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South Americans ready to stop Spanish stroll

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Tim Vickery | 08:30 UK time, Monday, 9 July 2012

Spain's win at Euro 2012 - their third consecutive major tournament win - has sparked off all kinds of comparisons in the bar room debate over the best international team of all time.

Of course, such conversations have a strong subjective component, but it is hard to formulate arguments against the facts - and a fourth consecutive trophy will surely tip the balance in Spain's favour.

But title number four looks set to be the hardest of the lot. It entails doing what no European team has ever done - winning the World Cup on South American soil when the world come to Brazil in 2014.

Worse, it comes at a time when the South Americans, who have always won the trophy when it has been staged on their continent, have an unprecedented degree of strength in depth. This is something the reigning world and European champions should know from experience.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi will look to topple a Spain side that contains many of his Barcelona teammates. Photo: Getty

Spain, of course, have breezed through the knock-out stages of their three victorious tournaments without conceding a single goal. It is worth remembering that in all that time the most difficult, most even game was the 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Paraguay, who even missed a penalty.

Paraguay, though, may well not be in Brazil in two years' time. The agonising progress they made to the final of last year's Copa America was the last hurrah for the team that had pushed Spain all the way. Coach Gerardo Martino resigned, replacement Francisco Arce tried to change too much too soon and was sacked.

Whoever takes over (combative Uruguayan Gerardo Pelusso is the favourite) faces an uphill task.

As does the new coach of Bolivia, still to be named after Gustavo Quinteros resigned last week. Dependent on the extreme altitude of playing in La Paz, Bolivia have surely already dropped too many points at home to be serious contenders for a World Cup place.

Peru have made an even worse start, a bitter disappointment after coming third in the Copa America. They have had an appalling run with injuries. If they can get their dangerous strikers fit they could make up lost ground - and they are at home in both of September's next two rounds. But there is no margin for error - unlike Chile.

With a third of the qualification campaign gone, the Chileans already have half the points they need to book a place. They gave Spain an interesting game in the last World Cup, and an even more interesting one in a friendly in Switzerland last year, when they went two goals up only to lose 3-2 to a dubious injury-time penalty. For all their attacking threat, though, it is hard to imagine Chile finding the defensive solidity to unseat the Spaniards should their paths cross in the next World Cup.

Uruguay are a different matter, combining a hugely talented collection of strikers who work well together with a tough defence, an abrasive midfield and a team well drilled enough to tweak their formation in accordance with the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent.

They have also made a good start to the qualification process - but key components of the side are starting to age and may need replacing by 2014. This is part of the importance of the coming Olympics to the Uruguayans, a subject that I will explore in two weeks' time.

At the other end of the continent, Venezuela are in contention to qualify for the World Cup for the first time. Their progress has been truly amazing. But should they make the World Cup it is hard to see them having enough real quality to trouble Spain and the other major challengers from Europe. Much the same applies to Ecuador, full of powerful options down the flanks, but defensively suspect away from their mountain stronghold of Quito.

But if they can qualify for the first time since 1998, Colombia could give the heavyweights something to worry about. There are problems in their squad - the centre-backs are all ageing together, for example. But there is also the hint of something very interesting. Radamel Falcao is one of the most feared centre-forwards in the game.

To get the best out of him Colombia must give him better service. He struggles with his back to goal, so Colombia need to get behind the opposing defence and play in balls that he can attack. It is for this reason that the emergence of attacking midfielder James Rodriguez is so significant. Versatile, mature, strong on the ball and full of ideas, he looks like being a key piece in the jigsaw now being put together by former Argentina boss Jose Pekerman.

Current Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is having problems with a jigsaw of his own. Argentina are very much a work in progress, a team looking for a blend and a shape. Sabella confesses that there are problems at both full and centre-back - he could have included goalkeeper as well, because undisputed first choice Sergio Romero can often look untidy.

Federico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay are still feeling their way as a centre back combination. But there are some positive signs as well. Up front the interplay between Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero can be dazzling. And in the last World Cup qualifier at home to Ecuador, Fernando Gago served as an excellent supply line for Messi.

Surround the little Barcelona genius with enough of these little partnerships and Sabella is well on the way to putting together a team fit to contend with Spain and anyone else in the World Cup. And he has the advantage of the world's most competitive qualification campaign to help him find the right balance.

This is something Brazil, automatically qualified as hosts, do not have. Coach Mano Menezes has lamented the lack of competitive fixtures in his quest to build a team for 2014 - all of which makes the London Olympics all the more important for him and his country. But that is a topic for next week.

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) I've just moved to Lima in Peru on a teaching contract for two years. I'm keen to get involved with the local football, but have no idea where to start. What is Peruvian football like in general and who are the big, or local teams to follow?
Dafydd Gwyon

A) You arrive in interesting times. On the downside, the league is in deep financial crisis, with most of the clubs, especially the Lima giants, mired in debt. Indeed, a new administrator-type figure has been appointed at a number of clubs in a bid to sort it all out.

On the plus side, first there is a pleasing and very necessary movement of decentralisation. Historically Lima monopolises, but last season Juan Aurich of Chiclayo took the title up north for the first time, and this year Cesar Vallejo from nearby Trujillo are leading the way.

There are also some interesting young players coming through, especially at Universitario in the capital, currently coached by Nolberto Solano, where Polo, Flores and my current favourite Ampuero (a tall, left-footed midfielder with an imperious air) are all worth a look. Universitario (more linked with the elite) and Alianza Lima (mass of the population) are the big two. But the best team in the capital to watch at the moment are Sporting Cristal, who have an impressive collection of attacking talent.

Or, if you want something more offbeat, there's San Martin, a new club whose tiny support base mainly consists of university students.

Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Bring on the Brazilians, bring on the argentines anyone to remind to world how football is played. Lucas Moura, Ganso and Neymar should be the big hits in the next WC. Lucas is quaickly becoming a fav of mine, his skills are amazing!! he'd show Theo Walcott a thing or two.

