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South American trio count down to World Cup

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Tim Vickery | 08:45 UK time, Monday, 17 May 2010

Four years ago, in the build-up to the World Cup in Germany in 2006, there was a real buzz about South America's big two.

Brazil could boast a dazzling collection of individual talent. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira had such riches at his disposal that, as he later confessed, he felt obliged to go against his own principles and select a team that was almost a throwback to 4-2-4.

Argentina, meanwhile, brought a team built around the sumptuous passing skills of Juan Roman Riquelme. In qualification they had already shown hints of great quality - with switches of play, changes of rhythm, continuous formation of attacking triangles. In the World Cup they topped it all with an awe-inspiring defeat of Serbia. But they could not quite hit that standard again, and fell on penalties to the hosts in the quarter-final.

Brazil crashed out at the same stage but without ever coming close to living up to the expectations.

Four years later, it is impossible for Brazil to disappoint in the same way - for the very good reason that in aesthetic terms, much less is expected from them. They top the Fifa rankings, and after an excellent run of results go to this summer's World Cup finals in South Africa as justified favourites.

But, as Dunga's squad selection has confirmed, the 2010 Brazil is principally a pragmatic side - deadly on the counter-attack, with a superb array of set-pieces but without the pretension of capturing hearts and minds a la 1958, 1970 or 1982.

Argentina, after their problems in qualifying, would also seem to offer the purists less to get excited about. Selecting a back line made up of four centre-backs gives the team obvious limitations in possession. Argentina, too, look set to base their play on the counter-attack.

Argentina coach Diego MaradonaArgentina coach Diego Maradona will managing at a World Cup finals for the first time. Photo: AP.

From an idealistic point of view, the most interesting South American team in South Africa will be Chile.

In qualification the Reds scored more goals away from home than anyone else . It is no coincidence. Coach Marcelo Bielsa is obsessed with attack. If the game is played home, away, up a mountain or into a force 10 gale, it makes no difference - Bielsa wants the action to take place in the opposing team's half of the field. His trademark 3-3-1-3 formation is designed to apply constant pressure. He seeks to create two against one situations down the flanks, and while getting his wingers behind the defence.

Tricky right-winger Alexis Sanchez is the side's big hope, a potential superstar full of changes of direction and bursts of pace. Centre-forward Humberto Suazo was South America's top scorer in qualification. Just behind him Mati Fernandez has yet to show his best in European club football - for the national team, however, he carries something of the thrust of the youthful Kaka and if he is off form, Jorge Valdivia is a delightful twinkle-toed alternative.

Chile are basically a four and six side - the three in the back line plus the holding midfielder are primarily defensive with everyone else looking to push forward. Such an approach can leave them open to their opponents' counter-attack, and they struggle to defend in the air. One of the most fascinating questions of the World Cup will be whether Chile will get away with such a bold gameplan at the highest level.

The weight of history is not on Chile's side. They came third when they hosted the World Cup in 1962. Other than that, though, their last victory in the tournament was way back in 1950 when they beat the United States. They played in 1966, 1974, 1982 and 1998 without managing a single win.

And the weight of history also presses down on Bielsa. He needs to overcome the World Cup ghost of 2002, when he was in charge of his native Argentina. His team sailed through qualification in a blaze of goals, turned up in the Far East as favourites and promptly crashed out in the group stage.

In part, he was undone by the calendar - with the tournament held earlier than usual to avoid the rainy season, his players had not had enough time to recover from the rigours of the European season. Perhaps, too, it was a problem Bielsa did not administer well with some of the team complaining that they were being worked too hard in training.

These are vital issues for any side but especially for one of Bielsa's. Sitting back in defence is less tiring but to play Bielsa's high-tempo, high-pressure football the players must be in top condition.

Questions on all of these issues - the tactical formation, the physical preparation, the team's mental and emotional strength - will begin to be answered in just under a month's time. Chile kick off their campaign against Honduras on 16 June. This is no easy baptism. The pressure is right on from the start. With Spain in the same group, the opening clash is vital. Chile badly need to win their first World Cup match on foreign soil for 60 years. Fans of brave, attacking football will be in their corner.

Comments on the piece in the space below. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I will pick out a couple for next week.

A quick note of apology - I have got so much on at the moment that I do not have time to get back individually to all the questions, so I am very sorry if you have not had a reply. But please keep sending them in - they all get read and considered and they all help in formulating themes for future columns.

From last week's postbag;

Q) I've always wondered why Brazil have never been able to produce marauding box-to-box midfielders like Steven Gerrard, or Michael Ballack? Players who score and defend, are everywhere in the middle of the park. The midfield seems to produce attacking players like Kaka or defensive ones like Gilberto Silva.
Sola Sanusi

A) I would not say never! For me the golden age of Brazilian football, certainly as a spectacle, happened not necessarily with 4-2-4 but with midfielders who had grown up in a culture of 4-2-4. The pair in the middle had so much space to cover that they were obliged to do everything . Take 1970 - Gerson and Clodoaldo were interchangeable. In the semi-final against Uruguay, Gerson was being marked tightly, so he sat back and sent Clodoaldo forward to score the vital equaliser. You can still see this influence in the development of Falcao and Toninho Cerezo in the 70s and 80s.

What has happened since is that Brazilian football has become a hostage to attacking full-backs. Many of them have forgotten how to defend - Cicinho at Roma was appalled at being expected to mark the opposing winger. So if the full-backs do not defend, someone else has to - and thus the purely defensive midfielder was born and this separation of midfield functions became the norm.

Q) Just wondering what you made of the inclusion in the Argentina squad of Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez. I'm a Newcastle fan and both players have been impressive this season in the Championship. Is this enough though? In particular, seeing Coloccini in there instead of Gabriel Milito of Barca?
Chris Owens

A) I cannot for the life of me explain why Coloccini is in, especially as he has hardy featured under Maradona - only one game at right-back against Spain last year. It is entirely possible that he will not make the cut - but Gutierrez is likely to be in the team and for all his limitations, I can understand it.

