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Lessons to learn for Colombia & Ecuador

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Tim Vickery | 08:07 UK time, Monday, 19 October 2009

World Cup qualification in South America came to a close with only one change from the previous two campaigns. Brazil, Paraguay and, in the end, Argentina made it through once again, while Uruguay claimed fifth spot, the play-off position, for the third time running. The sole modification is that Chile have qualified instead of Ecuador.

This brings to a halt - we shall find out if only temporarily - the rise of teams from the north of continent. Colombia made it to the World Cups of 1990, '94 and '98, and Ecuador were at the last two. This time they have missed out, and since the spotlight will be off them for a while, now would seem to be an appropriate moment to have a look at their progress.

In the case of Ecuador, that progress has been immense. There were some depressing scenes just over a week ago after they suffered a last-minute defeat at home to Uruguay. As the players left the pitch they were abused by some of the crowd in Quito.

Supporters everywhere can have short memories, and can be astonishingly quick to take success for granted. It was only 20 years ago that Ecuador were giving signs that they were not merely making up the numbers.

In such a short space it is nothing short of extraordinary that they have been to two World Cups, and performed with honour in both - but problems are now building up.

Ecuador missed out on a place at South Africa 2010Ecuador ended their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 defeat in Chile

The main reason they failed to make it this time was their inability to replace centre-forward Agustin Delgado, who was nicknamed of 'el Tin' but who was worth gold to the team.

He may have had an unhappy spell at Southampton - and we might ask why the club bought him at a time when his knee problems were public knowledge - but Delgado was a class act, capable of grabbing goals from nowhere at the highest level.

In this campaign, Ecuador had plenty of times when the ball was flashing back and forth across the opposing penalty area with no one to apply the finishing touch. Burly Carlos Tenorio's career never quite took off, perhaps due to injuries. And Felipe Caicedo is a frustrating figure, who produces the odd moment of quality on the turn, but supplies little in the penalty area.

Birmingham's Cristian Benitez is dangerous and Jefferson Montero, with his ability to drift past his marker on either flank, is a potential genius. But in addition to the hole at centre-forward, there are problems at the end of the pitch.

The wonderful centre-back partnership of the classy Ivan Hurtado and the gangling Giovanny Espinoza is now past its sell by date. The goalkeepers are closer to 40 than 30, and the current first-choice is a naturalised Argentine.

The team's outstanding midfielder, Edison Mendez, once the baby of the side, has now passed 30. In short, there are plenty of key players who need replacing and with a population of little more than 13 million, this will not be an easy task.

Ecuador's fear, then, is that their successful period might be like that of Peru in the 70s, Colombia in the 90s or even Bolivia in 1994 - one generation and out.

In the case of Colombia the success should have been easier to sustain. Colombia's population is bigger than Argentina's. The country has a number of urban centres with well established clubs. They should be doing better.

For the third successive campaign they finished just off the play-off position, but this was the least convincing of the three. In the previous two they went into the last game with hopes of making it though. But before last Wednesday's win away to Paraguay they were out of the race - and the fact that they won their only away game when already eliminated does not show them in a good light.

ColombiaColombia showed what they are capable of with a 2-0 win over Paraguay in Asuncion

So what has gone wrong? Picking 56 players in 18 games is not a good sign. It seems to indicate that the country produces plenty of players, but they are much of a muchness. Players are not going on to greatness.

When I was in Colombia last year local journalists were stressing their view that too any players lose motivation after signing their first big contract.

I would add that there seems to be an ideological confusion. The fact that they blew up under pressure makes it easy to forget how good the 1994 side really was - their record going into the World Cup was one defeat in 34 games, a run which included a 5-0 win away to Argentina in qualification.

Amid the tragedy of '94, with the execution of Andres Escobar, the trauma went deep. The hypnotic, short passing style of that team appeared discredited, and more physical, less lyrical players were produced.

They have usually persevered with a number 10 figure, to replace the frizzy haired Carlos Valderrama. But they have tended to throw the shirt at Giovanny Hernandez or Macnelly Torres and given them total responsibility for setting up the play.

It is the privatisation of creation - forgetting that the early 90s side were much better at moving the ball collectively. In other words, Valderrama functioned because he was surrounded with players who were on a similar wavelength, with both the technical gifts and the ideological commitment to the short passing game.

To go forward, then, it would be nice to see Colombia take a step backwards and rediscover part of their own footballing identity. A total of 14 goals in 18 rounds of World Cup qualifiers tells its own story.

But there is one country from the north of the continent which is undoubtedly making strides. Venezuela enjoyed their best ever campaign, a last day 0-0 draw away to Brazil leaving them just two points off the play-off position.

Even more impressive is that this year coach Cesar Farias has taken the opportunity to promote several of his Under-20 side, who performed so well recently in the World Youth Cup. Seven of them played at senior level in the qualification campaign - so excellent results have been achieved while renewing the side.

Unfortunately, though, it will not be easy to keep the momentum going - for Venezuela and the other sides who missed out on the World Cup, the next competitive matches are not until the 2011 Copa America, some 20 months away.

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

From last week's postbag:

Q) With the U-20 World Cup just over, and Brazil having lost, I can't help but think many of the team will probably not make it big. Which of the current crop of players who've just played in the U-20's for Brazil do you feel are destined for a big future in the game?

A) I think they were unlucky to lose, but that's not the point really - the objective is to develop players for the future of the senior side. Who might get there? The captain Giuliano is an excellent midfielder, talented and versatile and I can see him making the grade. Alex Teixeira was the star turn in Egypt, with some magic moments in one against one situations - we'll have to see with him, but he's certainly one to follow. The big centre back Rafael Toloi is a good prospect, and I was very impressed by the way that keeper Rafael recovered from a howler against Australia.

