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All-time combined XI: Germany vs. Argentina

Sports Mole selects its greatest ever combined XI from the history of Germany and Argentina ahead of the international friendly between the two nations on Wednesday.

Two of international football's heavyweights face off in a mouth-watering friendly on Wednesday evening when Germany welcome Argentina to the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund.

The nations have combined for six World Cup wins between them - four for Germany and two for Argentina - although such glory days seem to be firmly behind them right now as they look to overcome recent setbacks.

Die Mannschaft were knocked out in the group stages of the last World Cup before being relegated from their Nations League group, while Argentina have suffered a string of defeats in finals to leave their last major piece of silverware as their 1993 Copa America triumph.

There will be plenty of interest in how they fare against each other this week, but the meeting will also conjure up memories of the countless great players which both nations have produced throughout the years.

Here, Sports Mole takes on the impossible task of selecting a combined XI from the illustrious histories of both Germany and Argentina.



Combined XI: GER vs. ARG



Goalkeeper: Sepp Maier

A position in which Germany in particular have had a number of legendary names down the years, Sepp Maier gets the gloves for us ahead of compatriots and fellow Bayern Munich stalwarts Oliver Kahn and Manuel Neuer.

A one-club man, Maier made 95 appearances for his country between 1966 and 1979, winning the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup in the process. 'The Cat' was named the German Footballer of the Year on three separate occasions and finished his career one short of 600 outings for Bayern, during which time he won 13 trophies, including four Bundesliga titles and three successive European Cups.

Honourable mentions: Oliver Kahn, Manuel Neuer, Ubaldo Fillol



Right-back: Javier Zanetti

Only Javier Mascherano has played more games for Argentina than Javier Zanetti, who chalked up a whopping 143 across his 17-year international career from 1994 to 2011. A Pan American Games winners' medal was all Zanetti had to show for that, but it was a different story at club level.

Perhaps the player more synonymous with Inter Milan than any other, 'Il Capitano' played an unparalleled 858 times for the Nerazzurri and wore the armband for 13 years before his retirement in 2014. During that time Inter won five successive Serie A titles in addition to 11 other trophies, three of which came in the unforgettable 2009-10 treble season.

Honourable mentions: Berti Vogts



Centre-backs: Franz Beckenbauer, Daniel Passarella

Widely regarded as the greatest German footballer of all time, Franz Beckenbauer led his country to glory at the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup before also being crowned a world champion as a manager in 1990. A two-time Ballon d'Or winner and four-time German Footballer of the Year, 'Der Kaiser' is considered by many to be the best central defender in the history of the game having revolutionised - if not invented - the libero role.

In addition to winning 103 caps for his country, Beckenbauer made 567 appearances for Bayern Munich and was captain of the team which dominated the 1970s, including three successive European Cup triumphs.

The class and poise of Beckenbauer would dovetail nicely with the more rugged approach of Daniel Passarella alongside him. Another World Cup-winning captain and the only Argentine player to have won the trophy on more than one occasion, Passarella was not only a fearsome defender but also one who had an eye for goal - his tally of 134 goals in 451 games was a world record for a defender when he retired.

Honourable mentions: Daniel Ayala, Jurgen Kohler, Oscar Ruggeri



Left-back: Philipp Lahm

Philipp Lahm lifts the World Cup in 2014© Reuters

One of the more difficult positions to decide upon, Philipp Lahm takes the left-back spot ahead of 1974 World Cup winner - and scorer in two finals - Paul Breitner. Lahm's place in the team was never in doubt, but his versatility means that he could have featured at left-back, right-back or in central midfield, such was his capability of performing at the highest level in a variety of different positions.

Many felt Lahm still had plenty to give when he retired from international duty after leading Germany to the 2014 World Cup, and then again when he hung up his boots as a Bayern player aged just 33 three years later. The reliable defender still crammed plenty into his career, though, winning 21 trophies with Bayern including eight league titles and the treble in 2013, in addition to earning 113 caps during his 10 years with Germany.

Honourable mentions: Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger



Central midfielders: Lothar Matthaus, Matthias Sammer

No outfield player has played in more World Cups (five) or in more World Cup matches (25) than Lothar Matthaus - a man whom Diego Maradona once described as the "best rival" he ever came up against. A box-to-box midfielder who migrated back to a sweeper role as he got older, perhaps the only thing as impressive as Matthaus's quality was his longevity, having made his debut for Germany in 1980 and his final appearance 20 years later in 2000.

