I'm glad I saw this post in its infancy, because it's a great topic for discussion for those of us who played or love soccer.
I completely agree with where you are going here. Soccer is a player's game, and the skill required to be successful at the top level is something that can trump the "athleticism" advantage that someone else may have. Many of us familiar with soccer have heard the term "let the ball do the work" and that really is the definition of the beautiful game. Moving the ball around successfully into areas quicker and more efficiently than a defense can contain is what makes you a potent attacking side. The ball, in motion, generally moves at a much faster rate than a runner. What does it take in order to do that? Touch and understanding, just like you said. More importantly, first touch and understanding of the game.
This is where the US still lacks in comparison to other nations. Kids grow up in Brazil, Germany, France, England, Italy, Argentina, and so on, dreaming of playing for Manchester United or Barcelona, or playing in a World Cup. They spend free time dribbling, juggling, playing pickup with other kids in the streets or fields. Most do not have the luxury of video games. They do not have the ease of viewing television as most American kids do. Instead, they develop a natural feel for the ball and for the game because it is what they do.
Americans, rather, are resigned to getting kids to commit to a club team by paying money for "top coaching" (which is normally a crock). Kids play when they're at practice. They're drilled to understand the game through the eyes of their coaches or teammates. They spend little, if any, free time playing freely and without instruction. The one advantage they do have over many other nations - the ability to watch soccer on cable at almost any time of the day - is rarely used.
All this goes back to your main point of top athlete vs. best skills. If you put the best athletes in the world against the best skill, best skill wins every time in soccer. Obviously amazing athleticism paired with top level skill is the best alternative, but in America we aren't quite there yet. In time, hopefully.