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Goals galore in South American World Cup qualifiers

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Tim Vickery | 11:59 UK time, Sunday, 9 October 2011

It's the same teams, three months apart, coming up with a totally different spectacle.

Back in July the Copa America in Argentina was always enthralling, but its fascination was frequently the grim, attritional kind, with defences holding the upper hand.

Now in October, the first round of South America's marathon World Cup qualification campaign produced four open games - at times absurdly so - and 15 goals.

Much of this can be explained by the differing demands of tournament and league football.


Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick against Chile to give new Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella a triumphant start in his first competitive match in charge. PHOTO: Getty

In the former - especially in a competition like the Copa America where eight of 12 teams progress to the knock-out stage - avoiding defeat is often the priority. Paraguay, for example, managed to make it all the way to the final without winning a single game.

It was no surprise when their coach Gerardo Martino decided to resign straight afterwards. He had the feeling that he had taken the team as far as it could go - and he was well aware that a run of five consecutive draws would not be much use in the World Cup qualifiers.

In a league format, two wins and three defeats score higher than five draws. Over the next two years South America's nations are playing each other home and away. The priority this time is to go in search of three points, especially at home.

South America is vast. The away sides often face long trips and the need to adapt to different conditions, such as altitude, heat or waterlogged pitches.

Both in World Cup qualification and in international club competitions, away wins are, generally speaking, twice as likely in Europe as in South America. The story over here of the first round of the 2014 qualifiers was one of comfortable home wins for Uruguay, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru.

Perhaps on this occasion, some of the away sides contributed to their own downfall. In their anxiety to fly home with three points in the bag they may have opened up too much and made things easy for their hosts.

This was partly the story in Quito, where Venezuela went down 2-0 to Ecuador. True, this was largely a reserve side but it was one that had been receiving specialist altitude training. Where they slipped up, though, was in tactical terms.

It should have been clear that Ecuador would attack down the flanks, but Venezuela, who flitted between a 4-2-2-2 and something more like a 4-3-2-1, were not cut out to deal with Luis Antonio Valencia down the right or Cristian Suarez on the left.

Venezuela were set up with two defensive midfielders in the middle of the park - too deep to stop Ecuador's Cristian Noboa knocking penetrative passes into the wide spaces, too central to get a grip on the wide men. With Valencia rampant, Ecuador had the game sown up before the half hour.

On their visit to Argentina, Chile provided an even more glaring example of failing to get to grips with their opponents' strong points.

Chile coach Claudio Borghi's commitment to attack is to be welcomed, but perhaps his head has been turned by a desire to show that he can be even bolder than Marcelo Bielsa, his much touted predecessor. Even Borghi would surely have to admit that he went too far with the selection of his side for Buenos Aires.

He went with two centre forwards, Humberto Suazo and Mauricio Pinilla, two playmakers, Mati Fernandez and Jorge Valdivia, plus Mauricio Isla and Jean Beausejour looking to attack down the flanks. Defending was left to the typically error-prone back three and one holding midfielder.

It was the kind of line-up that might have been valid for the last twenty minutes if Chile were chasing the game, but going with it from the start meant that Argentina hardly had to work to create their openings and coasted to a 4-1 win.

This was a game where Argentina might well have been vulnerable. Following the disappointment of their quarter-final elimination in the Copa America they had a new coach (Alejandro Sabella, once of Leeds and Sheffield United), who has made changes with little time to bed them in. Furthermore, injuries during training forced Sabella to rethink his formation at the last minute.

Uncertainty would surely have grown in the Argentina ranks the longer the game stayed goalless - and pressure would also have increased with the restlessness of the crowd transmitting itself to the players. Then, at the moment that the hosts over-reached, Chile could bring their firepower to bear, off the bench if necessary.

Chile never sought to create this pressure, trusting in their capacity to out-attack Argentina. There is nothing wrong with seeking to take the initiative, but a low-scoring game like football seldom lets teams get away with committing so many players forward that they lose a balance between attack and defence.

One of the great advantages of such a long campaign is that teams have time to shrug off a bad day or absorb the lessons of disappointing results. At home in Tuesday's second round Chile will doubtless look to attack - but then so will Peru, so impressive last Friday as they brushed Paraguay aside to win 2-0.

This Pacific Ocean derby is seldom pacific, and Tuesday's version promises to be especially fiery. In the heat of local rivalry, keeping a cool head and retaining a balance between attack and defence will help determine the outcome.

