Tough qualifying period ahead for South American sides
While Uruguay's players were still celebrating their recent Copa America victory, their coach Oscar Washington Tabarez, with typical wisdom, was guarding against complacency.
"Winning the Copa doesn't give us any guarantees in terms of the World Cup qualifiers," he said. "They are much more competitive than this tournament."
On Friday, in their first outing since the triumph in Argentina, it took Uruguay just 13 seconds to realise that the Copa belongs to the past.
That is how long Ukraine needed to get the ball into the back of the Uruguayan net in the friendly in Kharkiv.
The Sky Blues hit back to win 3-2 - the decisive goal set up by Luis Suarez for Abel Hernandez, a jet-heeled, left-footed striker who, like Liverpool new boy Sebastian Coates, is a graduate from Uruguay's excellent under-20 side of 2009.
It is this conveyor belt of talent that is Uruguay's best hope of maintaining their momentum.
Tabarez is correct. The next set of World Cup qualifiers, which get underway in South America next month, will surely be the most competitive ever. The evidence was there in the Copa, and was reinforced in the weekend's round of warm-up friendlies.
It was there in Chile's impressive performance in going down 3-2 to Spain, the world champions gifted a highly dubious injury-time penalty.
It was there in wins for Paraguay and Colombia, against Panama and Honduras respectively, and it was there in the 2-2 draw between Peru and Bolivia - an excellent result for the visitors against a side stronger on paper than the one that just came third in the Copa.
It was there in Ecuador's 5-2 dismantling of Jamaica and it was also there, bizarrely enough, in Calcutta, India.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi recieved a hero's reception as he arrived in India for Argentina's friendly against Venezuela. Photo: Getty
He used a 4-3-3 formation with Lionel Messi, the new captain, in his old position, cutting in from wide right.
Admittedly, it was hot and the game was played on an artificial pitch, but yet again Argentina were not convincing, seeming to add up to less than the sum of their parts.
Argentina won 1-0, the goal coming from a Nicolas Otamendi header from a corner. It was a rare lapse in concentration by Venezuela, who can take a great deal of heart from their performance.
In this match, staged in a new frontier for football, Venezuela announced that they have a place in the game's future.
The only South American nation never to appear in a World Cup, they have earned the right to go into the 2014 qualifiers dreaming of a place in Brazil.
This is truly a remarkable rise. A generation ago Venezuela were the South American footballing equivalent of San Marino and their progress is down to the work of three coaches.
Little more than a decade ago, Argentine Omar Pastoriza identified a promising group of young players.
A home-grown replacement, Richard Paez, improved results by tapping into the local mentality, sending the players out to win rather than merely to keep the score down. Now, Cesar Farias has taken them to the next level.
The youthful Farias is not to everyone's taste. He seems to be cultivating a Jose Mourinho approach to courting controversy, falling out with rival coaches during the Copa. However, he is clearly talented.
Still only 38, he has been taking charge of senior sides since his early twenties, and had a consistent body of work behind him when he stepped into the national team job four years ago.
In 2009 he took the under-20s to the World Youth Cup in Egypt, a landmark for Venezuelan football, and several from that side have been fast-tracked into the senior squad.
Indeed, one of the most striking things about his time in charge is the sheer quantity of players he has called up. Last season he selected 40 players.
Farias casts the net wide, but results have not suffered as a result. The ability to assimilate so many players into the process indicates excellent man-management skills and the clear communication of a tactical approach.
And now the net is being cast wider still. Venezuela's Copa America achievements - they came fourth and were desperately unlucky not to make the final - have raised the profile of the team and made them a much more attractive bet for European-based players who have a connection with the country.
Venezuelan-born but brought up in Spain, centre-back Fernando Amorebieta made a very solid debut against Argentina before being replaced for the last few minutes by Andres Tunez of Celta Vigo, another debutant with a similar background.
The stand out first-timer was attacking midfielder Frank Feltscher, who plays for Grasshopper of Zurich and has come through the youth ranks with Switzerland.
He has now thrown in his lot with Venezuela, the country of his mother's birth, and his strong running and ability to find gaps in the Argentina defence came close to setting up three first-half goals.
In the wake of his impressive debut, younger brother Rolf, a defender with Parma, will surely also be tempted to swap Switzerland for Venezuela.
There are more players, then, for Farias to feed in. If he can keep doing it successfully then Argentina might have something to worry about when they meet in October, when World Cup qualification points are at stake.
Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to email@example.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.From last week's postbag;
Q) I was just wondering if you had any news on the recovery of Giovanni Moreno? While watching the Copa America, I wondered how Colombia would have played if Moreno had of been fit, because they were lacking some creativity in the final third. Do you think the reintroduction of Moreno will alter the style of play?
A) On Sunday the lanky playmaker made his comeback for Racing in Argentina after six months out. Once he's fully fit I'm sure he'll be back for Colombia - the coaching situation is up in the air at the moment with Leonel Alvarez in caretaker charge, but Saturday's 2-0 win over Honduras strengthens his hand.
In the Copa they clearly lacked something in the final third, as you say. On Saturday they went with an extra striker, and it did leave them much more open defensively.
Playing Moreno just off a lone striker is probably the best compromise between these two approaches, so I see him as a vital player for his country.
Q) West Ham recently signed an 18-year-old Paraguayan striker on a one-year loan with a first option to buy. Any thoughts on the player?
A) This is Brian Montenegro. I saw him at the start of the year in the South American Under-20 Championships and it's worth noting that he's young enough to play in the next version of the tournament in 2013.
He's well built with some pace and an interesting left foot, and subsequently he's done well in the domestic league for Tacuary.
However, the money men come in, with investors buying his registration and looking to cash in resulting in what I would view as a premature move. I know I sound like a stuck record on this one but I fear that his long-term interests might have been bettered served by staying a while longer and building up some momentum at home.