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South American youngsters set to shine

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Tim Vickery | 11:30 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

The season kicks off on my side of the Atlantic this weekend with one of the great hidden gems of the footballing calendar - the South American under-20 Championship.

Back in 1954, when it was first held, this was an out-and-out youth competition. It is stretching the point to say the same thing today. In contemporary South American football there are teenagers taking on senior roles with their club sides. This year's main attraction is Neymar, who, like Adriano in the 2001 tournament, is going to the under-20 Championship having already represented Brazil at senior level. Carlos Tevez was already a Boca Juniors idol when he played for Argentina in the 2003 tournament.

But there are also plenty of undiscovered jewels on show. A team-mate of Tevez back in 2003 was Javier Mascherano. At the time he had not played a senior game for River Plate. But he was so impressive in the under-20s that he was fast-tracked. A few months later he played for the full Argentina side - still without having made his River Plate debut.

Another Argentine midfielder, Ever Banega, used the 2007 tournament to give his career an astonishing kick-start. Barely known even to Boca Juniors fans at the start of the competition, by the end he had forced his club coach to find a place for him in the starting line-up, and was just a few months away from winning the Copa Libertadores, being capped at senior level and a big money transfer to Spain.

But, as I have mentioned on other occasions, the most sensational emergence I have seen in the South American under-20s was that of Lionel Messi in 2005. He was only 17 at the time, and even Argentina did not know much about him.

There was a feeling that he had been selected to ensure that, if there was something special there, Argentina rather than Spain would be the long-term beneficiaries. Messi was not even given the number 10 shirt. Within a few minutes, though, it was apparent that we were dealing with something very special, and the rest is history.

Lionel Messi (white T-shirt) and his Argentina team-mates celebrate winning the 2005 South American under-20 Championships.

Lionel Messi (white T-shirt) and his Argentina team-mates celebrate winning the 2005 South American under-20 Championships. Pic: Getty Images.

Being there in Colombia six years ago at the start of the story is the highlight of my career.

If most of the names mentioned so far have been from Argentina, that is no coincidence.

The last tournament in 2009 went very badly for them. That aside, over recent years they have been the kings of under-20 football. Between 1995 and 2007 they won five out of seven World Cups at the level. But winning titles is never the most important aspect of youth football. Far more important, they have groomed and prepared a conveyor belt of players for the senior national side.

Behind this success was a simple but brilliant observation from Jose Pekerman, who took charge of Argentina's youth sides in the mid-90s. The global market in footballers was gathering pace. Pekerman reasoned that Argentine players would be sold abroad at an ever younger age.

The youth sides, then, were where these players could be secured for the long-term benefit of Argentine football. The youngsters would be given a crash course in their country's footballing identity. The success of the project was apparent in the 2006 World Cup, by which time Pekerman was coaching the senior side. The team was full of graduates from the youth sides. By 2006 almost all of them played in Europe.

But you could watch their elaborate passing game, based around the midfield artistry of Juan Roman Riquelme, and know instantly that you were watching Argentina.

The Pekerman model is now being followed by Uruguay - whose 2010 World Cup squad had a number of players recently promoted from the Under-20 team, with more poised to break through.

Part of Chile's success in playing such pleasing football in South Africa comes from the fact that coach Marcelo Bielsa took over at an opportune moment, just after the under-20's had come third in the 2007 World Youth Cup. Bielsa's dynamic attacking gameplan needs fit young players - and he was quick to promote the wonderful right winger Alexis Sanchez, along with Mauricio Isla, Arturo Vidal, Carlos Carmona and Gary Medel.

Colombia had a fine under-20 side in 2005, with Hugo Rodallega, Radamel Falcao Garcia, Dayro Moremo, Abel Aguilar, Cristian Zapata and Camilo Zuniga. Their hopes of making it to the next World Cup are in part based on an expectation that this generation has now reached maturity.

And what of Brazil? They have frequently been South American champions. They won the World Youth Cup in 2003, and were runners-up in the last final in 2009. But there is a feeling that they have been performing below potential at the level. Certainly, new senior coach Mano Menezes thinks so. It was one of the first things he talked about when he was appointed at the end of July. Something was wrong, he said. Not enough players were progressing from the under-20s to the senior side.