Maradona has heaped importance on Juan Sebastian Veron - indeed the big hole in the squad is the lack of cover for him, unless you see Marco Bolatti as a potential replacement. Anyway, Veron is now 35 and you do not want him taking on too much defensive responsibility. If he tries it he now has a tendency to arrive late for the tackle and pick up cards. So I don't think Maradona is too concerned by the weakness of Gutierrez in providing end product - he is a strong, unselfish character who is there to run and cover and take the defensive strain off Veron. Maradona even said he would pick Gutierrez if Newcastle were in the third division!

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I really can see Argentina disappointing this year. Some of Maradona's selections seem very strange and I can't help thinking that their squad is not as strong as it should be. I think Brazil will do quite well but, as you say, they won't be playing the free flowing flair football that is usually expected of them. I look forward to seeing how Chile do - if they are as attacking as you say then there should be some entertaining games!

    http://the-fa-premier-league.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 2.

    I do feel that Chile could be a potential dark horse. They did well in qualifying and posses talent after their talisman Salas retired. And in my book Tim anyone who plays 3-3-1-3 in the modern era deserves my respect.

  • Comment number 3.

    You say Brazil are favourites but look at Spain's 11 - it's the greatest team I've seen in my life. If those two meet we're in for a treat.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have heard so much about Chile's attacking game and cannot wait to see this at the World Cup. Unfortunately I haven't seen many of the South American games, apart from the odd highlight, so I don't know much about any of the teams but I get the feeling that the neutral fans would very much like Chile to succeed.

    It is fantastic that a national team manager still wants to deliver good, entertaining, attacking football. I can't think of many/any in the world who have the same outlook.

  • Comment number 5.

    i expect them to fall short as soon as they face quality opposition.

    they do have the determination and the variety in their squad with which they can surprise and rescue themselves (as they did against Peru to qualify) but i am sure that they are too disorganised to beat the Brazils and the Spains that surely can not be looked past to reach the final

  • Comment number 6.

    Although interesting, I think its possible to dwell too much on Maradona's erratic decisions and selections. Even the 4 centre-backs thing is something of a misnomer when Otamendi is fairly mobile (and will receive cover from Gutierrez) and Heinze has vast experience at left-back. People will focus on the omissions of Champions League finalists Cambiasso and Zanetti but shouldn't ignore that in Samuel & Demichelis they also have 2 centre-backs in that final. Indeed, one look at the starting line-up against Germany in March tells you they have the tools to go far. There could be parallels this summer with the much-maligned Domenech in 2006 whose French team reached the final despite the question marks over the coach.

    As for Chile, like many others I am fascinated to see how Bielsa's team do with their 3-3-1-3.. it would really add something to the tournament if they could enjoy some success. Chile vs Spain on June 25th could be special.

    http://theghostgoal.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 7.

    Tim,

    Chile vs. Spain should be a hell of a match. If Bielsa learned from his mistakes with Argentina in 2002 I think Chile are in for the long run in this year's World Cup.

    Of the issues you have mentioned, the team's mental and emotional strength will be the deciding factor for Chile. Tactically and physically I think they will have no problem, but Chile has always come undone under pressure in the big tournaments so lets see what happens in SA.

  • Comment number 8.

    Look forward to seeing Chile.. didn't see much of qualifying so it should be interesting to see this formation..

    The big issue for me is Javier Zanetti missing out.. I think it's a shocking decision and any queries about his age would have been answered when he was still rampaging down the wing at the Nou Camp in the 90th minute.. His ability to cover different positions also add incentives to pick him.. Baffled..

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Tim

    Great post as usual.

    Two questions regarding Bielsa:

    1. Why is he nicknamed El Loco?
    2. What prompted his resignation from the Argentine national team in 2004? I know that they flopped in 2002 at the World Cup, but he had redeemed himself by winning the 2004 Olympics...

    Cheers

    http://twoyellowcards.co.uk/

  • Comment number 10.

    All of the S.American teams are fascinating. So often we presume one of them will be the hot favourites, then they flop (Argentina 2002/Brazil 2006).

    Argentina have a very easy group, so they should build momentum, and sail through to Semi's. Chile will surely come unstuck in 2nd round against anyone from Group G.

    Uruguay look like they could be real dark horses in the 'Group of Life', and potentially a clash with England in quarter finals.

    Not long now, and all will be revealed.

  • Comment number 11.

    3. At 12:37pm on 17 May 2010, fraac wrote:
    You say Brazil are favourites but look at Spain's 11 - it's the greatest team I've seen in my life. If those two meet we're in for a treat

    ---


    Spain are 4 / 1 favourites on William Hill with Brazil at 5 / 1. On Ladbrokes Spain are 4 / 1 and Brazil 9 / 2, and thats basically the trend on most other bookies.

    So it would seem, although Brazil are ranked first, the bookies would agree with you and have made Spain the favourites to bring home the trophy.

    For what it's worth, I fancy the Dutch to do something. But with that formation, I'm excited to watch Chile play for sure.

  • Comment number 12.

    Wouldn't it be more of a 3-1-3-3 than 3-3-1-3 if they are essentially a 4 and 6 side?

  • Comment number 13.

    The criticism regarding Argentina and Brazil has got to stop sooner or later. Just because they play a different football style doesn't mean they will not be interesting to watch. It's getting really boring to hear the same rambling regarding Brazil and Argentina... they play to win, they're not here to please us or to put up a show, if you want to see something beautiful, go the theatre!! Football is a sport and players and coaches play it to win.

