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Argentina & Uruguay back on road to Brazil

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Tim Vickery | 11:01 UK time, Monday, 8 October 2012

The so-called 'super-classic of the Americas' descended into the farce that it probably deserved last week.

Argentina against Brazil is one of football's greatest rivalries.

But the occasion and its tradition are undermined when the matches are staged outside Fifa dates using only domestically based players - which in current conditions pits an understrength Brazil team against, at best, a C-strength Argentina side.

The idea might be more bearable without the hard sell - this is clearly not the 'super-classic' of anything at all. It looks more like a "product" cynically cooked up to fill TV schedules.

Brazil's Neymar celebrates a goal scored against Argentina

Brazil's Neymar celebrates a goal scored against Argentina

And last Wednesday it did not look like anything at all.

Floodlight failure struck just as the teams were about to kick off in the small Argentine city of Resistencia. After more than an hour of awkward hanging around came word that the game would not take place.

No matter. The real 'super-classic' gets under way once more this Friday, with the ninth round of South America's World Cup qualification campaign.

I have often written in tribute of this marathon tournament, which is always gripping, filled with relevance and rivalry.

And there is another aspect. Teams are not only trying to qualify - they are also seeking to construct a side capable of doing well in the World Cup.

Over the two-year course of the campaign there is plenty of time for sides to find a blend - or for teams to come apart.

Friday's match between Argentina and Uruguay becomes all the more interesting when seen through this prism.

Argentina top the qualification table, and should have few problems booking their place in Brazil. But coach Alejandro Sabella has not had things all his own way. He was thrown into the deep end, appointed shortly before the campaign started with little time to prepare.

His side got off to a poor start, losing to Venezuela and drawing at home to Bolivia.
This is perhaps not surprising. One of the golden rules of football is that the stars shine when the collective balance of the team is right.

A frequent problem for coaches of Argentina and Brazil is the sheer number of options available to them. When Brazil flirted with disaster in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers they used 62 players.

A disappointing performance leads to pressure for change, which in turn makes continuity - and confidence - so much harder to achieve.

It took Sabella time to feel his way forward and get full value from Argentina's wealth of attacking riches. Still questions remain.

In a perfect world he would love to be able to pick Lionel Messi alongside Sergio Aguero - the pair have a wonderful understanding - and Gonzalo Higuain to supply the target man option. But can he afford to select both Higuain and Aguero against the strongest opponents?

Does this leave him light in midfield? And does Angel Di Maria have the all-round game to play as a genuine midfielder? He gave away a silly penalty away to Peru last month.It cost nothing because Sergio Romero saved the spot kick. Against awkward opponents Argentina came away with a 1-1 draw in their only match over the past year where Messi did not shine - which may not have displeased Sabella too much.

It meant that his defence had to raise the game - and if Sabella is over-blessed with attacking resources, the same is not necessarily so at the other end of the field. The defensive unit is where Sabella has most made changes.

He tried out a back three a year ago in that defeat by Venezuela - and with more time on the training field it is a system to which he may return.

He used it once more in the first leg of the so-called "super-classic" and would have used it again last Wednesday. Indeed, one wag in Argentina suggested that Sabella might take advantage of the blackout to sneak another defender onto the pitch.

In the World Cup qualifiers, though, for the time being a back four would seem to be the favoured formation. It performed well enough against the Peruvians. And here come Uruguay's trident of Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan to test the Argentine defence this Friday.

So far in this campaign Argentina have picked 31 players. Everyone has used between 28 and 35 - with the glaring exception of Uruguay, who have only needed 18.
The Uruguayans have their group. Coach Oscar Washington Tabarez began constructing it in the 2007 Copa America.

At the time they were a relatively inexperienced team, something which hampered their progress through the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. After grabbing the last place available in South Africa, everything came together and for a two-year spell they were the best side in South America. It is harder to make that claim now; last month's results (a 4-0 loss away to Colombia and a 1-1 draw at home to Ecuador) dropped Uruguay down to fourth in the table.

That same group have now been together for more than five years - a long time in football. Renewal time is coming - a tough moment for any coach. Many can build a side - far fewer can break it up and reconstruct.

The original plan was presumably to keep the bulk of this group together until the next World Cup. Results might dictate that changes will have to come sooner. Tabarez has his favourites. There are players such as midfielder Sebastian Eguren and centre forward Sebastian Abreu who rarely feature.

But their experience and strength of character make them important leaders in the dressing room. These and other veterans may have to be jettisoned and space made for a new generation - which makes all the more frustrating the failure of Uruguay's Under-23s in the London Olympics.

So do Uruguay need wholesale changes, and can Argentina defend? Friday's game should shed some light - and promises to be much more illuminating than the farcical events at Resistencia last Wednesday.

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;

A few months back, Pele said that only when Messi has scored 1283 goals can we talk about him being better than Pele. That's a huge number of goals, and in the modern game, no-one is ever realistically going to score that many.

Once you start to look at where Pele scored his goals, a large proportion of them came in friendlies and in the Brazilian regional championships. Messi has scored most of his in La Liga and the Champions League, which I would imagine is a higher level of competition.

I know it's very difficult to compare players of different eras, but just how competitive are Pele's goals from his friendlies and regional championships? 1283 goals at any level is an extraordinary achievement, but to say that Messi has to score the same number in La Liga and the Champions League is surely a very skewed comparison.
Ben Abramson

A lot of the friendlies were more competitive than you might imagine - opponents wanted to show they could play, too. And the Sao Paulo state championship was much, much stronger than it is today. Even so, this line of argument does not show Pele at his best.
The undoubted genius of Pele does not lie in statistical accumulation - especially when some of those goals were scored in the Army. It lies in unforgettable and influential performances in big games.

Pele managed that over a long period of time. Messi is now doing it - and if he can maintain his form over a period of, say, five more years, then he has to be in the fight. At that stage we might be able to argue that Pele was more complete - two footed, exceptional in the air, etc. But if Messi can keep shining in the Champions League - and also have a good World Cup - then he can at least level it up.

In order to play all those friendlies Pele missed out on some competitive stuff. Santos ducked out of the Copa Libertadores early. I often wonder how global club football might have developed had Santos stayed in the Libertadores - it might have turned the annual game between the champions of Europe and South America into one of the highpoints of everyone's calendar.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Tim, I am a die hard fan of Argentina and have been quite disappointed with their performance over the last few years despite having the richest pool of attacking talent in the world. They have been passionate footballers but they have always under performed because of strategies i believe. Jose Pekerman was the best Argentine coach in my opinion over the last decade. Should he not be back for Argentina. Also, why do you think, Argentina don't go for foreign coaches who could be more sound both technically and strategically. England, South Korea, Russia, Australia and so many countries have / had coaches of other nationalities. I am sure if coaches like Jose / Guardiola / Hiddink take over Argentina, they would be difficult to beat and they can play good football given their riches in attack.

  • Comment number 2.

    This qualifying marathon in S.America does not make sense to me

    I cant see why they dont have 2 groups in S.America , they have 4 automatic and 1 team going into a playoff.
    One group could have 4 teams which 2 qualify , the other group with the 5 teams with have the 3rd team going into the play offs.

    Colombia look handily placed , they also have a good trident in attack , Jackson Martinez , James Rodriguez , and Falção.

  • Comment number 3.

