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Beaten Uruguay have no time to sulk

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Tim Vickery | 18:00 UK time, Sunday, 9 September 2012

In the context of a league campaign, a resounding win or a heavy defeat never ends at the final whistle. More important than the points won or lost can be the team's reaction. Can it rally in the face of adversity, or guard against excessive euphoria?

This is especially true in South America's marathon 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, when two rounds are played together, and a team can play at one end of the continent on Friday and the other the following Tuesday.

Last week I picked out the match between Colombia and Uruguay as the most interesting tie of the seventh round, a clash right at the heart of the battle to qualify in recent campaigns. I also suggested there were signs that, after a two-year run of success, Uruguay might be on the downward slope.

It is too early to tell whether that supposition was correct - even though Uruguay were thrashed 4-0. One defeat, however comprehensive, does not necessarily mean a decline and things were always likely to be difficult in the scorching afternoon heat of Barranquilla. The proof will come in the way Uruguay react.

Radamel Falcao

Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao was Colombia's match winner. Photo: Reuters

They have now dropped to fourth in the table, the last of the automatic qualifying slots - and could find themselves dropping further. Next month they are away to both Argentina and Bolivia - two of the most difficult games of the campaign.

Suddenly, then, the pressure is on. Anything less than a win at home to Ecuador on Tuesday will be a big disappointment, and potentially a significant one.

It will be a test too for Ecuador, who climbed above Uruguay with Friday's 1-0 win over Bolivia. The Ecuadorians have a 100% record at home but have lost all their away games, and need to start picking up points on their travels. In truth, they were not at all convincing against Bolivia, and only won with the aid of a highly questionable penalty.

But then they were up against opponents who had come to defend - Tuesday will be different. With Luis Antonio Valencia imperious on one flank and the silkily talented Jefferson Montero on the other, Ecuador possess real threat on the counter-attack, and with Uruguay obliged to push forward they should have the opportunity to use it.

More important, though, is whether their suspect defence can stand up to a Uruguay attack which, with Luis Suarez back from suspension, will come at them like a wounded beast.

It could be, though, that more significant than anything that happens to Uruguay will be Colombia's reaction to Friday's result. The 4-0 win came 19 years almost to the day after perhaps the greatest moment in Colombia's footballing history - the 5-0 win away to Argentina in the 1994 qualifiers. And the manner in which Uruguay were taken apart has delighted the traditionalists who remember that day with affection.

Conductor of the Colombian orchestra back in 1993, imposing a hypnotic salsa rhythm, was frizzy-haired playmaker Carlos Valderrama. Once he had retired Colombia tried hard to replace him, and then after a few years they gave up.

Before his team met Colombia in the quarter-finals of last year's Copa America, Peru coach Sergio Markarian gave an assessment of his opponents. Colombia, he said, were physically and technically impressive but lacked a touch of fantasy in the final third of the field.

His words came as a surprise to some - he was talking of a team that contained Radamel Falcao Garcia, one of the world's most lethal strikers. But Markarian was spot on. His men held Colombia with few problems and won the game in extra time.

This was a Colombia with a workmanlike, solid midfield but no playmaker. Then-coach Hernan Dario Gomez, once such a fan of Valderrama, had declared himself cured of the need to pick a midfield where three must run so one can play. His change in thinking was both a reaction to and an explanation for the decline of the old-fashioned South American number 10, squeezed out of the game by the presence in the opposing ranks of two midfield markers.

Colombia's success against Uruguay on Friday comes as the result of finding a solution to this problem, for one game at least. The recall of Macnelly Torres gave Colombia, now under former Argentina boss Jose Pekerman, an old-style playmaker for the first time in the campaign.

But the burden of setting up the play was not placed entirely on his shoulders. He had a partner in the wonderfully versatile and mature talent of James Rodriguez.

Uruguay started with three centre-backs and Rodriguez spent the first half attacking the space behind the opposing right wing-back. After the break, when Uruguay had switched to a 4-4-2, he drifted infield, getting closer to Torres. Always Colombia had options. With the ball circulating well, Uruguay's defensive midfielders were chasing shadows, while Colombia's strikers and attacking full-backs had a supply line.

It was an excellent performance - but Colombia need no reminding that one big win does not make a successful campaign. In the 2006 qualifiers they beat Uruguay 5-0 but only managed one win in their next six games. Uruguay finished a point above them and snatched the play-off slot.

The question, then, is whether Colombia can maintain their momentum. On Friday, they scored with their first attack and enjoyed themselves against opponents who wilted in the sun. These conditions will not apply on Tuesday when they travel to face Chile in Santiago. This is a match that could call for more defensive precautions such as the dropping of a striker - no easy choice after Falcao Garcia and Teo Gutierrez were both on target against Uruguay.

But Friday has gone. Tuesday's history has still to be written. There is nothing to be gained from basking in euphoria - while Uruguay will not profit from wallowing in despair.

Comments on the piece in the space below. Send 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 am surprised to see Chile doing so well in the World Cup qualifiers [they are currently in second place]. I know they have some quality players such as Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal but I wouldn't have thought they had enough quality to make the top four or five even. What's the reason for the success in your opinion? Do they have more quality than I realise? Is it down to great management?
Graeme Murphy

A) There are two key factors: one is the idea of play. Chilean football historically has struggled for an identity. The time that Marcelo Bielsa spent as national team coach was important in this respect - he got them believing in themselves, full of confidence to attack and with a bold front three that got full value from the quick, little wide players that Chilean football produces.

His ideas have filtered through to the domestic game - where there have also been important financial changes. The contemporary business model of football is no panacea, but it is better than the amateur-hour practices that were prevalent in the Chilean game. Better off the field, better on it, the Chilean championship is increasingly interesting. Universidad de Chile, who have won the last three domestic titles, have become one of the giants of South American club football.

The current national team under Claudio Borghi are usually fun to watch - they score plenty but their defensive weaknesses mean nothing can be taken for granted. It should make for a fascinating game against Colombia.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Great to see Colombia finally get a the best of Falcao. Looking forward to seeing this guy go to work in Brazil 2014 hopefully.

  • Comment number 2.

    Uruguay just can't always rely on Cavani,Suarez or Forlan their main threat, i thought in the 2010 world cup they did fantastic but now their playing style look slugish!

  • Comment number 3.

    I notice that Tim has a new picture......did the BBC not approve of the flower t-shirt on a night out?

    Time will tell for Uruguay, what are there plans / strategies for developing youth? Obviously with a small population they have a limited pool to work with.

    It would be nice to see Colombia qualify for WC 2014. Would certainly be a marker for Falcao to announce himself on the world stage!

  • Comment number 4.

    Nobody can stop Radamel Falcao him, Colombian striker scored a wonderful new development, this time for the national team, who managed to crush Uruguay 4-0: X: X.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Phil i know this is a bit early & presumptious but are Columbia a force to be reccond with,i watched a documentary on the trajedy surrounding Andres Escobar when Columbia should have been a favourite for USA do you think with it being in Brazil,forgetting their latest result they could be a force to be considered

  • Comment number 6.

    Huge fan of Falcao here, would love to see him in the Premier League. But failing that, I'd settle for watching him terrorise defences at the World Cup in two years. As for Uruguay, my guess is that they need someone to replace Forlan. His efforts at the World Cup in 2010 were nothing short of phenomenal, but he won't be able to do that again in 2014. We'll just have to see how Gaston Ramirez turns out.

    P.S. I already miss Tim's old profile picture. Tim, you just don't look happy any more!

  • Comment number 7.