Q) I am a Liverpool and was delighted to see Insua get recognition for his good start to season with his first call up and cap for Argentina.
My question is what was your opinion of how he got on?
Did he get much press back in Argentina before / after the call up? I guess being in the same side as the Argentine captain would have helped?
Ben Lewis-Bloor

A) He's known in Argentina mostly for his displays at under-20 level. He played in the side that won the 2007 World Youth Cup and was captain of the side that failed dismally to qualify for this year's version - where he played at centre back as well as left-back.

To be honest, I thought his selection in the home game against Peru was one of Maradona's more bizarre decisions. It was a game where he needed an attacking presence from his full-backs - Datolo of Napoli could have supplied it, but after scoring two in three games he was dropped and Insua came in. The problem with Insua, I think, is that at the top level he lacks pace at full-back, and is not commanding enough for centre-back.

Maradona now has to sift through his options and focus on a squad for the World Cup. It wouldn't surprise me, given the lack of top quality full-backs (both flanks) if he goes with a back three. Insua might come into contention as the left-sided centre-back, though I think it's unlikely. Maradona is a big Heinze fan, and that would seem to be his position.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well done Tim, in-depth analysis of the ones that failed to make it, rather than going for a tabloid-esque blog on Maradona's open invitation to supply him oral pleasure. Great to see you resist that temptation (writing about it that is ;) ).

  • Comment number 2.


    Brilliant piece once again as usual. just got a quick question- I learnt the preent AFA president has neever sacked the national team manager, instead most of them choose to resign. What are the views of the Argentine, are they happy to see Maradna lead them to the next world cup? Do you think Maradona would be the Manager come 2010 cos I can see nothing but anihilation for that team if the play the likes of Brazil, Spain or Germany in the world cup.

  • Comment number 3.


    Do you think it's a case of when the country is doing well all efforts go on that generation and not on the next?

    Only when countries and indeed clubs are forced to look to the next batch they will which has resulted in the inevitable peaks and troughs in the game.

  • Comment number 4.

    I echo number 1's praise - coverage of the Argentine soap opera has been overwhelming and it was refreshing to see someone take a step back and look at other aspects of the South American qualifying campaign.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great piece, as usual, Tim.

    From what I saw of Colombia in the qualifiers, they were not clinical enough in front of goal.

    Some ex-Colombain players I know, who are doing a coaching course in Argentina, feel that Colombian football is regressing - they reckon too much emphasis being placed on the physical side of the game, and not enough on technique and skill - especially in kids coaching.

    All seems a long way off from those carefree days of Valderama, Asprilla and Freddy Rincon.

    I find it sad, because the manager of that great early 90's Colombian team, Carlos Maturana, was a man with a very clear football philosophy, but now his ideas seem to be considered out of date in the modern football.I read an interview with Maturana in an Argentinian paper a year or two, and got the impression that he was struggling to find a job in football.

    Anyone know where he is now?

    On another note - While, it's true that, as you say, the usual teams qualified, do you not think that the gaps in terms of quality have narrowed?

    I mean, points-wise, it was all quite close, with positions constantly changing throughout the campaign, with only two (Brazil & Paraguay) sealing their qualification before the last round of matches (the last FIFA international week of the campaign/last 2 games). That hasn't happened before, has it? - since the one group format began.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Tim,
    The decline of Columbia is sad to see especially as they were a great team to watch in the 90s.
    Also, I wanted to ask about Paraguay and Chile and how far you think they are capable of going in next years world cup?

  • Comment number 7.

    #2 He may have "requested the resignation" of a couple though.

    another good article Tim. It's obvious why, but it's felt very international-led for a while now, what's going on in the domestic game?

    Also, I came across an article from 2007 of yours regarding Lucas, has your view of him changed considering his recent travails at Liverpool.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great Blog Tim - good insight in the woe's at Columbia and really sad considering the magic that Valderama and Asprilla produced.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice article which indirectly highlights the great accomplishment of Paraguay, a country with only 6 million people. The Albirroja is heading to their 4th successive Fifa World Cup. The new generation of players picked up where the one led by Jose Chilavert left.

  • Comment number 10.

    countries who do not maintain a naturally competetive domestic league, will always struggle in the long run. their generation has now passed, and even if they did make the finals, like in 2002 & 2006 for ecuador, and 90,94 and 98 for columbia, they would be in no way equipped to challenge for the trophy.

    nbody will miss them from the tournament, another distinctly average team (chile) will take their place. good in qualification poor in tournament. it happens in europe too. will switzerland challenge for the final...i doubt it.

  • Comment number 11.

    Colombia's main reason for not qualifying is the statistics. 18 matches played, 14 scored with 8 matches were they failed to hit the back of the net. Although if you look at their defensive record its fairly decent compared to the others who missed out.

    I personally think they've sacrificed a bit of the flair and attacking dynamism that made them a joy to watch in the 90's and now are a hollow shell of that side that thrashed Argentina in Buenos Aries in '93. They need both a reinvention of their style of play, going back to playing a bit more open attacking football and avoiding the closed defensive style, perhaps try and discover a bit more adventure in their play.

    I'm really looking forward to Venezuela in the 2014 qualifiers though and I'm really glad you ended your piece on them Tim. They have steadily improved over the last decade and seem to have in place a good new generation of players to slot inside along the veteran campaigners like Arango, Rey, Rondon and Maldonado. They will be threat in three years time, absolutely no question about it.

    One thing which you have missed out though is that for the next cycle of World Cup Qualifiers, Brazil will not be there so this perhaps opens up the group a little and gives teams like Venezuela a greater chance over 16 games then it does over 18.

  • Comment number 12.


    "nbody will miss them from the tournament"

    I really hate it when people make such stupid comments. It shows a lot of disrespect.

  • Comment number 13.