    And regarding Chile, they are by far one of the most overrated teams comingo into this W.C., yes they play "interesting" passing and attacking football, but make no mistake, they will crash out in the W.C. and pretty badly, their defense is so weak and not to mention they will not resist the high-tempo physical game for an entire game, let alone the whole W.C.

  • Comment number 14.

    Maradona's selection is indeed perplexing. He's left out Cambiasso and Zanetti, two premier performers for Inter this season who were instrumental in stopping Messi(the best forward in the world) and co. Both of them are good on the counter attack too. Everyone remembers Cambiasso's brilliant run in the 25 pass goal.

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree chile will be interesting! Good spot, but you forgot to mention the earthquake factor which will give them steely resolve too.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think Chile might get found out in dramatic style by Spain, playing three at the back and trying to out attack one of the best possession teams in world football is asking for trouble. As the USA showed, you need to get physical on Spain limit the space that the midfield have to operate and them hit them on the break.

    Honduras and Switzerland both have strong defenders with Honduras having great engines all across the team and Switzerland having a very powerful forward line. One of the things you notice about Chile is despite the great flair they possess up top they struggle at the back for any type of height or imposing defender to soften up opposition attacks. This means it might be pretty hard to nullify the attacking threat of Spain and also the power of Switzerland with Blaise N'Kufo, Marco Streller, Alex Frei etc. Their defenders aren't as skillful or quick as the Spain forward line or as physically powerful as Switzerland's.

    I think the key game will be against Honduras who play a much tighter attacking game than Chile but are a little more balanced all across the pitch.

    The second main tactical dilemna facing a South America team in the world cup will be that of Brazil against North Korea. Everyone will except them to be whipping boys but as many teams have found out, this is not a side that will lay down easily - they are far and away the most defensive team in the World Cup, as Paraguay recently found out, needing a penalty to beat them 1-0. Nam Song-Chol and Ri Kwang-Chon are rocks at the back, with Kim Yong-Jun and Pak Nam-Chol being absolute bulldogs in the midfield. And personally speaking I think in Chong Te-Se they do possess a striker who is of some quality. Japan's (political) loss, Chongryon's gain.

    The key for Brazil will be attempting to breach a defensive line that is not used to shipping goals nor likely to venture much outside of their own half. They have a game plan and will execute it and we all know what that gameplan is. So far, Brazil's tactics seem to work perfectly against attacking sides rather than those who are going to defend for 90 minutes. Therefore if Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Robinho and their fullbacks are off form, we could well see a possible shock on our hands, or at best a dour 1-0 win that sends some negative press along Dunga's way. In short, I think they are the worst side they could have been paired with at this world cup.

    As for Argentina, I still maintain their main threat in this Group is South Korea, as they have fair better organisation than the other two sides. The only issue here is the mental lapses of the South Koreans who seem to struggle with the pressure of expectation. If they take the lead against Argentina expect a complete brain-lapse straight after. I will be going to the game in Saitama next week to both check out South Korea and Japan's preparation going into the World Cup so it should be interesting viewing. So far I like what Huh Jung-Moo has done by taking a rather defensivly organised side from what Verbeek had and making them a little bit more adventurous going forward. Calling up "wonder-kid" Kim Bo-Kyung and Shin Hyung-Min seem like gutsy decisions to me seeing as they only entered the senior side at the beginning of the year (although probably necessitated when you consider the off form of Kim Do-Heon etc.)

    Possibly Argentina might struggle against Greece, who will mostly likely do a North Korea whilst with Nigeria they might get outdone for pace at the back. But having the four centre-backs might be highly effective against the Koreans and Nigerians. Its interesting as I think all three sides will offer different problems for Maradona. It really is a mixed bag that he will have to do his homework for. The old Veron spray passing + Palermo lump with added Messi dribbles into no man's land needs to be expanded upon. I expect them to go through but maybe Maradona will evolve the tactical dimensions of his side as they progress. I can only seem them getting stronger and stronger as the weeks go on.

    With Germany losing their two best players in the months leading up to this tournament (Enke and Ballack) I think they have become my pick for the "write them off at your peril" team.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm Curious what does a 3-3-1-3 look like?
    Is it
    GK
    CB CB CB
    WBR DM WBL
    CM
    FR CF FL

    Or something different, an asnwer from any who knows would be aprreciated.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think the draw has been a little unkind to Chile. It looks like, barring any shocks, they'll finish 2nd in their group behind Spain and then end up playing Brazil in the last 16. I think it would be a pretty big shock if Chile were to knock out Brazil.

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com/

  • Comment number 19.

    Think it was away to Brazil or Argentina and Chile lost, but fantastic entertainment. I know it's not as simple as that, but like another poster's already said, I've got a lot of time for a coach who believes the best form of defence is attack and wants to play in the opponent's half. To win anything you've got to score.

  • Comment number 20.

    I do not quite buy the 'excuse' that the early elimination of Marcelo Bielsa's Argentina's team from the Japan and Korea 2002 World Cup as a result of tiredness of their European based players due to the ealier start than of the competition, as Brazil won that World Cup with a host of European based players.

  • Comment number 21.

    I do not quite buy the 'excuse' that the early elimination of Marcelo Bielsa's Argentina team from the Japan and Korea 2002 World Cup as a result of tiredness of their European based players due to the ealier start of the competition, as Brazil won that World Cup with a host of European based players.

  • Comment number 22.

    20?21! - Brazil were (are?) streets ahead in terms of their physical preparation - it won them that World Cup. In 2002 everyone who had played the European season seemed on their knees - it explains why there were so many shock results - with the excpetion of the Brazilians.

  • Comment number 23.

    > they play to win, they're not here to please us or to put up a show, if you want to see something beautiful, go the theatre!! Football is a sport and players and coaches play it to win.

    Oh my eyes! If that's your attitude then go follow American football or basketball or whatever else. Obviously winning is everything and football just happens to be the sport you follow.

  • Comment number 24.