    Falcao is one of the best strikers in the world but you can only win 4-0 if you work well in defense aswell particularly against Uruguay with a strike force of Cavani, Suarez and Forlan i am expecting both Colombia and Uruguay to qualify along with Argentina and Chile

  • Comment number 8.

    Tim

    I watched the game, shocking defending especially the second and third goal but they were all well taken. The first i am still amazed the ball found it's way through to Falcao, great finish though. The game was over very early and your right, just how does a team react to that type of defeat.

    Certainly have to agree with Akah @2 Uruguay did look sluggish but a team should not be beaten that easily. It is hard to tell, how good Columbia are, or how bad Uruguay were.

  • Comment number 9.

    Would have to agree on Tim's pen pic. Always imagined him nursing a caipirnha in that flowery shirt. Ah well, I suppose we all have to grow up sometime :)

  • Comment number 10.

    Spot on as always Tim. The battle for Colombia is, as it has been for much of their history, is mental. Granted it is not as worrying a fear of actual death that existed in the 90's, but the fear of failure in the Colombian team has been the problem in recent years. Encouraging signs and occassional classy performances are all too often followed by failure in the important moments. Last year's Copa America being an all too familiar example.

    Now it looks even more promising with a line-up with options and talent , and two of the outstanding players in football at the moment, Rodriguez and Falcao. The emergence of, and the maturity shown by Rodriguez really is exciting and if his development continues, he could be up there with the likes of Neymar, Hazard and Moura, and he could well be the missing player Colombia have been looking for.

    But, exactly as you say, much will depend on Tuesday's performance and result. however, with defenders missing against Chile's front three and the difficulty of playing Falcao away as Gutierrez offers much more in teamwork and closing down. This, in my opinion is far too important in south American football as teams have totally different styles home and away. However, with distances and differing climates, it is somewhat inevitable.

    Here's hoping for a result in Chile but I fear another second half meltdown, Chile coming back to win 2-1.

  • Comment number 11.

    Do you think Uruguay will now turn to Ramierez, as a Saints fan I am glad he is not playing-as it would be just our luck to make a huge signing and then he gets injured. But at the same time I would love to see him becoming a key player for a big team in the 2014 world cup.

  • Comment number 12.

    Good blog Tim.

    I remember the Valderrama inspired Colombian teams of the '90s well.

    At the 1990 World Cup they progressed from a very tough group with West Germany and Yugoslavia but then lost to Cameroon in the last 16. This was in part due to a howler from their enigmatic goalkeeper Higuita.

    In 1994 they had an excellent team with the likes of Asprilla, Rincon and Valderrama. I think they were even considered by some as dark horses to win the World Cup but they did not live up to expectations and did not progress from their group.

    It would be good to see them at a World Cup again and with Falcao in the form he is in qualification is defintiely possible.

  • Comment number 13.

    I enjoy it when Colombia do badly and when Uruguay excel, so I was disappointed by the 4-0. Uruguay is by no means out of the race, but Colombia are now one scary side. They have what it takes to do well: great talent, and an intelligent manager in Pekerman. I still want them to do badly but, based on the Uruguay game, I can't see that happening.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hey Tim, you mention Peru manager Markarian in the article and I'm wondering what do you think happened to the Peruvian national team between their 3rd place Copa America finish and their disastrous qualifying campaign? The win against Venezuela was a relief, but it still wasn't convincing and I wonder if you can shed any light on it- because I know a lot of hopes were up after how well they did in Argentina.

  • Comment number 15.

    Uruguay have started to believe their own hype a bit too much sadly, though having Suarez back will obviously make a big difference.

    Falcao doesn't appear to believe he can miss a chance these days, without doubt the best striker in world football.

  • Comment number 16.

    Being a Brit who has been based in Bogota for the past 13 years I follow Colombia as my second team. Following the resound defeat of Uruguay I wondered if you had seen the comments made by a prominent reporter from Uruguay about Colombian football. Sour grapes!!
    Also I agree with you, great victory for Colombia but it's what follows that is more important, can they/we keep up the momentum?

  • Comment number 17.

    As I'm currently domiciled in Colombia I'm delighted with the Uruguay win, and hope they can keep it going to get the Brazil...Can't help think though that it was Freddy Guarin's absence that changed the game. For me he slows the game down too much in midfield, or he tries too much to be El Pibe, against Uruguay the midfielders just won the ball and gave it to those in front of them to do the scoring, and it worked a treat!!

  • Comment number 18.

    New picture - it was taken outside the new BBC building in Manchester when I was back briefly in March. It was very cold - no wonder I don't look too happy.

    The old picture is alive and well and drinking the odd caipirinha while adorning my blog in Australia (www.theworldgame.com.au).

  • Comment number 19.

    14 - Peru's main problem during their bad run has been injuries to their star players, especially up front. They are all back now, though there's a doubt about Guerrero, who limped off soon after half time on Friday.
    Another home game coming up on Tuesday - Argentina. Possibly the tie of the round.

  • Comment number 20.

    I found Friday’s matches fascinating.
     
    Colombia were indeed very, very good. Uruguay actually weren’t second-best for the first 50 minutes, but yet again Tabarez left them outnumbered in central midfield and as the heat and humidity took its toll the team collapsed.
     
    The problem for Tabarez is that his defensive midfield pairing of Perez and Arevalo Rios is now ageing and slowing. Inter Milan’s Walter Gargano looked good when he came on, but he came on posthumously. The right wing-back Maxi Pereira looked very vulnerable too.
     
    Diego Forlan was surprisingly spritely, and even in the last five minutes was beating defenders with raw pace, which was a huge surprise to me.
     
    Uruguay’s coach Tabarez does not need to make wholesale changes, but he needs to resist his dependence upon ageing players like Perez and Forlan and he needs to learn to trust the likes of Walter Gargano and Gaston Ramirez to grow into their roles.
     
    Elsewhere, Argentina looked ominous against Paraguay and Messi is now scoring for fun for the national team just as he does for Barcelona.
     
    But I thought that Peru ran Colombia close as “Team of the Day”.  They were really good against Venezuela, who are a very handy side.
     
    Lastly, I think that some of the Europe-based contributors to this blog don’t grasp just how hard it is to pick up any away points at all in South America. England find it challenging enough getting to Moldova or Ukraine for their qualifiers. But the key players from each South American team have no more time to get back to South America, where they then have no time whatsoever to acclimatise to playing at 12,000 feet altitude in La Paz or in a sweltering sauna in Barranquila in Colombia.
     
    I suspect that even if Bolivia and Colombia’s national teams were of League Two quality they would still win most home matches in those two venues. Argentina’s 2-1 victory in Barranquila last November now looks to me like the most outstanding performance imaginable.
     

  • Comment number 21.

    20 Nice post yakubusdiet

    But La Paz and Barranquilla are not the only tough venues in SA. I mean, even Buenos Aires can be geographically and climatologically very tricky for, say, Bolivian players, not just the other way around. Home field advantage certainly works both ways in Conmebol.

  • Comment number 22.

    Bring back the flower shirt Tim!

    Good to see Colombia back in the running for qualification. After the tragedy of Escobar and subsequent stories it's great to hear about the football again. Now if they can only find a new Carlos Valderrama complete with hairstyle...

  • Comment number 23.

    yakubusdiet @20

    I totally agree with your point on acclimatisation, I am not a pro footballer but having done the trip, I imagine it is asking a lot from a European based player to perform at the required level.

    There have been many studies on acclimatisation for individuals in all sports, no one seems to have found the answer. The theories range wildly, some suggest the least time spent produces the best results, others for example say a month is the absolute minimum.