    Good article for a Monday morning Tim. much enjoyed as per

  • Comment number 3.

    Spain, of course, have breezed through the knock-out stages of their three victorious tournaments without conceding a single goal. It is worth remembering that in all that time the most difficult, most even game was the 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Paraguay, who even missed a penalty.

    Didn't they lose 1-0 to the Swiss in South Africa 2012?!?
    I would imagine that would be a reasonably difficult game......

  • Comment number 4.

    Apologies, should read South Africa 2010!

  • Comment number 5.

    'Spain, of course, have breezed through the knock-out stages of their three victorious tournaments without conceding a single goal'

    They drew 1-1 with Italy in their opening game this year. Good article mate.

  • Comment number 6.

    I recall Colombia being talked-up at several WC's.

    Each time they were a huge disappointment.

    I cant see them causing Spain (Germany, Italy) any problems.

    Argentina and Brazil... that could be a different story.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Spain, of course, have breezed through the knock-out stages of their three victorious tournaments without conceding a single goal."

    Euro 2008 group stages:
    Spain 4 - 1 Russia
    Spain 2 - 1 Sweden
    Spain 2 - 1 Greece

    World Cup 2010 group stages:
    Spain 0 - 1 Switzerland
    Spain 2 - 1 Chile

    Euro 2012 group stages:
    Spain 1 - 1 Italy

    Number of Group games played: 9
    Number of Clean Sheets: 3

    How on earth has that clanger made the website.

  • Comment number 8.

    "Spain, of course, have breezed through the knock-out stages of their three victorious tournaments without conceding a single goal."

    ----

    The KNOCK OUT stages.

    NOT the Group stages.

    Wake up, people.

  • Comment number 9.

    5.
    At 09:35 9th Jul 2012, Coco25 wrote:
    you have already been corrected, but yeah the group stages and knock out stages are not one and the same....... its still early in the morn, maybe too early for some ;)

  • Comment number 10.

    It looks like its going to be another decade of Brazilian dominance to come. I can't see any European teams getting to the final.

    Look at the top European teams compared to South American
    Spain - Ok in the Euros, but no real striker up front, and no real hunger shown.
    Germany- Showed good signs but i think there overestimated, squad dosn't seem strong enough.
    Italy- Just not enough world class players. plus pirlo age
    France - No where near the level needed

    Now South America
    Brazil- Stong, fast. Have squad of depth, mixture of young and old players, you got european club players like Robino and then good mix of brazilian club players like Neymar. there at home and looking to batter teams.
    Argentina- Again great first team, not as strong as brazil, got messi, team have somthing to prove, opitions if needed, plus top class strikers in tevez.
    Chile- Solid team, we saw what they can do in the last world cup, not affraid to take on any side, and got Alexis Sanchez, good solid team.
    Uruguay- Properly 3rd best team in south america, got a great squard, again are hard to beat and always probing.

    When you look at it i cant see where european teams can get a win.

  • Comment number 11.

    Thank god someone got in there and corrected them. Seriosuly, what part of Knock-out stages don´t people understand

  • Comment number 12.

    People talk a lot of nonsense about Spain.

    Here is their record at Euro 2012.

    Played 6
    Won 5
    Drew 1
    Lost 0

    Scored 12
    Concdeded 1
    GD +11

    And they are supposed to be "tired" or only "OK" ????

    Would that England could be so tired or only OK.

  • Comment number 13.

    lol @ people only interested in correcting an error that didn't exist.

    I think this article's aim was to list the reasons why Spain would struggle to win in Brazil, but in the end only really outlined the weaknesses in most of the S.American teams squads, weaknesses that Spain don't really have.

    That said I do think on South American soil, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil will be forces to be reckoned with and whether Spain can raise it to another level yet again remains to be seen. But the more they win the more confidence they have going into every tournament now.

    Orcnick - No real hunger shown? They won the Euros - you can't do that without hunger. No real striker up front was their tactic, it's not that they didn't possess one and, though I still feel they would've been better served without it, it hardly back-fired did? Llorente, Villa and co will still be around for the WC.

  • Comment number 14.

    Great article. I believe Spain may find it hard to do their tiki taka football in brazil, the home of beautiful football and that in order to win it may have to adapt potentially by using someone who can change their style of play like Llorente.

    TheKluse, Coco25 and Kiwiredkiwi; i assume you haven't got a job in the media, your proof reading is terrible!

  • Comment number 15.

    3. At 09:28 9th Jul 2012, kiwiredkiwi wrote:
    "Didn't they lose 1-0 to the Swiss in South Africa 2012?!?
    I would imagine that would be a reasonably difficult game"

    Knock out game?

  • Comment number 16.

    Eep, guess I need to sheepishly apologize.

  • Comment number 17.

    @13

    I understand that they did, but there was no real passion, spain beat teams because the teams in europe are far behind them. Its like chelsea won the Champo League but you wouldn't say they are the best team in europe. Spain only showed 2 things in the Euro, there weakness and the european team weaknesses. when they face south america teams, they won't let them have the ball, they will batter spain, and spain even with lorente and villa wont change the way they play and they will lose. I mean look how portgual played spain for the 1st 30min portgual looked like they owuld win init, thats how i see south america teams playing like for the 90 mins against spain

  • Comment number 18.

    Spain have been masters at holding the ball and winning 1-0, but the final of Euro 2012 where they whipped a strong Italian side they drew with in the group stages show they may have upped the ante. Their team is aging a bit, I suppose, but let's not forget - the last time Argentina played a serious tournament game against European opposition, they got their backsides handed to them 4-0..... The Brazilians were also beaten by the Netherlands.

  • Comment number 19.

    History would suggest it will be difficult for a European team to win in South America however European football is extremely powerful at the moment and only 1 team from outside Europe has reached a world cup final in the last 20 years. In europe the euros are regarded as a stronger tournement than the world cup as there are no really weak teams in the group stages. Uruguay if SA team to win.

  • Comment number 20.

    This is best Spain team that's ever been with incredible depth in all positions and have shown the ability to win Tournaments abroad as well as at home. They lack very little and still beat get past teams without main strikers or players like Messi in the team.