    Tim has touched on Argentina's problem: if they play Higuain and di Maria as well as Aguero and Messi they end up light in midfield almost playing 4-2-4.

    It should be fascinating watching two great attacks against two mediocre defences.

  • Comment number 4.

    3.At 10:06 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    "It should be fascinating watching two great attacks against two mediocre defences."

    A bit like watching a match in the EPL!!

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    The South America qualifiers are so compelling because over 70% of the matches are truly competitive. Add relatively good weather, passionate fans, a smattering of luscious women, and some alcohol and the atmosphere is mostly always fantastic - (except in Chile where they are a bit more reserved). Beats watching Germany v Albania, Australia v Fiji, USA v Canada or Guinea v Namibia.

    One of the few joys of travelling a lot in these security conscious times is the chance to sneak into a game or wander to a local park to see how the game is evolving in many countries. Tim, Argentina and Uruguay were once famous (or infamous - WC '50, '66, '82, '86, '90) for their sturdy defenders and robust approach to defending. Is there a systemic reason for the recent dearth of reliable defenders and the high numbers of nimble, flexible forwards in both countries? Thanks.

  • Comment number 7.

    I wonder how interesting it would be if the south american qualifying format was introduced in Africa.The 52 teams can be withered down to 10 teams who play a league format.

    AFRICAN WORLD CUP QUALIFYING GROUP QATAR 2022
    Nigeria
    Egypt
    Ivory Coast
    Ghana
    South Africa
    Senegal
    Tunisia
    Cameroun
    Zambia
    Morrocco

    This format would be quite interesting.It also would provide a welcome avenue for the teams to gel together,something that African teams cant seem to do (barring Ghana at the 2006 and 2010 world cup)

  • Comment number 8.

    First off, looking forward to Colombia going top of the table when Argentina and Uruguay draw and we beat Paraguay at home.
    @2 They used to be divided into even smaller groups, but that just meant that the qualifying tournament was over in less than 2 years, the big team always qualified and they had lots of time without competitive matches. Tim has already explained it many times.
    @3 Personally I think Di Maria is lightweight and should always make way for, well, anyone really. In the list of fancy dan wingers, he's not even on Nani's level yet and of course Nani hasn't yet started to fill C.Ronaldo's boots with consistency and goals.

    I hope Falcao doesn't move to England (reports that Mancini is watching him). It's the graveyard of latino strikers. There is only one more step for him to make to become a legend and that is either across the city of Madrid, or to Barcelona.

  • Comment number 9.

    @8

    I have always found Di Maria a bit of a curio. Admitedly, I don't watch him week in, week out playing for Real, but whenever I see him in the Champions League or for Argentina, he flatters to deceive. Maybe I am missing something.

  • Comment number 10.

    8.At 10:52 9th Oct 2012, RoverOnTour wrote:
    @2 They used to be divided into even smaller groups, but that just meant that the qualifying tournament was over in less than 2 years, the big team always qualified and they had lots of time without competitive matches. Tim has already explained it many times.
    _________________________________

    The European teams will play 6 games less and it still takes 2 years to wrap up , also 9 times out of 10 the big teams will qualify.

    I cannot see a reaon why they cannot switch to smaller groups like the European format. The other factor is the vast distances the players have to travel as a lot of them are based in Europe.

  • Comment number 11.

    9.At 11:08 9th Oct 2012, Frank Black wrote:
    I have always found Di Maria a bit of a curio. Admitedly, I don't watch him week in, week out playing for Real,
    __________________________

    Hi Frank
    I watch him week in and week out , he is actually very good. Maybe he does not stand out so much due to the other quality players around him.
    Also the other factor is he likes to play out on the left , but so does Ronaldo , therefore Di Maria normally starts on the right.

    I dont agree with the earlier poster in my opinion he is a better player than Nani.

  • Comment number 12.

    10 - Europe has qualifiers for its continental championships. South Amrica doesn't. Adopting your solution would leave the South American sides with an interval of years between competetive games - as used to be the case until 1996.
    The rise of the lesser nations since then is directly down to the adoption of the marathon world cup qualifying format. It's blindingly obvious and I've written about it many times -0 do try to keep up at the back!

  • Comment number 13.

    @10 This format has allowed the smaller teams to have a chance at qualifying by giving them game time against established teams. Ecuador had never qualified until the 2000s, Venezuela has never qualified but has a chance this time, Paraguay has made 4 world cups in a row. Chile didn't qualify in 2002 or 2006, they're arguably a big team, and Uruguay in 2006 didn't make it either. But even assuming incorrectly that the south americans only take home games seriously, there are 9 big matches for each team. There are maybe 4 important matches in a european qualifier, the rest are against cannon fodder. Result, four of the quarter finalists at WC2010 were from SA (out of 5 qualifiers). The rest were the best three teams in Europe (out of 13) and a lucky Ghana (1 out of 6). The European cream rose to the top, but a lot of european dross was knocked out by the South Americans.

    Sorry if your precious top four EPL team loses all its international stars to the other side of the world every couple of months, teaches them for not developing their own homegrown players. But the players themselves are immensely proud to represent their country, unlike the gormless knuckle dragging ingrates that represent England.

  • Comment number 14.

    12.At 11:54 9th Oct 2012, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:
    It's blindingly obvious and I've written about it many times -0 do try to keep up at the back!
    ____________________________

    Was that comment really necessary ?

    It is not blindingly obvious as they could always change their own continental championship to a league format.

  • Comment number 15.

    It took some time but Carlos Bacca is starting to deliver for my team Club Brugge
    (7 goals in 7 matches equals the club record)
    How high do you rate him?

  • Comment number 16.

    Good article Tim, and i agree the 'super classico' is a damp squib with their home grown players only policy. But i suppose it gives some new players a chance to show their talent.
    On another note, Pele was right when he said that Brazil don't have a team.
    Meneses has no idea what settled team he wants to play, he may bring back Ronaldinho, Kaka is coming back, all this after the flop of a team he has constructed. He has realised the players he picks are immature, inexperienced and haven't won anything.
    The world cup will be a daunting experience for most of them.
    Uruguay are slowly on the way down. They were lucky on their path to the semis in WC 2010, won the Copa America 2011 as both Brazil and Argentina were in disarray and played a Paraguayan team in the final who had not won a match in the entire competition. European teams like Spain, Germany, Italy and maybe Holland must fancy their chances of conquering South America in 2014.

  • Comment number 17.

    13.At 12:04 9th Oct 2012, RoverOnTour wrote:
    Sorry if your precious top four EPL team loses all its international stars to the other side of the world every couple of months,
    _______________________________________

    Ooh , posters are a bit touchy on this blog !

    By the way I am not from the UK.

  • Comment number 18.

    The match in Mendoza should be a real spectacle. Both Argentina and Uruguay have weaknesses but they are still two of the top sides in international football.

    I think the current qualifying process in South America is excellent and gives all teams a fair opportunity. It clearly would not work in Europe unless you drastically whittled down the number of teams in pre qualifying. Given the number of places Europe gets at the World Cup it would be largely redundant anyway.

  • Comment number 19.

    17.At 12:09 9th Oct 2012, repo wrote:
    __________________

    What's up with Tim, he seems very tetchy today....you got owned by him, and now another poster on here as well!!

    isn't Londoner due to watch this game? I can't see anything but an Argentina win?