    I am going to Argentina later this month and i will be taking in the Argentina/Uruguay clash. From what i watched [on PC] I could not judge Uruguay on the performance against Colombia, it bore no resemblance to their earlier games that i have watched.

    Not knowing who or how the South American WC qualifiers are arranged [is it like Europe where it is more or less negotiated?] I wonder what the thoughts are on Uruguay's next two games, which do have a nightmare look about them, for Uruguay.

    Was it a case for Uruguay, of getting the three hardest games on paper [to get a result] out of the way in one hit?

  • Comment number 24.

    I enjoy it when Colombia do badly and when Uruguay excel, so I was disappointed by the 4-0. Uruguay is by no means out of the race, but Colombia are now one scary side. They have what it takes to do well: great talent, and an intelligent manager in Pekerman. I still want them to do badly but, based on the Uruguay game, I can't see that happening.

  • Comment number 25.

    20.At 06:15 10th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    I think that some of the Europe-based contributors to this blog don’t grasp just how hard it is to pick up any away points at all in South America. England find it challenging enough getting to Moldova or Ukraine for their qualifiers.
    ___________________________

    I think it's obvious most Europe based posters appreciate the massive distances footballers travel for qualifiers. I mean you could fit all of Europe into Brazil!

    I do think you vastly understimate the strength of european teams as well as vastly overestimating the strength of non-european teams.

    I mean your statement last week that teams like russia would struggle to keep 30% possession against the likes of Ghana. I mean looking at WC 2010, serbia who were on a poor run managed a 51% advantage.

  • Comment number 26.

    20.
    At 06:15 10th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    Lastly, I think that some of the Europe-based contributors to this blog don’t grasp just how hard it is to pick up any away points at all in South America. England find it challenging enough getting to Moldova or Ukraine for their qualifiers. But the key players from each South American team have no more time to get back to South America, where they then have no time whatsoever to acclimatise to playing at 12,000 feet altitude in La Paz or in a sweltering sauna in Barranquila in Colombia.
    _________________________________

    I do find it staggering that a football match can be played at 12,000 feet. I've been to the top of Mt Teide which is probably about the same elevation and I was out of breath after a few minutes just walking around. Of course professional footballers are much fitter than me but even so it must be a massive advantage for Bolivia.

  • Comment number 27.

    South American WC qualifying is a very unpredictable affaire I think. Ok the favorites, Brazil and Argentina, normally qualify but can pick up heavy defeats on the way.
    With players travelling from europe and not just across the continent there is added difficulty for teams to be consistent. The league style qualifying system makes life difficult.
    All in all a great competition in itself with great rivalries between the teams. Matchs played in 'extreme' conditions, altitude, humidity, heat and cold.
    Any team qualifying from this marathon fully deserves thier place in the finals.

  • Comment number 28.

    I always knew that Uruguay were overrated, i think people jumped onto the Uruguay bandwagon too soon. They were lucky at SA 2010 and had an easy path to the Semis, at the Copa America both Brazil and Argentina were in disarray, that's still the case with Brazil, hence Uruguay just had to play a patient counter-attacking style to win the tournament.
    On another note, maybe Tim needs to discuss the issue of Brazil's poor preparations for 2014. The CBF have appointed a poor manager, so many different players are being picked. There are poor displays by the team. Hulk is their best player, and yet he rarely starts a match. Time is running out for them. No wonder the crowd booed them in their last match. Expect more of the same.

  • Comment number 29.

    @25 ESG
    I don't think that the distances are the main challenge in South American qualifying.

    The issue is the extraordinarily difficult physical conditions. Maradona was unfairly mocked for Argentina's 6-1 defeat in La Paz last time, with a team containing Zanetti, Heinze, Dimichelis, Mascherano, Gago, di Maria and Tevez. But how were these guys supposed to adapt to an altitude of 12,000 feet in just 36 hours? I felt like I was dying when I went to my hotel gym in Mexico City, and the altitude there is "just" 7,350 feet.

    La Paz in Bolivia is at 12,000 feet. Quito in Ecuador is at 9,350 feet. Barranquilla in Colombia is as swelteringly hot and humid as Singapore.

    And then you have to play Brazil away, Argentina away and Uruguay away.

    But this is what makes watching South American World Cup qualifying such a wonderfully rich experience. Last weekend I watched three of the four South American matches, but really just couldn't be bothered to watch any of the European games, because they were a bunch of mismatches.

    By the way, last week I was derided for commenting that at almost 32 Ashley Cole is past his best and has no hope of being an international class full-back at the 2014 World Cup, when he will be almost 34. I suggested that Ryan Bertrand be blooded by England to replace him. The day that entries on this blog closed we learned that Chelsea were only prepared to offer him a one-year contract through to 2013. I guess that I'm not alone in my fears for this once-excellent player.

    Anyway, back to South America. These were last weekend's results, with my predictions in brackets:

    Colombia 4 Uruguay 0 (2-0)
    Ecuador 1 Bolivia 0 (2-0)
    Peru 2 Venezuela 1 (1-1)
    Argentina 3 Paraguay 1 (2-0)

    So I'm pretty smug that I got three out of four results right, and missed the other by one goal.

    Any offers for this week? My guesses are:

    Chile 1 Colombia 0
    Uruguay 1 Ecuador 1
    Paraguay 1 Venezuela 0
    Peru 1 Argentina 1

  • Comment number 30.

    29.At 10:41 10th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    ______________________

    Well it's a mixture of both isn't it. Not only do you have to play at high altitude but you may have had to make a 6 timezone, 10 hour flight as well!

    "Ashley Cole is past his best and has no hope of being an international class full-back at the 2014 World Cup, when he will be almost 34. I suggested that Ryan Bertrand be blooded by England to replace him. The day that entries on this blog closed we learned that Chelsea were only prepared to offer him a one-year contract through to 2013." - I think CFC are just keeping their options open. It seems foolish to "blood" a player that's not even 1st choice for his team though. Notice baines played for england. I don't think cole is past his best, he's just not going to be able to play 60 games per year. Zanetti and Cafu could play at the highest level well into 35.

    I noticed Jamaica beat USA 2-1 as well. Shows how inconsistent they are as opposed to how "good" Jamaica are.

    I would go with:
    Chile 3 Colombia 2
    Uruguay 2 Ecuador 0
    Paraguay 1 Venezuela 0
    Peru 1 Argentina 1

  • Comment number 31.

    @28 Jay Krishna
    I'm not sure whether Menezes is doing very well or under-performing.

    I certainly don't think that he is trying too many players. He has basically discarded past-it veterans (Kaka et al) and indisciplined and unreliable players (Ronaldinho, Robinho) and instead used the Olympics to build the spine of his 2014 team.

    It looks to me as if a number of players are now nailed-on starters for 2014's World Cup eleven:

    DEFENCE: Marcelo, Thiago Silva
    DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: Lucas Leiva, Romulo
    ATTACKING MIDFIELD: Oscar, Neymar
    CENTRE-FORWARD: Leandro Damiao

    That is a spine of seven players, all of whom - other than Marcelo - are very high-class performers. I don't share Jay Krishna's admiration for Hulk: I don't think he has proven that he is in the same class as not just Neymar but also Oscar and Leandro Damiao.

    I think that puts Menezes - and Brazil - a couple of years further down the line of preparing their 2014 team than anyone else other than Mexico, who also used the Copa America and Olympics for this purpose, but have inferior players.

    And if I had to name one other team on earth which has also got its 2014 players in pace - as opposed to the 2010 ones - it would be Argentina.

