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It's not the Cup, it's the qualifying

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Tim Vickery | 09:40 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

A European team has finally won the World Cup outside its home continent.

More than that, for the first time since 1954, Europe is now ahead of South America in the number of World Cup wins - with a strong advantage. Europe has staged the tournament 10 times and South America just four - but in 2014 the World Cup will return to the continent of its birth for the first time in 36 years.

In Brazil the South Americans will be favourites to level up the all time score at 10 wins each - especially after the form they displayed in South Africa.

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Brazil and Argentina bowed out with the feeling that, respectively with better emotional and tactical balance they could have gone further. Chile impressed while Paraguay made history by reaching the last eight, and gave Spain a good game without resorting to the same tactics as the Dutch but most of all there was Uruguay. The team that finished fifth in South America's qualifiers came fourth in the World Cup - an excellent illustration of the continent's strength in depth.

The likes of Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile will hope to do even better in 2014 but first they must book their place - and that will be no foregone conclusion.

There can be no doubt that the lesser nations in South America have made dramatic strides since the introduction of the marathon World Cup qualification format in 1996. Regular competitive games and guaranteed income allows them to appoint good coaches and build a side - and also invest in their youth development work.

Starting with Argentina in the mid-90s, the South American nations have realised that the forces of globalisation take their players to Europe at an ever earlier age. The youth sides are where they secure them for the long-term future of the national team - where talented players are identified and given a crash course in their country's footballing identity.

The under-20 side, in particular, is used as a conveyor belt to the senior team - those who show promise at the level are often fast-tracked into the full squad.

All this, then, feeds into the World Cup qualifiers, which have now become the most competitive on the planet. Carlos Alberto Parreira, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994, and Luiz Felipe Scolari, who did likewise eight years later, are of the same opinion - winning the tournament was relatively straightforward. The hard part was qualifying.

The plus point is that those South American sides who make it to the World Cup are well prepared for top-level competition. The downside is the risk of missing out.

The next set of qualifiers promise to be the most competitive ever.

Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro, lit in Brazil's national colous
Rio will host matches from the 2013 Confederatons Cup, the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Olympic Games

In South Africa, Argentina coach Diego Maradona made the point that Ecuador may well have given a good account of themselves had they qualified. The Ecuadorians face a rebuilding job - the generation that took them to the 2002 and 2006 tournaments needs to be replaced.

Perhaps Colombia will come through strongly. Football mad, with the biggest population in the continent outside of Brazil, Colombia narrowly missed out on the play-off place in the last three campaigns, and should be doing better. They have reappointed one of the continent's most respected coaches, Hernan Dario Gomez , who was Colombia's assistant coach in 1994, in charge in 1998 and the man behind Ecuador's debut in 2002, Gomez is steeped in experience and with him at the helm it is hard to see Colombia missing out on a fourth consecutive World Cup.

There have been signs of a slight resurgence in Peruvian football, and Peru, too, have appointed a coach of quality and experience, the Uruguayan Sergio Markarian.

Venezuela will also go into the campaign with real hopes of success. Last year they qualified for the World Youth Cup for the first time, and in the closing stages of the 2010 qualifiers many of these youngsters were thrown into senior action, with promising results.

It is clear then that there will be no cheap places available for the South Americans in 2014. Any team which manages to fight its way through the qualification campaign can have its sights set on the knock-out stage in four years' time.

But where does this leave Brazil? The hosts qualify automatically but Brazil have to rebuild their side and come up with a team capable of coping with the intense pressure that a nation of nearly 200m will put them under - and they will have to do it with very few competitive games. At senior level they have just next year's Copa America and the 2013 Confederations Cup.

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For this reason the new coach - almost certain to be named in the next two weeks - will probably take charge of the under-20s and, providing Brazil qualify, of the under-23 team in the London Olympics. He will take over at a fascinating moment, for the question of style is hanging heavily in the air. Spain have shown that old-style passing football can be successful. Brazil's claim to be the great entertainers is left looking hollow. Can the international reputation of the Brazil national team survive another pragmatist at the helm? Having to overhaul the side with few competitive games, change the style and prepare for the kind of pressure that no team has ever had to experience - Brazil's new coach really will be stepping in to the hotseat.


Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) Don't you find the British media's witch-hunt of Uruguay's Luis Suarez quite embarrassing? Is it because they relate it to the hands of God and Henry? Or is it just some self-proclaimed right to be morally superior, even though they are not? I honestly can't see how Ghana can have any complaints, as a penalty was awarded. Uruguay had a decent claim for a penalty earlier in extra-time, while the free-kick before the handball was an absolute joke. Several Ghana players also seemed to be offside before in the situation leading up to the penalty.
Fredrik Ohrn

A) Agreed. This kind of hysterical and often hypocritical moralising doesn't show my countrymen in their best light. As you say, the free-kick which started the whole thing was an absurd decision, and I made it two reasonable Uruguay penalty claims. The handball thing - Jack Charlton did it more blatantly in the 1966 semi-final against Portugal, and you weren't even sent off for it in those days! Much of this seemed to be fuelled by prejudice. How much flack are the Dutch getting for kicking anything that moved in the World Cup final? Imagine if that was Uruguay? Argentina were vilified for less in 1990.

Q) This question seems especially pertinent given the shambolic defending that dumped that dumped Argentina out of the World Cup. Which players are capable of coming in and doing a great service to that Argentine backline apart from Ezequiel Garay who I think has a BIG future. There seems to be a dearth of talent in especially the full-back areas.
And between the sticks, it's a sad state of affairs when Romero is your best goalkeeper. Whatever happened to Ustari and why does Argentina not produce keepers like Brazil do?
Finally is there any way they can improve defensively in a year to win the Copa America on home soil next summer?
Omar Gregory

A) They could pick a midfield for a start! Even with better defenders I think Argentina would have been overrun by Germany because the balance of the side was not right. In terms of names, I like Garay as well, and I'll be interested to see if Juan Forlin comes through this season with Espanyol. Goalkeeper has become a chronic problem. Argentine keepers these days look big on personality, but all over the place on technique. I think that Argentina should have the humility to recognise that it has fallen behind in this area and should be investigating the methods Brazil is using.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Tim,
    Who are the frontrunners for the Brazil job this time round? After the disaster of 1950, is there not the danger that some will be scared off from taking the position?

    Also with Brazil qualifying as hosts, doesn't this allow an extra place for South America?

  • Comment number 2.

    Dear Tim,

    Could you give us your opinion on FIFA's decision to not grant CONMEBOL an extra spot like they did for Africa? I mean, as hosts Brazil have a direct ticket and now the rest of us are left fighting for the remaining 3 and a half.

    I think you were hinting at this when you mentioned that next qualifiers would be the most competitive yet.

    Regards,

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi, Tim!
    always a good article. As an uruguayan, I appreciate your answer regarding the "Suarez-gate", what I thought was appalling. Not only that: I think the whole booing and critisizing got on the kid, and he wasnt as confident, in front of the goal, as he was before. He is only 23, and even being a professional, it´s the kind of things that has an effect on you. Though Germany was an excellent team, I think the outcome coud´ve been other.
    I´m happy, anyway, with the fourth place and the way they all played and behaved. Great players that gave a new and better meaning to the garra charrua.

  • Comment number 4.

    If it is true that South America only have 3 1/2 places left after Brazil then this is just plain wrong and double standards. Why allow Africa and extra space and not South America. I reckon you could have had an othe 2 South American teams at this world cup say Ecudoe and Columbia and they would have still played better that most of the rubbish played and quite a few European teams. Take a space of Europe and give it to South America. This is coming from someone who live in Northern Ireland which would make it harder for us to qualify.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4 Agree with you mate! Infact I can assure you that you echo the hopes and aspirations of more than a billion Africans.

    As a matter of fact, why not lets take it a step further? Why award Africa - a continent of 54 countries and more than 1 billion people any slots at all? They are afterall just puny intruders into our private little party! Lets take away all the African slots and give them to South America - a continent of 12 countries and about 385 million people.

    Surely this is the way to go? African football is after all underdeveloped, why give it any chance to grow?

  • Comment number 6.

    It wasn't so much the Suarez handball that annoyed me, but his reaction after Gyan missed the resulting penalty. Those that say 'the penalty and red card were punishment', well judging by Suarez' reaction, he agreed that he and his team had got off very easy.

    Top class player - abysmal sportsman

  • Comment number 7.

    Ha, come on BognorRock. Should Suarez get said when his goalie defended a penalty which ONLY existed in the first place because of that DIVE by the Ghana player that resulted in the freekick that started the whole play??