  • Comment number 20.

    Is anybody televising the Argentina v Uruguay game in the UK?

  • Comment number 21.

    Why not merge the South American and North American federations? Would stop the USA and Mexico getting byes to the World Cup every time - the same should be done with the Asian and Oceania federations as New Zealand now only have to win one match of importance every 4 years to qualify for the World Cup - totally unfair as New Zealand would never qualify if they were in - say - a European qualifying process.

  • Comment number 22.

    @20 Is anybody televising the Argentina v Uruguay game in the UK?

    Not on television, that I know of, but there are (legal) streams. I tend to watch the qualifiers on the live-streaming of a certain betting site with the number of days of the year in its name.

  • Comment number 23.

    At 12:04 9th Oct 2012, RoverOnTour wrote:
    Result, four of the quarter finalists at WC2010 were from SA (out of 5 qualifiers). The rest were the best three teams in Europe (out of 13) and a lucky Ghana (1 out of 6).
    ---------
    Lucky Ghana? What constitutes lucky about Ghana's progress to the QF in 2010. If Asomoah Gyan had not missed that sitter, then no south American team will have competed in the semis.

    But the players themselves are immensely proud to represent their country, unlike the gormless knuckle dragging ingrates that represent England.
    ------------
    Why the attack on English players, what makes you think that South American love representing their countries more than the english or any other nation for that matter?

    On the substantive point, the south American qualifying might have certainly helped a lot of the teams to improve the quality of their teams as recent results have shown. But then apart from Argentina and Brazil, a lot of these teams look lightweight including even Uruguay. I have a feeling these teams will always be found wanting against their top European counterparts.

  • Comment number 24.

    @20 and 22
    It's amazing just how parochial tv coverage in the UK has become.

    Here in Australia we still have Setanta, and they show every South American qualifier apart from Argentina's home matches which are actually broadcast by a terrestrial channel.

    I suspect that is why certain posters on this blog under-estimate the quality of South American football, even though at the last World Cup every South American team got out of its group (compared with half the European teams) and they provided 4 of the 8 Quarter-Finalists.

    Anyway, my predictions for this weekend:
    Colombia 2 Paraguay 1
    Ecuador 1 Chile 1
    Bolivia 1 Peru 1
    Argentina 2 Uruguay 0

    ......but as ever, red cards could turn any reckoning upside down.

  • Comment number 25.

    24.At 12:55 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    "I suspect that is why certain posters on this blog under-estimate the quality of South American football," - If Europe could only take their 4 best teams, then I'm sure they'd equally have a good record. I mean look at the semis, it was 3 out of 4 teams were european. Top 10 Europe v Top 10 South American, there's only one winner for me.

    Eg
    Spain v Argentina
    Germany v Brazil
    England v Uruguay
    Italy v Chile
    Portugal v Colombia
    Netherlands v Ecuador
    France v Paraguay
    Russia v Peru
    Sweden v Venezuela
    Czech Republic v Bolivia

  • Comment number 26.

    @24

    And he's away, off on his customary anti UK & Europe crusade.

  • Comment number 27.

    Ahhh Pele. Give it up mate. Obviously it is difficult to compare players from different eras but even the most avid Pele fan (including himself) would have to admit that Messi is his modern day equivalent.

    The standard of La Liga and the Champions League was proportionately well beyond anything Pele played in domestically - only a total fool (i.e. Pele) would argue otherwise.

  • Comment number 28.

    The current state of the Argentina NT is why Messi will never win a WC.
    But seriously thought, how does anyone expect Messi to carry a team with a none existent midfield and weak defence to WC glory??

    If you look at teams like Spain and Germany for example, they don't do well because of one single star in their respective teams, instead they do well collectively as a team. Note the world TEAM.

    Apart from their attacking threat and Mascherano as a DM, none of the other team members in the Argentine team are really house-hold names in world football.
    Now compare this with players playing for Spain, Germany, England, Holland and France for example. we talking here about some the best goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders in game.

    I'm both a Barcelona and Messi fan and although I hate to say it but "Messi will not win a WC with the current Argentina squad".

    People always claim that because Argentina has the deadliest strike force amongst other national teams, by pointing out the like of Aguero, Tevez, Di Maria, Higuain, etc. therefore they should be world beaters by that logic, that's a flawed argument I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 29.

    28.At 13:18 9th Oct 2012, Tsivoman wrote:
    People always claim that because Argentina has the deadliest strike force amongst other national teams, by pointing out the like of Aguero, Tevez, Di Maria, Higuain, etc. therefore they should be world beaters by that logic, that's a flawed argument I'm afraid.
    __________________

    SAbella should ask Fergie on how to adapt his customary 4-0-6 formation! Perhaps Sabs can adopt his own 4-1-5 formation

    Mascherano
    Tevez, Higuain, Messi, Aguero, Di Maria

  • Comment number 30.

    27.At 13:17 9th Oct 2012, SCL wrote:
    ________________

    Pele just gets fed up with sycophants calling Messi the greatest ever player because he's scoring for fun in a 2 team league for one of the best club sides ever assembled. Pele has a point that he and others with the greatest ever mantle have managed to sustain a high level of performance for a number of different teams, messi has so far done it with one, albeit spectacularly. Messi is the best of his generation, but has a long way to go before he earns the "greatest ever" moniker.

  • Comment number 31.

    @28
    I think you are too harsh on Argentina.

    I would say that their attack is the world's best, while their midfield is about fifth or sixth best (Masccherano, Banega, Gago, di Maria) and their defence is about the same.

    But the key is that they are at least twelve months further advanced in the assembly of their 2014 eleven than any European side. England is fairly typical: at the Euros they used veterans like Terry, Cole and Gerrard rather than 2014 possibles like Jones, Bertrand and Cleverley.

    Sabella gets sixteen really tough competitive matches to build his team for 2014. In contrast, the European teams are still practically fielding their 2010 sides, while most African sides are in disarray.

    Anyone who knocks out Argentina in 2014 is highly likely to win the World Cup.

  • Comment number 32.

    @27
    Let me enlighten you if you've maybe missed it. Pele played with the best assembled Brazilian teams of his time, therefore your arguments is mute.

    The only argument that can be made is regarding Maradona, who ALMOST single-handedly carried Argentina to WC glory in '86. ALMOST is this case means he did not take the ball from his keeper every match to score goals but that he carried the team to glory with his extraordinary exploits.

    What Maradona did with Argentina in '86 will never be achieved again by any other player in the modern game.

  • Comment number 33.

    31.At 13:37 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    "while their midfield is about fifth or sixth best (Masccherano, Banega, Gago, di Maria) and their defence is about the same." - I call you! Name the other 4/5 midfields & defences better than Argentina?

  • Comment number 34.

    32.At 13:38 9th Oct 2012, Tsivoman wrote:
    "The only argument that can be made is regarding Maradona, who ALMOST single-handedly carried Argentina to WC glory in '86. ALMOST is this case means he did not take the ball from his keeper every match to score goals but that he carried the team to glory with his extraordinary exploits."
    ____________________

    I think you need to enlighten yourself, you do a massive injustice to the likes of Passarella, Kempes etc
    Argentina did not have a Brazil 1970 side, but it was not a side full of average players + Maradona.

  • Comment number 35.