    The South Americans have their work cut out to stop them.

  • Comment number 21.

    Some people try so hard to proof-read that they find an imaginary mistake and then overlook an obvious one next to it.

    "Spain, of course, have breezed through the knock-out stages of their three victorious tournaments without conceding a single goal. It is worth remembering that in all that time the most difficult, most even game was the 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Paraguay, who even missed a penalty."

    By definition, and in reality, surely the most even game was this year's semi-final against Portugal, where it came down to penalties, Bruno Alves hitting the bar vs Fabregas hitting the post and it going in? Del Bosque has said himself that was down to pure luck.

    Good article though, and I'm looking forward to next week's piece on the Brazil Olympic Team.

  • Comment number 22.

    «Comment number 5.At 09:35 9th Jul 2012, Coco25 wrote:
    'Spain, of course, have breezed through the knock-out stages of their three victorious tournaments without conceding a single goal'

    They drew 1-1 with Italy in their opening game this year. Good article mate


    Yes that would be a group match - not a knock out match. Try reading it properly before commenting

  • Comment number 23.

    What a rubbish article Tim. Honestly.
    I don't think I've read this much utter rubbish in my life.
    Rubbish.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Tim, what is your assessment of Mano Menezes?
    He's obviously trying to find a youthful team, but his tactics are not working.
    He ignores proven and experienced players like kaka, Ramires, Diego, and Maicon, players that will be needed in the heat of battle.
    Though you heavily criticised Carlos Dunga, he brought a winning mentality and cohesion to the Brazil squad. Got them to number one in the Fifa rankings, won the Copa America, Confed cup, qualified top of South American qualifying in 2010. Beat Uruguay and Argentina away in the qualifying to boot..
    I don't think Mano can achieve such feats. The CBF need to replace him, even if he wins the Olympics, a substandard competition with unknown and unproven players at the international stage. Brazil are not looking good for the WC 2014 unless they replace their Coach and traning staff.

  • Comment number 25.

    At the same time as Spain are clearly good, i also believe the rest are getting worse. Brazil and Argentina will cause problems in the next WC but i am sure Spain will be there are there abouts again, or will they? Like i expect to see Stoke rumbled this year in the PL, i think people will start to work out that Spain really are just tippy tappy and as such you can really just sit back a bit and leave them to the possession until they get anywhere near your danger areas. Anyway, i think international footer is dying as most nowadays only care about their own clubsides. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 26.

    Look at the top European teams compared to South American
    Spain - Ok in the Euros, but no real striker up front, and no real hunger shown.
    Germany- Showed good signs but i think there overestimated, squad dosn't seem strong enough.
    Italy- Just not enough world class players. plus pirlo age
    France - No where near the level needed

    why no mention of Portugal who arguably came closest to stopping the onward Spanish march at Euros 2012? And let's not forget that in Brasil (spelt the proper way) they will be playing in a country which shares the same language and traditions! I believe that of all the top European teams Portugal, together with Spain, stands the most chance of making an impression in Brasil in 2014.

  • Comment number 27.

    Wish thinking is not good journalism and research, mate... Only wish thinking

  • Comment number 28.

    I think the South American teams will be very strong. Despite all the above has anyone mentioned climate? I think this has always played a big role in tournaments. Testing players fitness etc. I believe too that the European level of football has dropped. I would really like to see teams from Africa and Asia making their mark in the world stage. Could Japan get a look in? Should be exciting stuff come 2012 !

  • Comment number 29.

    It will be intriguing to see what happens in Brazil, especially considering Messi seems to have found his Barcelona form in an Argentina shirt lately. Single handedly beating Brazil a few weeks ago was as good a performance as we've seen in recent memory- it certainly put Ronaldo's Euro exploits in context: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuTzXbt1Jqw

    The point perhaps is that although the South Americans are becoming strong, Spain are perhaps in their best ever form and the German youngsters are becoming stronger also. Despite their inability to reach the final- they are still undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.

    At least we're acknowledging that Spain aren't 'boring'. I'm glad that bit of revionist history has been put to bed: http://www.huttondressedaslahm.com/2012/07/spain-won-boring-nil.html

    Either way, 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting tournament. Perhaps we can get more excited about one youngster in Neymar! Certainly his selection and the rest of the Brazil team contextualise the team selection by Stuart Pearce, he could have chosen the entire full XI senior GB team from all countries and still had a team that looked embarrassingly short of both Brazil and Spain Olympic sides.

    What do you expect to see at the Olympics Phil? Their manager has promised his nation the trophy, do you expect Brazil to return home with Olympic gold?

  • Comment number 30.

    Football - and the world - has changed a long time since the WC was last held in South, or indeed Latin, America. No longer are sides travelling to countries under military or one-party dictatorships, where pitches, training grounds and the local media completely alien, or native crowds’ hostile. Football, in style and facilities, is a lot more uniform, the environment more sterile and stadiums more corporate and cosmopolitan, all of which smoother any sense of difference and the unusual. Whether it's Japan, Brazil or Germany, national sides will experience extremely similar preparations. Coaches now also have knowledge of other sides’ style and players to an extent far greater than during the 80s or before. As such I doubt the ‘South American’ factor will be much of one, which is a shame. The joker-in-the-pack though is Argentina, and the world should be praying for their individual brilliance to meet Spain’s collective excellence in the final.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 29
    Phil? It's Tim you dope.

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • Comment number 33.

    @ 32
    Fully agree mate.
    Utter tosh.
    Glad someone is as sane as me.
    Great minds think alike eh?

  • Comment number 34.

    32. At 11:44 9th Jul 2012, tigerfedererronaldo wrote:
    ----------
    Calm down squire, you'll do your self some mischief with all that rage inside you!

    Was a reasonable blog, Spain are world and double euro champs. They are the team to beat, simple really

  • Comment number 35.

    "Worse, it comes at a time when the South Americans, who have always won the trophy when it has been staged on their continent"

    The WC has only ever been hosted in South America once.