    Spain currently has a superb team. Germany has a very promising team apart from a dodgy defence. But these are their 2010 and 2012 sides.

    Menezes has done well putting the 2014 team together very early, and giving it time to develop.

    I certainly don't endorse Jay Krishna's view that "time is running out" for Brazil. On the contrary, I think they have a 2.5 year head start on everyone else. The problems that they have are whether there is enough quality and whether they can keep their heads under Maracanazo-like pressure.

  • Comment number 32.

    31.At 11:15 10th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    Spain currently has a superb team. Germany has a very promising team apart from a dodgy defence. But these are their 2010 and 2012 sides.
    _________________

    Looking at Spain's side, they should have the same one functioning in 2014.
    Casillas
    Ramos, Pique, Alba are all nailed on.
    Busquets, Iniesta, Alonso, Fabregas, Silva, pedro, martinez
    Torres & Villa, Llorente

    As for Germany, they have an incredibly young side that will be peaking by 2014
    Neuer
    Hummels, Badstuber, Boateng
    Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Goetze, Kroos, Reus, Ozil
    Mueller, Gomez, Podolski

  • Comment number 33.

    29.
    At 10:41 10th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:


    @25 ESG
    I don't think that the distances are the main challenge in South American qualifying.

    The issue is the extraordinarily difficult physical conditions. Maradona was unfairly mocked for Argentina's 6-1 defeat in La Paz last time, with a team containing Zanetti, Heinze, Dimichelis, Mascherano, Gago, di Maria and Tevez. But how were these guys supposed to adapt to an altitude of 12,000 feet in just 36 hours? I felt like I was dying when I went to my hotel gym in Mexico City, and the altitude there is "just" 7,350 feet.

    La Paz in Bolivia is at 12,000 feet. Quito in Ecuador is at 9,350 feet. Barranquilla in Colombia is as swelteringly hot and humid as Singapore.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This seems strange reasoning to me. From what you are saying the thing that makes South American qualifying so good is that several countries have such extreme conditions to play in that the away team is hugely hampered and can't play to their natural ability. I'm not sure it is a good thing to have a match so heavily influenced by the climate/lack of oxygen.

    By this reckoning you could mix things up by having the players come out drunk, or in blindfolds, anything to stop a game played where each is acclimatised to moderate conditions. Surely a game is better where it is decided by the skills of the players/tactics of the manager etc and not because someone can barely breathe after 30 minutes.

  • Comment number 34.

    33.At 11:48 10th Sep 2012, Drastic wrote:
    By this reckoning you could mix things up by having the players come out drunk,
    ______________________

    Lol - I would pay for that.........drunken football. Man Utd v Man City!! Now that would end up in a brawl!!

  • Comment number 35.

    @29 "Argentina's 6-1 defeat in La Paz last time, with a team containing Zanetti, Heinze, Dimichelis, Mascherano, Gago, di Maria and Tevez. But how were these guys supposed to adapt to an altitude of 12,000 feet in just 36 hours?"

    Doing the right preparation and having the right attitude, that's how.

    Argentina and Brazil always seem to lose in La Paz because they go there in fear. They are playing against the altitude...and so they lose. Chile have won there in the last 3 qualifiers, without conceding a goal, including the current one. Ecuador and Colombia also do well there. Probably because they realise they are just going there to play against Bolivia, the weakest team in the continent, so they are not in fear of environmental issues.

    All teams have the same opportunity to prepare to play at altitude, some (eg. Brazil) prefer to complain about it to FIFA instead of trying to win. Argentina at least don't complain, although their preparation is usually horrible judging by their last appearance in La Paz.

    True, Ecuador and Colombia can also play their home games at altitude, but we must not forget that most of their players play abroad so they also have to acclimatise to the altitude, just like anybody else.

  • Comment number 36.

    34 ESG

    Hands up who thinks Rooney would be the first to headbutt someone?


    I have just thought of another one to make SA qualifying even more entertaining. How about the away team are forced to play bare foot and they cover the pitch with broken glass?

  • Comment number 37.

    @33 Drastic
    For the first time ever I agree with ESG. The climatic challenges of South American qualifiers are a bit like watching one team play blindfolded, or drunk.

    But it makes it into an enthralling contest, a bit like watching the Thrilla in Manila.

    Bolivia and Ecuador are two pretty ordinary teams. Bolivia are about as strong as Scotland or Slovenia while Ecuador are about as strong as Russia. But most of their players ply their trade at home - because they aren't good enough to be bought by major European teams - which means that in home matches they can actually breathe, whereas it doesn't matter if you are Messi or Suarez, if you haven't acclimatised you can hardly breathe at all, let alone get enough oxygen around your body.

    England just won 5-0 in Moldova because they are much better than Moldova. But if the match was played at 12,000 feet, and the Moldovans were acclimatised and the English weren't, the scores might have been reversed.

    Johannesburg is only at 5,000 feet of altitude. Yet of over 20 matches played at the last World Cup between altitude-adapted sides and un-adapted sides, not one was won by an unadapted team. The Nigerians ignored altitude adaptation because they had been told that sports matches in Denver (5,200 feet) are never decided by altitude preparation. Unfortunately, they didn't factor in that American sports feature interminable breaks for TV commercials, which allow unacclimatised athletes additional time to oxygenate their blood. By the time they got down to sea level for their third match they had lost at altitude not just to Argentina but even to a manifestly inferior but better physically prepared Greek side.

  • Comment number 38.

    @32 "As for Germany, they have an incredibly young side that will be peaking by 2014"

    Let's hope so because the last time Germany beat a top team in a World Cup match was in 1990.

  • Comment number 39.

    37 Yakubusdiet

    It may make an enthralling competition but that a football match be so influenced by climate is not a good thing IMO. That is a weakness of the SA qualifying group that hides the fact that on a level playing field the final table would look more like a European qualifying group with the minnows at the bottom with none or very few points

  • Comment number 40.

    38.
    At 12:42 10th Sep 2012, BladeRunner wrote:


    @32 "As for Germany, they have an incredibly young side that will be peaking by 2014"

    Let's hope so because the last time Germany beat a top team in a World Cup match was in 1990.
    __________________________

    Technically it was West Germany in 1990.

    Surely Argentina count as a top team though?

  • Comment number 41.

    3., eduard_streltsov_ghost

    HAHAHA his new picture he looks 3 stone lighter and less like he's been in numerous X rated movies.

    Falcao is the worlds best striker at the moment (note i said striker and not player, before Messi lovers strike me down) he simply has everything to his game, but lets be honest he plays as the main man for club and country, put him in a different side and he may not flourish, i think we are lucky that he's both this role for club and country, a player at the very top of his game.

    i think 2014 as its so long away, there could be plenty more 'Falcao's' to be unearthed before we start the tournament.

    I wonder if Tim could shed any light on why it seems that the south American teams seem so much more passionate about the game (goal celebrations etc)

  • Comment number 42.

    @39 Drastic

    I suppose the problem in parts of South America like Colombia or Bolivia is that the choice is either extreme altitude or searing tropical heat. I suppose at sea level they can play in the evening when it will be slightly cooler (although still really hot). Altitude is going to be an issue at any time.

  • Comment number 43.

    @40 "Technically it was West Germany in 1990.

    Surely Argentina count as a top team though?"

    ok, ok, West Germany. And yes, Argentina in 1990 were a top team, in decline but still a top team. The 2010 version was just a disaster waiting to happen from the moment they appointed THAT coach.

    A team can only get so far with emotional speeches, they also need basic strategy.

  • Comment number 44.