    Tim,

    You've always praised Cristian Riveros from Paraguay so as a football fan you must be feeling good about his move to play for Sunderland in the EPL next season. I see in him the best qualities that Roberto Acuña and Carlos Paredes possessed so I expect a lot from him in SA. As good as Verón and Marcherano can be for Argentina, the Riveros-Ortigoza tandem could provide Paraguay with some quality work from midfield.

  • Comment number 25.

    I really hope that Chile succeed in FIFA2010.

    My only question is why has Maradona left out Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola who are both experienced and playmakers and are simply excellent?

  • Comment number 26.

    I would really love to see any other country other than Brazil win this year and put an end to the jinx that only Brazil wins world cup in other continents other than Europe.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tim, do you think that Argentina can do anywhere near as bad as they arelooking like they may do... or is Marradonna going to proce to all he is a natural winner. I really can not see them doing as bad as many asre saying they will... altough i do hoep to be proved very wrong.

    http://aldershotwoes.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 28.

    Interesting that you mention Chile, I've been buying all the required Soccer/Football World Cup Special Magazines out there, some of those magazines have Chile advancing to the next round alongside Spain while others have Honduras instead. I don't think it's that close, it'll probably be Chile but Honduras is no pushover.

    Off-topic, now that Chile has qualified and in the convincing way that they did, does the South American "Big Three" get "re-adjusted" as Brazil, Argentina & Chile? I say this because although Paraguay qualified directly as well, based on the last 3 World Cups they have had luckluster World Cups, not indicative of their qualification record while Uruguay needed a 5th place finish (yet again) to qualify to the World Cup... Uruguay likes to consider themselves as the "3rd Big" Football South American country, historically they might have a point, however their spotty qualification record for the last 20 years has allowed Colombia, Paraguay & Ecuador at various points to assume that "3rd Continental best" boast. I honestly don't think Uruguay is there, although things were done right under Tabarez, it doesn't erase all of the hiccups seen in the last 15 years --- what bothers me is that the way in which Tabarez had Uruguay qualify to the World Cup may be abandoned all together, I am referring of course to the usage of the Youth System, after Tabarez leaves in July, a new coach might take a different approach and just cap the "European" players thereby throwing away all of the positives a Youth System can give a National Team, in this regard I think Paraguay is more consistent, they continue to lean heavily on their youth team and bring the players up while Uruguay is always on the brink of disaster, always re-inventing the wheel when it comes to qualification.

    Also important to point out regarding Uruguay (and forgive me for going completely off-topic) is how much Uruguayans are quick to blame all of the NT problems on Paco Casal, when the sad reality points towards outdated football tactics and absence of a youth system (before Tabarez anyway)... anyway thank you for allowing me to vent, Great Blog.

  • Comment number 29.

    nice blog, ill be watching chile a bit more closely, still fondly remember ivan zamorano and marcelo salas, class acts

  • Comment number 30.

    Good call on riveros. I think he'll do well at the WC and at sunderland, if they can put a good team together. I'd rather see him and ortigoza in the middle though without santana. He seems a bit off the pace at the moment. And i think he'll form a good partnership with cana at sunderland.

    Chile have been great to watch recently. Humberto Suazo is a gifted player who can score all kinds of goals. he scored a lovely chip over the keeper against brazil in qualifiers (i think). I think they might be a bit lightweight to go far though.

    I'd like to see how Tata Martino fits Barrios into the team. Also, how will he use Tacuara cardozo? I feel he might not play very much, and we might use him as a last resort a la Palermo for Argentina... Shame to waste him like that though...

  • Comment number 31.

    For the record, this would be my Paraguay team for the world cup:

    Villar
    Veron, Alcaraz, Da Silva, Morel
    Vera, Ortigoza, Riveros
    Santa Cruz
    Barrios, Haedo

  • Comment number 32.

    I've always hoped Chile does well, and this is the most impressive team they've had that I know of. How will it do is an interesting question. The history of Chile's performances under pressure is not good, which makes me agree the first game against Honduras is crucial. A win probably will mean getting to the second round, a loss a quick trip home.

    The thing that may count most in their favor is that nothing, not even three straight losses, will make this into a bad world cup for Chileans. Getting there is always a great accomplishment, and beating Argentina on the way was heaven. So I think they're going to play confidently, and get to the second round.

    Of course, they're vulnerable defensively, but Bielsa's high-risk strategy has the benefit of novelty. Chile will have seen quite a bit of what their opponents play, while most teams will never have seen Chile's system, and, with luck, will be pressured into mistakes.

  • Comment number 33.

    I thought Pastore was Veron's back-up. If he isn't what is his role in the team?

    Thank you Aarfy_Aardvark for giving us an idea about the Asian teams. I wish the BBC remembered there are other teams out from other continents. A blog from an AFC and a Concacaf journalist would be highly appreciated.

  • Comment number 34.

    Please help me out here, but I think Pastore is more of a scorer than a playmaker. I can't understand building a team around Veron in 2010. His record in the world cup was disappointing when he was at his best. That said, Argentina has so much talent, that even with a number of very questionable choices, they only have to get out of their own way to be a threat to win--and the last friendly against Germanylooked like they were doing just that.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi Tim,

    Do you think Lucas Barrios can make a big impact for Paraguay and score goals on the world stage?

    I think this is the first world cup since the Colombian team of 94 that there is a genuine challenge from outside Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay have very potent attacks and one of them could reach the final.

    A final note this is the first time i have seen Honduras since the 2001 Copa America in Colombia where they were very exciting and played beautiful football if they play like that they too could make an impression.

  • Comment number 36.

    Dunga's team doesn't have the same stars as in 2006.

    However, the team that Dunga is bringing to the Cup is basically the same which finished 1st in the Qualifying, and which won the Confederations Cup in 2009 (Spain didn't reach the final).