    Every comment Pele makes actually makes me cringe. If only he had the same class off the pitch as he did on it.

    People talk of Messi needing a definitive World Cup to be truly great, but does anyone, anywhere nowadays think World Cups are anything close to Champions League in quality? Yes, Pele won three world cups, but Garrincha ran the show in 1962 when Pele was injured, and in 1970 that Brazil side was winning the World Cup if Pele had stayed in bed. In 1958 he didn't score in the group stages, but got an impressive five goals in the semi and final - both times he scored when Brazil had already scored twice and we're in control. I'm not denigrating his achievements, he's one of the best ever - but we've all become so indoctrined to this mantra 'Pele was the greatest' (promoted mainly by Pele and his vast array of sponsors), that no one is allowed to question it without being shot down. Was he better definitively better day in day out at club level than Di Stefano or Maradona or Zidane? I'm not entirely convinced. And perhaps the fact his career goals tally seems to now include goals scored in his back garden and his dreams further undermines his credibility...

  • Comment number 36.

    Brilliant article on the real super clasico of the Americas: Argentina v. Uruguay - http://www.lacelesteblog.com/?p=7132

    Quite Frankly, Argentina v. Brazil is like Manchester United v. Arsenal in the 90s. Uruguay v. Argentina is really the Liverpool v. Manchester. Over 100 years of brilliant footballing epics. Possibly the most iconic international derby in the history of football. Love it. Can't wait to see this titanic clash. For those in the UK, it would be if Scotland won 1 World Cup, 5 Euros, and multiple Champions League with that population. I think their lack of doing anything significant on the world stage has contributed to England's general indifference towards them.

  • Comment number 37.

    Populations of South America's "holy trinity"
    Argentina- 40 million
    Brazil- 200 million
    Uruguay- 3 million

    Stats for all 3 Super Derbies:

    Statistics
    -Argentina vs. Brazil-
    - 10 Copa Americas were settled between these two nations: 1921, 1925, 1937, 1945, 1946, 1957, 1959, 1991, 2004, 2007. Argentina won 8 and Brazil won 2.
    - Other FIFA World Cup Matches- 4: 1974, 1978, 1982, 1990. Brazil won 2, Argentina won 1 and they drew 1.


    -Argentina vs. Uruguay-
    - 3 FIFA World Cup/Championships final were settled between these two nations: 1924, 1928 and 1930. Uruguay won all 3.
    - 12 Copa Americas were settled between these two nations: 1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1935, 1941, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967. Uruguay won 10 and Argentina won 2.
    - Other FIFA World Cup Matches- 1 : 1986 FIFA World Cup- Won by Argentina 1-0.
    - Copa America record- Argentina= 13 wins, Uruguay= 13 wins. Draws= 4.


    Uruguay v. Brazil is probably the best derby of the 3 IMO. So much history and so many consistent epics over the century.

  • Comment number 38.

    @33
    Is it your argument then that Argentina can match either Spain or Germany with midfield or defence?
    I would go as far as saying England and Uruguay boosts a better defence than that of Argentina.

  • Comment number 39.

    19.At 12:21 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    What's up with Tim, he seems very tetchy today....you got owned by him, and now another poster on here as well!!
    __________________________________

    I didnt get owned , he showed himself up.

    Just because I have a different opinion to him about the qualifying format he resorted to a belittling comment.

    The qualifiers are devalued due to the amount of players used. Better to extend the pre tournament get together to 6 weeks and they can play friendlies to their hearts content, and with the actual players who will compete.

  • Comment number 40.

    Pele for me will always be 'the best ever' because I was just nine for the 70 WC - such an impressionable age! Plus, I'd never seen the likes of Puskas, Di Stefano, Edwards etc etc. It's perfectly valid for today's generation to talk up Messi as 'de best EVAR!' without having to contrast and compare to other incumbents (Pele, Maradona). Let every generation have their dreamboat!

    And as #35 alludes to ..... you've never actually seen the world's best ever player ..... I only perform in my dreams!!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    @35
    I couldn't have said it better myself.

  • Comment number 42.

    32.At 13:38 9th Oct 2012, Tsivoman wrote:
    What Maradona did with Argentina in '86 will never be achieved again by any other player in the modern game.
    __________________________________

    I think you are probably right.

  • Comment number 43.

    Repo, don't you think that if you cut the number of competitive games , the likes of Brazil and Argentina will just fill it with money spinning friendlies instead all over the globe, which don't contribute anything to building team spirit under pressure and developing tactics, but are equally tiring in terms of travel no matter where the majority of players are based.

    It doesn't mean that cos you're not english that you don't blindly support a top 4 EPL team without knowing the history of the league it plays in (that's what global brand marketing is all about and apparently very successful from Asia to the Americas), but fair play to you if you picked a team (in England or in your home country) when you were young and stuck to it through thick and thin. It's a rare attitude these days.

    I hope Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile qualify. Of the remaining teams for the playoff spot, I reckon Venezuela could take it this time. Or Peru or Ecuador; most likely the latter will come 5th and win the playoff thanks to their more recent world cup experience.

  • Comment number 44.

    @34

    Passarella and Kempes was 1978 World Cup Finals, not 1986......no disservice done!

  • Comment number 45.

    kngjrdn, I am truly proud in my soul that England was the only nation on Earth supporting Ghana's disgraceful run to the Quarters. I was living in Australia at the time, and they were being torn to shreds. The diving, the whining, the dirty play, the LUCK vs. Serbia and Australia (both completely undeserved wins). Finally the way they flat out cheated America in the 2nd round was one of my top 5 most disgraceful world cup performances ever. As the Brits say: "shocking" haha.

    Seeing a legendary football nation like Uruguay take them out (especially in another one of their famous "great escapes"), was truly a service to the world. Also South America exploded in celebration in unison unlike ever in in history. Guess they're the most sympathetic of the big 3 (Arg and Bra being the other 2).

  • Comment number 46.

    25. At 13:03 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:

    Top 10 Europe v Top 10 South American, there's only one winner for me.
    -----------

    This seems a little bit unfair, as the number of countries are no where close to each other. The top ten in Europe equates to all the nations in South America. Why did you not choose say the top two or three in each region for the analysis.

    I myself do not have the best way for judging. But since in other sectors, the use of averages seems the best. Then i will propose the same in this case, that you add up the performances of all nations in each of the two continents and divide it by the number of nations in those respective regions.

    In this way all the nations in the region will have been included in the analysis. And without doubt the obvious winner will be the South Americans. For us in Africa, we will be trailing far behind, hope we are third though.

  • Comment number 47.

    43.At 14:10 9th Oct 2012, RoverOnTour wrote:
    Repo, don't you think that if you cut the number of competitive games , the likes of Brazil and Argentina will just fill it with money spinning friendlies

    I hope Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile qualify.
    __________________________________________________

    Definately , but those money spinning friendlies are always played in Europe.

    Talking of money spinning friendlies an interesting thing about the "winter break" argument is that some countries in Europe that currently have one also arrange money spinning friendlies within that fortnight. So the players do not actually get a rest.

    On the qualifiers , I hope those 4 get through as well.

  • Comment number 48.

    40.At 14:06 9th Oct 2012, celery_shtick wrote:
    Pele for me will always be 'the best ever' because I was just nine for the 70 WC - such an impressionable age!
    ____________________________

    Ha , Ha I was 10 years old.

