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Mixed fortunes for South Americans in draw

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Tim Vickery | 20:21 UK time, Saturday, 5 December 2009

I watched the World Cup draw in the offices of a Brazilian sports TV station.

Amid the hubbub, comments about Charlize Theron and arguments over Sunday's last round of the Brazilian championship, there was a single moment of silence - following the gasp when Group G was completed by the inclusion of Portugal.

Last week I mentioned that Brazil were due a difficult group - now they certainly have one.

Their draw started benevolently enough with North Korea. But then came Ivory Coast, considered by many as Africa's leading challengers. And then Portugal.

Whatever their problems in qualification, the Portuguese line-up commands respect. And so three top teams will battle for two places.

dunga595.jpgWill Dunga lead Brazil to a sixth World Cup title?

When Brazil meet Portugal in Durban on 25 June both teams might have already secured qualification. Or they could be fighting for their lives.

The battle between ex-coloniser and former colony has already begun. Dunga's description of Portugal as "Brazil B" was a swipe at the growing number of naturalised Brazilians in the European's line-up.

(Incidentally, Portugal's neighbours would also seem to be annoying Brazil's ever truculent coach. Perhaps put out by Spain being lauded as the purists' favourite, he described their group as the only easy one in the draw).

Brazilians with long memories will recall their previous World Cup meeting with the mother country.

In 1966 they also faced each other in the final group game. Portugal kicked Pele out of the competition before winning 3-1 and condemning Brazil to early elimination.

Brazilians with shorter memories would prefer to dwell on a recent friendly which Brazil won 6-2.

Another tennis score is unlikely. Portugal with surely not be so naive as to allow Maicon the freedom of the right flank when World Cup points are at stake.

Dunga may well not be unhappy that his team has been placed in a tough group.

Confidence is extremely high in Brazilian ranks, and justifiably so. Historically, though, favouritism has not served Brazil well. It tends to bring out the nonsense line that "we can only lose to ourselves".

Dunga comes insured against such complacency - he now has tough opponents to help him re-enforce the message to his players that World Cup win number six will not come without a huge dose of sweat and sacrifice.

There are plenty of memories for Argentina boss Diego Maradona in Group B. His World Cup career as a player ended against Nigeria - his first opponents as a coach.

His last World Cup and international goal came against Greece, who he also faces once more.

And in the middle come South Korea, opening game rivals in the 1986 campaign when Maradona hit heights that perhaps no player before or since has reached in a World Cup.

In Argentina it is being seen as a relatively comfortable group - but that clash with Nigeria in Johannesburg on 12 June, along with Portugal against Ivory Coast, one of the highlights of the opening exchanges.

The likes of Lionel Messi, Fernando Gago and Sergio Aguero will recall beating Nigeria to win the World Youth Cup in 2005.

They will also remember how difficult it was against such physically strong opponents and how they were aided by some rash tackling from the Nigerians, who gave away two penalties.

Last year's 1-0 win in the Olympic final was a little more comfortable for Argentina, but Nigeria will be gunning for revenge in this latest meeting between two gifted generations.

After all the problems in qualification, Maradona will surely benefit from the need to focus on a squad of 23. If the defence can be sorted out then Argentina may yet come through as challengers, though a slip up against Nigeria would put them under pressure right at the start.

The last time Argentina met Nigeria in a World Cup they were coached by Marcelo Bielsa - and despite a 1-0 win in the opening game the 2002 pre-tournament favourites were not able to qualify for the second round.

Then Bielsa was awarded the group of death, when he was included in a section with Sweden, England as well as Nigeria.

So on the law of averages he was due something a little kinder this time. Bielsa's Chile are one of the most intriguing sides in the World Cup. With three strikers, a commitment to attack and plenty of pace in the final third, they are not one of those teams who will clog up the tournament with mediocrity.

They do have problems defending in the air, but have been drawn in a group where this deficiency might not be exposed.

Spain come last and Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque paid full tribute to Chile after the draw, describing them as the most difficult team in the group.

The Chileans will hope to have qualification in the bag before that meeting. The key game would appear to be the second against Switzerland, but there will be plenty of pressure on the opener against Honduras.

It is a must-win match, but the Central Americans will not be the only adversary. Chile will also be up against history. Discounting 1962, which they hosted, the last time they won a World Cup match was back in 1950 against the United States.

The extent of the revolution Bielsa has brought about in the Chilean national team is clear from the fact that in qualification their away record was the best in South America.

Chile's previous World Cup was 1998 - the start of Paraguay's run of four consecutive appearances.

Paraguayan hopes of a quarter-final place have been boosted by a draw which, though it forces them to travel all over South Africa, pits them against opponents they will not fear.

maradona595.jpgMaradona has endured a tough baptism of fire as an international coach

The right time to face defending champions Italy is surely in the opening game - the Italians are notoriously slow starters. The crunch match is the second against Slovakia, before closing the group against New Zealand.

It is reminiscent of 2006, when tame but narrow defeats against England and Sweden put the Paraguayans out before they faced Trinidad and Tobago.

Coach Gerardo Martino's task is to ensure that this time his men are prepared to take the initiative, especially against the Slovakians.

The first South American side in action will be Uruguay, drawn in a fascinating Group A. It's hard to see them, or opponents France, South Africa or Mexico going on to win the cup, but it does look like an intriguingly balanced quartet.

Being in South Africa's group is a cause for concern. No hosts have ever failed to make the second round and that puts a great deal of pressure on Uruguay's opening day duel with the French.

But the significance of Uruguay's presence goes well beyond anything they do on the field. In this first World Cup on African soil it is entirely fitting that the representatives include the national team which pioneered the selection of afro-descendents.

This was alluded to during the draw, when the retrospective of past World Cups showed a photo of Uruguay's Jose Leandro Andrade from the inaugural tournament in 1930. But even in 1916, at the first Copa America, Uruguay were picking black players, Juan Delgado and the legendary Isabelino Gradin.

History resonates, then, with the meeting of Uruguay and South Africa in Pretoria on 16 June. It's a pity that is the second group game as it would have made for a cracking opening match.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) The 1990s was a decade that saw the individual success of numerous South American players, who made a huge name for themselves playing at the top level of European football.

However, with this decade coming to an end, I would be brave enough to say that Kaka has been really the only player developed in South America (given that Messi was practically developed by Barcelona) to make a huge name for himself.

I was wondering what the reason for this decline is. For what it is worth, my view is that this has happened because of the evolution of football into a more physical game where strength and power have eclipsed skill and craft.
Giancarlo Fiesco

think you might be a bit harsh here. What makes Messi special is his South American-ness. As Maradona's former team-mate Jorge Valdano once commented, he's a mixture of informal Argentine street and wasteland football and the Barca academy - and the academies don't seem to be the place where great one against one skills are developed. That comes from the street.

On one level, the South American contribution to European football has never been deeper or wider. They have got into countries, such as England, where before they were seen with resistance, there are more of them than ever before all across the continent, and they are coming from countries such as Ecuador, which have no tradition of exporting to Europe. And the future would seem to belong to the likes of Aguero and Alexandre Pato.