    Parreira, in 2006, took the best players, but didn't have a team.
    Dunga didn't take the best players; rather, he chose to take the best team.

    http://www.worldcupbrazil.info/2014/

  • Comment number 37.

    Question: Of all the Latin American players, who do you think has the best chance of earning a move to Europe after the WC?

  • Comment number 38.

    Excellent article Tim, thanks.

    Brazil are indeed favourites, their strong defense and lethal counterattacking game should be too much for teams like Spain, who we must remember have only impressed playing against European teams. In the world cup, they'll face different styles of football that could easily see them come undone, like they did in the Confederations Cup.

    Nobody expects much of Argentina this time and that may be to their advantage, considering the excellent players they have, they could provide a pleasant surprise.

    As far as Chile are concerned, it'll be great to see them playing their attacking football in the world cup, irrespective of results.

    It's great entertainment seeing a team trying to win rather than one that will sit back, park the bus and defend the whole game trying not to lose, only to be eventually eliminated anyway.

    Hopefully, Paraguay and Uruguay will have learned from previous experiences and not wait until they're on the brink of elimination before trying to score goals. They are capable of so much more but they usually fall in the trap of playing for the 0-0 draw.

  • Comment number 39.

    ^^ No disrespect to them, but like the Italians at the last world cup.

  • Comment number 40.

    @39 "...like the Italians at the last world cup."

    or the one before that, or the one before that one, or...

  • Comment number 41.

    some people who talk about the spanish team... how many of the most important players were missing in that team who lost to USA in the Confederations Cup? One was Marcos Senna right? The brazilian...

    Anyway, losing to US proved Spain IS beatable.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm suprised at the stat that Chile haven't won a world cup game on foriegn soil for 60 years. I know they haven't qualified for the last couple of tournemtns but they've always had good players, in particular, Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas. I hope they do well this year, especially if they plan to play football in the "right" way!

    As for Argentina, I think the fact that everyone is righting them off could help them. Their forwards are among the best at the tournement with the likes of Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Higuian and Milito.

    www.football-journo.com

  • Comment number 43.

    Having one or two very good players guarentees nothign, trust me as a Welshmen who saw teams containing the trio of Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs fail to qualify I know.

  • Comment number 44.



    But, as Dunga's squad selection has confirmed, the 2010 Brazil is principally a pragmatic side - deadly on the counter-attack, with a superb array of set-pieces but without the pretension of capturing hearts and minds a la 1958, 1970 or 1982.

    .............................................................................

    What about the 2002 team that had Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and Ronaldo in the team.

  • Comment number 45.

    Argentina: They will progress past the group stage but how they fare thereafter will be down to the players. I`d say by the time the q-finals are around argentina will be getting ready to leave. Messi can`t carry Maradona`s marvellous insanity sadly. Sergio Batista, coach of the Olympic team should have got this post or maybe carlos Bianchi. Either one of them could have fit the components to this vehicle in a more apt manner. I havent seen much of Otamendi but i believe Zanetti is one of the top 5 full-backs(still) in the world. Heinze is past his best by at least 4 years. Samuel is class although Demichelis prone to the odd gaff. Mascherano will be busy chasing the ball as Veron is outnumbered. A cambiasso/Mascherano screen would have sorted this. They could have had 3 up front causing collossal damage but will now probably play just 2. Di maria will possibly emerge at this world cup but the midfield is where the game will be won or lost and Maradona will rue leaveing Lucho and Cambiasso at home.

    Brazil
    I want them to fail or be soundly beaten and have dunga hounded out. The 1994 team was a good side but compared to the others i have witnessed they were far from loveable. Ronaldinho deserves to go as this season although not back to his brilliant best, he has been at about 80% and has made or scored 27 of Milan`s 60 league goals. He could`ve been used as an impact sub for the not fully fit Kaka. I can`t see Kaka suddenly getting the monkey hes had on his back since he arrived at madrid off and flying through defences as per his Milan days. I hav`ent kept tabs on Robinho but im sure he`l have a good tournament as he shines more for Brazil then he ever did at Man city & Real. The defence of brazil is the best in the world and will prove difficult to get at. But in the dutch/spanish and a Mr Rooney there are some who could breach it. Get lost Dunga you donkey.

  • Comment number 46.

    p.s the 2002 team was brilliant, the solidity that Silva and kleberson gave allowed the 3 R`s to fly and the full-backs to do what they do best. The phenomenon was never going to be stopped from reaching his destiny. Shame he coul`dnt gate-crash Dunga`s big boys club!

  • Comment number 47.

    Hiya Tim, once again, sterling work!

    Looking forward to Chile's attacking flair, though I must say their over-reliance on attack will probably do for them... Out and out attacking teams rarely do too well in the World Cup.

    Argentina will do well I feel. OK, the squad selection is somewhat of a joke. I get Brazil picking players on international form alone, but they have won everything they have tried to in the last couple of years. Argentina, well, not so much. They may go far however, if they manage to stay solid at the back and hope for magic from Messi/diMaria/Veron.

    What I don't get is Brazil. OK. They play a style, and it works, and Dunga has sorted out the personnel he feels are best able to execute the plan. But where is the back-up?

    I have no idea what will happen if Kaka and/or Luis Fabiano get injured (perish the thought).

    Honestly can't believe Pato is not there (for Brazil I would see him as purely a substitute, but he could play up front or cutting in), and I believe Ronaldinho should have been there, otherwise, who else in the squad can launch the counter-attacks they so rely upon if Kaka gets injured or suspended?

  • Comment number 48.

    @ 45

    Just a quick point, but Robinho was one of the true stars at Real Madrid before he left, a point that I think is often forgotten because of how things turned out at Man City.
    Inconsistent, ok, but then almost every player is to some extent.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'd love Chile to do well.
    However, if they are proved 2nd best to Spain, they will play the winner of group G in the second round.
    And as we all know, this has been dubbed the "group of death"

    If Chile come 1st in group H well... take your pick of who comes 2nd out of BRAZIL, IVORY COAST, PORTUGAL and North Korea!