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) I would be very interested in hearing your view of the chances of the Peru side in the qualifiers, as it seems to me that they have a very talented side that should be outsiders. Bolivia seem like the only team not to have a serious chance of making it to Brazil.
John Geary

A) In the case of Bolivia, remember that they are backed by the extreme altitude of La Paz, the venue everyone dreads visiting. If they can win their home games then snatching the fifth place is not beyond them.
Peru's big test is now coming up. They indeed have a talented side, and a top quality, experienced coach in Sergio Markarian who seems to have got everyone facing in the same direction. They made a great start on Friday with that 2-0 win over Paraguay, but they are usually strong at home. Away, though, it's a different story. In the last campaign they lost all nine away games.
Markarian's big task - and I think he's up to it - is to ensure they are not such a soft touch on their travels.

Q) Kaka has recently found an upturn in his fortunes and his play with Real Madrid is slowly starting to resemble the incredible run of form he had at AC Milan. I'm a huge fan of Kaka, but I worry that, because he is at his playmaking best while playing on the break and Menezes is attempting to wean Brazil off their counter-attacking dependency, his time with the national team is well and truly over. Are there any murmurs about a return to the fold for Kaka?
Andrew Washbrook

A) The line seems to be that he has to find some consistent club form first. If he can do that, then a recall is a good possibility, especially as no one has really grabbed the number 10 shirt yet. He'll be 32 at the next World Cup, and he's the type of player who needs to be in top physical condition in order to thrive. With his injury problems it might not be easy for him to force his way back in, but I'm sure there will be no lack of effort on his part. Helping Brazil win in 2014 would be the crowning glory of his career.


  • Comment number 1.

    Afternoon Tim,

    This marathon league format is a good leveller. As you have said before it gives everyone atleast half a chance, especially the so-called lesser nations.

    However, do you think, overall, the lack of quality opposition for Brazil and Argentina hinders them when they come up against quality opposition, mainly from Europe, when they play in world cups?

    From 1982 onwards Brazil and Argentina have 3 world cup wins between them.
    Europe has won the rest. (5 wins)

    Just seems to me that they should have more wins.
    Considering the quality of players that both South American nations have produced during that time.

    Pains me to think that the likes of Iaquinta of Italy and Llorente of Spain, both good players on their day, have world cup winners medals but true legends of the game like Zico, Socrates, Batistua, etc, havnt.

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    "it's fascination"

    WRONG ITS!!!!

    Sorry, just a little thing that annoys me.

    Good blog.

  • Comment number 4.

    why are prolific strikers in europe like cardozo and falcao struggle at international level

  • Comment number 5.


    You may be aware that he BBC, who allow you to blog, do not now have an 'international' link, so the results have to be gained from somewhere else. Your
    headline of "Goals galore," had me thinking the results would be shown in a list, rather than scan the blog. Ok, you might think if people just see the results they won't scan the blog at all, but to me, it's missing a complete point.
    Put the list of results (as FIFA do) either as a link, or right up front at the head of the blog, in order to match the headline.

  • Comment number 6.

    I bet Carlos Tevez was desperate to play for Argentina this weekend. Closer to his family, away from dreary Manchester and that. Hopefully he loses his passport or flight gets cancelled. We dont want him back here.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just watched the Argentina v Chile highlights. Messi was fantastic, so maybe finally people will stop complaining about his International performances if he plays like that.

  • Comment number 8.

    Let's hope the open play continues. Unfortunately, I don't think it'll happen. For instance, I predict Colombia will play defensively in Bolivia. In other words, their goal is to tie. Now, if they can win, that'd be even better. That's one of the aspects of our beloved game I'll never get used to. You either play to win or don't even bother showing up.

  • Comment number 9.


    I fell asleep whilst reading your one cares!!!!!!

    nice blog though Tim

  • Comment number 10.

    "However, do you think, overall, the lack of quality opposition for Brazil and Argentina hinders them when they come up against quality opposition, mainly from Europe, when they play in world cups?"

    Brazil and Argentina don't face any lesser quality team in qualifiers than any big European nation.

    European teams are seeded and top seeds don't play each other.

    Take for example Germany, their biggest rival min the qualifiers were Russia who were no better than Slovenia. I think Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chili as well mas Ecuador are better than Slovenia.

    Second place team in England's group was Ukraine, which lost out to a weak Greek team, that was easily beaten by South Korea and Argentina and if Nigeria played with some brains they would have beaten the Greeks too. South America had more teams in the quarter finals than Europe.

    There are teams like Serbia, Russia, Czech Republic that are very often overrated by Europeans but generally flop in the world cup.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry, but we (Argentina) played a blinder, and that is that. Infact, I haven't seen us with that much freedom and confidence for quite some time. The back 4, shock-horror, worked reasonably well, and our defence looked ok (better then usual) only messing up badly for Andujar's error - Romero's return can't come soon enough.