The worrying trend is that the financial demands of producing for the European market can lead to the grooming of a certain type of player - big, strong, poly-functional and without idiosyncracies in his game that make it harder for him to adapt to Europe.

Fredy Guarin of Porto is a good player, but I'd rather watch Colombia with someone like Carlos Valderrama in the centre of midfield.

Q) My question is about Brazilian full-backs. Have the Brazilians always been synonymous with attacking full-backs such as Roberto Carlos, Maicon, Dani Alves, and most recently, the Da Silva twins?
Mohammed Halawi

It's been developing as a part of their game for over 50 years. Brazil pioneered the back four, dropping an extra man to the heart of the defence to provide additional cover. This pushed the full backs out wider, and especially as time went on and wingers disappeared, they had space in front of them in which to push up and make an attacking contribution.

The great Nilton Santos was doing this from left-back in the 50s.

Interestingly, among the first to latch on to this were England, coached by Alf Ramsey who had been a constructive full-back and was fascinated by what the Brazilians were doing.

In 1970 England had Keith Newton and Terry Cooper - Cafu and Roberto Carlos decades early. In the fatal quarter final against West Germany Newton set up both the goals that put England ahead, but Ramsey made a mess of his substitutions, the Germans took advantage, bringing on wingers against England's tiring full backs.

And in one of those spurts of amnesia that English football is prone, the attacking full-back was forgotten for a while.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I think a lot has been made of Brazil's 'group of death' but feel they should qualify comfortably; they are clearly superior to both Ivory Coast and Portugal and I'd be confident they'd go unbeaten and coast through.
    An easy win vs North Korea will place pressure on the other teams, they will then face either a desperate Ivory Coast; a situation they could exploit or and Ivory Coast comfortable in the knowledge that their destiny will be decided by how well they beat the Koreans.
    Either scenario bodes well for Brazil, hopefully two positive results would negate the requirement of one against the Portuguese...
    Will look forward to it!

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    The dark hoses for me could be ivory coast or uruguay if drogba, toure and forlan, Suarez are on form. France and Argentina to underachieve even with the likes of Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Benzema, Ribery, Gourcuff. Italy to do nothing, their players are past it same could apply for Germany. Holland don't have a sure enough defence to compliment their attcking talent. England for me could go either way, whether crouch, defoe, c.cole, heskey are international players is still to be seen. Brazil and Spain are the ones to beat in my opinon kaka, torres, xavi, iniesta, vllla, pato are great players playing in sides who have balance.

  • Comment number 4.

    Expect Korea DPR to spring a surprise, it could be against Portugal Brazil or Cote d'Ivoire. They hold the key to qualification from this group.

  • Comment number 5.

    Winners of Group G vs. Runners-up of Group H
    Winners of Group H vs. Runners-up of Group G

    Tim I am surprised you didn’t mention the possibility of Brazil meeting Spain in round sixteen and how the existence of such possibility can put more pressure on Brazil in finishing second in their group. It is unlikely that Brazil will not draw in either the matches against Portugal or Ivory Cost.

    If it happens who might advance? Or too early to tell?

  • Comment number 6.

    The format of the WC is taken for granted. But it throws up ridiculous anomalies.

    For example, it's quite likely that England will face teams such as Serbia and Greece en route to a place in the last 4.

    Meanwhile, Brazil will maybe face Spain in the last 16 !

    That doesnt make any sense.





  • Comment number 7.

    Sorry, have I read that first question, by Giancarlos Fiesco, wrongly or is he suggesting that Ronaldinho - who came through the youth ranks at Gremio - did not make a huge name for himself in Europe during this decade?

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Tim - several questions for you here!

    Good blog, I was just wondering what the grassroots level of football was like in South America. Are there many 'Europeanised' football camps, eg, a 'Graham Taylor' camp etc?

    Also, what is the feeling about the bes youngsters moving on to (invariably) Europe? Do clubs want to hang on to them, or do they see them as big cash opportunities?

    Do you think that clubs in S.America would want to play more European clubs, for friendlies, or more 'worldwide' tournaments. Obviously logistics would be hard, but is there a market for this sort of thing?

    And one final question - are there any links between S.American clubs and European clubs, ie. are Manchester United linked to the club they got the Da Silvas from?

    Thanks a lot!

  • Comment number 9.

    The point made by Hassan was very astute. The two favourites meeting that early would be a great start to the knockout rounds.

    Aside from that and relating to the main body of the article I don't think that I could expand on what Tim has said. However, following on from Hassan's point, Paraguay would, if they manage to catch Italy off guard in the first match (not unheard of for the Italians to start slowly) meet Cameroon, Japan or Denmark in the last 16.

    Paraguay could be the one's to capitalise the most to make the most out of their draw. Getting out of the blocks fast will be key and then relying on Italy to pull their socks up.

    http://thoughtsonfootball.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 10.

    I enjoy your opinions Tim, but your use of "favouritism", as in "Historically, though, favouritism has not served Brazil well" is a gross misuse of the word. I am used to Australian journalists barbarously trying to use it to identify the favourites in a competition, but shocked to see this on the BBC.

  • Comment number 11.

    No south american developned players????

    What about ronaldinho, senna, deco, milito's, forlan, zanetti and about a squillion others??

    Might want to get on google lad....

  • Comment number 12.

    No 10....

    Who cares. I understand what he means

  • Comment number 13.

    Playing there group matches so much later,wonder will it put Brazil and Spanin at a disadvantage.On our World Football Phone In facebook page,I started a discussion group on greatest players never to have played in a World Cup, Alfredo di Stefano and Alberto Spencer are the two obvious ones.

    Other former colonies will play each other,England vs USA and Chile/Honduras vs Spain.

  • Comment number 14.

    If I may, there was a tournament where Brazil were seen as favorites and managed to win, convincingly: none less than the World Cup at Chile, 1962! Of course, since then, when Brazil reaches the World Cup as favorites they tend to do lose dramatically (1974 and 1982) or play pretty poorly (1966 and 2006), but after this time should be different, as complacence, the biggest enemy, doesn't seem to be occurring this time.

    Surely it's time again for Brazil to live up to their pre-championship hype and go all the way?

  • Comment number 15.

    Enjoyable blog Tim, I also have a question for you regarding Brazil's full back, Maicon. The man is a unique powerhouse with his blend of strength and speed, with adept dribbling and crossing. My thought was with the seeming lack of world class full backs at the moment, will there be many on the left that can stop this guy from tearing through their team, also including the fact that hardly any will be able to put up with his strength.
    Will teams have to bring across the left centre back for cautious cover, leaving a gap in the middle for likes of Fabiano, Kaka etc. to burst through?

  • Comment number 16.

    everyone always wants to defend their generation, but the true beauty is in the evolution of the game. sure the players are bigger, stronger, faster, and more physical- but w/in those confines you still have creativity from players like messi, fabregas, and arteta for example who in their own powerful way FORCE the beauty in the side. to me where it comes from shouldn't matter whether it's the streets or if a player's parents are doctors and lawyers doesn't matter that is a diviciveness fans, purists, and journalists must get past...