    I assume you have incorrectly assumed Mexico is in South America.

    Mr Pedant.

  • Comment number 36.

    35. At 11:54 9th Jul 2012, Gasheadnaboo wrote:
    -----------
    Oof someones brainy this morning! North America indeed

  • Comment number 37.

    35: We all like a bit of pedantry so it may be worth checking your South American countries again.

  • Comment number 38.

    If only the smarty pants pedant brigade had stopped to consider Brazil '50, Chile '62 and Argentina '78 before jumping on their misguided Mexico bandwagon. The fact that both Mexican tournaments were also won by South American sides only reinforces the point, if anything.

  • Comment number 39.

    Spain has an excellent team. But their record in the knockout stages of the three tournaments they have won is 0-0, 3-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 0-0, 2-0, 0-0, 4-0.

    If you take out the victories against 10-man Italy and Russia they scored just 7 goals in 9 matches.

    Spain will find it much harder in South America. For a start, Xavi and Xabi Alonso are already the wrong side of 30 and are visibly ageing, which I suspect is why the 2008 4-1-3-2 became 4-2-3-1 in 2010 and then 4-6-0 in 2012, largely to protect Xavi's legs.

    And let's be frank. In those three tournaments the only top class striker they faced was Cristiano Ronaldo, occupying a wide position with Almeida as centre-forward. (I don't count Cassano and Balotelli, as both seem a couple of hampers short of a picnic.) It's not exactly Messi + Aguero + Higuain or Suarez + Cavani + Forlan, is it?

    There has been a lot of hot air about just how marvellous the next generation of Spanish players is, and that they might even be better than the current crop. Within the next four weeks we will know, won't we?

    Spain, Uruguay and Brazil are all treating the Olympic football tournament as deadly serious.

    For Spain, it offers the only chance to test out whether the potential replacements for Xavi and Xabi Alonso are anywhere near as good.

    For Brazil it is the only serious pre-World Cup tune-up:by the time the Confederations Cup arrives a year before the World Cup it will be too late to change direction. They have been using the Olympic team as a prototype for the World Cup, and results like the 3-1 win in Denmark and 4-3 loss to Argentina suggest that that is working very well at this early stage.

    I find Uruguay the most interesting Olympic team. They have gone the whole hog, by mixing their three best Over-23 outfield players with their very best Under-23s, and their line-up - like Brazil's Olympic team - looks like it could have reached the Euro 2012 Final. Their senior midfield has lacked creativity and their defence has been sluggish, and this tournament is Tabarez' only chance to overhaul those departments.

    So the next four weeks will be:

    De Gea + Martinez + Mata
    versus
    Neymar + Ganso + Thiago Silva
    versus
    Suarez + Cavani + Ramirez

    I suspect that by 11 August we will know:
    a) whether this Brazil team can win the World Cup.
    b) whether Spain has good enough youngsters to retain the World Cup, and
    c) whether Uruguay can dream of Maracanazo Part Two.

  • Comment number 40.

    Also, let's not forget the first ever WC, won and hosted by Uruguay.

  • Comment number 41.

    Now then, now then, what's all this shouting, there'll be no trouble here.

    I have been critical of the blog in the past, especially one blog which spent far too much time discussing the bus network of South America.

    However, the blog does satisfy an audience, and quite clearly a number of readers enjoy it. The article itself also is not Eurocentric which is refreshing.

  • Comment number 42.

    As usual great article Phil.

    Spain will definitly be challenging for the WC in two years. In the Euros they resorted to a 'false nine' due to Villa being injured, if he's back we can expect even more attacking potency. As for their 'ageing team' there are plenty of younger players waiting. Fabregas is often played as a sub for example. When Xavi retires I imagine Fabregas will be starting. Oh noes.

    It will be an interesting tournament. Will Brazil buckle under the pressure? Will Argentina finally click with Messi?

  • Comment number 43.

    An article arguing that South American teams will challenge Spain which is packed with reasons why they won't challenge Spain...

    Spain are miles ahead of everyone else, take a look at the names in their squad, take a look at how they move the ball, take a look at how well they defend.

    Eventually a crazy / flukey game will outdo them but that's how it will be.

    Paraguay, Bolivia, Columbia, Peru... Don't make me laugh

  • Comment number 44.

    #42: Phil? That's twice already in today's blog :)

  • Comment number 45.

    35.At 11:54 9th Jul 2012, Gasheadnaboo wrote:
    "Worse, it comes at a time when the South Americans, who have always won the trophy when it has been staged on their continent"

    The WC has only ever been hosted in South America once.

    I assume you have incorrectly assumed Mexico is in South America.

    Mr Pedant.

    ____________________________________________

    Whats wrong with these people? WC only once in South America??? Uruguay 30, Brazil 50, Chile 62, Argentina 78, that counts 4 in my maths. Or is it basic knowledge of football history, or basic geography, that people are lacking?

  • Comment number 46.

    @34: Come on, a reasonable blog. Tell me something you learnt from it that challenges whether Spains dominance will continue though 2014?

    Or in the spirit of this blog I should phrase it "Tell me something you learnt fronm it that challenges whehter Spains dominance will continue through 2008?"

  • Comment number 47.

    There is another major factor which was beyond the scope of this article. The fortunes of the teams in 2014 will depend greatly upon the draw.

    The current FIFA rankings mean that the seeds will probably be:
    Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Germany, England, Portugal and Italy.

    That means that there will be two highly dangerous floaters in Pot 2 - Netherlands and France - and they could make it hard for the top seed in their group to get out of the group stage.

    The 1998 Spain team of Raul, Luis Enrique, Morientes and Hierro was similarly acclaimed - and it failed to get out of its group. The current Spain team is pretty unprofilic in front of goal, and if the up and coming youngsters are not good enough and the draw is tough it could mean an early exit.

  • Comment number 48.

    stains @28

    I believe too that the European level of football has dropped.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A few have mentioned the standard of European football at international level but i do believe it is far greater than just Europe, it also has to include S American nations.