    Not mentioning there was a Ghana offside offense in the same play (very hard to the linesman, I must admit)

    Lets not forget the Uruguayans were feeling injustice for the two penalties for Uruguay that the ref missed.

    So it really does come down to prejudice and hipocrisy.

  • Comment number 8.

    My god, the pressure that will be on brazil on 2014 will be unbelievable. After 1950 they threw everything they had into trying to win the world cup. Isn't it the case the goalie was shunned until his death for an error for Ghiggia's winner?

  • Comment number 9.

    Indeed, 1950 keeper Barbosa was villified for years for being beaten on his near post for the vital goal - but the whole team were bitter about the treatment they receieved in Brazil as a result of losing that game.

    erhaps the big point is this - back then there were only 50 million Brazilians piling on the pressure - by 2014 there will be 200 million.

  • Comment number 10.

    Those that say 'the penalty and red card were punishment', well judging by Suarez' reaction, he agreed that he and his team had got off very easy.

    Top class player - abysmal sportsman

    ----------

    Oh pleeeeaaase. On the line defending a corner in the last minute of the game, goalkeeper nowhere to be seen, the ball flying into the net ... Saurez instinctive punch is only what 99% of us would have done in the same situation. Suarez was caught by the referee and took the punishment. As for the penalty miss celebration, his country had just been reprieved from certain World Cup elimination - what was he supposed to do ?

    As for 2014 qualification, I fear the forces of globalisation continue to have a negative effect on South American national teams. Most of the players based in Europe, flying halfway across the world to play in a qualifying match and then back again. Chile will surely be a force if Bielsa stays and they can find more punch in attack. The same with Paraguay who looked a better side in 2010 qualification than what they showed us in South Africa. Praying for a resurgence in the fortunes of the Peru and Columbia national teams. As for Brazil - more creativity in midfield in the Xavi/Inneista mould ... a footballing brain to make the side tick.

  • Comment number 11.

    well... I dont know about Barbose being villified until the end of his life. Maybe some old people still villied him. But I saw plenty of articles and tv shows taking the blame out of Barbosa.

    I wonder if Barbosa was a prefered choice of most brazilians to the goal. Maybe before the Cup the population prefered another goalkeeper but Barbosa was chosen instead?

    Sometimes, when the population dislikes a player (or simply prefers another) and the coach takes another player and this player commits a mistake, its much easier to villify the person. Felipe Melo is an example. Most brazilians were against him in the team. Most brazilian media was against him. PVC from ESPN had a fight, on live tv with him... and in the end he became one of the decisive factors in Brazil being eliminated.

    He is as much a symbol of Dunga´s stubborness as of his own lack of quality. I am certain that if a player will be villified from this 2010 Cup, it will be Felipe Melo.

  • Comment number 12.

    @5 Dapsy if you are going to be sarcastic then at least be sarcastic about what I said not what I didn't say. I never said don't give any places to Africa and instead said that maybe a place or 2 should be taken away from Europe and given to South America. Please read what I have said not what I haven't.

  • Comment number 13.

    It would be nice to see some unfamiliar South American names gracing the next tournament. With Brazil hopefully re-connecting with their footballing roots on home soil and Argentina probably relishing the prospect of winning on their rival's home territory, it promises to be a truly special one in the making. Let's see how Europe deals with South American home advantage...can't wait! http://gregtheoharis.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/the-end/

  • Comment number 14.

    Maybe since the South American teams will have 2 less games to play contributed to the decision of not giving them an extra place? I don't know though.
    4.5 places out of 9 is just not as competitive as 3.5 places out of 9.

  • Comment number 15.

    thx for the early insight into south american qualifiers tim. in brasil's absence, i'm really interested to see how this one pans out. first thought brought to my mind that brasil is freeing up a spot, but considering the competition there will be for that spot, it promises to be an intriguing battle. hopefully peru iron out the politics in their football system, colombia can get one better of corruption and bring back that wonderful '94 type team, and venezuela builds on its youngsters. ecuador and boliva will give stern tests to opposition too, esp in their dreaded high altitude. was looking for you to put some more bit on uruguai and paraguai, who both had fine world cups imo. paraguai retaining martinez as treinador was immense, and i think uruguai should look to do the same with tabarez. world cup's best player forlan might not be there as influence, but maybe his performances have brought back that self belief to the charruas, that the 2x champions can indeed compete with the best. looking forward to seeing south america go one step further in 2014 than they did this year. vamos!

  • Comment number 16.

    on my beloved selecao brasileira, there are big question marks on the team yet bookies have made brasil favorites for hexa in 2014 already. more than the idea of who will be new coach (i personally favor ramalho over gomez and menezes) and new re-built team, it's the other point you raise - that brasil will not have many competitive games between now and then to test themsleves. especially with a new young built team. we saw what an emotional disturbance even in one half of football can do your tournament campaigns, so it is imperative to put the new brasil team under duress and stern test of patience if they are to cope with pressure of 200mm brasilians expecting win on home soil. i know the notion of what playing philosophy brasil will adopt remains main item on mind of neutrals, but i reckon there are bigger question marks that need answers first. i await in hope. FORCA BRASIL!

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim

    Out of interest, when was the last time Brasil got beaten at home?

    Can't recall any defeats in the qualifiers over the last few tournaments.

  • Comment number 18.

    The Dutch fouls were eventually met with a referee who dished out cards - though still not enough. If Croatian coach can be banned for four games for blaming referee bias for incorrect decisions, Suarez can be banned for more than one for over-celebrating a professional foul to the point of disrespecting a whole continent.

    The Dutch lost. Uruguay won. At least until he got booed.

    Oh, that's the Africans' fault, too? Wow, he should have been loved, right?

  • Comment number 19.

    Think Argentina, Uruguay and Chile will all qualify for next world cup easily, their squads will be in their prime. Last one up for grabs.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm tired of this SUAREZMANIA in the European media.They will never learn & they will always be hypocrites & cowards.However,great support from u for the South Americans,Tim.I thank u for that even though I'm an Asian.

    But my worry is for Uruguay,because as far as I know there's no upcoming talented striker to replace the veteran DIEGO FORLAN who is now 31,is there any one,Tim?

    As for BRAZIL,I think it's time for them to pick the likes of DENILSON of ARSENAL so that their central midfield can perform like the way SPAIN's does.Will it work,TIM?

  • Comment number 21.

    Stop pandering to the crowd with that answer to Q1. I agree the media outburst was very sad, it was clearly instinctive and most folk watching didn't realise it was handball til after as we were all willing the ball in or to stay out.
    Regardless, your comment about the Dutch was not solely the Final. They played negative dirty football throughout and no one likes that kind of game. Against Brazil (who did not deserve to win) De Jong got away with terrible challenges, as soon as he was booked (which was an age) his cohort Van Bommell started up and got away with murder. Against Uruguay, they said nothing about how lucky they were with the first goal or there terrible tackling.

    Howard Webb did OK last night and I think most South American watching wouldn´t have minded as they are use to that number of cards in a game. Brazilian refs have certainly improved this year alone and often ignor the kind of cheating Robben and co attmpted last night.

  • Comment number 22.

    The thing about the Suarez handball is that you have to remember it didn't directly achieve anything. It wasn't a winning goal with the hand, or an equaliser- and he was caught and punished under the rules.

    The handball only became important when the Ghanaian player missed the resulting penalty. It's also worth pointing out that Ghana had two chances to get through after the Suarez handball- the penalty that was punishment, and the resulting shoot-out and they failed to take both of them.

    You can't blame Suarez solely for Ghana going out of the competition. They still had two chances to progress- and blew both of them!

  • Comment number 23.

    Also I'm glad that Uruguay progressed because the semi final with Holland and the 3rd/4th play off match (which produced 10 goals in total from both matches) would both have been nowhere near as exciting with Ghana involved.

    Ghana played with great teamwork and spirit but they didn't really have any goalscorers in their team. If they had gone to the semi finals instead of Uruguay I am sure that we would have seen two tight attritional matches from them against the Dutch and the Germans.

  • Comment number 24.

    I hope you don´t mind a depressed exiled Scotsman using this post to lament the sorry state of fitba back home compared with Uruguay.

    Uruguay is a tiny state with around three million people squeezed between two powerful football giants – Argentina and Brazil. You can drive across it in three hours.

    Yet this small country has won the World Cup twice and came within a whisker of taking Germany to a draw in the third place run-off. Its star player, Forlan, was ranked the best player in this year´s tournament.