Perhaps the problem lay in the fact that Brazil's under-20 coaches were often inexperienced. Maybe, in an effort to make a name for themselves, they were taking the most dangerous short cut in youth football - bulking up, and giving priority to size rather than skill.

There has been a change of philosophy, with the under-20s brought closer to the senior side and expected to play in the same style. They are coached by Ney Franco, well-respected and with a sound record in youth development. And Franco is under pressure as soon as the action starts in Peru this Sunday.

The South American under-20 Championship qualifies four teams for this year's World Youth Cup in Colombia - which should be easy enough for Brazil, especially as the hosts qualify automatically. But the tournament also serves as the qualifiers for the London Olympics - and here South America has only two places.

Making sure of an Olympic spot is more important for Brazil than for anyone else. As the next World Cup hosts, they have no qualifying games to whip a side into shape. The Olympic tournament, then, is seen as an essential half way house on the road to 2014. Missing out on a place would be a huge blow.

Normally, the success or failure of youth work can only properly be judged years afterwards. But that is not quite true in Ney Franco's debut under-20 campaign. His Brazil side have to finish in the top two.

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

From last week's postbag;

Q) What is your opinion of Mauro Boselli? As a Wigan Athletic season ticket holder for the last 16 years I am extremely worried. He came with a huge reputation and a huge price tag (for Wigan Athletic), of around £6m, and rumours are that he is due to be sold/loaned out in this transfer window. He has scored just once in the cup for us and is struggling to either adapt or maybe he just isn't good enough at this level. What you think the problem is.
Marc Thompson

A) I was frankly amazed that Wigan bought him. He's a goal poacher, a penalty area finisher who doesn't offer anything else. So if he's not scoring? Back with Estudiantes he was playing in front of the best midfield in South America, having lots of chances and as he put them away his confidence soared. I thought it was very predictable that he would find things harder at Wigan - not so many chances, bigger, better defenders, and if he doesn't score then he's not making a contribution, so confidence plummets. He may yet have his moments, but for my mind he was a big gamble, and I'm not sure that a club like Wigan can take such a chance with a record signing.

Q) I have seen reports that Sunderland have been linked to Victor Caceres of Libertad. I have gathered that he is a combative midfield player but am hoping you can shed more light on him and whether he would be suited to the Premier League given that some of the South American players Sunderland have signed seemed to have struggled getting used to the English game.
Stuart Kirk

A) Ah, Sunderland! I always saw Paulo Da Silva as a squad defender, and was concerned that Marcos Angeleri had not fully recovered from his injury, but I had huge hopes of an old team-mate of Caceres, Cristian Riveros. I thought he would be well suited, but he seems to be really struggling to get into the games - a surprise to me and a reminder of the difficulty of the Premier League.

You might have seen Caceres in the World Cup. He's a defensive midfielder, tall, good in the air, tough in the tackle, not the quickest but with sound, if unspectacular, passing ability - a player to sit in front of the centre-backs, though possibly liable to give away some dangerous free-kicks.

After Riveros, it's hard to be confident about him. But things might be easier in this case -Caceres is not a player who needs time on the ball.


  • Comment number 1.

    First comment. Good blog tim.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog as always. I am always baffled by Argentina's lack of success in senior tournaments in recent years. Why can't Argentina take their youth level success to the next level? What is the obstacle?

  • Comment number 3.

    Tim, any info on whether this is being screened/televised/broadcast on the radio anywhere? I'm starting to get a little disallusioned with English football, and I've been interested in diving into football from abroad and further afield. I particularly admired the German philosophy at the world cup. I also love the idea of seeing youth and potential future stars being actively groomed for the future - something us in England appear to have completly forgotten.

  • Comment number 4.

    Tim am i right in thinking you supported Brazil during the last world cup?

  • Comment number 5.

    no 5! wooooo

  • Comment number 6.

    I remember you writing about Messi at the time. I told all my mates this guy would eclipse ronaldinho solely on the report you gave.

    I might have missed mentioning your name though......sorry

  • Comment number 7.

    is there any players that played with messi in 2005 that you thought were going to make it big but have disappointed you a bit tim?

  • Comment number 8.

    I hav been following argentina football for a long time ago, i found out that the under U20 taurnaments had been their birth right, why can't they transformed this to there senior setup?

  • Comment number 9.