    It is a shame Ecuador didn't make it as they're a team I like. That Colombia team circa 1993/1994 was also class act but as you say Tim they have slipped quite badly over the years and I don't think they were ever going to make it to 2010.

    What about the problems in Peru? I was out there just over a year ago and the national team was in turmoil for all sorts of reasons both on and off the field. I wrote an article about it at the time:

    Do you think once the banned players are back and the off the pitch stuff is sorted they will be okay Tim, or are the problems deeper than that? They don't seem to have the pool of talent these days that's for sure.

  • Comment number 14.

    Good blog Tim, but I have to say I'm suprised you didn't say anything bout Maradona's potty mouth! (not that you needed to).

    I hope you can also comment on Honduras; little nation, but made it to the world cup. And they have quite decent players, some winning rave reviews in the EPL such as Hendry Thomas, Maynor Figueroa, Wilson Palacios, and outside the EPL David Suazo (feel free to add any others!) What's their secret of success?

  • Comment number 15.

    Now that Chile have qualified, can you tell us more about them? Have they a pair like partnership Salas and Zamorano in 98?

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm very glad that people seem to have accepted the premise of this article - I've done loads on Maradona lately, and there will be plenty of chances to do more onhim in the months ahead - but now is the most relevant time to havea look at some that didn't qualify.

    Honduras is off my patch - i did watch open mouthed as they eat Brazil in the 2001 Copa America and I've regarded them as a sleeping giant - i'm very happy for their colombian coach rueda, a serious bloke.

    Peru's problems go very deep indeed - bnning some of their top players from the national team was a symptom rather than a cause of their woes.
    And Chile average? No way. A Marcelo Bielsa side is never average - 2 wingers, 3 up front, lots of attacking presence, won 5 of ther 9 away games - will light up the World Cup, though the doubts are about whether they can defend.

  • Comment number 17.


    Plus, to me, Ecuador were one of the most exciting teams in Germany 2006. They tore apart Poland when no one expected it.

  • Comment number 18.

    ALIMANA - ok, the neutral will not miss them from the tournament. as a team of footballers, i do not see them offering any more of a challenge than chile, they will not progress past the 2nd round. I would put my house on that.

    Not disrespectful, the truth. What difference does it make if France, Germany, Brazil, England, knock Chile out, or Ecuador out?

  • Comment number 19.


    The great difference with the ZASA team and this one is that the current one is more complete and don't depend on just two great players.

  • Comment number 20.

    Although Honduras is off your patch, thanks for your reply Tim!

  • Comment number 21.

    you mentioned "local journalists were stressing..." do you ever run into valdererrama during your work? what does HE think? is he involved w/ the national team program?

  • Comment number 22.

    #18 If the French make it, Ireland is a very tough draw.

  • Comment number 23.

    There has been a ton of talk in Colombia about hiring a foreign coach for the national team. The proponents of such an idea argue that it would be the only way to keep "business-influences" away from the selection process. Personally, I'm not really sure if bringing in an Argentine, Brazilian or even European coach will guarantee a truly unbiased "seleccion". I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    I think that a huge problem has been the lack of continuity of both players and a coach (getting rid of Rueda a few years ago was a huge mistake as demonstrated by what he's done with Honduras). Also, I'm afraid that the talent is not there anymore. I think Cordoba is the only player currently active in one of the "big" teams (Inter), and he is not a starter anymore. Rodallega, arguably our best striker, plays for Wigan (no offence to Latics fans out there). Oh, sorry, forgot about Falcao at Porto...
    Are there any players that in your mind were not given a fair chance that could've made a difference this time around?

    Finally, I'm taking up any recommendations on who I should support in SA next year. Anybody...? I'll take the Swiss if nothing is suggested.



  • Comment number 24.

    Danny, Ghana! Surely the outside tip for the tournament.

  • Comment number 25.

    Tim, I’m really pleased that you mentioned Giulliano and Rafael Tolói in your postbag section because it shows that we at FootBrazil are on the right track! We feature these two players plus Sandro Ranieri (Inter), Boquita (Corinthians), and De Souza (Palmeiras) in our Brazil: the talent factory 2009 feature in this week’s programme. For those unfortunates who can’t get FootBrazil, I’ll be posting the video sometime in the next week or so.

  • Comment number 26.

    5 - excellent to see somone paying tribute to the one big group format of world cup qualification - it's been a major turning point in south american football - it's given the less traditional teams the structure that eurpean national sides take for granted - regular competetive games.

    before the format was introduced, ecuador had only ever won 5 world cup qualifiers. I agree entirely - as a result of this format and the opportunities for the weak to grow, things have never been closer or more competetive.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm excited to see Paraguay in action at the WC.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Tim,

    It is a sad blow for Ecuador, however, it will be interesting to see how a struggling Argentina fair and who will be in charge at SA 2010.

    Kee up the good work,

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim, I think from your analysis it shows that it is very competitive in South American football and teams have to stay focussed all the time especially given that they are already two big power houses in Brazil and Argentina and the rest of the teams are more or less fighting for the remaining 2 and a half places.

    But it would be good also to see the likes of Venezuela on the big stage and that could be possible with Brazil hosting and hence one extra place.

  • Comment number 30.

    What do you make of Neymar's development? Can he go on to become as good as Robinho or better? I'm looking forward to watching him & Phillipe Coutinho in the U-17 World Cup later this month.

  • Comment number 31.


    I am dumbfounded that you, of all bloggers in BBC, would blurt out "the execution of Andres Escobar" in such tasteless and careless fashion. You mention it as casually as Tin Delgado's English career - a mere anecdote that may or may not be relevant to your argument.

    Fifteen years later, it is still a delicate and sensitive subject that saddens most Colombians. Who cares about football, the world cup, or whatever effect it had on the national team? A life was lost in a horrible murder that also killed a little part of a country.