    Spain are obviously a very good team but greatest of all time, it is highly unlikely. They are not meeting outstanding teams who perform at a level to have give any form of comparison, with the great teams from the past. In horse racing terms, Spain are group 1 class, who on most ocassions are playing selling platers and of course they will look great when that happens.

    Club football has overtaken international football, club football in the 50's, through to the 70's, had little importance attached to it, outside of it's own country. International club football was bare in comparison to today, where we have Champions League in Europe. From the 70's onwards it never really gathered pace until the 90's when club football really exploded and overwhelmed internatonal football, in terms of importance. It is the importance of club football, that has weakened international football.

    Even in club football, I do believe we are seeing a decline in the standard of teams, It may have something to do with how the game is expected to be played today.

  • Comment number 49.

    Wow some people here need to research their football! WC in South America just the once? This tournament will be the 5th!

    Think 2014 will be a very interesting tournament, Brazil with Neymar plus home advantage probably makes them Spains biggest threat. My money will be going on Uruguay personally though.

  • Comment number 50.

    gasheadnaboo @35

    The WC has only ever been hosted in South America once.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Well i wonder who is wrong, consider 1930, 50, 78 for instance.

  • Comment number 51.

    A very interesting read as usual Tim and your normal fascinating insight into South American football. Shame about the headline though as it seems to have attracted some of the halfwits who normally only comment on the blogs about British/European football.

    Speaking of which:
    @33. The_Legend_That_Is_Emile_Heskey

    "Great minds think alike eh?"

    And small ones seldom differ.

  • Comment number 52.

    I look forward to Tim's blogs for the next two weeks, about Brazil's Olympic squad and Uruguay's Olympic squad.

    I'm hoping to see headlines in around a month of:
    "Uruguay's Rolin Back The Years"
    "Olympic Football does Mata"
    "Thiago has to settle for Silva"

    A significant number of posters on this blog seem to be counting down the days until they can be reunited with Big Sam, Stoke City and Wigan Athletic.

    Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Ganso, Neymar, Oscar, Hulk, Cavani, Suarez, Ramirez and Javi Martinez on English (and Welsh) soil.

  • Comment number 53.

    It's one thing to talk about the strengths of South American football... which there are many! However, Spain have been there and done it THREE times.

    No current Brazilian or Argentinean player has won a World Cup. I think Spain will adapt to the environment and saying that no European side has ever won the World Cup on South American soil is true but the Netherlands probably would have had their players and staff not been intimidated in 1978.

    Also, Spain are another proposition altogether and they have already won the World Cup on a different continent - South Africa 2010. They are in my opinion the best side ever, better than Brazil of 1970.

    Certainly a few players will be either well past their best or out of the squad totally but they have two years to gel another squad of players. We will see what 2014 has to offer but it is foolish to assume that Spain will not be a major force and the team to beat in Brazil!

  • Comment number 54.

    I can call you Betty, and Betty when you call me, you can call me Phil.

  • Comment number 55.

    almostajoker @51

    Shame about the headline though as it seems to have attracted some of the halfwits who normally only comment on the blogs about British/European football.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Certainly agree Tim is always a good read.

    Yes it is a shame but do not blame the headline, most think in terms of where they watch their football.

    Myself I see football as a worldwide sport and it is narrow minded to think of just one continent when assessing ability and indeed quality.

  • Comment number 56.

    Good article. Whether you like or dislike spain's playing style they have dominated european football over the last few years. The WC in Brazil will either be the cherry on the top of their success or the forever remebered failure. As always with WC's the tests are sterner as it is the only time europeans and south americans meet in competitve matches, the opportunity is there for spain but they will find it harder than the eurpoean champs to win. I am really excited about seeing the south american flair against the steady patient style of the spanish. Never forget to equate to Brazil as the best ever they must win in S america as brazil won in sweden.

  • Comment number 57.

    Tim, the biggest events in South American football this week would appear to be the transfer of two Uruguayan internationals from major European clubs to Brazilian clubs.

    Diego Forlan's arrival at Internacional in Porto Alegre led to Beatlemania-style scenes, while Nicolas Lodeiro has moved from Ajax to Botafogo.

    By my calculation this means that at least 6 of the 2014 Uruguay World Cup squad will have plied their trade in Brazil (Lugano, Fucile, Victorino, Arevalo-Rios, Forlan and Lodeiro).

    The reception received by Forlan in the closest Brazilian city to Uruguay suggests that in 2014 Uruguay might be received rather like the 1990 Argentina team was in Italy (until it pooped the party by knocking out the hosts in the Semi Final).

    Do you think that prior experience in Brazil (or even Portugal) might give the other South American teams an advantage over European teams in 2014?

  • Comment number 58.

    Messi is the ONLY South American player who would improve the Spainish SQUAD.

    Can anyone argue against this?

  • Comment number 59.

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

  • Comment number 60.

    People are overestimating the 'dominance' of South American sides. I remember when it got to the quarters of the 2010 WC, everyone said that Europe would struggle to have a team in the next round. By the end of the tournament.....
    1st- Spain (beat Paraguay)
    2nd- Holland (beat Brazil and Uruguay
    3rd- Germany (thrashed Argentina and beat Uruguay)
    At the minute There are 6 or 7 teams that could win it in 2014, several of them European

  • Comment number 61.

    23.
    At 10:40 9th Jul 2012, The_Legend_That_Is_Emile_Heskey wrote:

    What a rubbish article Tim. Honestly.
    I don't think I've read this much utter rubbish in my life.
    Rubbish.
    -------------
    then grace us all and wipe your account.


    honestly theres more moans on here than football fans!!!

  • Comment number 62.

    58.
    At 12:53 9th Jul 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:

    Messi is the ONLY South American player who would improve the Spainish SQUAD.

    Can anyone argue against this?
    -------------------------------
    torres for augero?

  • Comment number 63.