    Good point about Bulking Up Tim. I remember England being trounced by Ghana a few years back, played off the park. Yet England looked to have a very mature looking squad, who were doing relatively well at that level. The likes of Daviod Unsworth and Jamie Pollock looked like men ten years ahead of their age. Yes they could do well in such a tournament but ultimately, the skill levels were lacking and a lot of that squad made virtually no impact on the international game, and very few on the domestic game itself.

    That brings me to the point of: Has anybody from South America failed to live upto the promise they showed in these tournaments? What were the reasons why? Nii Lamptey is the famous African answer to this question

  • Comment number 10.

    Any chance at a quick top 5 players to look out for at the tournament?
    Guessing Neymar and Ganso will be near the top but any others who you reckon will be making big money moves post tourney?

  • Comment number 11.

    9. At 1:44pm on 10 Jan 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    That brings me to the point of: Has anybody from South America failed to live upto the promise they showed in these tournaments? What were the reasons why? Nii Lamptey is the famous African answer to this question


    That's an interesting post. I looked at the 2007 version of this South American U-20 tournament and Edinson Cavani (now at Napoli) was top scorer, Pato and Liverpool's Lucas were also amongst the top scorers (Lucas got 4 goals)so it definitely gives a good clue to who the up and coming stars from the continent are.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 - I like Cavani and Pato. I think both will have very good careers.

    The thing with Lamptey was that he was the next Pele, the next big thing. His performances in youth tournaments were frightening, and far in advance of what anybody had ever seen before...and then a disastrous career followed after a brilliant but short spell in Holland and Belgium.

    Has there been a South American equivalent of this? I remember Galletti was destined for huge things at one point. Saviola for me has never fulfilled his promise but still has had a very good career.

    Adailton Bolzan looked the real deal, and latterly did well in Italy. I'm not sure if Castroman was ever involved in any of these tournaments or Johnnier Montano. Or even the likes of Danny, Matuzalem, Vagner Love, Ezequial Gonzalez and Weilliton who have had good stints in Eastern Europe.

  • Comment number 13.

    Reading about Lamptey, he had a tragic life and a lot of off-field problems. If he'd had a father-figure type coach such as Ferguson or Wenger to nurture his talent and be patient with his development, he might have fulfilled more of his potential.

  • Comment number 14.

    great blog as always tim! you mentioned neymar and how he is expected to shine the brightest at this tournament but who else is set to step into the limelight and stay there for the forseeable future?

  • Comment number 15.

    As an example of players "not making it" at senior level after a good U-20 tournament, I suggest the Uruguayan team from 1997, who were very good in the first group stage, average at the final stage, and brilliant in the World Cup that year, losing 2-1 to an Argentina side which included Aimar and Riquelme.
    Apart from Zalayeta, who had a nice career in Italy (sadly almost never able to replicate that in the National Team), and Pablo Garcia, who played for Real Madrid for a season, most of them went too quick to Europe, and spent their carrers in small Uruguayan teams.

  • Comment number 16.

    @zobs24 wrote: I am always baffled by Argentina's lack of success in senior tournaments in recent years. Why can't Argentina take their youth level success to the next level? What is the obstacle?

    I am wondering the same thing.

  • Comment number 17.

    16 etc - if you take it seriously, as argentina do, it's much easier to win at under-20 than senior level.

    The economic realities of south american football mean that their teenagers often have much more first team experience that the europeans.
    There are excpetions, such as the recent german u-21 side, but in general the europeans don't look at their youth sides as such an important conveyor belt to the senior team - european players are developed in the cut and thrust of domestic and champions league football, which often means that they come through later.

    The closest I think Argentina have come is 2006, when they outplayed the Germans but went out on peanlties - there are some ifs and buts there - if only Pekerman had brought on Messi, or had taken Zanetti, or had left Riquelme on the field, if the goalkeeper hadn't been injured, and so on.

    But i think they could have gone on to win the thing - they effectively ended the germans' campaign. Klinsmann had built an aggressive, attacking side that was supposed to steamroll the oppositiion - against Argentina they couldn't do it, and were reduced to hanging on for penalties - a blow to their own confidence which softened them up for the Italians in the semi.

  • Comment number 18.

    Tim, tops as usual. Standard have not slipped as the New Year is upon us!