    @37 yakubusdiet

    You are going to be in trouble with ESG again.

  • Comment number 45.

    42 Baggio

    Absolutely, and I am not seeking to have a go. These countries cannot help their geographical realities anymore then I can prevent from freezing my nuts off watching Charlton play in February. However Yakubusdiet seems to be saying this is a good thing and ranks it alongside the other odd statements he makes about SA being better then Europe for international football.

  • Comment number 46.

    38.At 12:42 10th Sep 2012, BladeRunner wrote:
    @32 "As for Germany, they have an incredibly young side that will be peaking by 2014"

    Let's hope so because the last time Germany beat a top team in a World Cup match was in 1990.
    ___________________________

    Depends what you count "top team" as I suppose. Hammering England and Argentina last WC could be classed as 2 top teams.

  • Comment number 47.

    @46 "Depends what you count "top team" as I suppose. Hammering England and Argentina last WC could be classed as 2 top teams."

    IMO, a top team is one that can win the World Cup and can be considered strong favourites. Argentina are a top team but they shot themselves on the foot with that coaching appointment in 2010. I guess by that criteria Germany have indeed beaten a top team since 1990, although that's a pretty poor return for a team with the reputation of Germany.

    England?...not at all, that's a top team in the FIFA rankings only. Top overrated team perhaps? but not much else.

  • Comment number 48.

    37.At 12:28 10th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    Bolivia and Ecuador are two pretty ordinary teams. Bolivia are about as strong as Scotland or Slovenia while Ecuador are about as strong as Russia.
    ____________________

    @ Frank Black also. It's silly comments like these that reduce Yakubu's comments to nonsense and make people ignore the 5% of sense he speaks.

    Just as a quick point. Russia are ranked 13th, France 15th, and Ecuador 17th, (Chile are 14th). So it is fairly credible to pool these together.

    What's silly is to say Ecuador are an ordinary team. By that reasoning so are those mentioned above. Bolivia are 63rd in the rankings, so not sure how they can be lumped together with Ecuador or Scotland for that matter who are 47th.

  • Comment number 49.

    47.At 13:11 10th Sep 2012, BladeRunner wrote:
    "IMO, a top team is one that can win the World Cup and can be considered strong favourites."

    But that's based on your opinion. Who were the "top teams" in WC 2010 then?

  • Comment number 50.

    41.At 12:51 10th Sep 2012, signori wrote:
    ___________________

    My hope is that he gets Colombia to WC 2014 and then showcase his talent there when he should be in his peak!

  • Comment number 51.

    @49 "But that's based on your opinion. Who were the "top teams" in WC 2010 then?"

    Of course that's based on my opinion...this is a blog, isn't it? ;)

    Top teams in 2010: Spain, Brazil and Holland.

    Brazil were probably the only team likely to beat Spain but lost their discipline against the Dutch and paid for it.

    Holland were a strong team, unfortunately they decided to try martial arts instead of football in the final.

    Of the others?...Argentina could've done something with a different coach and Germany were too scared of Spain to succeed.

  • Comment number 52.

    47.
    At 13:11 10th Sep 2012, BladeRunner wrote:

    England?...not at all, that's a top team in the FIFA rankings only. Top overrated team perhaps? but not much else.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The whole FIFA rankings thing is constantly used to beat England over the head. But lets face it - EVERY team plays by the same rules - you get rankings points for winning and drawing games. People talk as if someone has been slipping extra points to England under the table. Bear in mind that England went through 2011 undefeated, so they picked up points in every game. They also got 7 point out of 9 in the Euro group stage and were not beaten in open play by Italy so picked up points for a draw. If the teams that are ranked lower then England produced better results then they would be ahead. Germany and Spain are, the rest are not. With the exception of Brazil who can't pick up points from competitive games right now all the other teams have the same chance to increase their rankings by getting the results.

    If you want to create an alternative ranking based on completed passes, or possession I am sure that England would drop several places. But it's the result that defines the rankings.

  • Comment number 53.

    @ ESG
    Please don't take offence. I work on the principle that it's fun to wind one another up, but it's meant to be light-hearted and I do respect the points you make. I suspect that our printed views are a cartoonish exaggeration of what we really believe.

    Returning to South America, I think that Bolivia and Ecuador are both in the category of "ordinary" but that Ecuador are much the better of the two. I struggle to see either of them scoring against a major European team (no, I'm not going to wind you up about Russia again), let alone beating them at sea level. But either could win a home World Cup qualifier against any unacclimatised team - even Spain.

    Moving on from there, I do take most of ESG's points about many members of the current Spain team playing at the 2014 World Cup. But he conspicuously omitted Xavi and Xabi Alonso.

    If you ask me, if those two played for Italy or Germany or Holland or Portugal or even England, that team would be champions of Europe and the world instead of Spain. Xavi in particular is both the brains and the motor of the Spain team.

    But as soon as you remove those two from the Spain team, you reduce a superb midfield into a very good one. And at that point I don't see them as world champions. I look at Busquets and Silva and Iniesta and Fabregas and think "Iniesta is terrific, but France has got several midfielders as good as Busquets and Silva and Fabregas and Mata, as has Germany, as has Italy, as has Ghana."

    @51 BladeRunner commented that only Brazil could have beaten Spain in 2010. I will repeat my absurd delusion of one month ago: if Michael Essien had been fit and in form he would have lifted Ghana's midfield of Asamoah, Boateng, Muntari, Ayew, Appiah and Annan to even higher heights. And it was already the second best midfield I saw at the 2010 World Cup behind Spain's. The closest competitor was Germany's, but I think that Germany was flattered by its 1-0 win over Ghana, and that the win was because of the deficits of the rest of the Ghana team, not the midfield.

    I know that Ghana has a dodgy keeper, average defence and average attack. But their midfield is awesomely good, and Senegal showed before the Olympics against Spain's Olympic side that Spain are at their weakest and most vulnerable against a big, strong, powerful but technically skilled midfield.

  • Comment number 54.

    @47
    No, I don't want to create an alternative ranking...I just think they're meaningless apart from stating the obvious, that Spain are the best team in the world at the moment.

    After that, you can't really take it seriously. I mean, Greece ranked higher than Brazil? or England as 3rd best team in the world?!... just two beauties from the current FIFA ranking.

  • Comment number 55.

    correction...of course that should say: @52

  • Comment number 56.

    Post 29 - I agree with you in terms of the ages of some of the England regulars. Cole and Terry will simply be too old to play out a full World Cup programme should England qualify and progress through the group stages. Similarly Gerrard and Lampard, in particular, are also the wrong side of 30 and frequently injured. Hodgson should have made a clean sweep and repaced all 4 right now for the qualifiers and given the newcomers time to obtain experience before 2014. Baines is already better than Cole and should hold onto the left back position.

  • Comment number 57.

    54

    I don't think they are meaningless, although certainly flawed. Brazil are artificially low because of being world cup hosts but part of their lower ranking is a below par Copa America. You can't just ignore that because on paper the team is good. If you can't pick up results you drop. England are not the third best team in the world but have produced consistent results. I said on a previous post that I would be in favour of adding 50% to the points gained for results in the KO stages of major competitions. If applied, England would immediately drop to 5th based on the last 2 years and possibly a bit further as it would include the results from the last 4 years in total - Holland would get a big boost from their run to the WC final.

  • Comment number 58.

    51.At 13:20 10th Sep 2012, BladeRunner wrote:
    @49 "But that's based on your opinion. Who were the "top teams" in WC 2010 then?"