    But why does everyone forget about Eusebio ?
    He had a better goals per game ratio than Pele , plus he could dominate games from midfield to attack just like Maradona.

  • Comment number 49.

    @33 ESG
    The teams which I think have better midfields and defences than Argentina?

    Best midfields:
    1. Spain, 2. Ghana, 3. Germany, 4. Brazil, 5. France, 6. Argentina, 7. Uruguay, 8. Belgium, 9. Japan, 10. Italy.

    Best defences:
    1. Spain, 2. Italy, 3. Brazil, 4. Portugal, 5. France, 6. Argentina, 7. Germany, 8. Uruguay, 9. England, 10. Belgium

    For the sake of completeness, I will add......

    Best attacks:
    1. Argentina, 2. Uruguay, 3. Spain, 4. Brazil, 5. Colombia, 6. Belgium, 7. Peru, 8. Germany, 9. France, 10. Italy.

    I suspect I might just provoke a touch of criticism there.........

  • Comment number 50.

    38.At 14:02 9th Oct 2012, Tsivoman wrote:
    @33
    Is it your argument then that Argentina can match either Spain or Germany with midfield or defence?
    I would go as far as saying England and Uruguay boosts a better defence than that of Argentina.
    ______________________

    I quoted Yakubusdiet.......he made hte grand statement that Argentina have the 5/6th best defence & midfield. I am curious as to which teams are better.

    I think there are a few that have better midfields and defences.

  • Comment number 51.

    45. At 14:12 9th Oct 2012, foxfang4 wrote:
    Ghana's disgraceful run to the Quarters. The diving, the whining, the dirty play, the LUCK
    --------

    And what was the disgraceful aspect of Ghana's run to the QF. And what Suarez did was glorious? And that was a service done to the world? And what makes you think am English?

  • Comment number 52.

    49.At 14:27 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    Best attacks:
    1. Argentina, 2. Uruguay, 3. Spain,
    ______________________________

    Spain do not play with an attack :D

  • Comment number 53.

    49.At 14:27 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    The teams which I think have better midfields and defences than Argentina?
    ____________________

    I can only do a tribute to patches :bangsheadontable: :shakeshead: :smacksheadwithpalm: D'oh

    "I suspect I might just provoke a touch of criticism there........." - I wonder whether you have approached it seriously or whether you have done so to spark controversy?

    I know you like Ghana, but come on. No Russia in there? I'd have them as top 10 for midfield. ;)

  • Comment number 54.

    53.At 14:32 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    I know you like Ghana, but come on. No Russia in there? I'd have them as top 10 for midfield. ;)
    ______________________

    You wont be saying that late on Friday night when Moutinho , Mereiles , and Veloso rip you apart.
    1 -3 to the tugas :)

  • Comment number 55.

    I would argue that Spain prove the old adage that defence begins in attack. The pressing of their front players and midfielders does much of the job before the ball gets near to their defence. Man for man, Casillas apart, I don't think Spain has the best defence in the world. Italy is the master of defence and I would argue England deserves a higher ranking in defence. Top 5 for me, for positioning, courage and effort. Take a mark or two off for propensity to launch long balls out of defence without thinking.

    On a side note, when France are playing England, their best midfielder is always Stevie G. He has a world class defence splitting pass, made to measure for Thierry Henry and co. Oops, wrong defence Steve.

  • Comment number 56.

    39.At 14:03 9th Oct 2012, repo wrote:
    The qualifiers are devalued due to the amount of players used. Better to extend the pre tournament get together to 6 weeks and they can play friendlies to their hearts content, and with the actual players who will compete.
    __________________

    ON the contrary, as "Timbo" pointed out (I agree with him) it has raised the competitiveness of the likes of Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay etc.

    Why play pointless friendlies instead of competitive matches?

  • Comment number 57.

    54.At 14:34 9th Oct 2012, repo wrote:
    53.At 14:32 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    I know you like Ghana, but come on. No Russia in there? I'd have them as top 10 for midfield. ;)
    ______________________

    You wont be saying that late on Friday night when Moutinho , Mereiles , and Veloso rip you apart.
    1 -3 to the tugas :)
    _______________________
    With advocaat I could have foreseen that, with capello, I'm sure we'll be more compact and better defensively. I see a 1-1 draw.

  • Comment number 58.

    46.At 14:14 9th Oct 2012, kngjrdn wrote:
    I myself do not have the best way for judging. But since in other sectors, the use of averages seems the best. Then i will propose the same in this case, that you add up the performances of all nations in each of the two continents and divide it by the number of nations in those respective regions.
    ______________________

    Well that's a silly thing to do! I'm not sure how you can do that? I still think Europe would come out on top simply by the number of finalists & winners have been european.

    The difference is that in europe at any one time you have at least 6 "superpowers", in South America you have 2, and occassionally Uruguay / Colombia. There's a big difference.

  • Comment number 59.

    57.At 14:39 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    With advocaat I could have foreseen that, with capello, I'm sure we'll be more compact and better defensively. I see a 1-1 draw.
    __________________________________

    Only if Bruno Alves has been given more Roubles to give away a penalty :)

  • Comment number 60.

    49. At 14:27 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    ----------

    What was the basis of the decision you arrived at?
    Best Attack: Is it Goals scored, chances created or what?
    Best Defence: Is it Goals conceded, or what?
    Best Midfield: Is it Chances created, Goals created, or what?

    A little explanation will help us all.

    I love it though when ever Ghana comes up in your analysis although i do not agree with them most of the time.

  • Comment number 61.

    58.At 14:43 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    The difference is that in europe at any one time you have at least 6 "superpowers"
    _____________________________________

    6 is stretching it , maybe 3 or 4.

    At the moment you have Spain and Germany , the others are at least one notch down from those two.

  • Comment number 62.

    56.At 14:37 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    Why play pointless friendlies instead of competitive matches?
    ______________________________________________

    I think you missed the point. Playing a group of games just before a major tournament with the squad who will play in that tournament is more beneficial than playing a qualifier 2 years earlier with some players that will not make the final squad.

  • Comment number 63.

    kngjrdn,

    Ah. What a magical moment that was. To see Australians/Mexicans/Spaniards/...anything you can name, at 6 am literally run out of my apartment building celebrating Gyan's miss was one of the most thrilling moments of my footballing life. The videos of people all over South America (roughly 400 million people) losing it too is very touching. Personally, Suarez's sacrifice has gone down (outside of England, but who cares lol) as one of the all time greatest world cup moments. In a way, it would have been sad to end the game with that pen after Addiyah blatantly (shockingly) dove to get said free kick that led to that play. :)

    I don't know. I remember just thinking: "Uruguay have too much history. The jersey is too important to go out like this to the likes of this random lot". Suarez's celebration post kick is still one of my all time (top 3) most emotional football sights. Also the shootout was amazing, and Abreu (a very average player) reaching legendary heights in South America, on the level of Ronaldo and Maradona with that cheeky chip....I mean....how can 1 match have so many iconic/legendary all time moments?

    Brilliant :)
    You keep hating mate :D

  • Comment number 64.