    You can´t help but wonder why another small country - guess which - has such a poor record in the World Cup and hasn´t produced a world class player for years.

    Celtic and Rangers are known all over the world but who outside South America has even heard of Uruguayan teams like Rampla Juniors, Español River Plate, Racing, Liverpool (sic), Cerro Largo, Cerrito and Atenas?

    How can they produce a player like Forlan and a side like Uruguay whereas the Scottish league is filled with foreigners and top Scots players are an endangered species?

    Congrats to Uruguay although I am on the side of those who feel the handball incident was a disgrace and Ghana were robbed.

  • Comment number 25.

    1) a few days ago I was thinking that whoever is appointed Brazil NT coach now will not be the coach when WC2014 arrives, unless he wins Copa America 2011 or Olympic tournament 2012 or maybe even both of them. I wouldn't be surprised if whoever is appointed is replaced by Felipao for the Confederations Cup.
    2) selecao9: I believe Brazil has been defeated at official matches only twice when playing at home: by Paraguay in Copa America 1949 and by Uruguay in WC1950.
    3) Faisal: Forlan will surely play WC2014 if Uruguay qualify.
    4) Take a place out of South Africa and give it to Brazil. 2010: 4,5 for South America, 5 for Africa + hosts. 2014: 4,5 for South America + hosts, 5 for Africa. Why change that?

  • Comment number 26.

    based on my understanding, FIFA has until july 2011 to decidd whether south america gets the current 4.5 slots or 4 slots. as things stand, we will still have 4.5 slots plus brasil in 2014 copa. we will see south american soon pushing for this as well

  • Comment number 27.

    Mr. Vickery,
    the historical illumination that has obsessed me with our beautiful game from the time that I was conceived over thirty odd years ago has taught me to uniquely have a mind of my own, not jumping on the trendy set band wagon of eny given set contemporary time; that having been clearly enunciated, I have to admit that this was the worse world cup in recent memory, and that retroactively, a number of teams had veritable chances to win it once the great samba kings were so oddly, and suprisingly eliminated by the enterprising Dutch: Ghana had a real chance on African soil, and Germany blew a real chance at their fourth after a poor, tacticalless, display by Loew who in all honesty, was never known to be a Herrera, Meisl, Herberger, or Beckenbauer. Above all, one thing remains clear that this was Brasil's world cup to lose and thanks to dunga, never had a fighting chance with the inept Melo, and Kaka as starters; imagine what Alessandro, Ganso, Mancini, andor the great Ronaldinho could have meant to this team supplanting an unfit, and lacklustre kaka; Thiago Motta in place of Melo, Adriano Emperador in place of Nilmar; Taddei in the place of an injured for a whole year an hence unfit Kleberson. I could go on and on and on. Spain scored a measly eight goals, and became the first team to win it after having lost their first game. Am I alone to think that the once mythical, legendary, historical and gargantuan world cup has managed to lose a bit of its majestic lustre, and has this time around been proven a wee bit too easy to win.


  • Comment number 28.

    Good article, it reminds me of Maximiliano Pereira's goal against Holland, cuts right through the middle... long and hard.

    Regarding Ecuador, I think the Uruguayan Fossati is about or was already named Ecuadorian head coach. That should be intresting.

    Even though I'm Uruguayan, I'm rooting for Peru to get out of the CONMEBOL dog-house, he's always been a top coaching candidate to coach Uruguay but it never happened.

    I was never a fan of Colombia 1998 and on, but if "EL Bolillo" Gomez can restore that amazing passing game that was present in the 1990 team and to some extent on the '94 squad (at least in the Qualifiers)then I can see Colombia qualifying to the 2014 tournament --- amazing that you bring this up, kind of sobering right after the World Cup, but you're right it's going to be a Wild West Qualification campaign especially since Brazil won't be in it. Ecuador, Colombia and maybe Peru have strong chances of making the tournament, while Chile, Uruguay & Paraguay have to continue everything they did right in the 2010 qualifiers.

    Only Argentina is assured of qualifying but that's assuming Messi is still on the team, especially after the way things went in 2010, I don't think he'll want a re-do of this experience, but that's just me speculating.

  • Comment number 29.

    you guys just don't get it with suarez do you.
    he didn't stop a goal scoring opportunity, he stopped a cast iron goal.
    unfortunately, the ref only had the option of a penalty and a red card, cuz that is what the law says. what the crowd felt like most of us watching, is that in those situations the ref SHOULD be able to give a penalty goal. that would stop any and all deliberate handballs on the line. on top of that, fifa should've banned him for 2 games not 1 for his blatant bad sportsmanship. then he wouldn't have suffered the abuse he got cuz he wouldn't have played.
    the crowd booed him in the 3rd place match because they made their feelings known to fifa that it was not fair, and they should change the rules.

  • Comment number 30.

    @comment 29: If I am watching a match, I'd rather see a goal of my team being denied by a hand in the line by a defender rather than a nasty foul.

  • Comment number 31.

    #29

    I agree with you that Suarez should've been given a 2+ game ban, but disagree that the punishment wasn't fitting. It was PK and the Ghana player missed it. PK *is* the ultimate punishment against a team (aside from multiple reds), so the ref acted within the law.

    The law is the same to all participants.

  • Comment number 32.

    27- Adriano sure as hell didn't deserve to be in the WC squad; he was overweight and lost a lot of games this year, as well as 12 training sessions, simply because he wasn't in the mood for it. No manager with the slight common sense would call him. And, yes, Nilmar was a much better option.

    And people whining about Suarez only do so because Ghana were the "poor underdogs", "Africa's hope", etc, etc.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi Tim,

    Very interesting blog about the benefits of such a long and arduous South American qualifying. It puts a great strain on the European based players to do so much travelling, but I guess the financial need is great & you outline well the competitive benefits.

    Have to ask you about your World Cup views though. Obviously you went to great lengths to write a very confident piece about how Brasil were rightly favourites etc. I and several others questioned that viewpoint and pointed out the quality of this wonderful Spanish squad, and you were quick to shoot us down.

    Obviously it's your job to give an opinion, and there's nothing more annoying than a paid writer or pundit sitting on the fence, but i'd like to know exactly how it went down in Brasil? In the end the lack of true quality throughout the pitch went against them in my opinion (as pointed out by many before the tournament) although they were still an excellent side. However, I noticed you laid the blame squarely with Dunga and accused him of basically "losing the plot"?

    I'd love to know the people's view in Brasil, because from the outside I see a coach who won everything he could win, except the World Cup, and lost once in something like 30 games?!! Is it just that in Brasil you have to win the World Cup if you're not going to stick to the fantasy football ideal of their tradition?

  • Comment number 34.

    33 - I don't think that 9 trips across the atlantic in 3 years in excessive travelling (the 18 rounds were double headers) - one trip less now, because with brazil not included in the qualification process there are 16 rounds.

    Also don't think i ever shot down people who pointed out spain's quality - spain-brazil was my tip for the final.

    if it had happened i would have feared a brazil win - i recall how brazil fouled and frustrated argentina to win the final of the 2007 copa america.

    But i would have hoped for a spain win - for brazil's sake as much as anything else. Now the questions are being asked in Brazil - where are our Xavis and Iniestas? The debate this sparks off can only be healthy.

  • Comment number 35.

    Nice post Tim (sorry, I've been busy but always come and read your posts).
    Had Brazil won this WC, the pressure to win the next on home soil wouldn't be as bad and I fear they won't cope...
    I am on the team that think rules for qualifying should stay the same. African football is on the up and they deserve their spots.
    Lastly, I am on the team that thinks Suarez is a hero. Ghana had their chances and blew them both. Tough life. That was for me the best match of the whole cup in a cup that didn't actually entertain me as much.
    Those booing Suarez were probably Africans who supported Ghana.

  • Comment number 36.

    Silly really, considering the quality of the last few tournaments, but I'm already looking forward to the 2014 World Cup. Brazil have much to do with regards to stadium and infrastructure, but they certainly won't be lacking when it comes to public interest and atmosphere. I've got to say - after the incessant drone of the vuvuzela, I look forward to some good old-fashioned chants and singing returning to the stands, not to mention audible celebrations. Most of all, though, I hope we get what has been sadly lacking in recent editions - thrilling football.

  • Comment number 37.

    In spite of Spains win its obvious that its ridiculous europe has 13 places compared to America having a total 8.there should be a reduction of at least two to eleven with one of the extra places to be shared in the Americas 7 of the last 16 this yr (from 8 participants,Europe 6 from 13)and the other to Asia.One of the reasons for South Americas improvement this time is the rapidly growing economies where there is ever more money to be invested in the seleccion of each country.However the failures of the big two has hidden somewhat the continents improvements.The Europeans may argue about this but sooner or later their representation will be reduced to as low as 8

  • Comment number 38.