    Orcnick, clearly you didn't watch the euros. Spain - Ok in the Euros, but no real striker up front, and no real hunger shown, You must be joking with this STATEMENT! They will win the world cup 2014 without even breaking a sweat. They are too good at football

  • Comment number 64.

    Tim, would fans have anything to worry about if travelling to the next World cup? after the euro's were branded as basically dangerous but in reality things were so much different i'd hate to take any advice with a pinch of salt, just in case. Never been to South America, but seriously looking forward to it!

  • Comment number 65.

    lord denis of bergkamp @53

    Spain have been there and done it THREE times.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    That does not necessarily make them a great team in terms of history. It merely makes them a class above what is available to play in their period of time.

    Judging their ranking amongst the all time international teams is far harder.

    I posted after the first group games of the Euros, that Germany had not progressed since 2010 [i gave the reasons for it] and duly got slated for it. But they clearly declined in terms of a team. It was a poor Euros as was the 2010 world cup.

    When the opposition is not present, a team will always look a great deal better than what it really is.

    You mentioned Brasil's 1970 team, that World Cup's last 8 included the current World champions, the current European champions, the current South American champions, the next European and World Cup winners.

    It was indeed a vintage world cup and was won by a team who was way above the opposition.

    As I said in an earlier post, football has changed and international football no longer has the quality TEAMS in abundance. Spains particular dominance is very hard to judge.

    Of course Spain a re a very good team but I would question the credentials to be considered one of the best of all time.

  • Comment number 66.

    @58 no but thats the point because they play very different styles of football and you could argue that there are not many in the spainsh side that would walk into the Brazilian team as how they play football does not work with the managers vision and that of the expectations of the Brazilian public. As this brazilian side matures see olympics for the potential, they may well be a threat to spain. However if Brazil try to play spain at their own game they will lose. I think the same can be said with argentina with the exception of their defence which is usually pretty wobbly and think they would snap up Casillas or Reina in goal.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hi Tim,

    With Argentina only seeming to have one main choice in goal could you shed some light as to why no one has looked at Julian Speroni from Palace, yes as my username shows I am a Palace fan but for the last 4 years he has been one of the best if not in some seasons the best goalie in the Championship. Great shot stopper,commands the area and has great reflexs surely a friendly call up would be a good idea.

    Cant wait for WC 2014!

  • Comment number 68.

    Messi is the ONLY South American player who would improve the Spanish SQUAD.

    Can anyone argue against this?
    -------------------------------
    torres for augero?
    -------------------------------
    Possibly but I wouldn't underrate how impressive and devastating Torres' direct runs and movement are within the Spanish set up, I personally think he should have started all of Spain's Euro games an if he had they would have scored more goals - Aguero is class too though.

    See my point though - Spain are miles ahead of the South American teams

  • Comment number 69.

    62. At 12:59 9th Jul 2012, King Red wrote:
    58.
    At 12:53 9th Jul 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:

    Messi is the ONLY South American player who would improve the Spainish SQUAD.

    Can anyone argue against this?
    -------------------------------
    torres for augero?

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

    indeed!

  • Comment number 70.

    King red @64
    Tim, would fans have anything to worry about if travelling to the next World cup?
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Having lived there for a period of time, it is just like any other country. In terms of danger, of course it can be found. If you have lived in, or worked in, or even visited different countries, they all have their problems and they can be found but it is basically common sense when travelling to any country.

    I found Brasil to be a strange country in terms of football and it's supporters, club and international supporters are two totally different groups.

  • Comment number 71.

    As a Brazilian, I am not optimistic about the prospects of Brazil challenging Spain in 2014. Neymar who should be poised to lead the national side has, IMO, spent too long playing in the Brazilian league, a permanence which may have benefited the league and Santos (though I do think Santos have waited too long and may very well not get the amount they hoped for in his peak), but has been prejudicial to the lad himself and in particular to the Brazilian team, as it will see its main star lacking international experience come the WC – this has been dramatically exposed when Neymar faced Messi twice in the last few months, against Barcelona in the Club WC and in the friendly against Argentina in June. Brazil has top quality players in Neymar himself, Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Alves and Ramires who are undeniably amongst the world’s best in their positions, some promising youngsters especially Oscar, Sandro and Lucas, and perhaps some valuable experience in reserve with Kaka, Maicon, Robinho and Fabiano (all available but underused in the Mano era), but with less than two years to go the team lacks organization, and is badly short of quality in two vital departments – goalkeeping and strikers. I think it will be possible to shape it up so that we can salvage our reputation, but to think we will challenge for the title for me is unrealistic.

  • Comment number 72.

    @58 no but thats the point because they play very different styles of football and you could argue that there are not many in the spainsh side that would walk into the Brazilian team as how they play football does not work with the managers vision and that of the expectations of the Brazilian public. As this brazilian side matures see olympics for the potential, they may well be a threat to spain. However if Brazil try to play spain at their own game they will lose. I think the same can be said with argentina with the exception of their defence which is usually pretty wobbly and think they would snap up Casillas or Reina in goal.
    -------------------------------

    On the contrary, I believe that ALL of the Spanish team would walk into the Brazilian team!

  • Comment number 73.

    I've just got a feeling that Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay will just be too good on home soil as they say. Yes Spain will challenge but they have to be brilliant in every game unlike in the Euros where they really skated through until the final and as for England's chances, well we'll just keep quiet and be glad to be there.

  • Comment number 74.

    What a lazy blog!!!SA teams are great, European teams arent.In truth its the complete opposite.Has there ever been an era of weaker SA football?Please just check the last 20 years of World cups to prove this.Brazil at home will be strong contenders but Argentina,Uruguay,CHILE!!!Come on be serious.

  • Comment number 75.

    I fancy Uruguay myself - they were the dark horse throughout World Cup South Africa and were really unlucky not to make the final. If Forlan, Cavani and Suarez are still on fire in 2 years time then not many defences could cope with that fire power! Plus, the only previous tournament held in Brazil was in 1950, where Uruguay beat the hosts 2-1 in the final. If not Uruguay this time around, it will definitely be one of the South Americans in my opinion. Messi will forever be in Maradona's shadow until he produces at a World Cup and takes home the trophy...this might just be his time?