    58. At 14:43 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    Well that's a silly thing to do! I'm not sure how you can do that? I still think Europe would come out on top simply by the number of finalists & winners have been european.
    ---------------

    Even using what you said, which is the winners. Europe has 10 victories divided by the 50+ countries and south America has 9 victories divided by 10 countries. Who do you think will come out on top.

    Again, Since world cup is the yardstick, simply assign points to winners, finalist, semifinalist, etc, from all world cups with the winners having the highest mark and the non-qualified nations having the lowest mark. So each nation has points attached to their names. Add those points for each respective continent and divide it the number of nations.

    Fifa itself has a ranking system with points attached to those rankings. So simply pick all the points for European teams divided the number of countries in Europe and the same should be done for South America.

    So Mr. ESG, the idea is not silly, it can be done.

  • Comment number 65.

    BTW, title stats between Argentina and Uruguay (title history)
    -TITLES-

    ARGENTINA
    Population 40 million
    - 2x FIFA world Cups
    - 2x Olympic Champions
    - 14x Copa Americas
    - 1x FIFA Confederations Cup
    - 4x FIFA World Cup Semi Finalists

    URUGUAY
    3 Million people
    - 2x FIFA World Cups
    - 2x Olympic Gold Medals
    - 15x Copa Americas
    - 1x FIFA World Cup Winners Cup (1980)- Official predecessor to Confederations Cup
    - 5x FIFA World Cup Semi Finalists
    * Hosts and Winners of First FIFA World Cup


    Amazing both. Is there a derby on earth more storied and prestigious? Brilliant.

  • Comment number 66.

    well, I am not sure it should not be called "superclássico".

    A "clássico" is basically a derby, although in reality any game between two big teams, with plenty of history and trophies, is considered a "clássico".

    a super clássico doesnt mean at all a GOOD GAME, filled with stars. It means ONLY that is game with intense rivalry between two teams with plenty of history.

    A GreNal is a GreNal, and a FlaFlu is a FlaFlu, no matter the clubs have wonderful teams and are at the top of the table or are weak teams struggling against relegation.


    Same thing with Brazil - Argentina games. They are superclássicos no matter how good the current teams are.

  • Comment number 67.

    @60 Totally agree about Ghana. They're not even a patch on their fellow african Cameroon teams of the 1990 world cup and for the early 2000s, let alone a top world power. Athleticism and power just puts them in the same category as most of the european teams that qualify.

  • Comment number 68.

    59.At 14:45 9th Oct 2012, repo wrote:
    57.At 14:39 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    With advocaat I could have foreseen that, with capello, I'm sure we'll be more compact and better defensively. I see a 1-1 draw.
    __________________________________

    Only if Bruno Alves has been given more Roubles to give away a penalty :)
    ________________________

    Your U-21s didn't do so well in a group with Russia.......

  • Comment number 69.

    The real Super Clasico is the Boca vs River derby in Buenos Aires. If not, why else did I have to pay 60 quid for my ticket...... Oh yeah, marketing.

  • Comment number 70.

    60.At 14:46 9th Oct 2012, kngjrdn wrote:
    What was the basis of the decision you arrived at?
    ________________________

    There are no basis to his decisions. He claimed that Ghana would dominate possession in most midfields, yet they couldn't do it against a serbian side.

  • Comment number 71.

    62.At 14:53 9th Oct 2012, repo wrote:
    56.At 14:37 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:
    Why play pointless friendlies instead of competitive matches?
    ______________________________________________

    I think you missed the point. Playing a group of games just before a major tournament with the squad who will play in that tournament is more beneficial than playing a qualifier 2 years earlier with some players that will not make the final squad.
    __________________________

    But how is it more beneficial playing pointless friendlies that do not mean anything?

    It's like saying scrap the EPL and get top 10 to play each other to focus on CL, then play friendlies for remainder.

  • Comment number 72.

    64.At 15:00 9th Oct 2012, kngjrdn wrote:
    So each nation has points attached to their names. Add those points for each respective continent and divide it the number of nations.
    ___________________

    That's incredibly silly. Europe has more nations so of course on the rankings it will come out lower. It's simple maths. Doing it over WC performance shows the same thing, europe wins because of its numbers.

    There are simply more better teams in europe. It's as simple as that.

  • Comment number 73.

    My nom de plume should show that I derive no pleasure in recognising Ghana's midfield as the second best in the world.

    But even now in 2012, what's left of Essien has displaced Khedira at Real Madrid, and when you add Asamoah, Boateng, Annan, Muntari and Ayew you have an awesome midfield.

    The purpose of my lists was to be thought-provoking, but also to show that Argentina's midfield and even defence are still right up there. If those departments can gel, Messi could drive them to glory in 2014. Consider Schweinsteiger's comments about Germany today: noone would argue that Germany's defence is significantly better than Argentina's, yet he is arguing that more respect is deserved.

  • Comment number 74.

    Di maria not on nani's level? I am sorry that statement though just an opinion is incredible to me. Di maria might be lightweight but he is a very hard worker and has amazing skills. I personally think that in the Argentina set up, Messi aside he is the one with the most ability. He makes as many assists as Messi does for Argentina but he is not a media darling like Messi so he does not get the praise that he deserves.

    The 1 annoying thing about him though is that he goes to the ground far too easily as bad as any footballer playing today but i would take him over Nani every day of the week plus overtime

  • Comment number 75.

    73.At 15:27 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    My nom de plume should show that I derive no pleasure in recognising Ghana's midfield as the second best in the world.
    _________________

    Your nom de plume is you derive pleasure from making outlandish comments like Ghana's midfield is 2nd best in hte world. It's not even 2nd best in africa!

    Essien has not dislaced Khedira? Who started in El Classico? They're all physical, bar boateng & essien not good at passing. Technical teams like Russia and Spain would simply pass and move the ball around the midfield.

    Who is even in the Argentina defence? Garay? Heinze? Colloccini? Zanetti? Germany's defence ain't the best, but it's a lot better than Argentina. England's would be up there as well.

  • Comment number 76.

    How flipping good are argentina? the article mentions squeezing messi, aguero, higuain and di maria in the same team, but doesn't even mention tevez, pastore, lavezzi, gago, benega, lamela, gaitan.

    what would england give for just one player this good, rather than all the rubbish like terry, rooney, defoe, milner, walcott and fat frank.

  • Comment number 77.

    76.At 15:57 9th Oct 2012, AJC7 wrote:
    what would england give for just one player this good, rather than all the rubbish like terry, rooney, defoe, milner, walcott and fat frank.
    _____________________

    And yet they're ranked higher in the world rankings........

  • Comment number 78.

    49.
    At 14:27 9th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    @33 ESG
    The teams which I think have better midfields and defences than Argentina?

    Best defences:
    1. Spain, 2. Italy, 3. Brazil, 4. Portugal, 5. France, 6. Argentina, 7. Germany, 8. Uruguay, 9. England, 10. Belgium
    _____________________________

    Brazil the third best defence in the world?? I don't think I need to say anything else...

  • Comment number 79.

    which are obviously completely accurate.

  • Comment number 80.

    @49 yakubusdiet

    I've also noticed that you seem to have Belgium as the 8th best team in the world (based on your average of defence, midfield and attack). They are a promising young team but nowhere near 8th best.

  • Comment number 81.