  • Comment number 17.

    Being in South Africa's group is a cause for concern. No hosts have ever failed to make the second round.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the Americans fail to make it to th 2nd round in 1994????

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry scrap that. I forgot about this turnaments two best third placed teams. Silly when Italy were the other ones.

  • Comment number 19.


    17 - have to correct you cos you're wrong!

    USA got safely into the 2nd round, where they lost to brazil.

  • Comment number 20.

    16 - i wasn't making a point about social class when i talked about ability in one against one situations coming from the street.

    it's a point about formal versus informal learning.

  • Comment number 21.

    @17 remember that tough match where they threatened to cause an upset and Brazil could only beat the USA 1-0 in the second round,

    Brilliant World Cup that was...well except to the English obviously!

  • Comment number 22.

    Hopefully, with Martino Paraguay will not speculate in each match and get at least 4 points out of 6 before the last group match. I am expecting him to use the trio of Santa Cruz, Cabañas and Haedo to intimidate their rivals.

  • Comment number 23.

    #18, "...I forgot about this turnaments two best third placed teams."

    What are you talking about here? Only two teams get out of each group.

  • Comment number 24.

    And speaking of Argentina, to me their only main rival will be their own coach. Maradona can be so self destructive that you never know. I won´t be surprised at all if his mistakes start with his squad list of 23 players.

  • Comment number 25.

    If brazil would win this world cup then this would probably be in the best fashion ever to be done. It makes you go thrilled with the fact that they may face spain in then round 16, Netherlands in the quarters n may be England in the semis. This is definitely gonna be the greatest footballing festival on the planet. Just can't wait for it to start.

  • Comment number 26.

    Everyone has commented on Brazil's being the "Group of Death". What nobody seems to have commented on yet is that Groups G & H combined are the "Section of Death". Even if Brazil and Portugal qualify from Group G, and Spain from Group H, two of them will play each other in the last 16. So we can say with certainty one of them won't be around for the last week of the tournament.

  • Comment number 27.

    26 - And Chile. I'd rate Chile as strong as Portugal and Ivory Coast.

    I do believe that the best two games from the first knockout phase will come from group G and H.

    No real champion should fear any opposition but I really wanted to see Brazil and Spain in the final.

  • Comment number 28.

    # 23 - #18 was talking about a previous world cup
    from 86-94 four (not 2) of the best 3rd place teams also got through to the knock out, indeed argentina, then italy made the final after finshing third in their group

    as for paraguay why bother playing so well in every world cup qualifying tournament to play so badly in every world cup? tim vickery was talking about them reaching the semis in 2006 but they were just so poor in the group and were the first team home. This time they have the easiest group, to show what they can really do...

    can't wait for the brazil, uruguay and argentina games, not sure what to expect from Chile...

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim,

    I did a quick calculation based on last 5 world cups. Seems like percentage wise more or less same percentage of South American teams make it to the knockout stages as that of European teams. But Quarter finals has eluded all but Argentina and Brazil. Which south American team outside of the big two, you think can make it to the quarterfinals?
    Chili is considered a dangerous side, but they may have to beat Brazil to make it QF.

  • Comment number 30.

    # 25 much agreed!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    I've just been watching the final games of the Brazilian Serie A.

    Internacional and Sao Paulo gave impressive performances with big wins to take it down to the wire, but I would have loved to have been in the Maracana for Flamengo's Championship winning victory over Gremio. Some fantastic scenes in the crowds and, for their late season form, a deserved Hexacampeao for the reborn Adriano and Flamengo.

    One place I would definitely not want to be right now, however, is Coritiba's stadium, where a draw has led to Coritiba's relegation and their opponents Fluminense, fresh from losing to LDU of Quito in the Copa Sudamericana final in midweek, staying up. At the final whistle the Coritiba fans invaded the pitch, leading to the referee and linesmen being chased from the field and the police, armed with batons, helmets and riot shields to move in. A full scale riot ensued, with whole sections of seating being thrown at the police, rubber bullets being fired at the invading fans, piles of streamers set on fire and a helicopter landing on the pitch to medevac both injured police and fans alike.

    It was certainly a very dramatic final day in Brazil!

  • Comment number 32.

    What's your take on the final games Tim and what has the reaction been like in Brazil to both Flamengo's win and the scenes in Coritiba's stadium?

  • Comment number 33.

    Well said No. 25.
    Also, can't wait to see if Kaka' will obtain the magic of the prestigious No. 10 shirt.

  • Comment number 34.

    Although Scotland didn't make it to the World Cup, I'm already excited! I'm not sure which nation I will be adopting, perhaps Brazil. I remember reading that it was a Scot that introduced the tactical side of the game to Brazil? Never heard anything to support that though wondering if their is any truth in that? Excited to see how Chile do as well, any game they are in should be great.

    Still think that too many countries are being wrote off, the French spring to mind. Domonech hasn't inspired confidence, but he did lead them to the final of 2006, even if Zidane was the main reason for that. Spain and Brazil are both rightly favourites, I do believe Brazil are the only country to have ever won the World Cup outside their own continent, so maybe they just edge it for me.

    Giancarlo how can you forget Ronaldinho? I still hope that he can gain a recall to the Brazilian squad.

    Only thing that I'm not liking about the build up to this tournament is those annoying Vuvuzela things that make the most terrible noise. Could be South Africa's secret weapon haha, although I hope for my ears sake they will be banned or I may have to watch the tournament on mute!

  • Comment number 35.

    10. At 11:25am on 06 Dec 2009, Ozman wrote:
    I enjoy your opinions Tim, but your use of "favouritism", as in "Historically, though, favouritism has not served Brazil well" is a gross misuse of the word. I am used to Australian journalists barbarously trying to use it to identify the favourites in a competition, but shocked to see this on the BBC.

    -----------

    Australian journalism when it comes to football is a complete embarrassment. Robbie Slater and Mark Bosnich are the face of our game, it's a joke. How Craig Foster can be labelled a "football expert" is completely beyond me, the man doesn't have a shred of football knowledge in his body.

    That aside, nice blog Tim. I just came fresh from reading McNulty's blog and the gulf in class is enormous. Don't lie, that brought a little smile to your face.

    I feel the difficulty of Brazil's group has been overstated somewhat. Portugal are in awful form and it will take big changes to turn that around. I think Brazil will overrun them and it will be a fairly one-sided scoreline. North Korea will be the whipping boys and while Ivory Coast have a fairly talented side, this is Brazil we're talking about. Hardly worth the "Group of Death" tag that everyone seems to have labelled it, the real fight will be for second place but isn't that the situation with most groups? A clear favourite to top the group, while any of the other three teams could come second.

    The real Group of Death in my opinion is Group D, with any of Germany, Australia, Ghana and Serbia able to do well.

  • Comment number 36.

    Before the draw I predicted Ivory Coast would win next year, but I thought they'd have to face the likes of Spain and Brazil in the latter rounds. Now it seems that at least one of these three might not even make it out of the group stage and another beyond the round of 16. The drama will be unbearable!