    #29 I completly agree with you. 100% there is nothing I can add to that comment at all.

    The fact people are so blase about Suarez' handball is what worries me, are we becoming desencitized (Sp?) to blatant cheating? Should we just accept these kind of acts in what is supposed to be the beautiful game?

    The witch hunt that followed was ridiculous, likewise the witch hunt that followed the final, yes the Dutch were heavy handed, yes, they were lucky to have 11 players on the field at half time, even after 90 minutes, but the Spanish players were no saints, diving, brandishing invisible cards and surrounding the officials.

    On the whole this has been a poor world cup IMO, and the increased cynicism of players (see above) and coaches who have decided that its better to play and try not to lose is ultimately leading to more and more turgid games.

    I don't have the answer, but I don't think I'm alone in falling out of love with the game, and if things don't change somewhere more and more will feel the same.

  • Comment number 39.

    Can't disagree about the hypocrisy of large parts of the media, wherever they are from, but 2 wrongs, i.e. diving for a free kick and benefitting from handling the ball, don't make a right. Let's cut out both wrongs to make 2 rights. And #10, Collis King (saw you hit a brilliant, big, just dropped in, hundred at New Road many moons ago), where did you pluck that 99% of us are cheats figure from? Just because crime often pays and the benefitting criminals laugh at the victims doesn't make it right.

  • Comment number 40.

    Great Tim, i feel a bit worried about SA campaign in 2014. apart from the fact that besides brazil and argentina, the other countries will always be a question mark, just like the majotiry of european sides, struggling to achieve a critical balance between a good generation of players a good coach, and 1 or 2 blessed player that do more than they are usually supposed to do (forlan comes to mind).

    but the 2 bigs have become now a even bigger doubt. ive followed argentina press for a while, the fans reaction before and after the cup, and personally think (IMHO) that they are losing ability for self-criticism, i wouldnt imagine maradona being chosen a coach, i didnt believe they kept him for wc, its revealing to see he has approval to keep the work. i wont get very picky here, but i see a simbiosis between press and public, where the first sells a tail of a great team and the latter believes blindly (i know this is a rule, but i dont see opposing voices down ther as other places), they despised and humilliated brazilian players before copa amercia final and in this wc, after 2 games, where they struggled to score, resorting to set pieces, they truely thought they had one of the 2 or 3 best teams. IMVHO this world cup could have brought them to reality , to their identity, lost on the beginning of the 90's, when they believed that they have played beautifully and artfully all their lives. im being harsh here, biased a bit, but i think you get the point, but coincidentaly or not, they havent won a major tournament ever since. you shouldnt go all attack, with otamendi, (aging) heinze, and a keeper like that just for the sake of being respected as a flair team.

    and brazil case maybe worst, cause if we have a bigger roster of players, we have the pressure to avoid being the first team to lose twice at home. and concerns comes down to one simple thing (ill be a bit repetitive regarding my last posts, but i had to mention again a point or two): this last project was a reaction to brazil project in 2006wc, a campaign based in advertisiment, the team from confed cup was dismantled to include poster boys. dungas stiffness came as a reaction from cbf (president ricardo teixeira) to keep interest in seleção by the public and to cool the criticism on the players lack of interest off. and now instead of adressing the right questions after this elimination, globo reunited with ricardo teixeira in a exclusive interview (AKA interview without compromising questions) and he himself (someone known for his dislike for soccer) has already decided what brazil need for 2014: youth! how appropriate it is, just like dunga was 4 years ago. for the 3rd consectutive time it seems our project will come from marketing department again. Balance seems to be not on their dictionary.

    i dished argetinean ppl and press, but i must add that after #CALABOCAGALVAO ('shut up, galvao', brazilian sports commmentator for globo) trending in twitter wich made a front page in important media in brazil,
    after elimination everyone here was trending his exact same excuse for the loss blaming felipe melo and protecting those in cbf, the same responsible for millions and millions in contracts with globo. coincidentaly, both argentinean and brazilian FA resseambles more a long term dictatorship than anyhitng else.

    i really fear our future at home.

    ps. i have this opinion that the best football in the last years by brazil and spain (its a shame we couldn't witnesses this clash neither in confed nor in the wc) has one common factor, two greatest contribution from futsal to football on grass ,the team work and ball possesion by spaniards vs the fast plays and tricky skills of brazilian attack. strangely, spain has had the best futsal league for quite sometime and brazil refuse to give credit to its own sport.


    Aquele abraço

  • Comment number 41.

    on suarez issue, this controversy seems to arise in those moments when the majority of public of a football event is not football die hard followers, as big and spread a sport it is, sometimes it gather atention from ppl not really involved with the ethics of game and they bring their own sense of moral and rightousness that lack one important factor analing games, being a true football fan. any true ganasean fan would understand what suarez did and hope his team would do the same. i wonder if ppl criticing the player thinks faking, diving and flopping is better an attitude.

  • Comment number 42.

    #41, itagalo, what arrogant nonsense. There are lots of diehard fans like myself who try to play, and expect our opponents to play, within the laws of the game, and expect the referee to punish anyone who doesn't, whether it be handball, diving or 'faking', and the same philosophy of playing within the spirit of the game applies as a supporter. These are the real diehard fans. They love the game. You don't love the game, you love the victory, by hook or by crook. This might be your idea of 'the beautiful game' but don't judge everybody by your own low standards.

  • Comment number 43.

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

  • Comment number 44.

    #42 I play as well, have been my whole life, i also think there are bad things to do to win (foul or handball) and things you should never do to win (faking, hard fouls), both should be avoided by any one practicing it. but ive never played in a WC to know if id not resort to the first option, agree its a coward decision that dont attempt to fool or to hurt noone, diferently from the second situation. Being someone that could only speculate about what moral would i choose if that much was in challenge, i can only understand what suarez did at that precise moment of the game, wich was, do it or go home...for good. take it easy man, that was an opinios, everyone is entitle to express its own, isnt it?

  • Comment number 45.

    Suarez should have been able to head the ball clear. No pen, no red card. He would have been avaialable to take a penalty in the shoot out and then (if Uru had still won) been able to play in the semi. Wonder what his coach really thought about what he did ?

  • Comment number 46.

    The floodlights have barely cooled at Soccer City and already a blog about the next World Cup! Come on it's four years away!

    I suppose the big question about Brazil 2014 is will we have worked out a system that caters for both Gerrard and Lampard and who exactly will partner Rooney up front? My monies on Heskey just look at the stats....

    Yawn.

  • Comment number 47.

    Tim, I am very interested as to what people in Latin America think of the Spanish brand of football?

    I have coin a phase for the way they play, '12 man football', as Spanish have 12 players on the pitch, their first XI and the football. For Spain the football is a member of their team, who is meant to contribute to their play and defeat their opponents.

    For me, Spain are an incredible example of how skill and technique can defeat sheer power and athleticism. They have won the World Cup playing in a way that most national teams has either rejected or abandoned.

    Is it not now the time for Brazil and the other under performing Latin American teams to re-discover this style of play.

    Cheers
    Mr Pav

  • Comment number 48.