    May Andres Escobar rest in peace and his memory and legacy preserved and respected.

  • Comment number 32.

    31 - there us nothing tastless, careless or blurted out about the refernce to andres escobar - nothing at all that i have written that denigrates his memory.

    this is not a book, it's a blog. this is in fact the longest one i've written, in order to fit in venezuela as well as ecuador and colombia. originally i was asked to do 350-500 words - i've managed to up that to 900 on occasions - i think this one tops the 1000 mark.

    it's an overview of 3 different countries, and in the space available it is simply not possible to explore every avenue and possibility that a blog raises. the metnion of the escobar incident is a refernce, in passing, to the chaotic situation of colombia at the time, of which he was a victim. it's a huge part of the trauma of 94 and as such relevant terrain for an overview piece of this nature.

    you could argue that the development of colombian football is unimportant when compared with the loss of his life, and you may well be right. i am not suggesting otherwise.

  • Comment number 33.

    To the man at no 5 who says Chile,Ecuador,are thoroughly replaceable and will just be cannon fodder clearly hasn't been watching the world cup.Considering the immense resources available to them,England,Germany and France should be winning every world cup between them.But did France score a single goal in the 2002 edition?With the top scorers of Serie A and the EPL starting up front for them.Did Italy get beat by Egypt,a team that might not even make it to the world cup,in the recent confederations cup?And what about Cameroon's wonderful run in Italia 90,losing to England on some very dodgy refereeing?And why was some Italian firing a South Korean after 2002?Yes there will be routine losses,but the world cup throws up so many surprises,ask Spain what happened against Nigeria in '94,that its reckless to bet your house mate.Do this,slowly extricate your foot from your mouth,otherwise,come the World Cup 2010,you'll be outta a house,and will have sprung a five toed tail.

  • Comment number 34.

    To the man at no 10 who says Chile,Ecuador,are thoroughly replaceable and will just be cannon fodder clearly hasn't been watching the world cup.Competitive league?With Europe's pinching?Considering the immense resources available to them,England,Germany and France should be winning every world cup between them.But did France score a single goal in the 2002 edition?With the top scorers of Serie A and the EPL starting up front for them.Did Italy get beat by Egypt,a team that might not even make it to the world cup,in the recent confederations cup?And what about Cameroon's wonderful run in Italia 90,losing to England on some very dodgy refereeing?And why was some Italian firing a South Korean after 2002?Yes there will be routine losses,but the world cup throws up so many surprises,ask Spain what happened against Nigeria in '94,that its reckless to bet your house mate.Do this,slowly extricate your foot from your mouth,otherwise,come the World Cup 2010,you'll be outta a house,and will have sprung a five toed tail.

  • Comment number 35.

    To poster number 5,my bad.No offence intended.You're an upstanding member of society with very sober and sage views.

  • Comment number 36.


    Would Argentina still regard Uruguay as the eternal foe considering the close proximity of the 2 capital cities? Or do Brasil hold sway as the main ire for the people and the media.
    I thought the final game in Montevideo was a wonderful throwback to the old days when these 2 nations' encounters truly meant something beyond special; it was THE game. Hopefully Uruguay can make it through the play offs and quite possibly bump into Argentina in the knock out stages in South Africa.
    The footballing Gods have an uncanny knack of bringing up the unexpected.

  • Comment number 37.

    Chile are the next Portugal. They are the best current squad in the "never-won-the-WC" category.

  • Comment number 38.

    Tim, you say that "The fact that they blew up under pressure makes it easy to forget how good the 1994 side really was." Colombia could have been one of the teams of that World Cup, my hero Asprilla could have been the star, and they started well. The pressure wasn't footballing - shortly before the kick-off against the US, the players received threatening calls from drug lords in Colombia warning that if they didn't win, their wives and children were at risk of kidnap and murder. Asprilla said later that when he and other players should have been getting ready to play, they were on the phone telling their families to pack up and flee into hiding. I saw the game, it was clear that Colombia's minds were elsewhere, they were totally unlike what they had been, and the normally immaculate Escobar scored with a distracted and pointless back-pass which his keeper could never have anticipated. For that mistake, he was shot dead; as the players knew, the threats were real. Blew up? Were shot up, I'd say, you can't blame a very good team for that loss, they'd surely have gone far without the death threats.

    Asprilla may have been the best player to have played for my club, Newcastle, his perception and creativity were so far ahead of what was then a very good side that often his skillful play wasn't taken advantage of. In the international context (more SA games shown in Australia where I now live than in the UK), he was often dominant, I recall one 3-0 win in which it was 'Tino and 21 others, he made all three goals, scoring one, the oppositon had no answer.

  • Comment number 39.

    Surely the biggest threat to future qualifycation campaigns for ecuador is FIFAs threat to ban games at altitude (again).Its no coincedence that all competitive home games are now played at altitude rather than alternating between quito and guayaquil as they used to.
    great blog as usual.

  • Comment number 40.

    36 - Argentina and Uruguay have a far too friendly relationship. This was evident in the 1-1 draw they played out to ensure Uruguay finished in fifth place in qualifying for 2002. Colombia did protest about this and there was a lot of talk of match fixing. Colombia missed out on 5th place on goal difference in that qualifying campaign.

  • Comment number 41.

    38 - I'ma defender of that colombia 94 side - as i think thepiece makes clear. But your analysis has overlooked one key thing - their opeing match defeat to romania.

    it was a wonderful game, and colombia played some great stuff. but, before all the problems in the camp came up (part of the problem wasexactly the fact that they lost the first game, thus cranking the pressure up) they were well and truly done by hagi.