    Just picking up on the '06 Argentina campaign: I think there'll always be some obvious things to point at (such as Riquelme's substitution at 1-0), but if you look at the specifics a little more, could you perhaps argue that they were a little vulnerable at the back, even when they WERE steamrolling teams like Serbia 6-0? I think the Mexico game in the round before (which was won by that wonderstrike from Maxi Rodríguez) showed that, if your team's tactics are right, Argentina could be exposed, and ultimately beaten. Ballack's positioning in the second half was massively key, and the defence couldn't cope with his movement or passing in the main. True that, even then, it took penalties to decide Argentina's fate, but I still think the defence has been a little too weak in recent campaigns.

  • Comment number 19.

    Thanks for not answering my question Tim.

    Your bias towards South American teams is mystifying at times. As Post #18 pointed out, Argentina nearly came up short against a class but not top class Mexico side. A game which was orchestrated by a magnificent performance from Rafael Marquez.

    It took a wonder strike from a quite ordinary player to win the game.

    The German side of 2006 was very well set up, as you say with a fluid attacking edge. But you are talking about a good team with not many great players in 2006. Klose has historically saved his best for the World Cup, and but for Ballack, Lahm and Schweinsteiger this was a pretty ordinary squad that Argentina failed to beat over 120 mins of football and apenalty shoot out.

  • Comment number 20.

    Tim... good stuff. Quick question regarding Messi, how real was the danger of Spain capping Messi back in 2005? I seem to recall that at the youth level Spain was able to convince a Uruguayan born player whose game was likened to Recoba's to play for the Spanish youth side --- but returning to my question, was there really a danger of Messi being capped by Spain? Wouldn't the money market dictate that in the event he identified with Spain as his "country" that playing for Argentina still would have been more lucrative? Especially with the whole "heir to Maradona" search Argentina has been undergoing from 1995 to the present. I'm still convinced that even if Messi had been raised in Barcelona from the age of 2, he still would have selected to play for Argentina based on a business approach --- now had Spain won the Euros in 2004, maybe, just maybe he might have chosen to put on the Spanish jersey but since his decision was made in 2005, before Spain became the powerhouse they are today, I think he would've chosen Argentina no matter what... but I'm curious to see your response.

  • Comment number 21.

    El Presidente, do you think Messi really could have played for Spain? Argentines are very patriotic people. Messi's family is Argentine, he was born in Argentina...I know he was at Barcelona from the age of 12, but I can't imagine him choosing to represent Spain, and quite obviously he didn't, he played for Argentina at youth level as well. The only other comparison I can think of is Owen Hargreaves, and despite coming through Bayern Munich's youth system and being eligible to play for Germany, he still chose to play for the country of his father (over the country of his birth, Canada and his mother's country, Wales).

  • Comment number 22.

    Tim, did Messi not play for Argentina at the U-17 South American champs or World Cup? I don't think he did so i'm guessing they didn't know about him then?

    Ganso is not eligible to play in this tournament, he's too old and he's injured aswell, Coutinho is also out of the tournament. Players like Lulinha and Kerlon are examples of players who were the best players in these tournaments but failed to fulfill their potential.

  • Comment number 23.

    Tim, are you following Ronaldinho´s "telenovela"??

    Are brazilian clubs naïve or is A$$i$ and Ronaldinho really acting with total lack of ethic?

  • Comment number 24.

    Tim, you have many good things to say about Argentine football and players. What is the reaction to this in Brazil where you live? The one time I was there I noticed that the rivalry is so intense that metioning Argentina and football in the same sentence could get you in trouble ;)

  • Comment number 25.

    Ahh poor you Tom, did Tim not answer your question? What a meanie.

    Personally, I think people get too hung up on why Argentina, England, etc. haven't won the world cup in recent years. The fact it is a cup competition involving some fairly balanced teams means there is a level of unpredictability about the result. Especially where penalty shoot-outs are concerned.

    Sunderland - Mr. Bruce is clearly still sending scouts to central and south america and I believe he's had more success than failings. Interesting to hear about Caceres, could be a good buy. I too rate Riveros and I reckon with a bit more time he can adapt to the game. Whether he can adapt to the weather is a different story!!!!

  • Comment number 26.

    #19 - completely agree.

    To put this into (my) perspective, I was born in Argentina, grew up in London from the age of six and still live here but I would play for Argentina every day of the week and twice on Sundays. More than just patriotism this (for me but maybe for Messi too) is about where I stand culturally and while I can appreciate many aspects of my adopted country I am and will always be Argentinian.