    What impressed me the most, however, was the midfield balance. Sosa working with Brana, not exactly my cup of tea, did all the right things. Of course Pastore is a more attractive option, but balance is the most important thing. Messi has to be the principle attacking midfielder and his performance was the closest I have ever seen to his Barcelona form.
    There will probably (and in rather in typical fashion) be a hiccup or two along the way, but I am extremely optimistic - Sabella is the best coach we've had for the past decade.

  • Comment number 12.


    Brazil and Argentina play the same teams during world cup qualifiying as well as the south American championships. The same teams again and again. The same lack of quality again and again.

    In Europe it's different. The so called better nations will play different teams for world cup qualifying than euro qualifying.

    The likes of Chile and Paraguy are pot 3 material in Europe.
    The current Uraguay team pot 2 at best.

    I'm not talking about just the last world cup but the last 30 odd years.

  • Comment number 13.

    #3 It doesn't say 'it's', it says 'its'. Read carefully before being so vociferous about grammatical errors.

    Good blog as always Tim

  • Comment number 14.

    Tim, I think you are a little harsh on Chile. I watched the game in its entirety and the Argentine goal led a charmed life as time and again the ball hit an Argentine defender or deflected off the less then impressive goalkeeper, who looked decidely unhappy when high balls came his way. Argentina seemed to have about 5 opportunities and scored from 4 of them. Not taking anything away from Messi who was brilliant but I thought that the Argentine defence looked vulnerable. It will be interesting to see how they play against Venezuela on Tuesday night. I agree that perhaps Chile were a little too positive for their own good, and fielding just 3 defenders was far too risky.

  • Comment number 15.

    That current Uruguay team you talk about, reached the world cup semi-finals.
    Could you honestly see the likes of Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Czech Republic or Sweden getting that far?
    Me neither!
    I`m just saying that the quality of South American (and Central American for that matter) football is certainly no worse than thier European equivilants.

  • Comment number 16.


    Sorry if this has been addressed already, but I can't help but wonder how a nation which has traditionally produced some of the world's best defenders - Zanetti, Ayala, Samuel, Passarella, Heinze, etc - has found itself with such a shortage of new talent in the last few years - especially when contrasted to their current attacking riches. What do you put this lack of defensive quality down to?

  • Comment number 17.


    "and Central American for that matter) football is certainly no worse than thier European equivilants."

    You are joking right?. Panama got to the semi finals of the Gold Cup earlier this year. CONCACAF World cup qualifiers are a breeze for Mexico and the States. A daft comment comparing its quality to Europe or S. America

  • Comment number 18.


    What is this, kindergarten?

    Talk about missing the point!

    I said the 'last 30-odd years'.

    Also, I'm talking about world cup wins for Brazil and Argertina.

    Dont know why I bothered though. Because Tim has yet yo reply/answer.
    Oh well.....

  • Comment number 19.

    Zeemo wrote:
    "The likes of Chile and Paraguy (sic) are pot 3 material in Europe.
    The current Uraguay (sic) team pot 2 at best."
    I can't think of any European team which can boast three strikers of the quality of Suarez-Forlan-Cavani or indeed two centre-backs of the quality of Godin-Lugano.

    The South American qualifiers are a single group. And any team in it has to play Argentina and Uruguay who are top, top sides, and also has to go to extreme altitude for its matches in Bolivia and Ecuador, and often Colombia too.

    And because two matches are played in one week, there is no opportunity for players to acclimatise to that altitude.

    I love watching the South American qualifiers and I'm glad that here in Australia a certain Irish tv station broadcasts them!

  • Comment number 20.


    I know you made the point about the "last 30-odd" years, but you're missing the point entirely, because teams aren't judged on what they do for the "last 30-odd" years, but what they are doing now. Look at the copa america. Brazil and Argentina, your so-called heavy weights, were both knocked out in the quarters. In a competition with 12 teams.

    If the rest are pot-3 teams, and uruguay is a pot-2 team, thats like saying the final of the euro 2012 will be ireland v greece. (with spain, germany, et al knocked out at latest the quarters) Do you really see that as a possibility today, or 20 years from now for that matter? South America is a very balanced continent when it comes to talent, and just because there are less teams in S. America they make a less impact on the world cup! I mean generally there is a max of 5 teams from S. america (excluding 2014 obviously), how many teams play in the world cup from Europe? 10? 12? (im actually not entirely sure, but i think its about that number).