    Clombia's style at the time was dependent on the sweeper keeper - in order to keep their two lines of 4 close together and provide options for the short pass, they needed higuita to take responsibility for things 40 yeards from goal. trouble was, higuita wasn't there - unfairly, i think. he was in jail, accused on having profited from a kidnapping. Oscar Cordoba, a youngster at the time, came in - he was a good shot stopper,but was way out of his depth with the wider responsibilties higuita had taken on, and hagi found him out.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi Tim,

    Nice to see you're covering some of the less glamorous news in South America. I agree with you that Colopmbia should be performing much better in international terms, both in terms of population, the popularity of football and relatively big clubs. I have a question for you. What do you think about the rule in Colombian football that means that teams in the national league must field a player under the age of 18? The idea is to develop players for the national side but to me it seems pointless given that most of the youngsters get ten minutes on the pitch before being subbed. POtential it will do more harm than good in terms of damaging confidence, burn-out from stress etc. Does this only take place here or is there a precedent? Do you think long-term this can benefit the national side?Thanks

  • Comment number 43.

    Colombia have missed out but they have an interesting group of players in the range of 21-23 that will be at a prime age by the time the qualifiers for 2014 come around. Players like Freddy Guarin, Giovanni Moreno, Radamel Falcao, Cristian Zapata, etc.

    I think it is difficult to see countries like Colombia retain their 'footballing identity'. It's sad but the way modern football is going, the top youngsters leave to go abroad so early they don't develop that identity. Most of the players from the 90s teams like Rincon, Alvarez, Valderrama, etc. all stayed playing domestically in Colombia into the beginning of their mid 20s. That doesn't happen today. Players move abroad far too early and as a result the Colombian style, if you will, is not instilled in them.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Tim,

    Brilliant article once again!

    I am just surprised at the lack of coverage by BBC of the U-20 World Cup final match. Was it because Ghana won and not any of the other fancied European or South American countries? This does not seem fair and I was just wondering if you might be able to shed some light on this.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Tim,
    This is a really good piece,well done. My only grief is about the point you made about the Brazilian U-20 side being "unlucky to lose" against Ghana in the finals. Though, that really wasn't your main point of discussion, i think it is very unfair to the Ghanaians considering the good show they put out during the tournament. You don't usually see an African team or any other team for that matter being a better attacking side than Brazil in any World Cup. The African side did not only do that, they actually scored more goals than the Brazilians did in the whole tournament and their striker went on to win both the FIFA golden ball and golden boot after the tournament.
    Having followed football for a while now, i very much know and understand the fact that the best team do not always win but that wasn't the case here; as to me, the Ghanaians were a better side, technically.

  • Comment number 46.

    45 -we're going to have to disagree on ths one.
    I thought ghana were so scared of brazil thatthey changed their charactesristics for the game - even before they had a man sent off they hardly crossed the half way line.

  • Comment number 47.

    As an American living in Medellin, I can tell you that the locals here are very disappointed with their team´s showing this year. As a matter of fact, someone threw a hand grenade into a local pub during the last game. And you thought the Hooligans were crazy!

  • Comment number 48.

    Vickery once again is blindsighted by football which isn't Brazilian!

    37 minutes is a very little football to judge what the Ghananian display would have resembled for the duration of the game. Just because a team has a shady first half it is not to say a team could outperform the team in the second half or the final 10 minutes of the match to win the game.

    Please Mr Vickery, try to have a bit more of a balanced perspective of choosing to write about football when it involves Brazilian football.

  • Comment number 49.

    Dear Tim:

    I always enjoy your blog. Keep up the good and insightful work. I also agree with you that bizarre does even not start to describe Maradona's behaviour before, during and after matches. We call a guy like this in Argentina 'un mono con navaja'(a monkey with a razor blade), more or less a time bomb.

    However... there are two Insua's in Maradona's chaotic smorgasbord of callups: One is Emiliano, of Liverpool and the other one is Federico, of Boca. One is a left back the other one an attacking, roaming type midfielder, who has a good left foot and was brought back to Boca from Mexico to actually replace Datolo, who was sold to napoli.

    Emiliano Insua and Datolo play in different positions. Insua is the most timid of left backs, who lacks a right foot and usually steps up past the centreline and then turns the ball back to the inside to the closest midfielder: a somewhat limited player in a position where I would mention Evra and maybe A. Cole as the model to follow in today's football. The only player Argentina has that resembles a modern attacking left back would be Monzon (although he is young and a bit wild)and to a lesser extent Papa.

    Datolo is one of the typical 'carrileros' midfielders that have gone up and down a lane between the sideline and 20 meters in and that have been very popular in Argentina lately. There was the now retired Sorin, the best at it, and now there are Maxi Rodriguez and Jonas Gutierrez who repeat the mould.

    I would not put Federico Insua in this category because he likes to show up, a la Messi, on the right, turning in to shoot with his left. That's where he was in the diluvian evening vs Peru when his low shot went to Palermo's foot in the winning goal.

    Inexplicably, Datolo, after playing well against Brazil was not called back and Federico Insua was summoned to replace him. Somehow lucky Diego got contributions from the strange choice he made, but we are not fooled here in BA. Polls indicate that roughly 80% of fans want him out. Godfather Don Julio will decide...


  • Comment number 50.

    And what about the Ghanian goalie's brand new penalty stopping technique? Nobody commented on this... see, had he played for Liverpool, the beach ball goal would have been saved... he actually runs towards the post while the kicker runs to the ball and gets to the save standing on his feet!!! Ghanian Goalie Guile

  • Comment number 51.

    49 - no, I haven't confused Insuas - and ifear you have.

    it's not particularly relevant, since neither of them are up to the mark - you might say that emiliano came intothe squad as a replacement for papa, but i think for the peru game datolo would have been the best bet - he's a left sided player who can comfortably carry out the role of attacking left back - he's played there for napoli this season.

    feredico is left footed, but not really a flank player - more of a lightweight playmaker - i think the main reason he was called up was because veron was suspended for the peru game. So I see it as f insua for veron and di maria and e insua for datolo and papa.