    Of course that's based on my opinion...this is a blog, isn't it? ;)

    Top teams in 2010: Spain, Brazil and Holland.
    ___________________________

    it's a bit of a silly statement to make about Germany then isn't it?

    "Germany were too scared of Spain to succeed." - Errr Germany just got outpassed by Spain and lost 1-0 to the winners of the competition. Hardly damning evidence is it?

    The funny thing is that you mention those 3 teams yet Germany could have conceivably only played 1 one of them anyway!!

  • Comment number 59.

    @58
    Germany losing to Spain wasn't surprising. What was surprising was the way they lost. I had never seen a German team in fear of the opposition as in that match.

    The point is, Germany have become the new England, they will easily beat minnows but lose as soon as they have to play a tough opponent.

  • Comment number 60.

    53.At 13:45 10th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    ____________________

    I had questioned on numerous times whether it was a wind up or not!

    I'd disagree with you about xavi being the key. For me that's iniesta and also his formation of the barca trio in the centre that dominate the midfield games so much. I think that is the key to their success, and their unfaltering desire for 100% possession football.

    "that the win was because of the deficits of the rest of the Ghana team, not the midfield." - But that's the whole point isn't it? If ghana had a better defence / keeper course they'd have done better. If Russia had a more clinical striker, England a better XI players etc. Ghana have a decent midfield, but average strikers, poor defenders and a poor keeper.

  • Comment number 61.

    59.At 14:18 10th Sep 2012, BladeRunner wrote:
    @58
    Germany losing to Spain wasn't surprising. What was surprising was the way they lost. I had never seen a German team in fear of the opposition as in that match.

    The point is, Germany have become the new England, they will easily beat minnows but lose as soon as they have to play a tough opponent.
    __________________________

    Whaaaaaat?? When was the last time England have made a semi final in anything?

    They lost to Italy, a team they have never beaten in competitive matches twice in the last 10 years. And the other defeats have been in 2 finals and one semi to the winners. If that's a poor record, then oh dear, I shudder at what the likes of Netherlands, France, Argentina, Brazil etc have been doing.

  • Comment number 62.

    54.At 13:47 10th Sep 2012, BladeRunner wrote:
    _____________________

    But those rankings are based on 4 years worth of results and weighted accordingly. It's the most accurate way of measuring it. England have been consistent, that's why they're 3rd. Look at Italy, final of Euros, didn't make last 16 of WC.

    What else do you propose? Yes Spain are the best team. But who would be 2nd best? 3rd? 4th? 5th? etc

  • Comment number 63.

    @59 BladeRunner

    I agree with you on Germany. Interestingly the quality of the players is still high but they are missing a leader and have done since Ballack retired.

    Their team at the World Cup in 2002 was on paper one of their worst ever but mental toughness (and an easy draw) enabled them to reach the final then.

  • Comment number 64.

    Not the end of the world for Uruguay if they are in decline, they were good and have third placed finish for a generation of players. They did a lot to reverse the decline.

  • Comment number 65.

    On the point of home advantage in South American football, apart from the climate issues which have been mentioned, another factor I feel is important is that aways teams don't bring many fans. I put this down to a combination of low wages, ridiculously high flights here in SA and visa issues...it's not like my homeland of Ireland who, despite the state of the local economy always manage to bring a relatively large fanbase to the away games...

  • Comment number 66.

    re 65...I mean the ridiculously high prices of internal flights!!

  • Comment number 67.

    Maybe the fact that tonight's under 21 is not important for qualifying (England should go through as top 4 runner up even if they lose) is the reason Sterling is freed up to be included amongst the seniors. Anyone know the likley line up for tonight?

  • Comment number 68.

    67 - Woops posted this in wrong section - disregard!

  • Comment number 69.

    On Friday i went to the Ecuador vs Bolivia game.

    A 4.30pm start meant that when the clouds parted the sun was intense and brutal. Sometimes i wonder how footballers are able to run about in it.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/1228/

    It was not the sharpest of games and Bolivia seemed intent on gaining a draw but the result was probably fair.

    Antonio Valencia was dreadful which was a shame as the Ecuadorians worship him hold him with the same sort of reverence as Messi, Ronaldo etc. However for me he doesn't do enough for the national team.

    Montero on the right was the main creative influence until his injury and Caicedo made the difference in the 2nd half.

    It was never a penalty but Bolivia had been building their fouls and it was always risking when sitting so deep.

    I expect the Uruguay game to be far harder on Tuesday. I think Ecuador would gladly accept a draw which is not an outlandish prediction especially with Christain Benitez back up front.

    The Venezuelan and Uruguayan defeats opens up the qualifying table again.

    Bolivia and Paraguay looked doomed but every other team has a realisable chance of claiming a top 5 spot.

    www.footballintheclouds.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 70.

    "With Luis Antonio Valencia imperious on one flank and the silkily talented Jefferson Montero on the other"

    Montero pulled up with a hamstring on Friday and will probably be replaced by Arroyo on the right.

    While Valencia looks very tired and leggy and most of the left hand attack should come from the over-lapping Paredes.

    Christain Benitez is back though

  • Comment number 71.

    I would like to see Renato Ibarra, who plays for Vitesse, given a chance on the right for Ecuador as he's playing well in Holland at the moment. He was on the bench for the entire game the other night.

  • Comment number 72.

    For accuracy's sake:

    no. 23 Argentina-Uruguay is being played October 12 in Mendoza, not Buenos Aires.

    no. 25 Brazil is 8.5 million km2, Europe is 10 million km2.

    On Bolivians (or Ecuatorians) playing at sea level... well, research states that they are at an advantage coming down from La Paz or Quito: the body usually has more red blood cells and greater lung expansion capability than needed. For example, and since this provides athletes in endurance sports with a competitive advantage, the U.S. maintains an Olympic training center in the mountains of Colorado. Several other nations also train their athletes at high altitude for this reason. The physiological changes that result in increased fitness are short term at low altitude. In a matter of weeks, the body returns to a normal fitness level. But these trips take only two to three days, so there is no decrease in performance during the match.

  • Comment number 73.

    45. At 13:01 10th Sep 2012, Drastic wrote:

    42 Baggio

    Absolutely, and I am not seeking to have a go. These countries cannot help their geographical realities anymore then I can prevent from freezing my nuts off watching Charlton play in February. However Yakubusdiet seems to be saying this is a good thing and ranks it alongside the other odd statements he makes about SA being better then Europe for international football.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    South America is better than Europe. The average South American team would easily defeat an average European team.

  • Comment number 74.

    marcelao

    no. 23 Argentina-Uruguay is being played October 12 in Mendoza, not Buenos Aires.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I did not write where it was being played Marcelao.

    Anyway i am really looking froward to the game, plus i hope to take in a couple more while im there, friends permitting of course.

    Do you have an opinion on the current Argentina team, obviously i have only seen them on the PC but they looked to have improved by some way. I could not make head nor tail of the Uruguay performance but i do expect an improved showing when the two meet.

  • Comment number 75.

    no.23 of course I noticed you did not mention the city... I was just worried about you making your way down there and finding out you have to travel another 1000 km to the west!!! The Malvinas Argentinas stadium is also a much smaller venue that say, the Monumental, so make sure you can get tickets... and if you do, please do treat yourself to the local Malbecs... you won't regret it.

    You will be able to see other local games but not that weekend, unless you go to a second division match.

    Argentina's approach right now is to shore up the back and the middle, not keeping possesion too long, soaking up the other team's progress, regain posssion and play the fast break aways with Messi, Higuain, Aguero, etc... there is no more talk about playing like Barcelona, fortunately... I guess Sabella's idea is that Argentina has a couple of goals built in already right off the locker room, so why worry about an opposing back 9 defending? let them come out and then sting them on the break.