  • Comment number 37.

    I for one am delighted with the draw. As an England fan it will be nice to go into eche group game as clear favourites (no disrespect to the USA but the truth). Also could the timing be any better? 8:30 on a Saturday night, the pubs will be heaving and the atmosphere will be incredible.

    Portugal vs Ivory Coast is probably the tie of the opening fixtures but it's the Brazil vs Ivory Coast game I'm looking forward to most, personally I think the winner of that will top the group possibly edging the loser into 3rd in favour of Portugal.

    Spain must be laughing although complaincency might cost them once past the group stage if they've not really been tested in the opening round.

    Is it me or do you just know Ze Germans will win their group at a canter scoring shed loads in the process.

    Roll on kick off I simply can't wait.

  • Comment number 38.

    Tim did you catch Cardozo's hat-trick over the weekend and that sublime Saviola chip? Definitely worh a look here.

    I'm hoping Cardozo can somehow bring his club form for Paraguay and Maradona to stop overlooking Saviola, he's quality.

  • Comment number 39.

    I think the whole World Cup process was a bit of a farce. Each draw for major international tournaments seems to get more and more complicated each year.

    The concept of seeding eight teams and putting them in separate groups I understand entirely, a group with Brazil, Spain, Italy and Argentina would be wonderful viewing but would create a lopsided draw later in the competition. But why this obesssion with then separating teams by various further factors? Geography, seeding, who you qualified against etc? FIFA claim it is for fairness and equality but it just seems to smack of a thinly veiled fix to avoid controversial fixtures and make it easier for top teams to reach the final.

    The Geography argument seems conradictory because it seems, as a BBC article points out, this draw has been heavily favourable to European teams. 10 of the last 16 being from Europe seems very possible. The politics argument seems extremely flimsy (keeping North and South Korea apart, just as FIFA did with Japan and S.Korea in 2002) and frankly against the spirit of the event. The USA - Iran game a few years back was excellent neutral viewing! As for why teams that qualified together being kept apart... I've no idea what the logic behind that is.

    The Champions League has long since given up any pretence of being a cup competition and I fear the World Cup is going the same way. Football is not an exact science and the question of who is the best team in the world will always be somewhat subjective so I wish FIFA would stop fiddling with the format.

  • Comment number 40.

    A depressing fact for fans of South American football:
    Apart from Brazil and Argentina no South American team has reached the quarter final since Uruguay in 1970.
    Their controversial win over the USSR was the last win in a World Cup knock-out match for one of Conembols' 'other' teams - and Uruguay haven't won a single match at the finals since.
    The last knock-out winners before that was when hosts Chile beat the USSR in 1962 - and Chile also haven't won a single game since at the finals.
    Surely one of Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay can improve on this terrible stat? Are Paraguay the most likely?

  • Comment number 41.

    To correct myself ! Peru did reach the last 8 (not a knock out that year) in 1978 but also didn't win a game beyond the group phase.

  • Comment number 42.

    #34: His name was Archive McLean.

  • Comment number 43.

    guys you have to know that every world cup that has ben hosted outside europe goes to the south americans.... brazil though hev edged the europens in their home continent that is 1958 sweden obviously led by the legendry pele.. so the best european teams can go shud be runner up spot..

  • Comment number 44.

    I disagree with the author when he says that he numbers of South American Super Stars in Europe is declining. It is clear that in this decade football looks very different from that played in the 90's but I have to strongly disagree with the justifications given by Vickery. I do agree that to some extent football has become a more physical game but this change is far from eliminating the dependence that European clubs have for South American stars. They make the difference! Football has indeed became a more physical game. In the 90's we rarely had the chance to stop and analyze the skills of a Defense or Midfield players due to the magic presented by players like Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Romario, Roberto Carlos or Bebeto. Today the South American AMFs and Forwards have to share the spotlight with great SBs, DMFs, CBs and GKs from all over the world and have you noticed that the South Americans are also shining in all these positions in Europe? Players like Julio Cesar, Maicon, Alex, Cambiasso, Mascherano, Samuel, Lucio, Dani Alves, Burdisso, Juan, Thiago Silva, Denilson... The list is endless. Physical strength and tactical organization are there for all and nowadays it is clear that all national teams and main European clubs are very balanced on that. What makes the difference today and always is the creativity of the South American players combined with all that. The South Americans have the strength, the tactics and the creativity. Europe has just the first two and Africa only the last one. This is the reason why South America is the source of the best football played in the world and will always be. The gap that separates SA from Europe isn’t bigger only due to one reason: $$$. I personally appreciate the strong and fast football played in England today, but the Brazilians are just as fit and can easily slowcook the Brits and let creativity make the difference. Football is getting tougher but the winners and stars will always come from players like Messi. Europeans should be proud to have C. Ronaldo, the closest you can have from magic, but to finish this topic just remember who the best player of the 00’s was? Ronaldinho Gaucho!! Unprofessional and disappointing today, but he will always be remembered for the titles he won and the tricks he did. As for the physical strength, I guess South America always had that and it is not the answer for victory. Come up with your own competitive advantage Europe! Money doesn’t count!

  • Comment number 45.

    ~44
    While I agree with most of what you said, I just want to disagree with you on one point.

    "The South Americans have the strength, the tactics and the creativity. Europe has just the first two and Africa only the last one."

    African teams may be weak on tactics, I agree totally but strength?

    Now which particlar African team could you be talking about. Now I know Drogba likes to tumble but we all know he's an actor but I can't agree that you don't reckon African teams are strong.

    What do the rest of us think?

  • Comment number 46.

    44 just reads like another example of kneejerk nationalism to me - the idea that the Africans don't have physical strength s too ridiculous fr words.

    Also, what Xavi and Iniesta do sure looks like creativity from where I'm sitting. The tragedy of contemporary Brazilian football is that it's not even seeking to compete with them in this area - you don't find one all round central midfielder anywhere close to the passing ability of Xabi Alonso - as the comparison with Lucas this year is bearing out. You don't even find one who can pass the ball like Tommy Huddlestone.

    Once so rich in talent in this area, Brazil doesn't seem interested in producing this type of player any more. So instead of creativity in this zone of the pitch you have big, strong soldiers.

  • Comment number 47.

    South americans have the extra individual brilliance to win an equally balanced match. europeans do lack that extra individual brilliance which is very necessary bcoz when teams a fairly balanced TEAM WORK WONT WORK. Africans do play better against odds i.e when they get red cards or when a ref is biased.. its a pity they eventually loose due to tactical approaches. for europeans,though it is true that winning memories last long, i should belive that the credit usually go to the whole team bcoz of their boring style of play...individual excellence for non wining players will always endure thats why we can remember the ortegas, zico, socrates, hagi, okocha, blanco they mesmerised opponents. a fact is go to WC2006 though many people can tell you italy won the cup very few can give u half the players that played for italy (unless of course italian supporters) but ask for brazilians u get a dozen of names simply of the magic associated with south american teams.

  • Comment number 48.

