Men's soccer gold medal match combined XI: Brazil v. Spain

Posted at 3:58 AM, Aug 07, 2021

In terms of Olympic gold medal matches, this year's final between Brazil and Spain has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory.

Two of soccer's traditional powerhouses show the world their next crops of stars (and Dani Alves) on one of the biggest stages that international soccer has to offer -- the Olympic final.

So before the stars take the pitch, let's discuss: which players would make up a combined XI between the two iconic nations?


GK: Santos (BRA)

Santos is one of the three over-age players in Brazil's Olympic squad, and his experience was on full display in the penalty shootout against Mexico. Santos comfortably saved the first penalty and likely would've saved the second if it hadn't rung off the outside of the woodwork instead. Following a 4-2 win over Germany on Matchday 1, Brazil has only conceded once in the five matches since -- a goal against Saudi Arabia on Matchday 3.

LB: Guilherme Arana (BRA)

Arana has been central to the way Brazil want to play in possession. He gets high up the pitch, overlaps with Richarlison, and puts crosses into the box. The Atletico Miniero defender grabbed an assist against Germany on Matchday 1 and has played all but one minute at this year's Olympics. Against Mexico in the semifinal, he was integral, winning 13 of 17 duels and neutralizing Mexico's combination of Uriel Antuna and Diego Lainez.

CB: Pau Torres (ESP)

The Villarreal centre back shined in the latter stages of the European Championships, and he's doing it again at the Olympics. The Spaniard has been one of the Olympics' premier defenders -- he's winning over 60 percent of his duels and he's been the best defender in a side that's only conceded three times -- and the pairing of him and Barcelona defender Eric Garcia has arguably been the best centre back partnership of the tournament.

CB: Nino (BRA)

Sevilla's Diego Carlos is in the Brazil team, but it's the lesser known Nino of Fluminese who has been more impressive. A no-nonsense defender, Nino has been the key player in sweeping away any danger -- his 15 clearances lead the squad and rank in the top 10 at the Olympics. He's also winning close to 75 percent of his ground duels and 60 percent of his duels in the air, along with completing over 85 percent of his passes from the back.

RB: Dani Alves (BRA)

The man that will not age. 38-year-old Dani Alves took the captain's armband for his nation at these Olympics and he's been the best defender of the lot. His brilliant penalty in the semifinal shootout against Mexico will be fresh in viewers' minds, but he's been his nation's most consistent performer all tournament. Alves is everywhere on the pitch -- he leads the Games in key passes, he's second in tackles completed, and he's in the top 10 in successful dribbles. The most decorated player in the history of the men's game is 90 minutes away from yet another trophy.

SEE MORE: Watch Brazil's full penalty shootout vs. Mexico


CDM: Martin Zubimendi (ESP)

Every good side needs a stopgap midfielder whose role is to sit in front of the defense and win the ball back -- Real Sociedad's Martin Zubimendi has been that for Spain. While he does have the freedom to get forward when Spain is in possession, most of his job is to disrupt the opposition. Zubimendi has been fantastic in the air, winning over 80 percent of his aerial duels, and he's also been good at winning the ball back, recording 1.41 interceptions and 1.88 tackles per 90 minutes.

CM: Bruno Guimaraes (BRA)

Bruno Guimaraes has been tabbed as the next Lyon midfielder to move to a European giant, and he's shown his class throughout this tournament. He's been Brazil's most creative player in midfield, completing over 90 percent of his passes, creating 3 big chances, and grabbing 2 assists. Guimaraes is also contributing defensively, winning the ball back in the middle third and initiating the transition for a Brazilian side that loves to play wide. He also scored a fantastic penalty in the semifinal shootout against Mexico that put Brazil on the brink of victory.

CM: Pedri (ESP)

Between club competitions, the Euros, and the Olympics, Saturday's gold medal match will mark the 73rd time that Pedri will step onto a pitch in the 2020/21 season. And still somehow, the 18-year-old Barcelona wonderkid is showing his class for Spain. While he's yet to record a goal contribution, his creative and expansive passing range has been on full display for a side that largely lacked potency in attack until the knockout stages. He'll be the one to pull the strings for Spain against Brazil, and when he's done, he'll finally get a chance to rest. That is, until Barcelona's season begins in eight days.

SEE MORE: Asensio's winner pushes Spain past Japan in semifinal


FW: Mikel Oyarzabal (ESP)

Real Sociedad is well represented in this Spanish squad, but the standout is club captain Mikel Oyarzabal. Oyarzabal, like other Spanish forwards at this tournament, came alive in the knockout stage, recording a goal and assist in the 5-2 quarterfinal win over Ivory Coast and assisting Marco Asensio's extra time winner against Japan. He's spent time as both a winger and as a centre forward thus far, but regardless of where he plays on Saturday, he'll continue to be crucial for Spain in the final third.

FW: Richarlison (BRA)

Richarlison's tournament literally could not have started any better, as he captured headlines following a first half hat trick against Germany on Matchday 1. He followed that up with a strong group stage, including two more goals on Matchday 3 against Saudi Arabia. And while he hasn't yet found the back of the net in the knockout stages yet, he assisted a goal against Egypt and still looks every bit as dangerous. Richarlison is absolutely the player to watch in a Brazil attack that includes some top young talents like Antony and Matheus Cunha.

FW: Dani Olmo (ESP)

Similar to Oyarzabal, Leipzig's Dani Olmo is another player who has come to life as the tournament has progressed. He grabbed Spain's opening goal and later recorded an assist in the eventful 5-2 quarterfinal win over Ivory Coast, he assisted Spain's only goal on Matchday 3 in a 1-1 draw with Argentina, and his 1.6 key passes per game hint that he's been creating chances for his side in the final third. Olmo can play on either flank, and he should be handed a big role in the final against Brazil.