    They looked clinical and deadly vs. Chile and Ecuador, did the same to Paraguay... and Messi is roaming free, seemingly not doing much, until he does (example: the Brazil match in New Jersey, where he did not touch the ball much: just 4 or 5 times: enough) There is also a great understanding between Higuain, Aguero and Lio.

    I guess it is a less lirical style than during the Basile or Maradona era... but it has been working...

  • Comment number 76.

    73.
    At 19:17 10th Sep 2012, 764dak wrote:


    45. At 13:01 10th Sep 2012, Drastic wrote:

    42 Baggio

    Absolutely, and I am not seeking to have a go. These countries cannot help their geographical realities anymore then I can prevent from freezing my nuts off watching Charlton play in February. However Yakubusdiet seems to be saying this is a good thing and ranks it alongside the other odd statements he makes about SA being better then Europe for international football.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    South America is better than Europe. The average South American team would easily defeat an average European team.
    ____________________________________

    It really depends what you mean by the average team. The are a lot of rubbish teams in Europe and fewer in South America. But then there are many more countries in Europe than in South America so that is to be expected.

    There is no doubt that currently and for the last few years the top European teams have been better than the top South American ones. We will see in 2014 whether the balance has shifted.

  • Comment number 77.

    72. marcelao - yes there is no way that the Argentines would allow the Uruguay team to simply cross the river plate from Montevideo and play the game in close-by Buenos Aires and go home quickly again. The have scheduled the game in Mendoza for obvious reasons. It will also make it far more inconveient for the Uruguay fans to get to see the game, but sadly that's the way the Argentines operate.

  • Comment number 78.

    well, I am going to ignore the xenophobic rant... fortunately for South American football, Uruguay has proven that it has left its footballing inferiority complex behind a few years ago, already... they beat Argentina last year in ''far away'' Santa Fe, did they not? It is going to be a great game, despite ''the way Argentines operate...''

    In recent years, there has been a move by the argentine government and its propaganda arm, AFA (national football association) to schedule more and more games in the provinces and bring the game to the people, whatever that means. The 2011-12 Copa Argentina (more or less a spanking new equivalent of the FA Cup) was almost entirely played in provincial capitals. Games were played in front of full houses, for the most part (and BA team fans travelled 1000's of km to follow their teams... what a notion, eh?). The whole structure of Argentine football is geared now for the inclusion of provincial teams in the national scheme of things, as more teams hail from the interior than ever before. New stadiums have been built (San Juan, Salta, Catamarca, ), some WC 1978 stadiums have been fixed up (last Friday's Paraguay matchup was played in the updated Cordoba stadium) and the city of Santa Fe has come in with a very unique concept in their Colon facility: seats all the way to the touch line and no moats or barbed wire!!! if you wince, you could swear you are in Old Trafford...

    This move to the provinces has been followed by the rugby union (Pumas now rarely play in BA and the sport has been growing exponentially in Santa Fe, Cordoba, Tucuman, Mendoza, etc.) and the 12-team professional national volleyball league which has no teams in Buenos Aires.

  • Comment number 79.

    78 - marcelao - I think your wording of an 'xenophobic rant' was a little exaggerated. I simply made an observation. But if you wish to speak of xenophobia then what about the naming of the Mendoza stadium as 'Malvina Argentinas' when everyone knows that the Islands are called the Falklands and belong to Britain (apart from the 10 weeks illegal occupation by Argentina in 1982) and the people who live there are British and wish to remain so, but sadly Argentina refuses to accept their right to self-determination. Why did they have to bring politics into sport and re-name the Mendoza stadium?

  • Comment number 80.

    Great game Tim, and what a tremendous atmosphere! How dull it was to have Wales - Belgium as the pick of the European games on TV here, it's ridiculous that the rights could not be secured for the qualifying.

    I still think Uruguay are too good not to qualify, and are surely a different side with Forlan and Suarez in tandem. But anything is possible in this section and as many have commented, they don't seem to have the solution at the back. Their 1st half formation made the '2 Perieras' look like poor players and they are surely not that.

    This looked like a totally different Colombia side from the Copa, and in Rodriguez and Falcao they obviously have 2 of the best players in South America. Few better anywhere at the moment you would say. But are they consistent enough to make it to Brasil? Big test tomorrow, it would surely be foolish to play too open in Chile - hopefully they will make a better job of it than Uruguay did on Friday!

  • Comment number 81.

    marcelao @75

    Thanks mate my friends are taking care of the tickets, I havn't seen them for over 6 years and I am really looking forward to it.

    Yes i watched the last Brasil/Argentina game, thought Messi's last goal was a bit special. The other two were not bad either, the problem with him is it always looks easy. haha. A Special, special talent.

    The Argentina goalkeeper did not look too good from my armchair, week hand for the first and the missed cross from the corner.

    I still can't make up my mind about them either, up front great but at the back they still look as though they will concede.

  • Comment number 82.

    73.
    At 19:17 10th Sep 2012, 764dak wrote:


    45. At 13:01 10th Sep 2012, Drastic wrote:

    42 Baggio

    Absolutely, and I am not seeking to have a go. These countries cannot help their geographical realities anymore then I can prevent from freezing my nuts off watching Charlton play in February. However Yakubusdiet seems to be saying this is a good thing and ranks it alongside the other odd statements he makes about SA being better then Europe for international football.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    South America is better than Europe. The average South American team would easily defeat an average European team.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I highly doubt that - I'll check the WC games for the last 20 years and check the heads to heads. But I can't remember any average SA team even getting out of their group without a struggle and benefit from way to many WC places anyway.

  • Comment number 83.

    .79 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... ahummmmm, who cares? wake me up next blog... I should have said sophomoric... not xenophobic... seeya!

  • Comment number 84.

    .81 londoner: Argentina used to have much better goalies... last big one was Fillol, probably one of the best in the late 70's, early 80's. Then suddenly, talent dried up. Romero is just OK, ha! and he is still talking to the press about that goal against Brazil. On the other hand, Brazil used to have terrible keepers, save for Manga and Gilmar... they have produced many strong goalies, I think from Taffarel onward: Ceni, Julio Cesar, Dida, Doni and others.

    As for the Argentine defence, in the defensive midfield Mascherano and Gago play well, Banega on and off has been good(hurt now), but they are trying to give the back four continuity and it seems ok for the SAmerican level so far. Coloccini has been recalled, Zabaleta is a shoe in, I agree they are not the best but... We'll see how they fare vs. Uruguay in October.

  • Comment number 85.

    The challenge in South American qualifying is as mentioned partly the conditions. But there is also the fact that apart from Bolivia - who play at 12,000 feet - every other team is at least as strong as Slovenia or Greece or Sweden.

    So there are no easy matches anymore. Whereas in Europe 80% of the teams are poor.

    The flip side, of course, is that South America only has three really strong teams, one of which does not have to qualify this time.

  • Comment number 86.

    marcelao @84

    I remember Fillol well.

    Wasn't the Barcelona keeper of about 10 years ago Argentinian? Can't seem to remember his name but i think he retired very young.

    Yes it runs in cycles, countries have a glut of decent players for one position and as you say it dries up.

  • Comment number 87.

    His name was Roberto "Tito" Bonano, formerly of Rosario Central and River Plate... he also played in the national team... and some other spanish teams like Murcia and Alaves...

  • Comment number 88.

    marcelao

    thats the one, most annoying it was on the tip of my tongue but i kept getting Ron something, instead of Bon.