  • Comment number 27.

    Nice one Timbers !

  • Comment number 28.

    #26 - you are not alone in feeling that way, although I believe that if you move to Argentina and live there, you will slowly become a very patriotic Englishman after a while. One tends to move in the opposite direction when exposed to all the biases of the dominant culture. Biases which one knows are have no basis in reality..

  • Comment number 29.

    I think that the main reason Argentina fails to replicate their success in the senior sides is the lack of good defenders. The ones that are among the very best are Samuel and Zanetti (though Roberto Ayala was a good defender as well), and the latter was excluded from the last two WCs for unexplainable reasons.

    In the u20 and u17 sides, it doesn't matter that much since the greatest defenders usually reach a higher level later than strikers, and generally speaking youth sides tend to have much less tactical discipline than the senior ones, so they end up mostly being on the same level, but at senior levels the difference is noticed and they lose to more balanced sides.

  • Comment number 30.

    Messi is the best player in the world.

    However, I think Sneijder should have won the WPOTY...

    Going back on topic, the U-20 Championships usually throw up some real gems for the future - so many players have done well there, with obviously Maradon- I mean, Messi being outrageous.

  • Comment number 31.

    I look forward to reading your report on the tournament and potential new gems.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great article Tim! I'm looking forward to the the tournament, it will be interesting to see who might be the best players in the world in the future, and trying to guess which Brazilians will end up in the Russian League!

  • Comment number 33.

    Tim, just want to get your thoughts on Dario Conca? Why is it he has not even made his debut for the Argentinian national team? I just cant understand it, when he's been voted the best player in the Brasileirao in 2009 and 2010 and sections of the media in Brazil asking if he would consider playing for Brazil instead, which sounds absurd for an Argentinian. I think i'm right in saying he was one of the nominee's in 2010 for best South American player of the year..What are your thoughts? Is it perhaps something personal between the Argentinian coach? or just better players in front of him?

  • Comment number 34.

    @29- I think you have hit upon a good explanation for Argentina's recent failings, I have always been a big supporter of Jose Pekerman but his leaving Zanetti off the 2006 World Cup team was every bit as big of a mistake as Maradona doing the same in 2010. And in both the 2004 and 2007 Copa America finals it was Argentina's inability to deal with Brazil's attackers which led to our eventual downfall. Even the magical 1994 World Cup team after Maradona's suspension still had the offensive capability to win it all but again defensive mistakes let them down and led to that team's elimination by Romania. So defensive problems have not been a recent problem.

    As for the sub 20s, that 2003 Argentina team with Tevez and Mascherano also had Fernando Cavenaghi, anther player who we can safely say has failed to live up to initial expectations. The 2005 sub 20 World Cup winning team from Argentina led by Lio Messi had a defensive midfielder, Juan Manuel "Chaco" Torres, currently with San Lorenzo, who I thought would go on to big things but he has a poor onfield disciplinary record which has marred his professional career.

    On Brazil's 2003 sub 20 champions both Daniel Carvalho and Dudu Cearense have had solid professional careers and even made some appearance with Brazil but I thought both would rival their 2003 sub 20 teammate Daniel Alves' international career. More evidence that not every youth team star is able to translate that success into senior level stardom.

    As for Lionel Messi's allegances, I remember reading some concern that Spain could nab him, much as Italy did to Fernando Forestieri, another Argentina born player who left very early in his youth for Europe, but Messi, like me is a rosarino (someone from Rosario) who still maintains strong connections to his initial club Newell's Old Boys. In fact Messi has donated money to upgrade Newell's training facilities so I really think the threat of his ever playing for Spain was greatly exaggerated.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:

  • Comment number 35.

    Great blog. I would be intersted to hear your thoughts on the next generation of the England team also. With the youth products of Joe Hart, Adam Johnson, Andy Carrol etc coming through.

  • Comment number 36.

    Great Blog...
    I have been reading a few of your blog's recently and find them very interesting and knowledgeable.
    I have to say that Arsene Wenger has similar system in England. Instead does not much help England.
    Why has the English FA not taken any notice of this system cause it seems to be fairly successful.

  • Comment number 37.