    I am a South African, and really enjoyed having the World Cup in my backyard, and all the wonderful football fans from around the world I got to meet. Thank you all for visiting !
    If, as stated by #2, South America only have 3.5 places to qualify for (because Brazil get in as hosts), then where does the extra place go to?
    This time Africa got an extra spot due to us being the hosts, but will obviously not keep this extra spot - and efiitely do not deserve it given the general poor showing by all Africa teams.
    So there is an extra spot for 2014 - let's call it the "host spot" - and if it is not going to the hosts then who will it go to?
    Africa do bot deserve it, and Europe have enough slots. If anyone does deserve it then it has to be South America - and I agree that it smacks of double standards if they do not get it !
    I warned all my local mates not to underestimate any of the South American teams before the World Cup began, and they soon realised why. I tipped Uruguay to go far, and was really pleased that they did so well. Was also etremely happy that Forlan won the Golden Ball award .... if any player deserved it, then it was him. He never gave a single poor performace and lead by example throughout.
    I was also one of those continually annoyed by the witch hunt of Suarez for his hand ball. I was disgusted, not only with the British press but with our local press, TV commemtators and most fans as well - their obvious lack of knowledge and (understandable) support for Ghana is no excuse for the way they carried on. I can only apologise on their behalf to the player, and to all Uruguayan supporters.
    I agree that the free kick was dubious to say the least, ad the simple fact is that Ghana received a penalty, in accordance with the rules of the game. In my humble opinion a well taken penalty should beat the keeper every time - and missing the back of the net from that distance is unforgivable.
    I was actually astounded by the number of poory taken penalties at the World Cup - and this from professional players !
    I always folow the Souh American qualifying with great interest, as it is so competitive, and is always a good pointer as to what to expect at the World Cup.
    I would like to see Columia make a come back - they seem to have been in decline since the events of 1994, with the own goal and the horrific events which followed. They always seem to me to have a lot of ability in qualifying, but just don't seem to be able to put it together on the pitch. Maybe they need lessons fro Uruguay in team spirit, and giving your all for the benefit of your team and country? To me the Uruguay team is a prime example of the finished prouct being greater than the sum of the part - while Englan were the eact opposite ! (We won't mention France, as they have been laughed at enough)
    I really look forward to the World Cup in Brazil, and am sure they will do a fantastic job as hosts. I just hope that their team perorms well, given the lack of competitive matches and the huge expectations of the public.
    As for Holland ..... after losing 3 finals do they qualify for the "chokers" tag?
    I believe that the next winner will most definitely be from South America, and look forward to folowing their qualifying games to see if I can predict just which of their teams it will be.
    That is going to be fun !

  • Comment number 49.

    I am amazed by the number of so-called top journalists who seem not to know the difference between cheating and non-cheating. Suarez did not 'cheat'. He did what the LAWS of the game allow. He handled the ball deliberately, and under the LAWS of the game a penalty was awarded and he was sent-off. If he had handled the ball on the line, and not been penalized, then that IS cheating. The German goal-keeper cheated as he knew the ball (Lampard's shot) was over the line but indicated that it had not crossed the line. The Ivorian player who pretended that Kaka had hit him, cheated. Fabiano cheated as he handled the ball twice before scoring a goal and did not admit his offence.....If Suarez tried to pretend that the ball had hit him on the head or chest or backside then that would have been cheating.
    I wrote on this site after Argentina's victory over Nigeria that they would go out once they met a decent team who was prepared to attack their dodgy defence, and so it proved. It was dreadful and how Maradona has got away with this is a mystery. Guiterrez was a liability in the games he played as he cannot tackle and continually gave away free kicks, while poor Otamendi was required to play right back against Germany and was simply taken apart by Podolski, and as I predicted all the goals came from the Argentine right, 3 from open play and the free kick. If I could see this weakness within 10' of watching Argentina's opening game then surely the revered Maradona should have known that this was a disaster waiting to happen. De Michelis was little better than either Guiterrez and Otamendi and missed tackle after tackle. The right side of the defence was a catastrophy.
    Why did Walter Samuel not play in the final as he looked to be the only decent defender in the squad?
    Gabriel Heinze - ugh! His attitude annoys me so much with his totally 'over-the-top' celebrations and continuous throwing himself to the ground in an effort to con the referee into giving a free kick when he was forever beaten to the ball by an attacker.
    If Argentina continue with Maradona then look out for some troubled times ahead.

  • Comment number 50.

    Regarding the places in the Worldcup

    Why not make it easy? The organising country/countries get an automatic spot and the rest of them will be divided amongst the memberstates. Giving away all or even more European spots to Africa. Fine makes sense then to make the Africans shoulder the bulk of the running costs of Fifa then ain't it?

  • Comment number 51.

    Tim, on thge subject of Brazil in 2014, what do you (and indeed, other Brazilians on this forum) now think to what can only be described as a 'monumental task' in getting Brazil ready for the World Cup in 4 years' time? (travel, construction, crime, etc)

    I have read with total astonishment...that Sao Paulo may not even play a part in this because of the Morumbi-Stadium-Affair.
    What's going on here?

  • Comment number 52.

    Hi Tim, a very good article which i enjoyed reading, the whole Saurez thing is just a farce, Im an englishman in my early 20's and i have had to grow up listening to the whole 'hand of god' maradona is a cheat since day one, and to tell you the truth I love the guy he is just awsomely charasmatic and a lot of my friend and english people i have spoke to of all ages agree with me, but the Saurez thing its just another british Media stigma, not the peole themselves, I was angry at the time but only because i was sat next to my Ghanaian friend and he was hart broken. Also the celebration after Gyan missed just stung a little! But to be honest i have done that myself in the past, wasn't thinking the ball came towards the goal, i was on the line and i just elbowed it out!
    The fact is our media are a joke and shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone! Always looking for a scape goat! Beckham in 98, Seaman in 02, C Ronaldo in 06, just a joke, what ever happened to backing a team win or lose!

  • Comment number 53.

    Hello Tim Vickery - I have just read your previous contribution with relation to Argentina's demise and I am slightly surprised that you maintain that Veron for Tevez would have altered the result against Germany. I think it was as plain as day for anyone to see that the problem was with the defence which was torn apart time after time as the 'defenders' were simply not up to standard, as everyone (except Maradona) knew they would not be. The signs were there in the Nigeria game when after a bright start Argentina were hanging on at the end as the Nigerians grew in confidence and troubled the Argentine defence but failed to score. Guitterrez was liabilty at right back and the highly over-rated De Micheles was not much better. I wrote on several BBC sites after this game, that Argentina would lose the moment they met a decent team. In fact Mexico were unlucky not to beat them. Even South Korea troubled the Argentine defence when they finally believed in themselves.

    A little plea - I see you wrote about a Radio 5 phone-in in which you participated and asked one writer something along the lines of 'if you were not listening where were you?' Please, please so not resort to this Alan Green type of self-praise and adulation. He is the most hated figure in broadcasting with his arrogant and abrasive attitude and this was a typical Green remark.

  • Comment number 54.

    "This kind of hysterical and often hypocritical moralising doesn't show my countrymen in their best light... Much of this seemed to be fuelled by prejudice. How much flack are the Dutch getting for kicking anything that moved in the World Cup final? Imagine if that was Uruguay?"

    That seems a very dangerous statement to make, Tim. Could you please clarify what you mean by that, as it could be read to be tarring a whole country with a very broad brush...?

  • Comment number 55.

    First off, another South American W.C. yes!! - it's going to be so exciting - especially in Brazil too..the colour, the fans, the ticker-tape all over the pitches, the atmosphere, the heat, the return of the airtex shirts! I really hope Fifa don't over sanatise this one, making the stadia, pitches, advertising all conform to that 'samey' look we see in all the video games again! Do away with the dolby surround sound on your telly, bring back the far away crackly sounding commentators, the old tango style balls...bliss! The logo even looks fab (suggesting Brazil already has 3? hands on the trophy..nice start) - the only downer is kick-off times (any ideas what they'd be in Brazil?)

    The pressure on the hosts will either cripple them (like Ronaldo in France'98) or make them samba. South American qualifying will be fierce and competitive and hope the Beeb get to cover it more this time?? English players actually running up a sweat (whether they like it or not). Wilshere scoring the winner - Iniesta like - in the Maracanã (we can but dream)

  • Comment number 56.

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

  • Comment number 57.

    The pressure on the hosts will either cripple them (like Ronaldo in France'98)

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

    That my friend makes no sense at all.

  • Comment number 58.

    #50: " Giving away all or even more European spots to Africa. Fine makes sense then to make the Africans shoulder the bulk of the running costs of Fifa then ain't it?"


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

    what the ...?! FIFA is a machine of making money! If there is anything to be discussed is how to split the profit, not the "running costs". I do think Europe has too many places, but maybe Asia has a stronger case to take an European spot than Africa.

    Tim, or anyone, can yo clarify how many spots will South America get for 2014... someone said 3.5 in one of the first comments. I hope not! If so the qualifiers will be a nightmare for everyone!

  • Comment number 59.

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

  • Comment number 60.

    Not to be controversial or anything, but a couple of posts have mentioned the "quality" of the Spain side.

    Sorry, I personally thought they were highly underwhelming. By a long way the lowest scoring winners of the world cup, a series of not overly impressive 1-nil wins and a loss to Switzerland.

    Don't get me wrong, glad they won (was a pretty poor dutch side after all).

    Watching the final though, I could not help thinking that it would have been very different if Brazil had not spectacularly self imploded in the second half against Holland.

    Ah well, always next time!

    Must say Brazil will probably struggle a lot in 2014, qualifiers are surely vital to build the team?

  • Comment number 61.

    @54.

    Pretty sure he was simply talking about the red-top newspaper coverage of the incident...