  • Comment number 50.

    To be honest, I can hardly see Chile as a hard-to-beat rising South American force which is likely to do really well right now. I mean, for some reason, you haven't taken into account that Brazil and Chile are probably facing each other on R16 soon (you know, the three most recent matches between them were 2-0 and 6-1 on Copa America and 3-0 in Santiago on the qualifying round, all for Brazil) Besides, who are Chile's defensive players? We can't even name them, if you want to know the truth. Let's think of a nothing-more-than good team that have 3 or 4 real hotshots, but, on the left back, have got Gonzalo Fierro, a poor reserve at Flamengo. On the centre back, Gonzalo Jara, a mediocre player as well. You see, there's no such chance for a side like Chile, considering mostly their lame background at World Cup history. On addition to that, it'll be a big deal for them to get past the R16, even if they get to face Portugal or Côte D'Ivoire

    Paraguay have a lot more to show - and a bit easier way up to the top too

  • Comment number 51.

    It's interesting to me how the performance of the South American countries outside of the big 2 has been, all in all, disappointing in the recent past, outside of Paraguay, which has done respectably. I'm not sure why this is, but might guess they get in less practice time, and aren't as well organized as the European teams. Consider Paraguay did well with Chilavert, who made sure he organized the team on the field, and there may be something to this.

    In any case, the chances of Chile getting past the second round do indeed look very small. It's a question of whether they can get that far, I think. I'm no expert, but I see this team as being not so much especially talented as well-managed. Bielsa's come up with a plan that suits the team. For some reason, Chile is typically better at attacking than defending.

  • Comment number 52.

    I live in Cape Town and have a ticket for the Chile-Switzerland game but I have to work that day (the game is in port Elizabeth). After reading this, I want to go even more. I think Chile will get out of the group but fall to their Group G opponents in the second round (Portugal or Brazil in my opinion).

  • Comment number 53.

    Oh my eyes! If that's your attitude then go follow American football or basketball or whatever else. Obviously winning is everything and football just happens to be the sport you follow.

    ---------------------------------------

    Considering I have been following football for over 20 years I found that comment completely laughable. I love everything around football but people often forget this is a game of tactics and the smartest will end up winning. Yes, you need talent and it's so joyful to see passing and offensive minded plays, but that's not all about football.

    And quite frankly it's become pretty irritating from both the media and the fans how they consider "good football" or "beautiful football" when a team passes the ball 30-40 times in their own midfield without executing any kind of goal chance... I've also learned to admire the tactics of pressing, knowing how to defend and how to counter attack on your opposition's weaknesses... I could go on and on for days but I think my point is pretty clear and there's a whole lot more about football than what some experts seem to indicate.

  • Comment number 54.

    Great pic of the Maradona clown and his media circus!

    I think Paraguay have more chance of making an impact this WC, theyqualified better. For sure a fast, skillful S American team might make waves ( same goes for Africa) but when it comes down to tactics and organisation I think you have to look at Brazil, however boring they may turn out to be.

  • Comment number 55.

    20 21 You dont buy bielsa failure down to the tired european based players.But the fact is that Brasil squad actaully had a majority of home based players.13 of the Brasilian squad played at home.3 each from Corinthians and Sao Paolo 2 from Germio and 1 each from Atletico Mineiro,Palmeiras,Cruzeiro,Atletico Paranense and Flamengo.Argentinas squad had only 2 players from River Plate Ortega and Husain

  • Comment number 56.

    Mexico got battered by Honduras in qualifying, but have improved since, beating Chile 1-0 last sunday.... dont hear much about them in this column. I always associte them with being more Latin than N American though.

    Also "Gamesmanship" wise which country out of Arg/Bra/Chile/Para/Mex/Hon will a)total the most dives
    b) have the most notorious diving incident of the WC credited to them?

    They're all always up there...

  • Comment number 57.

    @56 if Gerrard isn't the top diver, I'd have to go with C. Ronaldo or Nani.

  • Comment number 58.

    Nice blog, Tim. I think of Dunga's Brazil as a coiled serpent ready to strike at any time. Argentina looks like a mess (in spite of Messi :-)) since they have no order in midfield other than Verón.

    The Paraguayans entered the Cup through the front door thanks to their excellent defence and midfield. The Uruguayans entered (por la ventana de atrás) through the back window. Although Gustavo Munúa was a brick wall in saving Málaga from relegation last Sunday against Real Madrid. The Uruguayans have some firepower up front with Diego Forlán, he is very erratic though. When on he is a Golden Boot, when off (no le marca un gol al arco iris) could not score a goal against a rainbow.

    The Chileans are going to be interesting because of their speed. This is the best Chilean side since the 1970s.

  • Comment number 59.

    58 - "could not score a goal against a rainbow" - love it! Where does that one come from?

    56 - I fear Mexico are playing far too many friendlies before the WC starts. They'll all be tired/injured/sick of the sight of each other by the end of the group stage. Greedy FMF, make the English FA look like saints by comparison. C
    an't really blame Legendinho for not writing about them, he's the South American football correspondent here. Even the Yucatan peninsula is waaay north of Colombia. Imagine his expenses if he had to cover them as well!

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm a bit disappointed, I have to say. After a blog about Brasil & Argentina's team selection I though that the "southamerican trio" would refer to the other three. I guess these are your three favourites for 2010. Now my grain of salt:

    brasil: Robinho and Kaka are the only big stars names in the brazilian squad? I think the press had a good point about the inclusion of Ganso or Neimar to give them some experience. The pressure to avoid a new Maracanazo in 2014 will be immense, and I've read that these is the older squad Brasil is taking to the world cup in quite a few years (average>28 years)

    argentina: with anyone else as a coach and hiperhyped Messi they would go into the world cup as the team to be. They have Maradona, so the only certain thing is whatever they do it will be something to remeber ... beat everybody by three or four goals, or crash in the group stage and end up in a brawl against the Greek.

    chile: you hit the nail in the head regarding their poor performance away from home - not only of the national team, the same goes for their club teams in the Libertadores. I think this lack of attitude is more of a problem for a team that plays beautiful attack, and it will be felt once things gets tough past the group stage.

