance maker, and has consistently been one of the worlds’ top defenders for more than a decade at this point. His partner, Marquinhos, meanwhile, is a regular for both club and country, offering pace, strength and composure, which is something you’d expect from another one of the worlds’ finest. We’re gonna see a lot of them here.
On the bench is Marquinhos’ mentor for both club and country, Thiago Silva, and it’s a crying shame doesn’t feature in the starting XI, but that’s more testament to the quality of the other two players. Now aged 35, Silva offers bags of experience and remains integral to his all-conquering club side PSG. And rounding out the centre-back selection is José Giménez. I’d have been tempted to put him in the starting XI since he and Godin were a phenomenal pairing when the latter was still at Atlético Madrid. But therein lies the problem; Atlético’s defence hasn’t really been the same since Godin’s departure, and neither has Giménez, and it makes more sense for Marquinhos to feature instead. Giménez remains a solid selection, though.
If we wanted yet another Liverpudlian in the squad then we could of course turn to Joe Gomez, who’s a tad unfortunate not to feature here, much like his England teammate and history’s most expensive defender, Harry Maguire of Manchester United. But we have enough Liverpool players in this team as is, and, in the case of Maguire, as much as I adore ol’ Slabhead, the four centre-backs we have are just a bit more reliable. I’ll also give honourable mentions to Nicolás Otamendi, Davinson Sánchez and heck, why not, David Luiz gets one too.
Left-Backs: Andrew Robertson & Marcelo
If the options we have on the right side of the defence are silly then just look at the left, with probably the two best left-backs in the world. Full stop. Period. End of. Finito. Viola. I forgot my point a while back.
Starting for us is yet another Liverpool man in the shape of Scottish supremo Andrew Robertson, whose left peg has been praised so much before long it’ll become a national holiday. He’s also Scotland captain which is pretty neat too I suppose. And it’s not like we’re stuck for options if he gets injured. Instead we can just bring in Marcelo, a man with over 500 Real Madrid appearances and has been considered among the best on the planet for as long as I can remember. A fairly easy pick for the left here. But just to rub in how overloaded with talent this position is, let’s not forget that Alex Sandro, Renan Lodi, Ben Chilwell, Kieran Tierney and Nicolás Tagliafico are all in consideration here as well. Mental.
Central Midfielders: Fabinho, Fernandinho, Casemiro & Jordan Henderson
I didn’t intend for the midfield to become so Brazil-centric but I had a flick through the options and it became blindingly obvious that they have way too many good midfielders than they know what to do with. Starting for the team in this 4-3-3 we have Fabinho (who, of course, also plays for Liverpool) and his Premier League counterpart, Fernandinho of Manchester City. Fabinho remains the dominant defensive pivot in the Liverpool midfield engine, whilst City always look much worse off when Fernandinho isn’t playing in the centre of the park, even when nearing age 35.
For back-up, Real Madrid’s Casemiro is the obvious choice, and will probably find himself being regularly rotated with Fernandinho due to his age. But I personally rate the City star a bit higher, so ol’ Basket Case-miro will have to make do on the bench for now. For the final spot, usually I’d turn to Barcelona’s midfield maestro Arthur, meaning we’d have four Brazilians out of four in the midfield. So to mix things up a bit, we have Liverpool (for goodness sake) captain Jordan Henderson making up the numbers. In fairness, even though he does sometimes gut unwarranted stick, he’s an excellent passer, tough in the tackle, and a born winner currently at the peak of his ability. Sorry, Arthur. I’ll extend further apologies to the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Arturo Vidal, Lucas Torreira, Rodrigo Bentancur, Andrés Guardado and Mason Mount. You’re all pretty classy blokes as well.
Attacking Midfielders: Paulo Dybala & Philippe Coutinho
It’s pretty incredible that for one of the most infamous footballing nations in history, it’s taken until the attacking midfield area to include a player from Argentina in this team. But the arduous wait for representation is finally over as Paulo Dybala takes up the starting spot in this team. Elegant, dynamic, a creative force who can also chip in with important goals, Dybala is the complete package on his day. So is Philippe Coutinho, who joins him in the squad as his back-up. Coutinho is finally starting to find form again at Bayern Munich after a disappointing move away from Liverpool, but the club don’t seem to miss him too much, and it’s one less Liverpool player to put in this squad anyway.
It’s a pretty competitive position we’re looking at here, and James Rodríguez, Taison, James Maddison, Dele Alli and Gylfi Sigurdsson (among others) can consider themselves unfortunate not to make the team. Especially good ol’ Gylfi, we could’ve done with an Icelander in there.