  • Comment number 52.

    48 - you are confusing me with a brazil supporter, which i am not - i'm a journalist.

    friday's game - undeniable that ghana changed their characteristics afraid of what brazil might do to them in an open match.

    spent 20 minutes to cross the half way line and then the red card was pure panic - the right back makes a mistake high up the field, forthe first time in the match brazil are away on the counter, and though it's only on the half way line and there's cover, the defender is so panic stricken that he brings alex teixeira down from behind and gets a red - i very much doubt tht he would have committed such a foul against any other opponents.

    After that it's every one behind the ball, take off one striker (Osei) and the other one, the outstanding Adijah goes on marking dutiesandlet's hang on for pens.

    I'm not trying to see this through any natioalistic perpective - i abhor them all. I'm trying to come to my own, neutral opinion, fr what it's worth, of the balance of the game.

    Can yu possibly deny that, even with 11 men, ghana changed their characteistics for this game? If so, then i fear it is you who is being blindsighted.

  • Comment number 53.

    Mr Vickery I think you suffer the same fate as do the English, you can't see past your own Brazilian bias (or English alternative). The English think that Rooney is the best footballer in the planet and that the if a player doesn't play in the Prem, they aren't any good. You think that the if Brazil looses, it means that they just had a bad day, no one could possibly be superior.

  • Comment number 54.

    My next piece for myaustralian clinet ( will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of current brazilian football, as exemplified by the World Youth Cup campaign.

    To be honest, there are things in contemporary brazilian football that i really don't like - especially packing central midfield with giant, unimaginative players. It's not my feeling of football, and so if brazil lose with this philosophy, it's not something that gives me any problems.

    One of the great charms of football is thatthe best side on the day does not always win. Brazil have been the beneficiaries of ths, as all teams have at some point - the win over belgium in the 2002 world cup, or on penalties over holland in 98 - both times i thought the opponent was superior on the day.

    Just as i thought brazil were clearly superior to ghana last friday - as recognised by the change in approach of the ghana side - an exciting, free scoring team became one that was afraid to cross the half way line.

    It seems that you don't want to deal wit these issues - you don't want to analyse, you want to national-ise. hence the stuff about wayne rooney. What on earth has that got to do with me? As i have told some of the brazilian nationalist contingent who make similar remarks, I am not a spokesman for my, or any other nation.

  • Comment number 55.

    Mr Vickery, thank you for your response be it wonderfully as incomplete a response as I expected.

    Using your words to begin with 'Brazil were unlucky to lose'. Which could be said, as they did dominate the proceedings of the game. However, Ghana were very unlucky with their sending off. To state Ghana were unlucky, is not just my opinion as it was an opinion shared by the Eurosport commentary team.

    So, Mr Vickery when you addressed this in point 45 you stated that Ghana did not get past their own halfway line til the time of the sending off, which was a very harsh sending off. The sending off took place at 37 minutes. From my knowledge, the game of football is usually a 90 minute affair played in a form of two 45 minute halves. Even though Ghana were the worse team for the opening progression of the half, they were 'unfortunate' to have had the sending off which effectively turned the course of the game for them.

    Yes, for the first 37 minutes off the game Ghana had respected their opponents and played defensively. However, in many games teams are the lesser opponent in the first half and redress the game for the second half. One such game of significance was the Champions League Final in 2008, when Manchester United dominated the first half entirely and Chelsea were quick out of the blocks to dominate the second half in it's entirety. Yes, prior to the sending off Ghana did acknowledge the attacking prowess off their Brazilian counterparts, but when was a match limited to it's first half?

    The sending was a pivotal factor in altering the proceedings off the game, and this was a massive factor in the game. Addressing me as being 'blindsighted', a wonderfully 'articulate' and a personal a insult from a BBC journalist, which makes me question the degradation of the BBC's integrity on behalf of it's employees.

    As a professional journalist Mr Vickery, I am sure you have professional codes of conduct, and from your retort above, it seems you have few regards for such codes. If anyone is being 'blindsighted' the accusation would have to be pointed towards yourself for failing to address the allegations of nationalistic bias, which is a frequent allegation pointed towards your 'journalism' on evidence of replys to this article you have written and others.

  • Comment number 56.

    #53 the english think that rooney is the best player in the world ? as an english football fan i can assure you 95% disagree,even most manchester united fans would disagree with that. messi,ronaldo & kaka are generaly accepted as the best players in the world in england and not one of them plays in the premiership ! if you are looking for football prejudice perhaps try the mirror .

  • Comment number 57.

    i've promised i'm not going to get dragged into spats with the likes of you, but one last go at a debate.
    The bias you say im accused of - it's frequently from brazilians accusing me of being anti-brazil. Now, in something which gets the passion going as much as football, if i'm being shot by both sides i'll take that as evidence of strking the right balance.
    Back to the game - and , with all due humility, my opinion on what happened.

    I thought that claims that addo was unlucky to be sent off were absurd - it was a terrible, panic strikcen tackle from behind with no attempt made to play the ball. Straight reds were given in the Confederations Cup for offences which were nowhere near as bad - tackles when the player was genuinely going for the ball. addo's only intention was to bring the man down - to my mind a good and brave descision from the ref.

    Furthermore,i tink the red card actually worked to ghana's advantage. firstly, it absolved them of all responsibility to come out to play - in other words, it confirmed their initial strategy of holding on and hoping.

    Secondly, Brazil's coach took a quick decision to pull off right back Douglas, who was on a yellow and whose defensive skills are not great - this was before half time. he was scared that the ref would level it up at 10 each. on came Wellington Junior - left footed to play at right back.
    Brazil lost their attacking outlet and their ability to stretch the deep ghanian defence. if addo had stayed on, so would douglas, who was looking dangerous.