  • Comment number 76.

    Why has everyone on here got the impression that the South American teams are so far ahead of the Europeans.

    The Brazilian squad is now full of players in the home nation league, which is no where near the standard of the top five European league. The extreme prices being thrown around for the Brazilian youngsters is just ridiculous, all are still unproven, and probably a factor that many seem to think they are so ahead of anyone in Europe. Plus they haven't exactly done much in the WC06, WC10 and the last Copa America.

    Argentina have Messi, and other dangerous forwards but haven't got the Walter Samuel in defence. Uruguay's best player is Suarez who can't score in the Premier League, and unless you are blinded by being a Liverpool fan has not done much at all so far in England.

    The last time Brazil won the WC in 2002, all their players were in European club teams. Argentina have not done well in any recent World Cups. Uruguay got to the Semi finals but had the easiest run in of Mexico, South Africa, France with internal issues, South Korea and Ghana. I think even England would of had a chance with that lot.

    Being in South America will of course be an advantage to the teams with support and climate but at the moment I would still see Spain and Germany ahead of Brazil and Argentina.

  • Comment number 77.

    seahouses pompey @74

    What a lazy blog!!!SA teams are great, European teams arent.In truth its the complete opposite.Has there ever been an era of weaker SA football?Please just check the last 20 years of World cups to prove this.Brazil at home will be strong contenders but Argentina,Uruguay,CHILE!!!Come on be serious.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'd say a lazy post from you.

    You obviously failed to watch the last Copa America and Uruguay's success.

    You got it half right, International football in general is weak on both continents at this current time. Hence the reason why Spain and Uruguay look so strong on their continents.

  • Comment number 78.

    joan burton @72

    On the contrary, I believe that ALL of the Spanish team would walk into the Brazilian team!
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Then that would turn Brasil into Spain.

    Something that suggests you think of Spain as football perfection, which they are clearly not.

  • Comment number 79.

    70.
    At 13:10 9th Jul 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    ===========================================
    i would have said the same about Poland and Ukraine until a certain company done a not so accurate doc.

    well either way if the football turns nasty we always have the beaches and bikinis!

  • Comment number 80.

    @65,
    Check out all other sport, be it tennis, golf, or any other, it is trophies that matter whichever era being considered. Spain are without doubt among the best international sides of all era if not the best.

    Only last week we were told by this writer that Chile were copying from the Spanish. Some time back we were also told by this same writer that the way and manner Spain played was the envy of Brazilians. In other words, Brazil wished they could play like the Spanish. The Spanish do not allow their opponents the ball whoever they may be, but the same cannot be said of the Brazilians or Argentines. The reality is that Spain playing their game at their best have co-equal on the planet.

    I also think that Uruguay is high overrated. During the 2010 world cup, which true contender did they beat? Struggled against Korea, very lucky to go through against Ghana, and beaten by the Dutch and the Germans. If any South American will win the world cup, it will still be the usual suspects, Brazil and Argentina and not Uruguay.

    Although I must add that, I think two years is too long a time to be giving statements on who the eventual champions will be. Football is a funny sport, even six months is long, let alone two years. Typical case in point is Germany's 2010 world cup squad.

  • Comment number 81.

    for the brazil spain debate. Spains squad wont be the same in 2 years, niether will brazils, diff imo is brazil have some really good young players coming through as do spain but spain heavily relie on their style of play, i could see them doing nearly the same with a lesser squad, Brazil on the other hand will do what they always do, play to score....... sounds very obvisous but spians style just can not be discribed in that way!

  • Comment number 82.

    58.At 12:53 9th Jul 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:
    Messi is the ONLY South American player who would improve the Spainish SQUAD.

    Can anyone argue against this?
    ______________________

    Dani Alves, Maicon, Phillip Lahm.....or anyone else instead of arbeloa.

  • Comment number 83.

    69.
    At 13:08 9th Jul 2012, swindonbluearmy wrote:
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Indeed is right, twice the player easily. what do you think of the RVP gossip. would you be happy to have him? swap tevez for RVP maybe?

  • Comment number 84.

    I really want to see is Neymar is as good as everyone is making out. Of course you will find videos of him doing a wonderful piece of skill or the occasional great goal. But even if you did an archive of John O'Shea you would have him nutmegging Figo and a lobbed goal against Arsenal...

  • Comment number 85.

    @82

    Arbeloa isn't Spain's greatest player but the English commentators (especially Mark Lawrenson) would being extremely harsh to him in the Euros. He was always available for the overlap, and gave a good tactical foul when Spain looked in trouble.

  • Comment number 86.

    Brazil will be nowhere near. QF, semi finals depending on luck. There will be a weight of expectation and they do not have the quality of previous Brazil sides. People talk about Neymar, Ganso, Oscar etc but these are unproved players at domestic and international level. Brazil's biggest mistake was sacking Dunga. If he was still in charge, the discipline he instilled in the team would have made them better suited to play against Spain's dreary passing style.

    Bottom line will be this, team's will need to be organised, patient and methodical to counter Spain. Scoring first is a must. Otherwise play for penalties.

  • Comment number 87.

    58.At 12:53 9th Jul 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:
    Messi is the ONLY South American player who would improve the Spainish SQUAD.

    Can anyone argue against this?
    ______________________________________

    You could replace the entire Spnaish defence with South Americans quite easily.
    Maybe Higuian or Flação as a striker

  • Comment number 88.

    85.At 13:59 9th Jul 2012, jdowling18 wrote:
    @82

    Arbeloa isn't Spain's greatest player but the English commentators (especially Mark Lawrenson) would being extremely harsh to him in the Euros. He was always available for the overlap, and gave a good tactical foul when Spain looked in trouble.
    ______________________

    Indeed. But those 3 players mentioned all offer more in attack and are accomplished enough to defend well.

    Arbeloa was ok and was willing to overlap, but compare him to alba on the left and there is a massive difference.