    #44

    For me Michael Essien is one of the physically strongest midfielders I've seen in my time. Immensely powerful, creative and very tactically aware.

  • Comment number 49.

    48 I was at cnference of coaches in Brazil shortly after the 2006 World Cup and the name of Italy's Pirlo was mentioned with regularity -the coach giving a report on the tournament naming him as his player of the World Cup - spot on, as far as I'm concerned.

    If we're going to go on with this great Brazilian magic versus those boring rich Europeans, then please name ONE Brazilian central midfielder who can pass the ball like Pirlo can.

    I make my living from South American football and it's something I love and respect. But enough of these cheap, silly, infantile nationalist stereotypes about magical south americans and boring europeans.

    The outstanding player of recent times, to my mind, was Zidane. I remember after France 98 how the Brazilian press were knocking him in their bitterness - would never happen again, brazil would beat france 9 times out of 10, and so on. I wrote a piece in a Brazilian sports paper in 98 defending Zidane - a couple of months ago a stranger came up and congratulated me on it - proof that some people have long memories!

    Percpetions started changing over here when Brazilians who were playing their club football with Zidane started talking about him -that they had never seen such technical gifts.

    In both 98 and 2006 Zidane against Brazil's central midfield was painful to watch from a Brazilian perspective.

  • Comment number 50.

    49: i do agree with u ziddane was a maestro, a talent and a marvel to watch... yes its true there are some europeans who really do the magic thats why i said these days u need that individual brilliance to turn a balanced match. but look at engalnd, spain thats why they always under achieve. trully speaking a match between brazil and the lowest ranking nation is a marvel to watch than a match between top two european teams say england vs spain. there is nuthing much fascinating in such games and the 90 minutes are not all pleasing... but brazil playing yes u fell they rob u wen they play onlu 90min. even when they play badly they are a marvel to watch. a few even none europeans may reach zidanne's class but belive me during his period the likes of rivaldo, ronaldinho even okocha could play at that same level of brilliance.

  • Comment number 51.

    49 u didnt understand me right, pirlo can spend the whole day making brilliant passes but still the match can be draw. on the other hand kaka can just deliver amazing lobs and volleys to grab a winner out of nuthing, robinho can dribble thru a congested defence...well C.ronaldo can do that at times then bang a goal thats what i call individual brilliance which can win a game from a fair match. Pirlo still has to rely on teammates coping with his passes..though at times he can deliver nail biting free kicks.

  • Comment number 52.

    51 - we have some grounds for agreement!

    Where the south american school has an edge is one against one situations. As I tried to argue earlier on about Messi, this type of skill is best picked up the informal way, in street and wasteland football - the decline in this type of football in europe has led to a decline of this type of player in many european countires.

    I sae Klinsmann a few years ago wen he was coach of Germany complainign that the decline of street footbal in the country meant that his team didn't have any littbarski figures - the tricky wingers who used to be such a great supply line for german strikers.

  • Comment number 53.

    Mr Vickery,

    From following Chile throughout the WC qualifiers, I can tell you the Chilean people are very excited but still have an air of skepticism. Games against Brazil were specially revealing of this. I could hear many people say "here we go again" being outclassed by Brazil. Having said that, there are plenty of people that now believe in the "roja" and many are thinking that Chile will the the surprise team of the next World Cup.

    My question is, how far do you think Chile can advance?

  • Comment number 54.

    the doubts surround their defending in the air, their openess to the counter-attack and their lack of physical strength - all of which brazil exploited in both games.

    dunga's comment on spain's group shows that he doesn't think much of chile - lucklily chile don't have to play brazil every game!

    on form I love watching the chileans going forward - I think they can get out of that group - they might struggle if they get brazil in the next round, though!

  • Comment number 55.

    51 - What you're saying is that Europeans players lack the south-american flair?

    Zidane, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pirlo(he's a deep-lying midfielder, do you expect him to go up front and shoot like an attacking midfielder?), Xabi Alonso, Figo, Joao Moutinho, Baggio, Aquilani, Joe Cole, Cruyff, Gullit, van Basten, Fernando Torres, just to name the first ones that come to my mind.

    Those are very talented players who are also very full of flair, and they are all european. Yes, you can make a list, even bigger, with south-american players, but the europeans are by no means "talentless" "creativeless" players. By the contrary, who has demonstrated more flair and creativity in the last few years? Spain or Brazil?

  • Comment number 56.

    Tim i could not agree more about great creative midfielders. The point that people have been picking up about kaka putting through a great final ball being better than Pirlo's great passing that occurs too far away is that when they played together you had the best of both. Can you imagine a brazil line up with Pirlo instead of Melo or my personal favorite player of all time Redondo instead of Silva. They would get the ball to Kaka more often and probably faster giving him more time to move. The current Brazil team look very strong but they do have an obvious weakness as has been highlighted.
    Tim a quick question about how altitude will affect things? Do you think that Spain's and Argentina's( if Maradona sorts himself out) constant passing will stand them in good stead or do you think it is the pace and power of Brazil will see them through. I understand the final is at altitude do you think this will have a bearing?

  • Comment number 57.

    i don't think altitude will have any significant bearing.

    The altitude is fairly mild - all below 2000 meteres, and there's time to adapt beforehand.

  • Comment number 58.

    Interesting the way the media are reporting it here seems to suggest it will be massively important but having checked you are right even the highest is like 1700 certainly nothing like playing in La Paz a further 2000 meteres up.

  • Comment number 59.

    55 on yo list has very few match winners in 50-50 battles.thats why they dont win world cups... i agree but they never really shone at country level instead their talent was grossly helped by other team mates (club level) thats why those countries are under achivers at world cup...thats why spain never wins a world cup so as england. they can do well at euros etc. you should always ask yo self why these two teams loose painfully at world cups...hahaha the lack touch of a magician.. look england 2002 that lob on seaman thats not great soccer from ronaldinho but pure magic. at most world cups they loose on penalties and i think we all agree ther is no team work on penalties.

  • Comment number 60.

    40. At 12:03pm on 07 Dec 2009, cliff wrote:

    A depressing fact for fans of South American football:
    Apart from Brazil and Argentina no South American team has reached the quarter final since Uruguay in 1970.
    Their controversial win over the USSR was the last win in a World Cup knock-out match for one of Conembols' 'other' teams - and Uruguay haven't won a single match at the finals since.
    The last knock-out winners before that was when hosts Chile beat the USSR in 1962 - and Chile also haven't won a single game since at the finals.
    Surely one of Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay can improve on this terrible stat? Are Paraguay the most likely?

    Cliff, I think you'll find Uruguay beat South Korea at Italy 90

  • Comment number 61.

    To be short. Zidane was one of the best players of all time and the best i have ever seen playing. However, we couldn't say the same about the French national team in the same period. As a comparison take Pele's Brazil in 1970. The entire team was made of players of pure talent. Same with almost every Brazilian national team in history. We can name dozens of names here, but the only country that manages to put a national team with TOP players in every single position is Brazil. This on eof the strongest arguments for Argentinians that insist in comparing Maradona with Pele. Pele had a great squad, Maradona did'nt. Same happened with our 82, 98, 2002, 2006.