Right Wingers: Lionel Messi & Jason Sancho
Honestly, you wait all squad for an Argentine and then two pop up in one go. This inclusion is hardly surprising, as starting on the right wing we have, in my eyes at least, the undisputed GOAT in the form Lionel Messi. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Messi’s talent or how the game will be worse off when he calls his retirement in the next few years, but we’re pretty blessed to have seen him play at his peak. And who knows, maybe his back-up here, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, will be competing with the best in the world in a few years. The fact I’ve got him as second choice to Messi here is testament to just how good he is at the mere age of 20, since he can’t stop scoring or providing assists for the Bundesliga giants.
Now, I’m sure a lot of you will complain about Gareth Bale not making it into the squad, but even the die-hardest of fans will have to admit he’s never been anywhere near Messi’s level of quality, nor is he exactly in the form Sancho has been in the last couple of seasons. Decent player though. Ángel di María, Rodrygo, Willian, Daniel James, Juan Cuadrado, Hirving Lozano and Lucas Moura are but a handful of players who could also have featured, but I feel as though I’ve made the right call here.
Left Wingers: Raheem Sterling & Neymar
Both of these players are so talented, it was a bit of a tricky decision choosing who gets the nod over the other. Both are my unquestioned choices for the team, but in the end I think based on form over the last couple of years it has to be Sterling. He’s really been fulfilling his potential under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and has a phenomenal goalscoring return given he plays on the wing, even if he is going through a bit of patchy form. Neymar, meanwhile, is undoubtedly one of, if not the most skilful and talented players in world football. But his move to PSG has been a bit of a bust, being blighted by injuries in the French capital and being overshadowed by the brilliance of Kylian Mbappé. A comfortable second choice though.
If this were a few years ago we’d surely have Alexis Sánchez in the team over Sterling. But times change and this isn’t 2015 anymore, with the Chilean falling incredibly far from grace since leaving Arsenal. For more serious back-ups, the USA’s one talented male footballer, Christian Pulisic, is probably worth a mention here, as is Jamaican Leon Bailey. Marcus Rashford is unfortunate to not feature, as are Neymar’s fellow Brazilians Douglas Costa, David Neres and Vinicius Júnior. Also, Canada might actually have a decent player on their hands in the form of Alphonso Davies, so keep an eye out forhim.
Strikers: Luis Suárez & Sergio Agüero
There’s a big part of me that wishes I could pick at least four strikers for this team, such is the quality of forward available to us here. But you can say that for basically every position available here, that’s just how this cruel world George Orwell created panned out. Anyway, even if we do only have two spots left available, they don’t come much better than South American stars Luis Suárez and Sergio Agüero in terms of filling them. Suárez just gets the nod to start, what with him being Uruguay’s all-time record goalscorer on top of almost 200 Barcelona goals, and he wasn’t exactly bad at Liverpool either. I swear it’s like they saw this book actually happening one day. And with Manchester City’s all-time record goalscorer Agüero on the bench, a man who seems to score whenever he’s on the pitch, I think Oceania is pretty sorted when it comes to scoring goals.
Now, for inclusion’s sake, I desperately wanted to utilise the availability of Gabonese footballers to call up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but sadly I don’t think I can justify putting him in over the other two. He comes darned close though. If you needed any further indication of how much of a ball-ache this was to put together, just remember that Gonzalo Higuaín, Mauro Icardi, Lautaro Martínez, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Radamel Falcao, Tammy Abraham, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Raúl Jiménez AND Edinson Cavani could all have been called up as well. I’m so glad this world isn’t a reality.
Manager: Diego Simeone
Yeah if the playing selection wasn’t easy the managerial selection wasn’t exactly a walk in the part either. However, after spending more time than is probably healthy to mulling over the best choice between Gareth Southgate, Brendan Rodgers, Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone, I ultimately concluded it was the Atlético Madrid man who was right for the job, given the stability he’s brought to the club during his tenure. And heck if he doesn’t work out we just appoint one of the other three and his time in charge of this shoddy excuse of a country gets sent down the memory hole.
And so brings to an end the first part of another pointless series I decided to embark myself again. If we’ve learned anything for sure though, it’s that Liverpool are well prepared for the eventuality that the Parties of the world decide to settle their scores through football instead of war. Like, scarily well prepared. Maybe Tom Werner’s a big fan of the book?
If you enjoyed my ramblings, then be sure to check out the teams of the other three countries as well. They’re all on the clusterf*ck scale in some way, shape, and form, so at the very least I hope they provide you with some entertainment on a wet Sunday afternoon.
Thanks for reading, and remember, Big Brother is always watching.