    @9 "I remember England being trounced by - "insert team name here" - a few years back, played off the park. Yet England looked to have a very mature looking squad, who were doing relatively well at that level. The likes of - "insert overhyped English players names here" - looked like men ten years ahead of their age. Yes they could do well in such a tournament but ultimately, the skill levels were lacking and a lot of that squad made virtually no impact on the international game"

    Wow, that was a very accurate description of the England national team...can even be used as a template for England in football competitions at all levels really ;)

  • Comment number 38.

    Xavi and Iniesta: World Cup champions and Barcelona's creative force, do the hard work for Messi.
    Snejder: Italian and European Champion with Inter, runner up in the World Cup

    Winner: Messi

    Of course, that makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

  • Comment number 39.

    #21. Those are not the only execptions. Mauro Camoranese and David Trezeguet are Argentinians who chose to represent Italy and France respectively.

  • Comment number 40.

    Great blog. I guess this model of introducing youth to the international setup is something that England is now trying to take up, the added complication being that we are, at the same time, trying to redefine our "footballing identity" from your typical big number 9 towards the more technically style of Wilshere and McEachran.

  • Comment number 41.

    I have a question to you regarding Argentina. First, let me start with an introduction (a rather lengthy one I might add).
    I think you would agree that under the new manager Batista, Argentina are currently undergoing a period of transition and redefinition of their approach. In these efforts, bringing in the next generation plays an important role.

    I would argue that the current full international Argentina side lacks depth in three positions.

    The first are the fullbacks. There is always an option to play three at the back and use wingbacks, however, has Batista even considered doing so? Back in the days, Argentina had the tireless Sorin to cover the whole length of the left flank, and Zanetti. Sorin is now retired, and Zanetti, while still a class act, is approaching the twilight of his career. As far as my limited knowledge extends, the obvious choices would be Heinze (not even a typical fullback) and Zabaleta (since Zanetti is increasingly used as a defensive midfielder for Inter anyway).

    The other is a deep-lying playmaker, or a pace-setter, a metronome in the mould of Spain's and Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso, who would help the midfield enforcer with defensive duties, covering and closing down opposition players, but would also be able to dictate play from deep, either opting for a simple back or square pass, or a direct forward pass to the enganche or the forwards. The combination of three central midfield players, consisting of 1 midfield enforcer, 1 willing runner and passer, and 1 playmaker, is a widely common tactical setup nowadays, and using such would only mean Argentina kept up with current trends in football. Against Japan, Batista used the player I myself would most prefer to see in that role, namely Valencia's Banega whose playing style suits the role well.

    The third is the archetypal centre-forward - the focal point of the attack who would be able to finish moves, bring others into play when needed, and make space for them with his movement. Again, my knowledge only extends to Higuain, who is out for the rest of the season, and Milito, who is only gathering form and momentum at Inter.

    My questions are as follows.

    Which players, apart from those I mentioned, would be able to fill these roles, in your opinion (not necessarily from youth sides)?

    Are there any up-and-coming players in the Argentine youth sides who play the same roles?

  • Comment number 42.

    regarding whether Messi is an "authentic" argentine, given that he has been in spain since age 12: he still has a distintive river plate accent

  • Comment number 43.

    We should remember that players mature at different ages. A player might be exceptional at 18 but then have an average career. Similarly a player could be average in their teens and early twenties then become world class, like Drogba or Lampard. At 18 and 19 nobody would have predicted they would have had the careers they have.

    Youth tournaments are a good guide but they shouldn't be relied upon too much as a barometer for future success in my opinion. Players still have too much growing up to do physically and mentally to be definitively judged at that age.

  • Comment number 44.

    There are plenty of Argentinians to have played for other national teams, I created this sortable list some time ago

    Argentinians are notoriously talented and like Brazil they have such a huge talent pool of players that both countries produce many quality players that could walk into most international squads that simply do not have a hope of playing regular international football for their own national team so they choose to play international football elsewhere.

  • Comment number 45.


    I would like to know your views, if you have any, on Erik Lamela of River Plate, who I believe has recently been on AC Milan's radar as a possible recruit. Is he in the Argentine squad for upcoming SA Youth tournament?

  • Comment number 46.

    @ March_2K.

    The obvious foil in midfield for Benega is Gago of Real Madrid.

  • Comment number 47.


    These personal awards have everyone confused. They seem to be about individuals but often people want to give it for collective efforts. Messi was the best player leading up to the WC, he was the best player in the WC in the group stages, and has been the best player since the WC.