    What i resent is the implication - never founded - that I'm supporting one side or the other. This is not the case.

  • Comment number 58.

    Tim, definitely agree with your take on Ecuador -- the strikers can be infuriating and the squad is aging at the back. On the keeper situation, what are your thoughts on Alexander Dominguez of LDU Quito? He's just 22 and to me he's looked good during what's been a pretty strong domestic and Copa Sudamericana campaign for Liga. Do you think he'd be someone who could contribute to the Ecuador team for 2014?

  • Comment number 59.

    58- there doesn't seem to be a lot of competetion out there - dominguez is a strange, gangling figure, but i agree, he could be the future.

    the centre back situation is alarming, though. In 2001 i had hopes of guagua - sorry, too slow and ponderous. And the other one they bring in, fleitas, is over 35 and uruguayan.

    Deison Mendez as a long term replacement for hurtado? michael castro for espinoza? They have a lot to live up to.

  • Comment number 60.

    Debate is an integral aspect of what it is to be a fan of football, as this wonderfully illustrates the pointlessness of debate in football as it is near enough impossible to have a argument which is founded factually opposed to on opinion.

    The standard of refereeing in the Confederations Cup was something discussed on the World Football Phone In, and some people thought on many an occasion it was too harsh. One team in particular who took the brunt of it, was the United States team (who you branded as a 'disgrace'). Refereeing in the U20's til the final, had yet seen the standard of the Confederations Cup.

    Matthew Kenyon off the BBC wrote that Addo was not the last man to make the tackle and was harsh to be sent off, which is a statement I am in agreement with. Even though I strongly disagree the sending off was just, I am in agreement that it made Ghana much more resilient at the back and consequently made them much tougher to crack. Trying to beat a team a man down is a often a lot more difficult than a team with 11 players.

    As for supporting one side or another, I have never read of any allegations of biases towards any other team rather Brazil made against you, I am only aware of Brazilian biases being acknowledged.

    When it comes to writing about South American football, it is very interesting to examine the articles written by Marcela Mora y Araujo's who even though writes soley about Argentinian football who from my knowledge in the responses to the articles she writes, is never accused of writing with bias towards the Argentina Team.

    Thank you for continuing this debate for avoiding debates with 'my types'. It may seem like a statement of sarcastic content but it isn't in the slightest bit. The majestic irrationality which makes those of rational minds occasionally irrational something which can only ever be invoked by the beautiful game.

    Once again thanks for the debate Tim, write about Peru more. Your article titled "All Smiles in San Martin" was one of the best things in football I've ever read.

  • Comment number 61.

    What is your problem caveman? If you don't like it, don't read it. Simple. Stop trying to incite people and deal with your issues.

  • Comment number 62.

    Tim, I really appreciate your considered replies to so many posts, including my own. Thanks, you are the best kind of sports journalist, I hope the BBC appreciate that. I'll keep an eye out for your SBS/World Game piece.

  • Comment number 63.

    Greeting to all!

    Man what a relief that this WCQ is done for us(Argentina). I am thrilled we got it and did not think we would go to Uruguay and get a win. I was hoping for a draw but a win. And people doubted Marcelo Bielsa's Chile! Shame on them! He is a man that will NEVER taken a dive. The 2002 game vs Uruguay was not a fixed game for those Colombians who want to believe it was, but it was not.

    As bad as I feel for the Ecuadorian I am happy we are in. Ecuadorian could of LOCKED in a WC spot sometime agao.

    Just look at this,

    round 1 lost to Ven 1-0 in Quito
    Round 2- Lost to Brasil
    Round 3- Lost to Paraguay
    Round4- Beat Peru
    Round 5- Tied Argentina. Which Palacio scored very late, to snatch away a historic win for Ecuador.

    They had many chances, and blew it. Started very slow. See Argentina stared very good, without that great start they would of likely missed out.

    Colombia is a tragic story. They have a HISTORY of self destruction. They keep finding ways to hurt themselves. I wish them well but I just can not see them doing well in the future. It makes me sad but nothing I can do. I do not know ANYTHING about their youth(Which I follow the youth teams with a passion). It is strange, as soon as their government started to change for the good, their football turned to the worse.

    Maybe 2014 they may qualify. And Tim may answer this question. Since Brasil automatically qualifies for 2014, does the same routine go? Top 4 get automatic births and the 5th place team gets a playoff? If anybody knows this answer, please shed some light on it.

  • Comment number 64.

    I, for one, really enjoy this series of articles. It is difficult for a team to focus as the Colombia team in 1994 were under so much personal pressure. I feel (from reading as an outsider) Colombia is a bit safer now and President Uribe is cleaning up the country.

    Colombia are the sleeping giants of the continent, mainly due to the population (44m) and lack of competition from other sports. This will always lead to them being there or thereabouts, compared to Uruguay which has a population of about 3.5m

    Its interesting the debate about Colombia interested in a foreign manager who is not subject to the internal politics of Colombian football, that may work for them (Can I suggest Brendan Rodgers from Reading?!?) This worked for Russia, but not for Poland.

    Also interesting is the expat community in United States, there could be some uncovered gems playing in their local leagues? I know that Turkey have a heavy scouting presence in Germany. Perhaps Colombia could do the same?

  • Comment number 65.

    Nice insights Tim. Thanks for writing yet another fine blog on South American football. This World Cup Qualifying campaign out there with 18 matches per team is a very long one. The fifth placed team has still two more encounters before they can make their travel plans. Uruguay had a decent campaign. And after twenty qualifying rounds no one will regret to see them taking the fifth spot. Best wishes to them and to their opponents.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 66.