    Paraguay: they are due a good worldcup!

    Uruguay: the most promising Uruguay team I've seen in my short life. Could get far. We're just missing a Veron or a Kaka, a midfielder that can control the pace and the flow of the game. Lodeiro could be that guy but he's still too young - more technique than tactic. Somebody else also hit the nail... if we would just remember to play for the win and not the 0-0 we'll get far. My fear is that the realistic expectations of the team (and most people in Uruguay) are the quarterfinals; after that we'd be satisfied and take a excessively cautious approach. In any case: vayan pelando als chauchas!!

  • Comment number 61.

    @58: I'm pretty sure Munua is not in the squad.

    @56: Mexico shares the same language and religion with southamerica, but in many other things it's much more similar to its neighbours in the north.... so it's kind of lumping together India and England.

  • Comment number 62.

    "AdamTHFC wrote:
    I'm Curious what does a 3-3-1-3 look like?"

    You're right, however Bielsa has explained that this should resemble more of a 4-2-1-3 where either the WBR or the WBL takes a defensive position and becomes a full back (usually Medel, Vidal, Estrada or Isla).

    Other interesting tips. This side was built upon the success of two teams: Colo Colo 2006-2007 and Chile who won bronze-medal at the 2007 U-20 World Cup. As an U.Catolica supporter, I hopelessly witnessed how Bravo, Fernandez, Suazo, Valdivia, Sanchez and Vidal put on a show and won four leagues in a row and made it to the final of the "Sudamericana Cup". Some of those players, along with Medel, Isla and Carmona, lost a tight match against Argentina of Di Maria and Aguero and failed to reach the final. This knowledge of each other and "no-fear" attitude are a driving-force for this group.

    However Bielsa himself has been cautious, stating that people are being mislead when told that “Chile is just one point below Brazil…We know this is an exception and not a rule”. The preparation has been struck by bad luck (eartquake and canceled matches) and a poor performance from some players. We were by far the best organized and methodic squad in the qualifiers and now we might have lost part of that edge.

    But I trust Chile. Keep an eye on Sanchez, Medel and Suazo; great to watch. I will be cheeky enough to bet for a 1/4 finals.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think the African teams can do well this time round. they'll have lots of support.

  • Comment number 64.

    Chile is very good attacking team i really like their 3-3-1-3 formation. if they don't get overawed by spain, they should be able to handle swiss and honduras to qualify from the group.

    My brasil is absolutely a hard working, organised outfit, based on a practical approach. many voices from selecao enthusiasts have called for ronaldinho's inclusion so that they could see some flair at the world cup. while that is a fair point, that's not what dunga needs to make his unit click. counter attacking will be main weapon for this selecao, and ability to exploit set pieces but mainly the DEFENCE, comprised of world class players in teh backline can propel brasil deep into the tournament. roles have changed a bit, not often you would think of brasil as a defensively excellent team haha. FORCA BRASIL!

  • Comment number 65.

  • Comment number 66.

    The Uruguayan forwards Diego Forlan of Atlético and Ajax's Suárez have both scored plenty of goals in European club football but how do they link up in the national team? Could they be the best partnership in the World Cup?

  • Comment number 67.

    Uruguay are the esssence of South American football to me, and never really get credit for their history (and apparently I have relatives in Montevideo)- how many red cards do you reckon they'll get?

  • Comment number 68.

    Some light about Chile from a Chilean die-hard soccer fan:
    Bielsa indeed plays an old-fashion 3-3-1-3 scheme but the key is watching even the centre forward doing defensive duties at times. In fact, he likes to use players out of their regular places looking for constant movement on his squad. Important: Chilean roster may not be impressive by names, but these guys have played on complete different levels on the South American Qualifiers under Bielsa’s advices (and yells).
    Chile's captain and leader is goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, a little lost on Spain's Real Sociedad but he even won last season Second Division Zamora Award and has been on the eye of both Real Madrid and Barcelona. The reason why he’s so important on our team is because Chilean defence is actually pretty vulnerable, not because of so-bad players more also ‘victim’ of a risky scheme without much cover to them. Waldo Ponce is a classic sweeper which at times makes terrible mistakes only because he’s so talented that at times is too confident. Primal stoppers are Gonzalo Jara (West Brom) and Gary Medel, a truly star on Boca Juniors; he actually scored two goals on last Argentinean Superclassic against River Plate because everywhere but on the National Team he’s a terrific box-to-box midfielder. However, his passion for the game makes him able to play on defence against opposite forwards 20 cms taller than him.
    Another key piece here is Reggina’s Carlos Carmona, the ‘destructive’ midfielder. He’s a young player which Bielsa has been modelled for two years and is able to cover great spaces and many, many partners’ backs.
    On his sides are the great doubts so far, with many options. On the right can be Rodrigo Millar (grown as a playmaker but more valuable some meters behind) or two human ‘jokers’: Udinese’s Mauricio Isla and Bayer Leverkusen’s Arturo Vidal. They can play multiple positions and are first options on the sides if Bielsa wants to play with four defenders. Vidal was actually truly important on Germans good Bundesliga performance this year. On the left, winger America’s Jean Beausejour should be the chosen one because with Bielsa he’s even able to defend and his speed is a great help.
    In front of them is the ‘National Debate’ about the playmaker spot: some guys like Parma’s Luis Jimenez and Atalanta’s Jaime Valdes are not even considered because the main options are clear. Matías Fernandez (2006 South American best player) is struggling on Europe but is a different guy with this team and, although highly gifted, his lack of personality puts him behind (on the fans perception) from Jorge Valdivia. He could be playing somewhere on the Emirates, but before that was a fan-favourite on Brazil playing for Palmeiras, something extremely difficult for foreign playmakers on a nation fill of gifted playmakers. Probably Fernandez will be the starter because is one of Bielsa’s favourites, but ‘The Wizard’ Valdivia will be ready waiting on the bench.
    The front line is much more than the guys which attack because, as said before, they also have defensive obligations. Udinese’s Alexis Sanchez could be the closest thing to Cristiano Ronaldo right now playing on Europe, his problem was exploded to late onto Italian season but he’s currently playing great (Sir Alex Ferguson has been watching him) and, when focused, is practically unstoppable by the right wing. On the other side, CSKA’S Mark Gonzalez is a human ‘speed-racer’ able to run extremely fast; he’s a little unpredictable with his feet but is an extra weapon. Scoring, this team has no trouble with Humberto Suazo. Zaragoza wants to sale its Stadium to retain him and he’s the closest we have had since Zamorano and Salas.
    That said, just watch and enjoy this team. We could not even won a game but we will be a terrific team to watch on these defensive-oriented days.