    The rate and volume of his goalscoring and goal making has been unmatched and absolutely phenomenal this year. But people want to dismiss him because he had bad game against Germany at the WC. Doesn't make sense to me.

  • Comment number 48.

    @ Adam_K
    Gago is finding it hard to get a game at Real Madrid, I doubt that a player who lacks match practice would merit a starting place for Argentina, whether alongside Banega or as a direct replacement for him. Same goes for Bolatti, currently with Fiorentina, he has hardly played this season.
    While Mascherano has suffered the same fate recently at Barcelona, until recently, he was considered undroppable for the Albiceleste. Also, Cambiasso has put in some consistent and solid performances for Inter throughout the last season and in this one as well. Surely he could and should be considered as an option for the destructive central midfielder's role? Or could a combination of Mascherano and a rejuvenated, in-form Cambiasso work in the Argentine central midfield? Has that ever even been tried?

  • Comment number 49.

    as a real madrid fan, i'd say rather than being a foil for banega, Gago is at his best when he's sat on the bench !

  • Comment number 50.

    @49 that's not how successive coaches at Real see it where he has ended the last few seasons as first choice regular

  • Comment number 51.

    The main reason why Argentina senior has not won anything of late is because nobody fears them anymore. The fear factor has long gone as we found out in the recent world cup. Same goes for Brazil as well. The fear factor is wearing thin and we know see teams playing their game and not afraid to take chances (North Korea and Holland). Brazil are the bookies favourites to win the 2014 but if they don't improve fast and if teams play without fear then shocks will continue to happen. Argentina are outsiders to win that one so have less at stake than Brazil but have to improve though an nobody fears them anymore.

  • Comment number 52.

    Good blog. I never realised how important the U20 tournament was in terms of the full national teams.

    Although not South America related i think it should be mentioned that alot of the Ghana squad have progressed from their Under 21 winning team and now contributing to the most successful African team of the 2010 WC where they perhaps deserved a place in the semis.

    Maybe national team managers in Europe should take more notice of how their youth teams play. Sven picked an unknown Theo Walcott (yes ok he hadnt much/ any experience of under 19 or 21 international football)and fast tracked him and he was slated for it even though now hes a key man for club and country.

    Perhaps if the Scotland U19 team that got the final a couple years ago had been promoted to the full team we could of progressed in to the 2010 WC too ;)

  • Comment number 53.

    Great blog Tim,

    But I would add a strong reason for turning Ney Franco the new coach of Brazil’s U-20 team. Our main team coach (Mano Menezes) is aware that 2010 was the last World Cup for most of the Brazilian players who went there. Ok, I know that some of them will be still playing well but it is hard to say who will make it to 2014. Therefore Brazil has to look carefully at our U-20 team. And as you said Tim, we can’t afford to put someone inexperienced as coach and waste a good chance to prove promising young players.

    On the other hand, there is always the risk of overrating young players. Examples of this were Daniel Carvalho, Dudu Cearense and Fabio Rochembach (just to mention a few). These players never developed to become brilliant players. They are good but not brilliant and certainly don’t deserve a place at Brazil’s national team.

    To me this competition is the first real challenge for many players. The ingredients for that are: facing a crowded stadium and having the responsibility to deliver. For Neymar, if Brazil fails, fingers will be pointing on him only.

  • Comment number 54.

    Great blog. Banega had a great championship i remember. Who was the brazilian player who had bipolar a few years ago and never fulfilled his potential?

  • Comment number 55.

    Two questions Tim if you can answer them I would be grateful:

    1 - What do you think of Ganso? I'm an Inter Milan fan and we've been linked extensively - esp now Leonardo is coach - to signing him this summer. What are your thoughts on his abilities and likelihood of a transfer to Inter?

    2 - What do you know of Joazinho Arroe? A certain unreputable website is carrying that he is an Inter player, and indeed I have seen interview quotes from him mid/early June/July of signing for Inter, but he doesn't appear on any of our Primavera or lower squad lists

    Thanks alot

  • Comment number 56.


    Great blog, as always.

    I think the Argentina youth setup made by Pekerman in the late 90's and early 2000's was unmatched. It truly brought a very talented, gifted generation of players together. In my opinion, Menezes is trying to establish the same with Brazil now, since the rebuilding had to start sooner rather than later and with the World Cup approaching in 2014, here in Brazil, the pressure is most definitely on.