    80.At 16:49 9th Oct 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    @49 yakubusdiet

    I've also noticed that you seem to have Belgium as the 8th best team in the world (based on your average of defence, midfield and attack). They are a promising young team but nowhere near 8th best.
    ____________________

    I have decided to refrain from picking out the many holes in his top teams pick. It's like swiss cheese!!

    I have left it to the rest to do so. I have to give it to Yakubu, he's persistent and he definately brightens up my day with his "opinions" on international football.

  • Comment number 82.

    10. At 11:46 9th Oct 2012, repo wrote:

    The European teams will play 6 games less and it still takes 2 years to wrap up , also 9 times out of 10 the big teams will qualify.

    I cannot see a reaon why they cannot switch to smaller groups like the European format. The other factor is the vast distances the players have to travel as a lot of them are based in Europe.
    _________________________________

    Europe's qualifiers are played from September to November of the following year, how is that TWO years? Better review your math there!

  • Comment number 83.

    I often think Tim wakes up on the wrong side of the bed quite a lot, doesnt really enjoy writing for the BBC and often makes very snappy remarks to those that read and take time to comment on them. Strange really, as most seem to enjoy his blog, especially as its the only blog on the whole ofthe BBC that doesnt focus on the premiership, which to me is ludicrous, you'd find thousands of good writers willing to write for free about the championship, Bundesliga, Serie A etc etc........

  • Comment number 84.

    83.At 17:19 9th Oct 2012, signori wrote:
    _______________________

    I read the Guardian articles, theyre'll all free to read and some good journalism, plus there's a comments blog! ;)

    Jonathan Wilson even does one on Eastern European football. Tim does make me laugh with his snappy comments. I think he gets fed up with people trying to be clever....

  • Comment number 85.

    Interesting point on Pele and the value of his goals. This website showed that he was ranked 3rd in the Big Game Scorers list:

    http://averageopposition.com/2012/09/24/top-50-big-game-scorers-5-1/

    It takes into account the major international and club tournaments - semi finals and finals only. Interestingly, Alberto Spencer was in the Top 10 - legend of the Copa Libertadores.

  • Comment number 86.

    21. At 12:39 9th Oct 2012, jarvish wrote:
    Why not merge the South American and North American federations? Would stop the USA and Mexico getting byes to the World Cup every time - the same should be done with the Asian and Oceania federations as New Zealand now only have to win one match of importance every 4 years to qualify for the World Cup - totally unfair as New Zealand would never qualify if they were in - say - a European qualifying process.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Why not merge Europe and Asia? London to Seoul is actually closer than Toronto to Buenos Aires. According to plate tectonics, Europe is not even separate from Asia. You could say Japan and South Korea are getting byes to the World Cup but then again maybe the likes of Greece and Slovenia would not make it.

    It is not unfair. It happens in most sports. For example, in table tennis at the Olympics each country is only allowed two players. In the male category the top 4 players from China so 2 elite players did not play in Olympics.

    So you say New Zealand would not qualify yet two of your mighty European teams could only manage a draw when they played in the actual World Cup. One needed an offside goal and the other dived to get a penalty.

  • Comment number 87.

    83 and co - sorry if you found above comment snappy - it was not written at all in ill humour - but with a big smile on my face.

    Our correspndent's point did leave an important question open. If the South American qualifiers are to played like the European, over a year and a bit, then what are the continents teams to do while the Europeans are sorting out qualification for the Euros?

    Answer - they will have nothing relevant to do. Think of the consequences of that. No regular competitive fixtures, with the chance that brings to keep a side together. No guaranteed income, to invest in good coaches, training facilities and youth development. It's a back to the stone age suggestion - where the likes of venezuela and ecuador could be found prior to 1996.

  • Comment number 88.

    @ 64 kngjrdn

    "Europe has 10 victories divided by the 50+ countries and south America has 9 victories divided by 10 countries. Who do you think will come out on top."

    Technically, since only around a dozen (13 currently?) European teams can qualify for the World Cup, dividing it by any more than 13 would make a bit of a mockery out of whatever measure you are trying to create here. Similarly, the South American number cannot be divided by any more than the 5 teams who are actually there. Even if every European side were considerably better than every South American side, they could still only have the same number of qualifiers.

    "Again, Since world cup is the yardstick, simply assign points to winners, finalist, semifinalist, etc, from all world cups with the winners having the highest mark and the non-qualified nations having the lowest mark. So each nation has points attached to their names. Add those points for each respective continent and divide it the number of nations."

    This is the most sensible suggestion. All you need is to clarify a points system for win, draw, loss, goals scored, or whatever other factor you consider to be important. However, again, dividing it by the number of nations in the continent as a whole as oppose to how many teams were actually able to compete in the tournament would render whatever output you get as nonsensical.

    "Fifa itself has a ranking system with points attached to those rankings. So simply pick all the points for European teams divided the number of countries in Europe and the same should be done for South America."

    Unfortunately, since the majority of games that European (or other confederations) teams are against other European teams, they are effectively only competing with other European teams in the rankings - with the exception of the World Cup finals. This is one of the many reasons why the FIFA ranking system is fundamentally flawed. A ranking system for each confederation would be much more sensible, but they would probably still mess that up.

    "So Mr. ESG, the idea is not silly, it can be done."

    Yes, it could be done. But I would suggest there should be considerably sounder logic applied to whatever system was used to do it.

  • Comment number 89.

    I am going to the Atahaulpa Stadium on Friday to take in Ecuador vs Chile. It's a holiday weekend to boot so many beers will be had.

    If results go their way on Friday and Tuesday, Ecuador could top the CONMEBOL table and bolster their World Cup qualification chances.

    The coming games against Chile at home then Venezuela in Caracas are not the easiest, but winnable even without some key players.

    Antonio Valencia will sit out the Chile game through suspension and Jairo Campos has ruptured his Achilles but apart from that Ecuador have a full strength squad.

    Christian Noboa returns after suspension and Jefferson Montero is back after missing the game in Uruguay through injury.

    Ecuadorian coach Reinalda Rueda should be aiming for at least 4 points from these two games. In last month’s game against Bolivia is team were fairly dreadful and had to rely on a poor penalty decision to take 3 points. In Montevideo their fortune was reversed and they suffered because of shambolic refereeing display.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/the-cult-of-antonio-valencia/

    If Chile are not careful they could tumble down the table with two tough games against Ecuador then Argentina at home.

    In form Colombia will probably beat Paraguay at home will Bolivia should beat Peru in La Paz.

    The game of the weekend is Argentina vs Uruguay on Friday night. With Messi and Arguero in such good form I think Argentina are going to give them a thumping.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 90.

    @78
    You take issue with my nomination of Brazil as having the world's third best defence.

    I cannot identify a better centre-back than Thiago Silva, or a better right-back than Dani Alves, or a better left-back than Marcelo.

    And even the weak link - David Luiz - would get into any other national team on earth apart from Spain, where he wouldn't displace Sergio Ramos or Piqué.

    As for Belgium, well no European team's 2014 side is yet in place. The question is whether the team can match the sum of its parts. And if it can surpass the sum of its parts, it will have Europe's second best chance of winning the 2014 World Cup.

  • Comment number 91.