    They don't always win like the 2006 team but they do come as a favorite and don't play mediocre football like England in all the world cups I have seen it playing.
    Today Spain plays the best football in my opinion. It is beautiful too see and very efficient. No need for players with super star stauslike C. Ronaldo or Messi have today but they are a team I would consider very close to having a star player in every position. Argentina and Portugal are no match for Spain. In the other hand, Brazil has managed to play in a different style. I don't like it, but it is proving to be very effective. A good point is that Brazil today has a team that works hard and take sit seriously. The stars are there: Kaka and possibly Ronaldinho, but the important is that it is clear that the behaviour of 2006 is no longer accepted even if you are a GOD player. We have to play serious!

  • Comment number 62.

    i dont belive its street soccer, i would rather call it ghetto soccer or soccer from the dusty poor streets something which i think is next to none existent in european countries.ther is no training to ghetto soccer pure talent...maybe i can say the only training you can get is watching your elder brother play before you can mek it into the team....

  • Comment number 63.

    51 not sure if you have seen pirlo play much. have a look at his pass to grosso in wc semi against germany to pretty much gets italy in the final.

    also he has often been asked to play further forward and has performed brilliantly for milan. in italy it is often debated where is best position is.

    i am not trying to say he is as good as say kaka or zidane but suggesting he is just passing the ball around is a bit harsh.

  • Comment number 64.

    That another stereotype Europeans use. It has nothing to do with street or ghetto soccer, believe me. I believe you must at least agree that SA is not entirely made up of slums. Come down here and watch the football played in out Mid and upper classes. Same shit. Any anthropologist or philosophers want to give an opinion on that? Most of our players did come from lower classes as they have few other opportunities in life, however we do have a few examples of players that came from upper classes like Kaka and Leonardo. I played football among people from all social classes, races and religous, and believe me. Football is beyond it all in Brazil It is a national culture that we all share. Just like about 90% of out population has the mix of European, african and Amerindian blood in their veins.

  • Comment number 65.

    59 - Aside Joe Cole(for England) and Figo(for Portugal), all of them were successful, either at Euro(World Cup 2006 looked like an Euro Championship) or World Cups.

    It's true that Baggio didn't win it, but was a penalty shoot-out from it.

    I could also cite Del Piero, Totti, Henry, Zlatan, Guardiola, Stoichkov big european names that I simply forgot. Do not be mistaken, European football is very close to South American football(aside from Brazil and Argentina, what else do we have?)

    And that goal from Ronaldinho, I've seen similar from Pirlo, for example. The situation was just not presented at a world cup, but for club football.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hey, Tim, no comments about Mengo becoming HEXA? Who cares about the damn World Cup?

  • Comment number 67.

    Tim, I'm not sure if anyone has already asked this I only had a chance to scan trough comments. Is there any chance of Ronaldo going to the world cup with brazil? Probably one of my favourite players of all time and I think it can be argued that he could be one of the greatest of all time! If only he did not have such bad look with injuries. He's such a deadly finisher no matter what weight he is at and makes so many good runs and is still quite quick. His skill is unbelievable and from even watching youtube videos can see he was doing so many things before ronaldinho or the other ronaldo came through. How do people in brazil view him now? Is he still loved? And mainly is there a chance of him going to the world cup?

  • Comment number 68.

    My prediction is that Argentina will struggle against Greece. The pressure is on the former, while the latter is now a very hard nut to crack. Watch out for Argentinian frustration if the first half ends with both teams on 0-0.

  • Comment number 69.

    #50, I completely agree with you.

    #55 - I don't think European players are talentless or creativeless. On the contrary. I absolutely love watching C. Ronaldo (especially when he used to play for Manchester United, I'm a huge fan of the Red Devils) and Messi play. Rooney and Gerrard as well - I mean, they're brilliant!
    But one thing I usually do when I watch football is to notice how they move with the ball. And honestly, the stuff South American footballers - Brazilian footballers, to be specific - do is pure magic! Like when Ronaldinho Gaúcho was still in his best shape - it was like he was dancing with the freaking ball. Dancing samba with it, if you know what I mean. Ronaldinho and Kaká, at their best, can easily outplay C. Ronaldo and Messi. Well, maybe not easily, but I believe they would kick some serious asses (with all due respect).
    I personally love watching the European football, but still feel like some of the footballers are a bit stiff (for the lack of a better word) when it comes to dribbling. They do it brilliantly, but they just don't have the graciousness South Americans do.

    I'm not trying to insult anyone nor am I saying these things because I'm a "cheap, silly, infantile nationalist stereotype", quoting Mr Vickery. I am simply saying what I think.

    And kudos to you, Vickery. This is an excellent blog! :)

  • Comment number 70.

    #67 - Everyone was quite surprised with Ronaldo's comeback in Corinthians. I personally don't like because I'm a huge fan of São Paulo FC, haha. I don't think he's back entirely, like when he used to be Ronaldo "Fenômeno", but his improvement is obvious. He really is a great footballers.
    But I actually would like to have Ronaldinho Gaúcho back in the squad. I mean, I know he hasn't given his best lately, but I believe he's back in shape now. He's got such an amazing potential! He's always been one of the best, in my eyes.
    Dunga already said it's up to Ronaldinho now, but do you think he's got a shot at playing in the World Cup, Tim?

  • Comment number 71.

    So Tim, what about Argentina overcoming Maradonas meddling and his old Boca Jnrs drinking partners involvement. Technically adept top players under a coach with no revelant modern day coaching experience. Their blip in Germany 2006 was down to a tactical substitution after some tournament football of the highest class...under Maradona they lost 6-1 to Bolivia in qualifying supposedly because he saw no point in altitude aclimatization...obviously wasn't necessary for him... Any hope this UXB won't disgrace some of the most talented players in Europe top elite?

    What about Bielsa with Chile, couldn't control the Argie superstars but has Chile playing at the top of their ability? Likely outsiders?

  • Comment number 72.

    Quickie, as you're someone accustomed to the beaches of Rio where the level of beach volleyball played only using football skills (feet, head, chest etc) is exceptional and usually played by 2 man teams where do you think Crouchie and Heskey would fare in the annual championships...of just the beach players...

    Any reason reason to think they'd frighten any serious international team in a world cup?

    OK lets qualify and then trash them!!!

  • Comment number 73.

    No wonder theres no cotton wool in Boots....Fabios stockpiling well ahead of time for Wazza...

  • Comment number 74.

    69 - That was exactly my point. Although Rooney and Gerrard are not what I call "flairful"(Joe Cole for Chelsea is, but Rooney and Gerrard are better players)

    We don't agree on Kaka', Messi and C. Ronaldo though, the latter two are the outstanding players in this era(The After Ronaldo/Zidane era). Ronaldinho could have been there, had he not imploded himself.

  • Comment number 75.

    74.

    I'm not a Man United fan but I have to disagree with you about Rooney. I think he's god immense flair. He has all the traditional 'English traits', raw pace, strength, solid tackler. But he has a beautifully deft touch, the ability to beat a man from almost any position, a creative ability to fashion shots from nothing and a sharpness in front of goal to finish tightly.