    (Sorry the lenght, folks)

  • Comment number 69.

    good post dafazul.

    Nothing against my argentinian mates, but my convictions tell me that such tactic-unsofisticated and random-playing teams must not succeed at this world class stages. It would mean that the work done by guys like Bielsa or Capello is 100% at the mercy of luck.

    For the sake of football's complexity, I hope a well-engined team wins it all.

  • Comment number 70.

    Another Picture? ---- You look Gansta in the picture, like you've been hanging around with Romario and know where all the bodies are buried. That other picture you had up looked too much like Andrea Pirlo had he chosen to be a Blogger instead of the best deep-field lying midfielder in AC Milan's history.

  • Comment number 71.

    hahaha the pictures are getting ever more hilarious tim. enough caprinhas already!

  • Comment number 72.

    Good column Tim.

    Football moves in cycles, and if, as I hope, Brazil are rewarded for Dunga's negativity with defeat in the upcoming World Cup it stands to reason that they'll look to appoint a more 'romantic' coach next time round. However, it seems that currently Brazilian football is producing attacking full-backs like Alves and Maicon in abundance, but very few passing midfielders. Are the players available to a new coach to allow him to play in a different way or are we stuck with this functional (with flair players) Brazil forever? God I hope not.

    http://www.theplaymaker.co.uk/

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 74.

    To see all of Chile's goals during 2010 qualifying, check out this video

    go to youtube and search for video "xkSXsPwPfv4"

    the goal at 3:13 of the video was a beauty, so was the one right after vs. Argentina

  • Comment number 75.

    I'm Curious what does a 3-3-1-3 look like?


    ---------Bravo----------
    Medel----Ponce------Jara
    --------Carmona---------
    Vidal-------------Beausejour
    -------Fernandez--------
    Sanchez---Suazo---Gonzalez

  • Comment number 76.

    It's such a shame that Maradona has left out Zanetti,cambiasso,Banega and Gabi Milito. All 4 players are top quality,especially Zanetti who would have been able to play both left and right back as well as in midfield. He still has a better engine than Veron. Zanetti should actually have been captain not Mascherano. Cambiasso has been one of the top defensive midfielders in the whole of Europe this season. Banega and Gabi Milito would have been top quality back up. What on earth goes on in Maradona's head no one really knows. He has picked journey men like Coloccini who played the whole of the season just ended in the Championship with Newcastle and a spent force like Palermo ahead of the 4 quality players mentioned. It defies logic that he's gone for some home based players who impressed against Haiti. The Haitians would struggle to beat Dagenham and Redbridge FC yet maradona was sufficiently impressed to pick players for the world cup based on the game.
    Because of Maradona, Lionel Messi may not excel at the World Cup and go down as the best player ever.
    Whoever appointed Maradona needs to get their head examined. There are many excellent Argentines that would do a better job than Maradona. Hector Cuper would have been my choice. Ossie Ardiles could also have been given a chance, as could Daniel Pasarela or Bielsa.
    Maradona is the worst possible manager they could have. I'm afraid we will have to wait till the next world cup when Maradona would have been sacked already to see the very best of Messi,Aguero,Higuain, and Tevez in an Argentinian shirt. It's a shame that it will be too late for the likes of Zanetti and Cambiasso to be part of the set up.
    I can't wait to see Maradona sacked. Great player,rubbish manager!

  • Comment number 77.

    @76 "Because of Maradona, Lionel Messi may not excel at the World Cup and go down as the best player ever"

    And why would that be? Maybe we should also blame Basile for Messi's poor performances in the qualifiers before Maradona took charge.

  • Comment number 78.

    Reportedly, Zanetti isn't going because according to reports, in Argentina's last qualifier, he gathered the players in a huddle before kick off and said to ignore what Maradona had told them in the dressing room, and laid out a new set of instructions for the team.

    Cambiasso has never been one of Maradona's favourites either. He seems to be blamed, rightly or wrongly, for the failure of Basile, him and Mascherano are seen as too similar to play together by Maradona, and during the former's time injured, Maradona formed other favouritisms.

    Most of the 9 local players were called up just for show, to say that he values the domestic league, but Palermo ahead of Lisandro Lopez is an odd one, so is Bolatti ahead of Lucho Gonzalez.

  • Comment number 79.


    Coach Marcello Bielsa's 3-3-1-3 formation looks exciting. Looking forward to watching Alexis Sanchez, Humberto Suazo, Mati Fernandez and Jorge Valdivia play attacking football. Best wishes to the Chilean team and their fans.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

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