Europe and South America are the leading continents in football, evident with the fact that all FIFA World Cups winning countries are from the region. In fact, to date, the final of the World Cup has only been contested by European and South American teams. Only two teams from outside these two continents have ever reached the semi-finals of the competition: the USA (in 1930) and South Korea (in 2002).

And while Europe has pioneered the advancements and evolution that football has seen since its inception, they are still lagging in the production of talents. 

The vastness of football talent from the continent is unfathomable. A typical South American player has the finely sparse doses of technical ability, physicality and raw ingenuity with the ball at his or her foot. 

In 2018, South American players dominate any list of top footballers over the world. 

For this End of Year List, we select Pulse’s Best South American XI of 2018. 

Goalkeeper 

Alisson Becker (Brazil/AS Roma/ Liverpool)

It was in 2018 that Alisson Becker really came into the limelight after his performances for AS Roma in the Serie A

He finished the 2017/2018 season with AS Roma with 17 clean sheets in the league and five in the Champions League as his status grew. 

He represented Brazil at the 2018 FIFA World Cup playing in all of their five games as they got to the quarterfinals. With his status as one of the top goalkeepers in Europe, Liverpool splashed £66.8m.

Indeed it has paid off so far, as Brazilian has remarkable improved Liverpool defensively. 

Defenders 

Santiago Arias (Colombia/PSV/Atletico Madrid)

Santiago Arias has had a good year from winning the Eredivisie with PSV to putting in fine performances for Colombia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and a big move to Atletico Madrid. 

He had caught the year in recent years for PSV where in 2017/2018 he won his third league title with the club. He was also impressive for Colombia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

Linked to a couple of big clubs around Europe, the Colombian right-back joined Atletico Madrid where he has started to impress after a slow start. 

José Giménez (Uruguay/Atlético Madrid)

José Giménez garnered many admirers with his tough-tackling and all-action display for Atletico Madrid this season who got their hands on the Europa League trophy in 2018. 

It said a lot about his performances this season that he was linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United. It was a big coup for Atletico Madrid to commit him to a long-term contract. 

At the 2018 FIFA World up, he was immense again, partnering with his Atletico Madrid teammate Diego Godin to make up the Uruguayan mean defence. 

Diego Godin (Uruguay/Atletico Madrid) 

It is no surprise that Atletico Madrid who are known to have one of the meanest defences in Europe have three defenders in this team. 

For the most part of the year, Godin would have been regarded as the best defender in world football but Virgil van Dijk has lept past him. But the dogged Uruguayan won the Europa League title with Atletico Madrid 

No player completed more clearances (12), more tackles (8) and won more aerial duels (8) during the group stages than Godin, who emerged from the first three games as part of the only team to not concede a goal in the World Cup.

Marcelo (Brazil/Real Madrid) 

He wasn't at his best all year round, but Marcelo managed to get on this list. He was an influential part of the Real Madrid squad that won the Champions League title for a third straight time and also played at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Brazil.

Midfielders

Fernandinho (Brazil/Manchester City) 

While Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City caught the eye with their brisk football, it was Fernandinho in the base of it all for the Premier League champions. 

With his specific job as a sitting midfielder for Manchester City, Fernandinho has been very reliable for Guardiola’s team. His job in the team is quite simple but he remains indispensable in the team despite the array of talents in the team. 

He played in all five of Brazil’s games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup but started only one. It wasn’t a good World Cup for him but he has since returned to Manchester City to continue in his crucial role for the reigning Premier League champions. 

Lucas Torreira (Uruguay/Sampdoria/Arsenal)

Lucas Torreira started the year as a decent midfielder in Sampdoria and is ending it as one of the most impressive players in the Premier League and Europe. 

Arsenal quickly swooped in for Torreira before the 2018 FIFA World Cup where he was impressive for Uruguay who got to the quarter-finals. 

With the Gunners, Torreira has looked a real catch as he has completely galvanised the club with his tenacious performances. 

Arsenal have been lacking midfielders of steel to protect their more technical and the little Uruguayan has looked the part and even more. 

Tidy in possession and tenacious in tackle, he has been the signing of the season in the Premier League already. 

Philippe Coutinho (Brazil/Barcelona)

There is a still a feeling that Philippe Coutinho has not hit the heights expected of his talents, but he still continues to be one of the best players in his position. For South America, he is Pulse’ best creative midfielder and makes this team because of it. 

He joined Barcelona in a big-money move and helped them to win the La Liga and Copa del Rey titles. 

Coutinho was Brazil’s best player at the 2018 FIFA World Cup after a recovering Neymar failed to spark. 

Forwards

Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona)

There aren’t enough words to describe what Lionel Messi has continued to achieve in football or anything entirely new to say. Every year, he keeps transcending what we have seen in the history of the game. 

2018 wasn’t different for Messi who is widely regarded as the best footballer in history. No player scored more league goals in the season that ended in 2018 and no one also scored more than Messi in the calendar year.  

Mauro Icardi (Argentina/Inter Milan) 

The golden boy of Serie A, Mauro Icardi had a good year where he got on the headlines for his scoring prowess with Inter Milan and not his colourful lifestyle off the pitch. 

Icardi was joint top scorer in the Serie A last season with 29 league goals and was named Serie A Footballer of the Year, the first player not from Juventus to win since 2011. 

He didn't make it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Argentina but the 25-year-old from Rosario has continued to impress for Inter Milan where he has nine goals in 13 games. 

Neymar (Brazil/Paris Saint-Germain) 

His diving antics at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia might have tainted him, but Neymar continues to be one of the best players in world football. 

He was voted the Ligue 1 Player of the Year despite his season ending in February with a leg injury. This season, he has continued in Ligue 1 where he has scored 11 goals in 12 appearances. 

He has also been brilliant for Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League where he scored five goals in the Group Stage to help PSG finish above the likes of Liverpool and Napoli. 

The dent in his year came at the 2018 World Cup where he was vilified for going down easily and also failing to lead a talented Brazil team to the title.