  • Comment number 89.

    82. At 22:26 10th Sep 2012, Drastic wrote:

    73.
    At 19:17 10th Sep 2012, 764dak wrote:


    45. At 13:01 10th Sep 2012, Drastic wrote:

    42 Baggio

    Absolutely, and I am not seeking to have a go. These countries cannot help their geographical realities anymore then I can prevent from freezing my nuts off watching Charlton play in February. However Yakubusdiet seems to be saying this is a good thing and ranks it alongside the other odd statements he makes about SA being better then Europe for international football.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    South America is better than Europe. The average South American team would easily defeat an average European team.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I highly doubt that - I'll check the WC games for the last 20 years and check the heads to heads. But I can't remember any average SA team even getting out of their group without a struggle and benefit from way to many WC places anyway.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    European teams have a better head to head record against South American teams from 1994 WC to 2010 WC (South American teams have better head to head since 1930 to 2010). Well, if you consider that an average South American team is one that finishes 5th or 6th in South American qualifying then that team would be superior to a mediocre European team that would not even be close to making it to the World Cup.

    If you think South America has too many WC spots, how many spots should be taken away from them and where should they be reallocated?

  • Comment number 90.

    #82 If memory serves me correctly, of the 5 South American teams in the 2010 WC, all 5 made it out of their group and to the second round and 4 of them made the quarter finals, so saying that they are over-represented is a bit silly (compared to Africa, who only had one team out of 6 that made it out of their group).

    South American qualifiers are on average more interesting because the gap between the top and bottom teams is far lower, so you don't get exciting fixtures like Saturday's thriller between Germany and Faroe Islands.

  • Comment number 91.

    @ 90 Moliver

    South American qualifying is definitely more rigorous than in Europe. There is usually at least one team in each European group that is thrashed by every other team. In the group England are in this time there are going to be 2 - Moldova and San Marino.

  • Comment number 92.

    Of the eight Quarter Finalists at the 2010 World Cup:
    Four were South American (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay)
    Three were European (Spain, Holland, Germany)
    One was African (Ghana)

    Viewed the other way:
    Five out of five South American teams qualified from the group stage.
    Seven out of thirteen European teams qualified from the group stage.

    Which continent has too many places?

  • Comment number 93.

    83. marceleo - you unneccesarily brought the subject up first in your post 78.
    Onto football matters. I watched Romero play many times in Holland and he usually made one serious mistake every game - a little like Gomes when he was at PSV but he still thought that he was the best 'keeper in the world (and still does). Argentina's defence has let them down on the big stage for quite sometime now (and this was never more obvious than in South Africa where Germany exposed them cruelly) and will continue to do so in Brazil unless they find some sure-tackling defenders from somewhere.

  • Comment number 94.

    @92

    Actually only six of thirteen European teams made it to the round of sixteen.

  • Comment number 95.

    I have a suggestion (developed from last week) for how to ensure a high quality World Cup and Euros without reducing the number of games, and while freeing up the months of August-December and February-May for club football only, which could grow the Champions League.

    The World Cup would take place every even year, but with only 16 teams.

    The continental championships including the Euros would occur every odd year, and would be the qualifying system for the World Cup. There would be automatic continental championships qualification for the top ten teams in Europe, the top ten in Asia and Africa, for the big four in Concacaf and for everyone in South America.

    So England, for example, would always be in the 16 team Euros: the only qualifying matches during the "club window" would be for six countries outside Europe's top ten to occupy the last six places at the Euros.

    The World Cup places would be as follows:
    Europe 4 automatic (Euro semi-finalists)
    South America 2 automatic (Copa finalists)
    Concacaf 2 (Gold Cup finalists)
    Asia 2
    Africa 2
    InterContinental play-off group winners 4

    The World Cup draw wouldn't occur until February 1, because the month of January would see intercontinental play-offs, with four groups of five teams playing in the Middle East (or possibly in major world cities in multiple continents, as that would allow matches for TV across multiple time zones.)

    The calendar would be simple and predictable. The Euros and World Cup would be played from 1-30 June and the play-off groups from 1-30 January. The Copa America would follow the Euros from 1-20 July, and the Gold Cup would be played from 20 July to 3 August. The African Nations Cup would immediately precede the Intercontinental groups, from 10-28 December.

    FIFA would presumably broker all TV rights except for the Euros, and make a fortune for the confederations.

    UEFA would not just get a very high quality and meaningful European Championship every second season, but would have clear windows for club football for the major ten countries and could expand the Champions League.


    Major national teams would be assembled every summer for a tournament, which would allow the coaches to get them playing much more cohesively.

    The only losers I can see would be the national stadia getting fewer qualifying matches, but there are very few big games anyway, and they could bid to host a group in the bi-annual Intercontinental Playoff groups.

    Above all, the quality of the football would be excellent, as the competitions would be smaller and more elite.

    And if you consider this year's Euros, the four direct qualifiers to the World Cup would have been Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal. Leaving England without the tedious World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine and Poland, but facing an InterContinental playoff group next January on neutral territory which might be:

    England Chile Honduras Nigeria Iran

    but might equally be

    England Argentina Costa Rica Ivory Coast South Korea

    It would do away with arguments as to how many places each continent merits, because it would create a compelling tournament every second January to settle the arguments.

  • Comment number 96.

    It actually does not matter who deserves more spots. For example, in the Olympic table tennis for each gender you are only allowed two players. The top 4 male tennis players are from China but only 2 can enter. It goes for many other sports and events as well.

    So, it doesn't matter if a South American or European team that didn't qualify is better than an Asian or African team in the World Cup.

  • Comment number 97.

    95. yakubusdiet - the last truly decent World Cup competition was in Argentina in 1978 when the 4 groups winners (16 teams only then) and the 4 runners-up went into a further group stage of 2 groups of 4 with the winners (Argentina & Holland)qualifying for the final and the runners-up playing off for 3/4. This meant that all the matches really mattered as teams went for the win in order to try and top the group. These days the knockout games are often a farce as too many teams are happy to play for a draw and go to penalties and then bemoan their luck if they lose the shoot-out. It makes for negative football. Oh for the format of 1978.

  • Comment number 98.

    Argentina are playing a countering style under Sabella. It is working well and they even showed some nice passing moves against Germany controlling posession which was not evident against Paraguay.

    Sabella likes to have the deeper playmakers but Brana does not fit. Sabella needs to make the decision now to cut some of the older players like Clemente and Campagnaro and Guinazu and blood in some of the young talent like Cirigliano, Mino and company.

    As for the goalkeeping front Damian Martinez needs to get first team football. With Szczesny injured I thought he might get the nod ahead of Mannone but it has yet to be. He's a very good prospect.

    After the machinations in Lima from the Peruvians I hope the seleccion deliver a telling blow in terms of the scoreline.

    As for James Autar once again your innate dislike of Argentina comes to the surface again.

  • Comment number 99.

    @95

    Please don't ever suggest this again. It is a terrible idea.

    European qualifying may be boring for neutral fans and for fans of the big nations who are seeded and expect to qualify.

    But it is still very exciting for the smaller nations who dream of qualifying and succeed every once in a while. It's great to both play countries who are at a similar level and be able to challenge the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland.

    Fans of big nations can look forward to entertainment when the actual tournament is on as they are generally lucky enough to be there.

    Neutrals can watch SA qualifying or club football or whatever they like.

  • Comment number 100.

    95.At 09:13 11th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    _________________

    Let's be honest, as with my International League idea, I can't see either taking off unless there was a monetary incentive for FIFA.

 

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