    One of the benefits of playing Brazil with a home based squad, well actually South American based as Juan Manuel Martinez of Corinthians, Hernan Barcos of Palmeiras and Pablo Guiñazú of Internacional in Brazil were also called in, is it has given Alejandro Sabella the opportunity to look at some different players. Not only did the 3 Brazilian based players make Argentina's squad for the games at home in Mendoza vs Uruguay and away to Chile but so did a national team newcomer, Velez' right back Gino Peruzzi who got a chance against Brazil. Keep an eye out for this guy, 19 years old and a superb man marker who is improving in his overlapping play. He can be Argentina's right back for years to come.

    This Friday marks the halfway point of qualifying and it has become practically a necessity for both Bolivia and Paraguay to win or else each will have little to play for in the 2nd half of the qualifying schedule. Peru needs points too and likely will go with a majority of home based players used to playing in the altitude of Cuzco or Arequipa when they face Bolivia. The majority of their foreign based players will likely be reserved for next week's game at home to Paraguay, a must win match for them both. An interesting roster move by Peruvian coach Sergio Markarian and one which we do not see often anymore now that most South American national teams are centered around foreign based players not acustomed to regularly playing in altitude.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:
    http://z8.invisionfree.com/Soccer_Futbol_Forum/index.php

  • Comment number 92.

    I made clear earlier that at this stage I consider Belgium to simply be a promising work in progress.

    But they have some notches on their belt already.

    At the 2008 Olympics their side featuring Dembele, Fellaini, Vermaelen, Vetongen and Miralles knocked out an Italy side featuring Giovinco, Montolivo, Criscito, Rossi and Abate. You can add Hazard, Kompany, Lukaku et al to that spine. If those teams do meet in Brazil, I doubt that the Italians would take the pitch assuming their superiority.

    The challenge for Belgium is to get out of a tough qualifying group with a team that is still developing. But if they can qualify, they have a squad of players which is probably second only to Spain in Europe, and which by then would presumably have meshed and developed as a team. A little bit like how Uruguay's 2010 qualifying ordeal built a team that came fourth at the World Cup.

    But promise and achievement are two different entities.

  • Comment number 93.

    90.At 00:13 10th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    ________________________

    "I cannot identify a better centre-back than Thiago Silva" - No but one good player in the team does not mean the rest are amazing! I'd say Hummels, Vidic are as good
    "better right-back than Dani Alves" - Phillip Lahm, Arbeloa, Ramos, Anyukov, Sagna etc
    "or a better left-back than Marcelo." - Are you kidding me? He's not even the best in his own team! Alba, Cole, Lahm, Kolarov etc
    "And even the weak link - David Luiz - would get into any other national team on earth apart from Spain, where he wouldn't displace Sergio Ramos or Piqué." - Errrr no, he woouldn't get ahead of badstuber, either portuguese two, jags, lescott, cahill etc in england, he wouldn't even get ahead of the lumbering berezutskiy twins at Russia, he is THAT bad.

    As for Belgium. On paper they have a good side, but they have so far not shown anything that indicates they have 10th best defence, 8th best midfield and 6th best attack, making them 8th best in the world. one place worse than Italy, the euro champs finalists.

    I just saw your top 10 attack, Peru as 7th???!!!! Based on what???!!! Ahead of Netherlands!!! Dear oh dear.

  • Comment number 94.

    @90 yakubusdiet

    Thiago Silva is a top centre back - no arguement there. Dani Alves at right back is brilliant going forward but not that good defensively. There are many better left backs than Marcelo - Alba, Cole, Lahm for instance. As for Luiz I dont think he would get into any of the top European defences. Certainly not Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal and probably not England.

  • Comment number 95.

    92.
    At 04:19 10th Oct 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:


    I made clear earlier that at this stage I consider Belgium to simply be a promising work in progress.

    But they have some notches on their belt already.

    At the 2008 Olympics their side featuring Dembele, Fellaini, Vermaelen, Vetongen and Miralles knocked out an Italy side featuring Giovinco, Montolivo, Criscito, Rossi and Abate. You can add Hazard, Kompany, Lukaku et al to that spine. If those teams do meet in Brazil, I doubt that the Italians would take the pitch assuming their superiority.

    The challenge for Belgium is to get out of a tough qualifying group with a team that is still developing. But if they can qualify, they have a squad of players which is probably second only to Spain in Europe, and which by then would presumably have meshed and developed as a team. A little bit like how Uruguay's 2010 qualifying ordeal built a team that came fourth at the World Cup.
    ___________________________________

    Ah the old Olympics chesnut. I'm assuming your tipping Mexico to win the World Cup - their sublime victory at London 2012 surely mean their preparations for 2014 are well advanced by now...

  • Comment number 96.

    81.
    At 16:52 9th Oct 2012, Eduard_Streltsov_Ghost wrote:


    80.At 16:49 9th Oct 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    @49 yakubusdiet

    I've also noticed that you seem to have Belgium as the 8th best team in the world (based on your average of defence, midfield and attack). They are a promising young team but nowhere near 8th best.
    ____________________

    I have decided to refrain from picking out the many holes in his top teams pick. It's like swiss cheese!!
    ________________________

    It seems you were not able to refrain for very long ;-)

  • Comment number 97.

    Messi performance can be considered as MIX achievement. Messi, Iniesta and Xavi combination for Barca. The only real individual achievement I can recollect many years back when Maradona after winning world cups moved to an Italian club and made it big with no big stars around him. It is very difficult say who is all time great. Circumstances change every decade. Messi, Ronaldo can compete with Pele and Maradona if they win World Cup for their countries.

  • Comment number 98.

    96.At 09:17 10th Oct 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    It seems you were not able to refrain for very long ;-)
    ______________________

    I'd say a day is long enough!! ;)

    I will be expecting for Yukubu to put all his money on Mexico as they should be clear favourites for WC 2014 following their mauling of Brazil?

  • Comment number 99.

    Uruguay showed at the Olympics that they aren't quite there especially when given that tag of favourites. I think http://www.tfbets.com/ were right when they suggest that there is the potential of a powershift in South America however I'm not totally convinced it will be by WC 2014. All I know is that Neymar will certainly the star if fit. I agree given time Belgium will be the surprise team of the tournament if they can qualify and certainly England have two hopes!!!!!

  • Comment number 100.

    RE: The Pele/Maradona/Messi debate.
    Pele: isn't he just a bit boring, lacking the devil inside? I agree he's an excellent role model, but come on man, look like you live your life, instead of going round making benign rear-kissing predictions about such or such player or team, usually the kiss of death for them. And I agree, undoubtedly very talented but he always played in super star teams. And counting goals from his army matches and exhibition games is embarrassing, what's wrong with him? Does he count goals in Escape to Victory and all the goals during rehearsals for that movie? If he had played in the Sky seniors league, would he have included his goals there too? Desperate. Is it related to Romario having got near his record? Did he suddenly dream up a few hundred extra to keep his legacy safe? Pele has a legacy of goals, and being a nice guy....
    Maradona: certainly from the wrong side of the tracks, but you can't help but smile even when thinking of the Hand of God, cos in the same match he scored one of the best goals ever. He dragged Argentina and Napoli above their level. As Platini said, Maradona could do with an orange what Zidane could do with a regular football.
    Messi has Pele's quieter nature, but Maradona's amazing skills, and who can't say he hasn't proved over and over again his big match scoring record. Every Clasico, many games in the Champions League, and now increasingly at international level. Let's look at his legacy in 2014, not in 5 years time. think it will be pretty complete then.

 

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