  • Comment number 62.

    On a positive note on 2010....

    Forlan, the modern day world cup underdog story!

    I knew when Utd sold him we'd end up regretting it...

  • Comment number 63.

    Am I being dumb when I say how can you have 3.5 qualifying spots?

    Is the .5 a 5-a-side tournament...

  • Comment number 64.

    Don't know why the population or the number of counties matter, world cup should have the best teams and there could be some kind of continent tanking the way it's done for counties in the champions league. Africa have not even made it to a semi, rediculous to have so many spaces in the world cup

  • Comment number 65.

    Ranking

  • Comment number 66.

    Some people really should refrain from posting until they have done some research into the sunject at hand.

    CONMEBOL will get 3.5 qualifying places as the 4th placed team will go into a play-off. This has been decided by FIFA and is the correct decision.

    To potentially have 5 teams from 10 at WC 2014 would be absurd.


  • Comment number 67.

    64. At 1:15pm on 13 Jul 2010, Pedro Villa Messi Cesc wrote:
    Don't know why the population or the number of counties matter, world cup should have the best teams and there could be some kind of continent tanking the way it's done for counties in the champions league. Africa have not even made it to a semi, rediculous to have so many spaces in the world cup

    =======================================

    Narrow minded, short sighted ignoramous.

    The Champions League should be just that, for Champions only. The only reason it is not is to make it a bigger cash cow than it has become.

    Unfortunately your views are indicative of the Sky Sports generation.

  • Comment number 68.

    Post 63 Andrew - the .5 represents half a place for the South Americans with the CONCACAF region getting the other half, meaning that one South American team plays against one CONCACAF team, home and away to decide who gets the place at the Finals. For this last tournament, Uruguay (5th in qualifying group) played Costa Rica (4th) and qualified in this way.
    With Brazil qualifying as hosts it will be interesting to see if FIFA award South America another place so they will have their usual 4 automatic qualifiers and half a place, or if they will cut them back to 3 automatic qualifying places and half a place.
    Personally I believe that the CONCACAF region gets too many places - 3.5 - and should be restricted to 2.5 with the extra place going to South America. While U.S.A. and Mexico usually qualify for the 2nd round the 3rd team always struggles, as was the case with Honduras this time,

  • Comment number 69.

    James Autar - it has already been decided by FIFA. CONMEBOL will get 3.5 qualifying plaves and the extra place will go to Africa.

  • Comment number 70.

    Jimmy Jazz - no one's opinion is either correct nor wrong, yours included. Quite what you mean by the Sky Sports generation is beyond me and quite frankly any channel that brings me Aerobics Oz style on a week day morning is doing something right.

    You need to get off your high horse a little.

  • Comment number 71.

    64. At 1:15pm on 13 Jul 2010, Pedro Villa Messi Cesc wrote:
    Don't know why the population or the number of counties matter, world cup should have the best teams and there could be some kind of continent tanking the way it's done for counties in the champions league. Africa have not even made it to a semi, rediculous to have so many spaces in the world cup

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

    Everything about that opinion is wrong.

  • Comment number 72.

    The funniest thing was Plansil saying none of his team mates would have done that. Hypocracy at it's best, no probs diving like a salmon

  • Comment number 73.

    How is it wrong? You are wrong in thinking what you say is right. I am just stating that until Africa prove they have a chance to compete, let alone win, south America deserves more. Europe might have too many, but there is no point having so many African whipping boys

  • Comment number 74.

    Also you state population and number of individual countries, but how many of them actually have a football team that can even compete, having 20 San Marino's doesn't prove anything

  • Comment number 75.

    Hi Tim,

    Just a couple of questions regarding Argentina and Brazil.

    Firstly, in your view what should Argentina’s best starting 11 look like (would you include players like Gago and Pastore?) and what is Argentina’s ideal tactical formation (eg. 3-4-3, 4-3-2-1,4-4-2 etc)?

    Secondly, do you think Brazil will ever depart from using defensive midfielders in the national team and revert back to the days of using creative central midfielders like Falcao & Cerezo?

    And of the young players coming through at the moment, who do you think are the best candidates to replace the likes of Gilberto Silva in the centre of midfield for the national team?


    Does Brazil have another Emerson coming through the ranks or somebody of that ilk?

  • Comment number 76.

    Tim, any opinion on the WC spots topic? Do you find it good for football and the next World Cup that South America should get only Brazil and (likely) four other teams, having thus five teams at a Cup that their continent will host - one less than Africa and one more than Asia had in similar situations? It is the most widely discussed question here. Won't you give your regular faithful readers your opinion?

    I personally find it hard to believe that some people here seem convinced that giving Africa extra spots in the WC will have any positive implications on the quality of African football. Their problems seem to be their own, and not at all related to lack of media attention. They had two more spots in 2010 than in 2002, yet the overall impression must be that they have made little or no progress. How valid can be the argument that taking spots away from Africa will damage African football, especially if it may very well be the pressure in the qualifiers that makes even the smaller South American teams so competitive? Do you think African national football could be improved by changing their qualifying format?

    And, lastly, is there any discussion on this topic in the media across South America (especially in the countires that look most likely to miss the cut because of this, such as Ecuador or Colombia)? Have more playoffs been suggested for an extra spot, perhaps a tie between Africa/Europe and South America?

  • Comment number 77.

    This may show how ignorant i am with South American Qualifying, but to me it seems pretty easy to qualify from this region, and if anything is tailored towards ensuring the big boys of Brazil and Argentina qualify all the time. Anyone can be hugely inconsistent and head for mid-table mediocrity and still have a good chance of qualifying, case in point Argentina's nearly disastrous qualifying campaign for South Africa. If this was in European qualifying group they wouldn't have stood a chance with that record seeing as you need a min 75-90 win ratio to even be in contention. I accept that there are no real whipping boys in South America as opposed to Europe, but still if a team has only 2 spots to aim for per group in Europe compared to 4/5 from South America, surely this makes it easier for the latter?

    Also, even if they are losing a qualifying spot thanks to Brazil hosting, does this really make any difference to the other teams seeing as Brazil always take a spot anyway? Although i would agree that it is a disgrace that South America loses a spot when Africa didn't.

  • Comment number 78.

    'The pressure on the hosts will either cripple them (like Ronaldo in France'98)'

    # 57 Andrew wrote: That my friend makes no sense at all.

    ..bit fuddled I agree - I was just suggesting how the nerves/pressure got to Brazilian players in the final. Obviously not the actual '98 hosts who went on to beat them ;)

  • Comment number 79.

    Hey Phil, another enjoyable read!

    I've heard a few names being mentioned for the Brazil job, especially Scolari and Luxemburgo. Scolari of course had great success with the team in 2002 but may be tied to his club, and Luxemburgo's success at club level was never matched during his previous stint in charge of the national team.

    Who else would be in the running? I'm guessing Parreira's generation will now be overlooked. What about Zico's reputation at home? For me, he hasn't set the world alight at club level, but would he be a popular choice for the biggest job of them all? As a player afterall, he was everything that Dunga wasn't.

  • Comment number 80.

    South American is as different as it comes to Africa. Isn't it only the top team from each group with no consideration for 2nd place? Hense there were some randoms like Togo and Angola 4 years ago. I guess that's good for small teams.

  • Comment number 81.

    re 60

    "Sorry, I personally thought they were highly underwhelming. By a long way the lowest scoring winners of the world cup, a series of not overly impressive 1-nil wins and a loss to Switzerland."

    I think many people criticizing this Cup winners forget just how dreary the last winners were, and not just them. Italy managed a thoroughly undeserved win against Australia, an easy win over an abject Ukraine, a cynical performance against a youthful Germany and a horrible final with Materazzi's theatrics. They may have scored 12 but to claim they were in any way more impressive than the current champions is surely wrong. Or take the French team of 1998: surely they are remembered fondly mostly because of they way they've dominated the final - other than that, their knock-out games were v. Paraguay 1-0aet, v Italy 0-0 (4-3pen) and v Croatia 2-1. They were hardly thrilling.