    As for John O'Shea.......what are you trying to say? He's not a technically gifted player? ;)

  • Comment number 89.

    Tim, potentially a stupid question (based on my ignorance of Brasilian geography and WC 2014 venues) but surely groupings and climate will play a big factor in who will go through or not?

    I mean we all know of Spain's terrific work rate on and off the ball, coupled with their near superhuman stamina. But surely if they're playing at either high altitude or in north brazil this will limit them?

  • Comment number 90.

    64.At 13:03 9th Jul 2012, King Red wrote:
    would fans have anything to worry about if travelling to the next World cup?
    ____________________________________

    No problems as long as you use a bit of common sense and avoid certain places, it is the same as any country , there are good areas and bad areas.

    Generally speaking the Brasilians are quite fond of the Brits , I got a warm welcome everywhere I went.

    I am guessing it will be quite chaotic if you have to travel between states, allow yourself plenty of time.

  • Comment number 91.

    Thanks, Tim, I enjoyed reading your article.

    I have a question: doesn't the "no European team winning in South America" theme add massive pressure to teams from South America? I'm thinking especially of hosts Brazil. Now, my impression from SA 2010 was many people wanted Dunga to fail because of the perception that his Brazil team wasn't playing attractive football; in contrast, 2012 being hosted in Brazil will rally the people. But, again, there will be MASSIVE pressure for Brazil to deliver a trophy -- surely this will help European (and African) teams go under the radar?

  • Comment number 92.

    70.At 13:10 9th Jul 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    Having lived there for a period of time
    _____________________________________

    Are there any countries where you have not lived ?

  • Comment number 93.

    78. At 13:47 9th Jul 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    joan burton @72

    On the contrary, I believe that ALL of the Spanish team would walk into the Brazilian team!
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Something that suggests you think of Spain as football perfection, which they are clearly not.

    ___________________________________

    I'm merely suggesting that the individual Spanish players are by and large better than anything South America has to offer.

    Football perfection doesn't exist and nowhere have I mentioned it.

  • Comment number 94.

    kngjrdn @80

    Check out all other sport, be it tennis, golf, or any other, it is trophies that matter whichever era being considered. Spain are without doubt among the best international sides of all era if not the best.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Clearly you do not watch sport.

    Funny you mention tennis, if Federer's career had been shortened by 5/6 years he would have won far fewer slam tournaments. Would that have made him any less of a player in terms of judging how good he actually was? The answer is obviously no, if you have seen enough tennis and i have since Laver's day, you'd still know he had a right to be compared to the Laver's elite group. Whether he is the greatest is open to question but he is one of them.

    To judge purely by how many victories alone is ridiculous. The perfect example is boxing.

    Ali, 61 fights, 5 defeats. Herbie Hide 53 fights, 4 defeats. Both World Champs.

    Who was the better fighter? No contest there but their records are similar.

    You would have to be without a brain to speak of those two fighters in the same sentence, but by YOUR STANDARD you would consider them to be on a par with each other.

    Spain in football are in a very weak era for international competition. To simply say they are the greatest of all time is ridiculous because the opposition has been so weak. However they are a very, very good team and that can be seen by using your eyes.

  • Comment number 95.

    Once the Samba drums of the brazilians start up and the crowed gets going, brazil are going to be on fire! they remind of the side that won the 2002 world cup, lots of young unknowns in that side. didn't mr Ronaldinho make his name then? i can see it happening again. Lots of talk on spain, i just don't think they have it in them. This euro i didnt see a spain who were miles apart from anyone, people talk about there keeping the ball tactis, but i don't think it will work against south american teams, brazil and Argentina will batter spain, and with spain having no real strike options i don't think they will be able to handle it. Though i think the one team that will silently progress in the next couple of years is germany, i think they see the next world cup as a bench mark to pull them back into being one of the best teams in the world!

  • Comment number 96.

    93.At 14:17 9th Jul 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:
    I'm merely suggesting that the individual Spanish players are by and large better than anything South America has to offer.

    Football perfection doesn't exist and nowhere have I mentioned it.
    ___________________________

    But you're making a silly statement to begin with. The likes of Tevez, Higuain, Aguero, etc would have to be able to play like the rest of the spanish team and as a result, they probably would not get in the team, man for man.

    But you could likewise say someone like iniesta or xavi wouldn't get into Stoke's team where as Hugo Almeida would!!

  • Comment number 97.

    58.At 12:53 9th Jul 2012, Joan_Burton wrote:
    Messi is the ONLY South American player who would improve the Spainish SQUAD.

    Can anyone argue against this?
    ______________________

    Dani Alves, Maicon, Phillip Lahm.....or anyone else instead of arbeloa.

    ______________________

    Can only assume you have not even watching Arbeloa over the past few seasons... Alves is good but Maicon is well past it now and I don't think Lahm is eligible to play for a South American team.

    Spain hold all the aces.

  • Comment number 98.

    89.At 14:06 9th Jul 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:
    Tim, potentially a stupid question (based on my ignorance of Brasilian geography and WC 2014 venues) but surely groupings and climate will play a big factor in who will go through or not?
    _____________________

    Yes it will , it will be winter and cold in the South and centre. In the North you will get a mixture of heat humidity (especially in Manuas )

    By the way I didnt know Lahm was a South American ?

  • Comment number 99.

    94.At 14:18 9th Jul 2012, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    Ali, 61 fights, 5 defeats. Herbie Hide 53 fights, 4 defeats. Both World Champs.

    Who was the better fighter? No contest there but their records are similar.
    ________________________

    An even better example is nikolai valuev 53 fights, 2 defeats.

    Spain did an "italy" for the majority of the knockout tournaments, 1-0 wins galore. They are an effective team, but don't really capture the hearts like the 70s Brazil team did.

  • Comment number 100.

    Not only for Spain, but any European, Asian & African team will find it hard to compete in Brazil 2014. To me, the hosts are favourites along with Argentina & Uruguay.... WC 2014 will stay in South America.

    Tiki Taka will come up short at the confederations cup next year....

 

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