    I don't want to rave about the merits of one nation over another, one style being superior, more entertaining, blah blah....

    I just happen to think you're selling Rooney woefully short by suggesting he's a great player who is 'missing' some ethereal top of the tree skill.

  • Comment number 76.

    Sorry, but are there actually people that want that fat b...razilian Ronaldo back in a serious Brazil attempt to win the WC.

    He's hungry....sure but doing reps in McDs is not going to cut the mustard....and that knee of his makes Ledley look fit....is there enough horse placenta in Sao Paulo to get him going again?

    That burst of speed that he's picked up is just to get him to the front of the take-away queue.....not scare the s* out of world class defences

    Come on .........

  • Comment number 77.

    70 - I've got a piece on a website in Canada (cbc.ca) about Ronaldinho and a recall.

    66 - I'll have a piece up tomorrow on sports illustrated (cnnsi.com) about Flamengo winning the Brazilian Championship.

  • Comment number 78.

    Breaking news - Ronaldos ruled himself out of Brazils WC line-up as he's decided to back a consortium bringing 'Chippies' to Sao Paulo....apparently Dunga is gutted...

  • Comment number 79.

    HI, I think your spot on about the lack of midfield creative talent coming from brazil at the moment, and I cant understand this stereotyping of european players. There are plenty of players who can get you on the edge of you seat, Ribery on song can rip through teams, Henry even for a spurs fan was something else, torres, some of the eastern european players have been extremely skillful and there are some playrs coming through. I think the influx of african players seems to dilute it but in reality there is still an abundance of varied types of players from both europe and south america. I think people expect a conveyor belt of top world class players to constantly churn out. If you look over time each era has only a handful of top world class players and if you look at what we have now there is a real abundance of attractive skillful players from around the world. Ronaldo, Messi, Ronaldinho, Henry, Kaka, Torres, to name a few who could probably play in any team that has ever played in history.

    As for Ronaldinho i do hope he captures some of his form. For me he is the best player i have ever seen, what he can do with a football, they way he played when he was in his pomp at barca was just outstanding. Be interesting to see what happens, such a shame that often the most gifted of them all fall for the distractions around them, so many great players, maradonna, ronaldo, ronadinho, best, garrincha

  • Comment number 80.

    I just think it is a shame that central midfield seems to have lost its elegance. Managers don't want to hear about a player like Riquelme who can dictate a game of football without having to run up and down the pitch 100 times in a game. Fantastically gifted players like Fabregas work so hard physically that you see tired and uninventive displays from him far too often. Players like Iniesta get moved out to the wing and have their passing range limited, but remain good enough to churn out good displays. England seems to produce the kind of central midfielder that the rest of the world is aspiring to get to. Only because they are taught from an early age that tackling and getting back are the key elements of the game. As a result players like Gerrard and Lampard with creative inspiration still fill defensively important roles. Cattermole, Leadbitter etc. provide examples of players who show that development coaches don't even understand creativity and assume by creating workhorses they will just be able to get forward and pick a good pass.

    I miss bravery in management. I sincerely hope Xavi and Iniesta are given the scope of midfield for Spain and aren't lynchpinned by Senna and given a psuedo-winger like Cazorla forcing Iniesta to flow wide. I feel 4-2-3-1 is the formation of the future. Not the 4-3-3 which is, most commonly, actually a 4-1-4-1.

  • Comment number 81.

    #76 - Ronaldo might be still a bit fat (well, not fat... chubby lol) but he left everyone surprised when he returned to play in Corinthians. He did a pretty good job. All of the critics were saying good stuff about him and he really helped the team. I just don't think he's fit enough to play the World Cup.

    #79 "As for Ronaldinho i do hope he captures some of his form. For me he is the best player i have ever seen, what he can do with a football, they way he played when he was in his pomp at barca was just outstanding."
    EXACTLY my point! He was bloody brilliant. It would be awesome to see him back.

  • Comment number 82.

    I think many people will see Brazil's group as a three way battle and although rightly so, they are probably missing the main point in that both the Ivory Coast and Portugal can play in such a way to allow Brazil to slowly open them up. The team that will cause them the most problems will be the North Koreans who are more than capable of sticking ten-men behind the ball and fustrasting teams. They did this so fantastically well over the qualifications games in Asia.

    In my eyes, its like two giant physical juggernauts who could end up cancelling eachother out. Brazil don't do too well against these types of teams.

    Unless Dunga does not do his homework he could end up dropping two easy points there. The North Koreans will be fired up for that match, it is the biggest game since Italy in 1966 and those spirits will be with them.

    That opening match should be a statement of intent from Brazil but I have a feeling that a dour 0-0 will ensue. I think whilst the North Koreans won't qualify I think they will frustrate the living daylights out of all three teams.

    Chile and Argentina should qualify. Not too sure about Uruguay though... That's the toughest out of the lot I reckon.

  • Comment number 83.

    What a refreshing change to read a proper piece of journalism! Real analysis, a very good read.

    I remember watching Rooney play aganst Zidane, I think it was a European cup game. Zidane did that "roulette" thing, around Rooney. Rooney was stunned. About 10 minutes later Rooney did it back to Zidane, I think he'd just learnt it.

    Decline of street football, and my experience - as young kids the best players are the ones who can beat everyone. When you get to 12/13 and start learning about triangles and playing safe, those players often end up bored and get dropped, it's coached out of them unfortunately, or it was in my day.

  • Comment number 84.

    Tim, great article as always (get a bit tired of saying that every week but it really is true).

    I just wanted to get your thoughts on Diego Souza who has been named player of the 2009 season in Brazil. What's his level? How far can he go and do you rate him highly?

    Also, do you think Hernanes is due for a move away from Sao Paulo soon? I've read the rumours about Keirrison moving back to Santos perhaps on a loan deal but I'm not sure I believe those.

    http://www.just-football.com/

  • Comment number 85.

    Street football...thats it...if Fabio sends Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard out to the townships (..or Toxteth) for a refresher course until about 24th June (alright maybe a visit to the bench against USA on the 12th) they'll be nice and fresh for the last 16 whilst Brazil, Argentina et al are getting stressed out, lumps kicked out of them and picking up a few suspensions and injuries. Even then, if Germany's group goes well Fabio can even rest them 'til the quarter finals....bet Rafa and Alex would love it as well...

  • Comment number 86.

    About #77- Thanks, Tim. And, of course, I was joking about the World Cup.

    About Ronaldo: he's overweight, and as injury-prone as always.

    And #84- Diego Souza's election as the best player was seen as a joke mostly; his team only finished 5th, and he, like the rest of the team, couldn't handle the pressure in the end. Adriano and Petkovic from Flamengo were seen as the best overall.

  • Comment number 87.