    I am not saying that Spain were utterly joyous to watch and bordering on godly and unbelievably cool and stuff. But they did seem *convincing* to me and always looked like they will be nearly imposiible to beat, especially as by keeping the ball so often and not coming under pressure they avoided being hit by random deflections or long-range speculative shots that seemed to affect so many teams. Still, I think especially the Spanish win against Germany was impressive. Germany were really good, they can keep the ball and they are much more than just a counter-attacking team (although they know how to counter-attack well). But as the game went by, you just couldn't see the Germans getting into the match, and by the end, they were totally exhausted, so much that they in fact didn't even manage to muster any final pressure. This was a great team that got thoroughly beaten by a much superior side, and the fact that Spain made it look easy should not make us think that the Germans "were not so good after all", as some would argue rather than giving due credit to Spain. It is not watching them *pass* the ball that thrilled me, it was watching the two or three Spanish players closest to their man with the ball *move* so that he would have someone to pass to. They were in fact very fluid, they just were not bombing down the line all the time trying to catch a 50-yard pass. Most of the teams they played were much more static than them, both with and without the ball.

    I expect this team to deliver many a high-scoring drubbing over the next few years, now that the pressure of the big tournament has gone. Looking forward to meeting them in the Euro qualifiers (Czech fan here). Gotta get my hands on some tickets...

  • Comment number 82.

    Post 77 - govmeister - sorry but you are acting with a little suspicion of lacking knowledge about qualifying. How can it be easy to qualify from the S. American region when good teams like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru cannot make it to a World Cup? The quality of the S. American teams is there for all to see with all 5 qualifying for the 2nd round and 4 of them for the quarter-finals. Consider this with the dismal showing of the Africa teams when only one of 5 qualified.
    If you are looking for 'easy' qualification then look no further than CONCACAF. It's unbelievable that after their 1st and 2nd stage group games when countries like Belize, El Salvador, Surinam, Guyana etc are involved, the 6 qualifiers then go into a further round where 3 of them are granted automatic places and the 4th gets to play-off against a S. American country. So you will always get U.S.A. & Mexico and the 3rd automatic place will be for 'mighty' teams such as Jamaica, Honduras, Costa Rica etc. with yet another minnow getting a play-off.
    I'm not sure why countries like Scotland & Wales do not go and play in this region as they would surely find qualifying relatively easy.

    Jimmy Jazz - thanks for that info. Typical of Blatter to give the 'extra' place in 2014 to Africa. No doubt it means more votes for him in the FIFA Presidential election.

    It says all we need to know about African football when the Nigeria Government threatens to prevent its own team from playing for 2 years because of their poor performances in S. Africa.

  • Comment number 83.

    # 73 'there is no point having so many African whipping boys'

    What do you think of Fifa introducing a small pre-tournament 'warm-up' (scrapping the waste of time Confederations Cup) where the likes of San Marino, The Soloman Islands etc get to play-off in a full 'bells and whistles' mini event in the actual host country's W.C. Stadia for EIGHT genuine 'Wild-card places'. One for all eight W.C. groups so no-one is favoured..it would only really be an extra warm-up game for the real qualifiers and would boost goal tallies ;) but would be a realistic opportunity for those who who have absolutely zero chance to qualify automatically otherwise and give the neutrals someone else to shout for. Maybe give a wild card to likes of Haiti or disaster effected areas as a means of raising spirits and extra funds? Better than usual token soccer aid matches we see in Barca, Monaco and Manchester.

  • Comment number 84.

    James Autar - You're absolutely right that i am not very knowledgable on the teams involved in South American qualifying, although from what i have seen i have been very impressed with some of the friendly performances i've seen from the teams that did not make it to the World Cup, and the record up until the latter stages shows the quality is there. However, there are good sides from all parts of the world that didn't make it to the finals (obvious examples from Europe are Croatia, Russia and Ireland, Egypt from Africa etc.). Please don't take my comment as a negative on the quality of the teams.

    However, this does not change my opinion that finishing 5th from a group of 10 would not take a particularly great record. You could lose as many games as you win and still qualify for a World Cup, which does not seem right to me when in all other regions (not too familiar with African qualifying, seems a bit complicated) this would not be good enough. Pretty much guarantees Brazil and Argentina will get to every World Cup. Whether this would change from adopting a different kind of format is iffy at best, but I would suggest there is a good chance Argentina would not have got to South Africa with their record/performances in qualifying if using a different qualifying format.

  • Comment number 85.

    I really loved watching the South Americans in the tournement, the strength of the continents 5th placed team goes to show the depth of talent in CONMEBOL.

    It would be unfair to penalise success like this by reducing the number of qualifiers from South America. Having produced nine WC winners and a similar number of finalists, I find it incredible (although not entirely surprising) that Africa get given more slots when they have produced three quarter finalists. If anything give Asia another slot and merge in New Zealand (like they did with Australia)

    South Americas strength is that they have a masssive group with no easy games, it went down to the final round of matches - we could have been watching Colombia and Ecuador in this tounement and as yet only Venezuela have failed to qualify as some point.

    UEFA has so many teams that it produces so many meaningless games and foregone conclusions. Out of Englands group only England, Ukraine and Croatia were competitive. Pre Qualifying is becoming necessary, with all the talk of cutting the Premiership I would rather see a hard working team like Blackpool every week than to jet to a country to play a European qualifying game near the Mongolian border (Kazakhstan)

    Surely the Kazakhstan and Andorra week would be better used to get the team gelling in a competitve way or failing that resting to avoid burnout. North America have that system, I think it improves the standard of football there whilst giving the minnows the chance of making it to the finals.

  • Comment number 86.

    #83

    the more i think about this, the worse the idea is

    - making no financial sense/gain to the host stadium, 2 of the worst footballing sides in the world play a warm up for this wildcard place in a stadium watched by a handful of local people turning up alongside a few families of players who managed to afford the trip, expecting a decent game, being completely put off. and tv wouldnt be interested in sending 15 cameras and several pundits to the game either. so lets put the business side to bed now and concentrate on football only
    - there arent specific criteria suggested about how bad a team has to be, so you basically allocate 8 places to teams on the sole basis that they are among the very worst 16 in the world (i havent checked the world rankings but i very much doubt san marino are close to being bad enough, this will come down to mainly pacific island sides), so the 8 winning teams go out in the wc and humiliate themselves. Think of a ryman prem team (or worse, bearing in mind the countries that will participate) chasing after spain's passing game while they get tonked 8-0 or more each time they take to the field.
    - the potential draw in playing wc because of your lowly ranking discourages those teams in the bottom from improving, so they wont get any better as they dont have to; they'll play against messi if they stay this bad
    - the other fully qualified teams then have to play other half-decent international opposition for just 2 games in their group (by the current format) and every group comes down to goal difference from what they ended up doing to the whipping boys teams. even assuming the whipping boys make a good show of themselves in one of the games and have a repectable 2-1 loss, the winning side there rule themselves out on GD for the group unless they win every other game too
    - aside from the standard of their play being probably quite difficult on the eye, the bigger the gulf in standard tends to mean more hoofing players in the air for unsettling them. you had the greeks doing this against argentina to an extent (more defensive bore-show than hoofing here) and andorra's centre back was constantly slamming into Rooney in qualifying, and they will be SIGNIFICANTLY higher than the ranked teams this scheme affects. think more lowly sunday league than conference. ive played Vs players from both and theres an enormous difference in ability and attitude. ronaldo and messi shouldnt be forced to play against some fat hatchet man huffing and puffing his way round the pitch
    - 8 places for current qualifiers will have to be withdrawn to implement this scheme from countries more able and deserving
    - essentially, it could be several world cups before one of these sides pulls enough of the bag to make it out of the group and "prove everybody wrong". but by then its been a pointless excercise only depriving other teams a place

    so unless we arbitrarily decide "san marino" or "soloman islands" get in instead (why these two specifically?), despite there being worse ranked teams, where is the line drawn for wildcard entry here?

  • Comment number 87.

    Pre-qualifying in the European zone is a possibility, but you have to be careful about how you set up the boundaries for this.

    When would the games be played for a start? Immediately after a European Championship would be an option, but could you guarantee that none of the sides would ever make it to the Euros? Ok, you probably could, but that raises the next point. Which teams would have to pre-qualify?

    If you are only talking about, say, the worst 16 ranked sides and want to reduce that number to 8 then it will only reduce the number of games by 2 for all other teams in actual qualifying. What this will also do is remove all competitive football for over 2 years for these 8 national sides and is this particularly fair?

    Whilst the San Marinos and Faroe Islanders (just used as examples) may not be too competitive against the top ranked sides, surely they would want to progress as a footballing nation by exposing their players to competitive top level games in qualifying? And surely them taking a point off nations like Scotland (as, painfully, I have had to endure) is a real achievement for these nations.

    If your aim was to take even more sides out of the actual qualifying groups, you are at real risk of removing sides around about the current FIFA ranking of Wales - and I'm sure that having to cram a load of pre-qualifying games in effectively over a pre-season would not go down to well with the employers of players from these nations (i.e. Harry Redknapp at Spurs being without Gareth Bale for Champions League qualifiers because he's playing in a round-robin league with Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Latvia).