During that time the former Bayern Munich skipper made a national record 150 appearances for his country, captaining them to World Cup glory in 1990 having also been part of the 1980 European Championship-winning team. Matthaus's exploits in 1990 saw him win the Ballon d'Or and the inaugural World Player of the Year award, and perhaps the best example of his enduring class was that he was named Germany Footballer of the Year in 1999 at the age of 38.

Matthias Sammer missed the 1990 World Cup but did experience international success at the European Championship six years later, when he was named Player of the Tournament following Germany's triumph. The only German in this XI not to have played for Bayern, Sammer went on to win the Ballon d'Or that year and at club level won three league titles in addition to helping Borussia Dortmund to the 1997 Champions League crown.

Honourable mentions: Javier Mascherano, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Diego Simeone, Fernando Redondo, Michael Ballack



Right-wing: Lionel Messi

Argentina's Lionel Messi during the match against Croatia on June 21, 2018© Reuters

The forward areas are where Argentina really come into their own, and none more so than Lionel Messi. The only man still playing to make the list, Messi is perhaps the greatest to have ever laced up a pair of boots - although the two men alongside him in the Argentina attacking trio could also lay claim to that title.

The list of records and memorable moments in the career of Messi is far too long to list here, but the headlines are five Ballons d'Or, 34 trophies and an incredible return of 604 goals in 692 appearances at club level. The Barcelona icon has been arguably the best player in the world for more than 10 years now and shows no sign of slowing down.

A lack of silverware on the international stage is the only criticism which can perhaps be levelled at the maestro, although he is still Argentina's leading goalscorer of all time and has led his country to the finals of two Copas America and one World Cup in recent years, being named the player of the tournament for the latter in 2014.



Attacking midfielder: Alfredo di Stefano

There are a couple of players in this team who could be mentioned in the argument of the most complete footballer of all time, but none more so than Alfredo di Stefano. The 'Blond Arrow' revolutionised the game during his trophy-laden spell with Real Madrid, when he inspired them to five successive European Cups in addition to eight league titles, setting the foundations for the club to become the behemoth they are nowadays.

Di Stefano ran games like no player before or since, often picking the ball up on the edge of his own penalty area and getting involved in every aspect of the play - most notably putting the ball in the back of the net himself with 487 goals throughout his club career.

Born in Buenos Aires, Di Stefano went on to represent three different national teams due to the rules at the time, with his Argentina career curtailed in 1947 having played just six games - and scored six goals - for his home country. Such a disrupted international career meant that he is arguably the greatest player to have never played at a World Cup.

Honourable mentions: Fritz Walter, Wolfgang Overath, Gunter Netzer, Pierre Littbarski, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Omar Sivori



Left-wing: Diego Maradona

Argentina's Diego Maradona lifts the World Cup trophy after helping his team to the 1986 title© Reuters

It is quite frankly ridiculous for Argentina to have produced three number 10s of such quality, and for many Diego Maradona remains the very best to have ever played the game. Unstoppable when on form - as England discovered with the 'Goal of the Century' in 1986 - Maradona's appeal was partly in the fact that his dazzling play was often offset by a darker side to the game - as England discovered in the very same match with the 'Hand of God'.

The 1986 World Cup was undoubtedly Maradona's peak, almost single-handedly dragging Argentina to the title as captain. The diminutive dribbler ended the tournament with five goals and five assists as he played every minute of every game, and those displays are still regarded as some of the best to have ever been produced on the biggest stage.

At club level Maradona was the first player to break the world record transfer fee twice, with his most memorable years coming when he led an unfashionable Napoli side to two Serie A titles.



Centre-forward: Gerd Muller

For a position with such huge competition, selecting the striker in this star-studded team was actually quite simple. Gerd Muller is arguably the greatest pure goalscorer to have ever lived - a claim backed up by his staggering tally of 68 goals in just 62 appearances for Germany.

'Der Bomber' scored 10 goals at the 1970 World Cup and four more to help fire Germany to the title in 1974, including the winning goal in the final. Germany also won the 1972 European Championship with Muller leading the line, while on an individual level he was a Ballon d'Or winner in 1970.

Bayern Munich were a second division team when Muller joined them in 1964, but by the time he left 15 years later they were the dominant force in German and European football, winning four Bundesliga titles and three European Cups thanks largely to his 563 goals in just 605 games.

Honourable mentions: Gabriel Batistuta, Mario Kempes, Sergio Aguero, Miroslav Klose, Jurgen Klinsmann, Uwe Seeler, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Hernan Crespo, Rudi Voller, Jupp Heynckes

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Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann celebrates scoring at the World Cup on June 17, 1994.
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