    I would also like to know what you think of the Ronaldinho saga that unfolded the last week here in Brazil? Do you think he made the right choice in joining Flamengo? Do you think he will be motivated enough as he says he is? Do you think Flamengo can challenge for titles with him in the team, playing at a decent level?

    Also, if you would like to check out my brand new blog: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    I will be posting both in Portuguese and English.



  • Comment number 57.

    Not a single word about Ronaldinho?

    Just kidding, thanks a lot for sparing us from that.

  • Comment number 58.

    50# you must have been watching r madrid in a parallel universe !

  • Comment number 59.

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

  • Comment number 60.

    Flamengo will pretend they will pay Ronaldinho, and Ronaldinho will pretend he will play football.

  • Comment number 61.

    @41 - Funes Mori - the new Cavenaghi and Erik Lamela, the new Victor Zapata.... maybe, just maybe.

    Speaking of useless South Americans at Wigan, whatever happened to Franco Di Santo Tim? 1 goal in English football. Makes you wish he never discovered that European heritage to play the Premier League doesn't it?

    Would you also check out my blog, do the washing and pick up the kids from school tomorrow afternoon? Much appreciated.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 62.

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

  • Comment number 63.

    A tournament of players under the age of 20. We can be sure a certain French manager in the Premier League will be paying attention.

  • Comment number 64.

    @60 - I believe that was Vampeta's catchphrase when he played for Flamengo in the early 2000's, haha. According to some sources, Flamengo will only be paying him 20% of his wages, the rest will be handled by the sports marketing company TRAFFIC and Flamengo's kit sponsors OLYMPIKUS, so the club should be able to cope, plus all the media attention and sponsorship offers they will get by having him will bring the club immense profit, in my opinion. I also have a feeling he will show up on the pitch as well, because when he is motivated, he generally still is capable of performing. For instance, in the lead-up to the last World Cup, when Leonardo had him motivated at Milan, he produced some outstanding displays. I think Luxemburgo (Flamengo's coach) will be able to extract (if not his Barcelona days best) at least his best Milan form from him. What do you think Tim?
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 65.

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

  • Comment number 66.

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

  • Comment number 67.

    Clearly England has some good players, however we need the support to turn them in the world class players, perhaps the Home Nations need to start something simular such as a U20 tournement to developed this talent.

  • Comment number 68.

    Tim,great blog..always lots of interesting info and comments.I`ve just moved to live in Santos...cannot believe it.....from Port Vale to ¨pele¨...via Benfica in Portugal.Still a Vale fan, me Robbie and a few thousand others ...good luck to mickey Adams ,thanks you did a great job
    any valefans want to get in touch [Personal details removed by Moderator].As for great young players...take a look at those at benfica/recently left..David Luiz surely destined to be one of the alltime greats,reminds me so much of a young Franz Beckenbaur, Ramires(now at chelsea),Fabio Concentrao,and Ramires playing some great stuff,and at Porto ...Falcao and ¨the incredible¨ for watching Santos!!! ....and incredibly last friday I even saw Pele and got a photo at Santos ....I`m lucky my wife Adrianas uncle is a football trainer and good friend of the greatest.

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 71.

    One thing I always wanted to find out is the difference between the trainings of South Americans and the Europeans. The style they play are usually different especially seen in recent world cup between Spain and Argentinians. Team play has to be much organized in South Americans.

  • Comment number 72.

    Nothing about Ronaldo

    shop wedding gowns

  • Comment number 73.



  • Comment number 74.

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

  • Comment number 75.

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  • Comment number 76.

    Neymar is certainly the stand out player for Brazil at the Under-20 South American Championships at the moment and I think clubs will be sitting up and taking notice. Given the fee recently paid for Andy Carroll it does make you question how much clubs like Santos must be demanding for their star duo of Neymar and Ganso.

    Aside from Neymar, Lucas Rodrigues looks to have all the makings of a future Brazilian international. A class act and Sao Paulo will be doing well to keep hold of him over the next year, arguably the best player since Kaka.

    I noticed several talents from the U20 Championships have been named in the 2011 Top 100 Wonderkids at such as Araujo, Itturbe, Casemiro and Lucas Rodrigues.


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