    Then there is the issue of players of England playing significantly less games than, say, their Welsh counterparts when the actual qualifying tournament kicks off some few weeks later.

    I think it would be potentially dangerous to meddle too much with European qualifying. If anything, I already think it is biased too much towards the larger nations to ensure that they get enough poorer quality sides in the group that it will almost be a certainty that they get at least a play-off spot (and then seeding the play-offs at the last minute...).

    On the subject of number of places per continent, I think it's a bit of a joke that nations now seem to be able to choose what confederation they qualify under. You are from where you are from.

    Whilst I see the benefits in trying to get a good representation of nations from all parts of the globe, I think we should be wary about giving too many places away to areas which consistently underachieve. We want the best teams from around the globe AND we want the best teams possible to make the tournament exciting. The balance has to be right and assessed properly, not on the whim of a maniac who is after more votes.

    Personally, I think that the Americas should be united into one qualification section to make it more comparable to European qualifying in that there will be a broader range in terms of the number and relative abilities of teams participating.

    Two groups, of similar size to the current south american group, with the top three going through from each group, no playoff.

    A similar set-up I'd recommend in Africa also to avoid the 2-stage, 4-team group set-up. Again, it just reduces the number of competitive games played by some nations.

    If people truly believe that exposure to top level football will improve some of the less developed football nations, as has been alluded to a few times in the responses to this blog, then surely getting them as many competitive qualifying games (as oppose to increasing World Cup allocation where they will be exposed to a more negative and 'professional' brand of football) would be a better starting point.

    Personally, I think it would be great if World Cup qualifying was worldwide but of course there are many reasons that this will never happen. Imagine a World Cup qualifying group along the lines of Australia, Cameroon, Scotland, Singapore, Jamaica, and Greece. That's proper World Cup!

  • Comment number 88.

    #86 well...when you put it that way ofcourse ;)

    Seriously..all very good arguements against and to be fair I wasn't being totally serious apart from the fundraising aspect which I think would be supported. Maybe the U.N. could select 4 worthy teams like Haiti (for humanitarian reasons) and small countries with zero hope of ever getting there but have out-performed expectations (countries may apply) and make the 4 worse performing teams like France and England (who could apply themselves one day) play them in the gap leading up to the final instead of jetting off on their millionaire hols early and donate the proceeds. It would embarrass 'star' players into giving their all in proper games and avoiding these matches.

  • Comment number 89.

    Why was my comment censored? I didn't break the house rules at all.

  • Comment number 90.

    The group phase should be at least 5 teams/group. At the moment, some teams get to round 2 virtually by default (e.g. when one of the last games of the present 3 per team is a dead rubber). It would mean only 1 game more per team so could almost fit in the same timescale - AND would have a lot more countries involved.

    I'm also for play-offs for the other placings, otherwise the competition seems to just trail off suddenly with various "rest days" after the 1st round. It would also give the "also-rans" a chance at a more realistic objective (like avoiding the bottom 8, which under present calculations, features the last 2 finalists, France & Italy).

  • Comment number 91.

    I'm all for vuvuzelas & the family now have a bunch of them, but do you think we could get the Brazilians to take down that obnoxious statue for the duration of the WC in 2014?

  • Comment number 92.

    Nice one for the Copa América link above. A nice surprise, nay an honour!

  • Comment number 93.

    #77- This is clearly a post by someone who never watched a South American qualifiers game.

    And Tim just quoted two World Cup winning coaches saying that the qualifiers are actually harder than the tournament itself; one might not agree with them, but you really think they would say that with no reason? I mean, those aren't two bitter losers, but rather coaches that did raise the trophy.

  • Comment number 94.

    It's total nonsense link the World Cup in Brazil to a fanciful favoritism of the other countries in South America. Small talk. The chances of any South American country (except Brazil) in the World Cup 2014 are the very same ones in the South Africa World Cup or the Germany World Cup.
    No South American neighbor of Brazil will feel "at home" in Brazil. Quite the contrary. Brazil is culturally, ethnically and even visually very different from its neighbors Latinos (or Hispanics) in South America. Chileans, Argentines, Peruvians and Bolivians will feel so foreign in Brazil as a German or French.
    This vision "of same thing" that British and Americans have of Brazil and Hispanic America gets to be even annoying, so childish and wrong.
    Neither the football that is practiced in Brazil and the Latin band fof South America is exactly the same, although the neighbors have made a huge effort to emulate the Brazilian football for decades.
    Just watch the videos of the games of Argentina, Uruguay and Chile teams in the 80s to see how they played a lot different than playing today. There is not South America school, as some try to convince. There is a Brazilian school, developed by players of the past, like Pelé, Garrincha, Zico, and Sócrates.

  • Comment number 95.

    It's total nonsense link the World Cup in Brazil to a fanciful favoritism of the other countries in South America. Small talk. The chances of any South American country (except Brazil) in the World Cup 2014 are the very same ones in the South Africa World Cup or the Germany World Cup.

    No South American neighbor of Brazil will feel "at home" in Brazil. Quite the contrary. Brazil is culturally, ethnically and even visually very different from its neighbors Latinos (or Hispanics) in South America. Chileans, Argentines, Peruvians and Bolivians will feel so foreign in Brazil as a German or French.

    This vision "of same thing" that British and Americans have of Brazil and Hispanic America gets to be even annoying, so childish and wrong.

    Neither the football that is practiced in Brazil and the Latin band fof South America is exactly the same, although the neighbors have made a huge effort to emulate the Brazilian football for decades.

    Just watch the videos of the games of Argentina, Uruguay and Chile teams in the 80s to see how they played a lot different than playing today. There is not South America school, as some try to convince. There is a Brazilian school, developed by players of the past, like Pelé, Garrincha, Zico, and Sócrates.

  • Comment number 96.

    Sorry Tom,

    That Suarez only cheated in a way that any professional would have done in similar circumstances is not true, and if it was it would be a damning reflection on sportsmanship in the sport. Understandable sure, excusable no.

    He denied Ghana, who would have been the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final, a certain goal, and so certain victory at that late stage. Needless to say he would have been quite upset if he had been on the receiving end. Livid even. Shame really because Suarez and Forlan were two of the outstanding players of the tournament.

    Solution? Make sure 'crime' doesn't pay as an absolute starter. Better sanctions.

  • Comment number 97.

    Excellent blog Tim, thank you for providing such an insight into the South American football.
    I would like to state a point regarding the Suarez handball: In football one scores a goal when the ball is on target and cannot be stopped by any other player using any means (including a handball). If the ball does NOT cross the line for whatever reason then the shot was not good enough for a goal. It was hard for Ghana and Africa this time, but football has been hard for many others in the past, and it can only be a glory for the best.
    I don’t think this punishment for a handball in the area should be changed. Fifa was correct to apply a 1 match ban because that is consisten with the punishment that is always given for this. Giving a 2 match ban would have been a double standard in my view.
    I would also welcome the use of technology, but it needs to be carefully managed and tested with trials in formal competition/leagues to get the balance right.

  • Comment number 98.

    94 and 95 (twice!)
    of course there are differences between the south american nations - not just between brazil and the rest, but , for example, between argentina and colombia.

    nevertheless, with their differences they do form a continent - and i'm being ignorant, childish etc in my idea that the other south americans will feel favoured in braz il - THEN HOW ON EARTH DO YOU EXPLAIN URUGUAY WINNING IN 1950?

    WHERE HAVE URUGUAY WON SINCE?

  • Comment number 99.

    Woah there Tim, easy on the caps, maybe just say - South American teams will be extremely motivated to win in Brazil, and though the nations are different they are perhaps more similar to African or Asian states.

    Copa Libertadores? Previous qulaifiers? Many South American stars have experience of playing in Brazil.

    My problem is the BBC's obsession with filling the gap between the World cup and new season with talk of Brazil 2014. If only we didn't over-indulge in expectation and absurdly over-excited build-up we may not be so sick to the back teeth of media coverage of the world cup before a ball has been kicked at each tournament.

    Especially with 4 years to go in the dawn of South Africa. Did you choose this topic yourself? Because the two recent features on the BBC about Brazil 2014 were absolutely appalling and stunk of marketing madness and clutching-at-straws world cup burnout.

    England to win 2018 in their own back yard anyone?

  • Comment number 100.

    I meant to say Uruguay, Chile etc are more similar to Brazil than African or Asian nations are...if that makes any more sense!!!

 

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