    Mr Vickery,
    "i tink the red card actually worked to ghana's advantage. firstly, it absolved them of all responsibility to come out to play - in other words, it confirmed their initial strategy of holding on and hoping."

    Try to read carefully at what you just wrote. How, in ANY way possible, can one player less than the opposition be of an advantage??? I am sure managers will take your advice and start with 10 players instead of 11 from now on! (being sarcastic, of course) This just goes to support my claim that you are bias, even if innocently. This is a superiority complex that good footballing nations tend to have. It would be more professional of you to say "I am trying to be as neutral as possible, because as you all know I am Brazilian and subsequently that automatically rules out total impartiality."
    Thank you for your response anyhow.

    #56 "as an english football fan i can assure you 95% disagree,even most manchester united fans would disagree with that. messi,ronaldo & kaka are generaly accepted as the best players in the world in england and not one of them plays in the premiership ! if you are looking for football prejudice perhaps try the mirror ."

    Bold claim, as it would mean that you have either met 95% of all Englishmen or have some statistics to support of, none of which you have provided. I can assure you that there are plenty of Englishmen who say "united is better off without ronaldo", "I would rather have Rooney than Messi". To each his own opinion. Also, many have said that south american players, such as players playing in Brazil, do not have the quality to play in the Prem. Others have even went as far as saying that most players in Italy and Spain could not compete in the Prem. This is, ridiculous, my friend. I do not have prejudice against England and it's football, I am actually a great supporter of- and I enjoy the Prem.

  • Comment number 67.

    i've live here for 15 years but im not brazilian and have no pretentions to be - like the man said, you can put a cat in the oven but that doesn't make it a biscuit.
    i try to avoid all times of nationalist bias - it's a cancer of the mind. but i think i'm allowed to have preferences in terms of the way football is played and interpreted.
    so, with the world youth cup final
    1 - i wasn't particularly happy with ghana's approach to the game - they had shown through the tournament that they were capable of better - though i suppose seeing how brazil's games had gone it was understandable - ie everyone who had tried to stifle brazil had to an extent succeeded.
    2 - although i thought they deserved to win, as a football fan i'm not at all perturbed by the fact that brail lost. the idea that centre midfield should be populated by giant players without a good range of passing is one i find deeply depressing - especially when it comes from a country that produces as many players as brazil. while they win there will not be a rethink - so them losing might be in the long term interests of the game - football will not be improved by everyone packing central midfield with gilberto silva figures.

  • Comment number 68.

    Dear Tim,

    Please why no mention of the lack of coverage by the BBC of Ghana's victory?

    Do you equally acknowledge that this ould not have been the case had teh competition been won by one of teh more fancied teams which tehn poses the question of fairness

  • Comment number 69.

    Can someone explain why African football has dominated the comments section of the South American column?

    And I would take a stab at N68's question. I personally think the coverage would have been the same for anyone with the exception of an England victory. The fact the competition was covered by Eurosport rather than one of the main media outlets in the UK says it all.

  • Comment number 70.

    @69 - We always hear these hollow, unconvincing arguments but I doubt anyone genuinely believes this to be the case.

    Interesting you make the point about African football, because I have read several references to Italian and Spanish football on this blog not to mention English football; I am yet to read any complaints. Why then do you choose to make exception for African football?

    I would hope that the point has been made and this would be rectified in future because like this or not people notice things like this.

  • Comment number 71.

    66, Tim's statement about the red card being an advantage to Ghana was easy to understand. Quite simply down to ten men, Ghana had nothing to loose in opening up their play as the expectation from many would be that loosing numerical parity would open the door to defeat. Ghana under these circumstances could just go for it.

    Also, I'd just like to say that this Englishman doesn't think Rooney is the best player in the world or perhaps even in England. He is a talent without a question, but I wonder about his development and hitting a glass ceiling but that's a debate for another day.

  • Comment number 72.

    I'm reading this amid deep irritation at many of the comments of the Ghanaian fan: who cast aspersions at Tim Vickery's integrity, accused him nonsensically of being "blindsighted" by anything not Brazilian, then laughably started crying about journalistic codes of conduct when Tim returned the compliment! Pathetic. If you can dish it out, you have to be able to take it back: get that chip off your shoulder, man.

    I don't think there's a better writer in world football than Tim Vickery. Detailed, rigorous analysis of topics which are barely covered by much of the English-speaking media; and unlike many journalists, he's happy to follow up to comments on the blog too. But here's the thing: if people keep insulting him, he's bound to stop. I don't know why so many people think the internet = open season on journalists, and basic standards of courtesy just disappear out of the window; but it's embarrassing when anyone does it, because it ruins the blog for everyone else.

    I hope Ghana do very well next summer: Ghana have been the sleeping giants of African football for a very long time, and their achievements in Egypt and in 2006 prove they're really getting their act together now. I'm also really looking forward to seeing how Chile and Paraguay get on (the former because of Bielsa, the latter because they seem to be adding a few attacking strings to their bow at last); and just hope Uruguay join them through the play-offs. To be honest, I suspect Ecuador are now falling back, and probably won't recover for a good few years; Colombia's decline is desperately sad though, for all the reasons Tim and others have given.

  • Comment number 73.

    Ghana had been an attacking team.
    If they won a game by not attacking,they're the worse side in that game.
    Interesting "syllogism".
    Very Brazilian, don't you think?
    Very inflexible,and intolerant to the dynamism that is real-world football.
    Do you really have the exact location of where caution crosses into cowardliness?
    Is it humanly possible to remain unaffected by a culture in which you may have been immersed for 15years?
    And "journalists" have a superhuman reserve in resisting the temptation of subjectivity?
    Tim, your heart is right, you do your best,but you're not from Krypton.
    You're a great journalist,in spite of it,which is why I come back.


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