    Tim the beat goes on
    Why are some saying Brazil, Portugal, C'dvoire and Korea isnt group of death. that cant be compared to Germany group (Group of fear) and my view is the death part also falls on the next round meetings with Spain (if they win). Brazil have the mental strength and physique they demonstrated before, during nd after Confed Cup 7 games, 7 wins in few days. that performance itself is nexy to none even some critics (Lippi) labelled Confed cup winners always fail at Finals but i bet this wont happen.

    i predict South Africa, France, England, USA, Brazil, C'dvoire, Germany, Ghana, Cameroon, Italy, Paraguay, Netherlands, Nigeria, Argentina, Spain, Chile to make it to second round but no European team will win 2010. my money is on Brazil, C'dvoire or Paraguay.

  • Comment number 88.

    82 - Recently North Korea faced a team from the second division of the Sao Paulo State Championship(so Brazilian team), on North Korea.

    Atletico Sorocabano played as yellow and in the score it was written "Brazil"(so the north koreans fooled their own people to make them believe they were facing Brazil)

    The game was a stalemate, 0-0. North Korea played 5 defenders, 2 defensive midfielders, 1 midfielder and 2 attackers.

    Now, if Atletico Sorocabano can draw against North Korea, Brazil can scrap a 1-0 victory with a moment of brilliance of someone, right?

    If we can't beat North Korea, then we have no chances with Ivory Coast and Portugal.

    87 - I can't recall favorites winning the world cup, ever. If I had to bet, it would be on Argentina.

  • Comment number 89.

    i know i'm going slightly off on a tangent but does anybody know if the fifa club world cup in abu dhabi next week is going to be broadcast anywhere in the uk??

  • Comment number 90.

    Hello.
    Unbelievable draw! Just what England wanted eh? And then the REAL favourites, Brazil, get the toughest teams!!! Funny that. A fix? But that would be hard to prove. I feel a bit sorry for my Brazilian wife.
    John. Liverpool. England.

  • Comment number 91.

    In recent interviews, Dunga clearly said that many mistakes were made in preparation to 2006, and he won't repeat them.
    Among the mistakes, he cited Ronaldo, who was clearly overweighted, and the excessive freedom of journalists.

    http://www.worldcupbrazil.info/2010/interview-with-coach-dunga/

  • Comment number 92.

    someone here gave statistics to refute the fact that european teams "don't do well" away from europe.
    i laughed as i read it.
    before you give those statistics, think that there are more european teams than from any other continent, so the chances of more european team going through are greater.
    The fact remains that no european team has won the world cup away from europe. No matter how far they got in the competition or how many of them have done so. NONE have won it.
    I am not saying that it means no european team can win in South Africa.
    Spain will under achieve as usual, Italy will rely on luck as their team is just not good enough.
    It pains me to say that England has a good chance.
    If Argentina takes the preparations seriously, and Diego finally calls the best players for the positions needed filled (Samuel, Cambiasso, Zanetti) then, they are definetly candidates as i don't think many teams can match their players on ability.
    Never mind how any south american team stuggled or not to qualify.
    Their campaign is far more difficult than any european team will eevr have.
    All the long distance travelling, one day you play in the highest city in the planet, the next in dessert conditions.
    Chile, Paraguay and even Uruguay will be ready and hard to beat when the time comes. Make no mistake about it.

  • Comment number 93.

    92, you can say that again but even when there are 28 European teams, their chances are still next to zero due to lack of real talent and creativity. they rely more on physique of which that doesn't count much. England are favorites on the media side but on the pitch i cant see who will score goals for them. this could be an American-frican world cup

  • Comment number 94.

    Hello Tim,

    Just wanted to gauge your feelings on Brasil,

    From my limited viewing of them it seems that they really seem to lack the X-factor in the final third. They are a great unit, physically impressive, organised and good players in nearly every position but do they really have enough players that can make a difference in the business end of the tournament. May I put to you that if you stop Kaka you have done half the job? It seems Robinho has bulked up too much and lost a yard or so, additionally playing in an environment in which he doesn’t seem to be suited isn’t helping his cause. Fabiano is a good striker but relies on service more so than his individual brilliance the same could be said of Nilmar. I just feel that as the temperature will even the playing field against the Europeans that maybe for once they lack enough players that can really turn a game by themselves. In my opinion after Kaka their most dangerous attacking threat is from Right Back in the shape of Maicon or Dani Alves.. Surely with this in mind surely it puts Il Fenomeno back in the frame if he can loose a substantial amount of weight, or Ronaldinho, Pato or even Diego...

    I would like to know your thoughts and if I you think I am well off the mark.

    PS are you on Twitter I'm sure others will agree it would be fantastic to hear your thoughts on football matters on a daily business.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 95.

    93 - Do you really say that the "Spanish lack creativity and real talent"? Do you EVER watch football?

    Does anybody know that if-not for Brazil then South America would not be anywhere near Europe in World Cup counts?

    The Europeans are not to be underestimated.

  • Comment number 96.

    95.galoucura
    "Does anybody know that if-not for Brazil then South America would not be anywhere near Europe in World Cup counts?"
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Does anybody know that if-not for Brazil then South America would not be anywhere near Europe in World Cup counts?
    Brazil 5 titles Italy 4 titles
    Uruguay 2 titles Germany 3 titles
    Argentina 2 titles England 1
    France 1

    South America: 9 Europe: 9
    So the four that Uruguay and Argentina got is nothing to you?
    Ignorant, that is much more than France and England combined!

  • Comment number 97.

    Same thing could be said for Italy...If it weren't for Italy then Europe would be nowhere near Europe in Would Cup counts.

    But guess what...Brazil and Italy exist and respectively in South America and Europe.

  • Comment number 98.

    96 & 97 - Brazil accounts for 5/9 and Italy for 4/9, so yeah, we are more than half of south-american titles and italy are a little bit less than half of european titles.

    My point was that the Europeans and the South-Americans are even only because we gone on to win 5 times. Had it not happened, it would be 4 against 9 titles. That's "nowhere near".

    Take Italy off the equation as well and you get 4 against 5 titles. Even again.

    There are lots of persons saying that the Europeans are talentless and that they rely on their physical approach to the game. That's pretty much wrong. That's the opinion of someone who never watched football.

    There's no "South-American superiority on South Africa next year" simply because we rely on Brazil or Argentina to win it next year. Can you see both nations going to the final?

  • Comment number 99.

    98. galoucura

    Had it not happened, it would be 4 against 9 titles. That's "nowhere near".

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

    Had Brazil not won any, then there would be no world cup history. And who is to say another south american nation wouldn't have won any of those. In any case that argument makes no sense.

    But those who are saying europeans are talentless and only rely on their physical approach are also wrong. I assume they are writing about England rather than Europe as a whole. Not to say that England have no talented players..because they do. But nations like Spain and Netherlands play are more attractive football. England's game is not attractive and neither is the italian's game.

  • Comment number 100.

    98
    both nations can't get to the final, they'd play each other before. And what 99 said, who's to say another s. american nation would not have won it. and how many European teams take plart against S american? you comment is ignorant

    5 nations in S America take part, 3 of which have won it a total of 9 times
    13 nations in Europe take part, 4 of which have won it a total of 9 times

 

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