    Dont underestimate the south americans. Uruguay came very close to defeating Germany in the 3rd place play-off at the world cup, and on another day would have won the match. In fact at the moment the majority of south american teams would give a lot of pot 1 teams a run for their money, including england, france, italy, portugal, etc. Probably the only teams which would be able to confidently be able to say they can beat the average south american team, are germany and spain. And even those two will be pushed to the limit and have an even chance of losing to brazil, uruguay and argentina.

    So in conclusion, i will rephrase your statement. While Brazil and Argentina play the same, high-quality teams on a regular basis, European teams continue to play different, low-quality teams on a regular basis, in both the euro and WC qualifiers. Hence the fact that south america have won an almost equal number of WC titles, despite thier much worse infrastructure and low number of qualifying teams for each WC. It's also the reason why Europe has won back-to-back WC titles for the first time since 1938.

  • Comment number 21.


    In making your point, you've partly supported my argument.
    After Brazil and Argentina there's only 'pot 3' quality left. (apart from the current Uraguay team as mentioned)

    As for 'Ireland v Greece' being the euro 2012 equivalent? Have to disagree.
    For every Spain and Germany being knocked out, there is still 'pot 1' quality there in Italy, France, Portugal, etc.

  • Comment number 22.

    The interesting thing about this victory is that it was scored by both Barca and Madrid team mates. Messi first in years was a welcome relief - i hope he can perform just as well when not playing for Barcelona

  • Comment number 23.

    In my opinion England wouldn't qualify in South America, it's truly beyond me how that team is anywhere near the top 10 nevermind so high in it. I'm hoping argentina will balance their team properly because they are the only chance we have of seeing a completely attacking national side capable of taking on and destroying all before them with their great wealth in attack.

  • Comment number 24.

    By the way, my money for next year is again on Germany, been backing that team since the 2006 WC and they haven't gone all the way yet but after last year's performances I see them laying waste to Europe once more next year...

  • Comment number 25.

    Comment #14. The undercurrent of anti Argentine sentiment always runs in your posts.

    Argentina had more than the 5 oppurtunities. Sabella needs to rework the defence by bringing in better options at left back in Ansaldi and Tagliafico whereas Rojo is not a natural fullback and far too slow and Federico Fernandez, Matias Silvestre, Mateo Musacchio in at centreback or even the young German Pezzella.

    However the side had balance and played with more control and freedom than I;ve seen for a long time.

  • Comment number 26.

    Good work Tim, another enjoyable blog.
    What's your take on Lucas at Sao Paulo? I've recently noticed him being linked with moves to the EPL on the BBC gossip page, perhaps a bit too soon?

  • Comment number 27.


    Why don't you look at the actial results rather than spouting your srubbish that aside from 2 teams rest of south American teams are pot 3.

    How many pot 3 teasm from Europe make it to the world cup?
    In 2010 these were the second pot 2 Eurpean teams
    Denmark Lost to Japan 3-0, failed to qualify
    Serbia FINISHED LAST in their group
    Swiss Finished ahead of Honduras and lost to Chili
    Greece Lost to South Korea (and pretty much dominated by Koreans
    Slovakia lost to Paraguay and made it to knockout stages at the expanse of an European team Italy.

    In 2006. Ecuador easily beat Poland and finished ahead of them.
    Paraguay were a disappointment. But Australia that edge Uruguay in play offs finished ahead of Croatia.

    Also, On numerous occasions Argentina and Brazil had to scramble to make it to the World cup.

    I am sorry if 4 out 5 teams make it to Quarter finals and 5 out of 5 to knockout stages, compared to 6 out 13 to knock out stages and 3 to quarter finals tells me that it is European pot 2 teams that are weaker than reats of soutnh American teams rather than rest of South American teams being in pot 3.

    Greece is pot 1 team in Eurpe for crying out loud. Of course by same token FRance is pot 4. But based on ACTUAL results it would be hard to argue that south america teams minus big two are pot 3.

    Like I said many European pot 2 teams are way overrated and are exposed world cup after world cup. Prime example Serbia "the permanent Dark horse" who are exposed in the world cups.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Tim,

    Very interesting article, there's a bit of a campagin to get Riquelme back in the national team. It would be a controversial decision as he is the Marmite of Argentine football (you either love him or hate him), but he has been in good form this season, so I was wondering what were your thoughts?

    Here's an article about Riquelme on one of his bet nights:

  • Comment number 29.


    No thanks. Whilst he is unique, I grant you, I'd rather us focus our attention on Alvarez and in particular on Pastore.

  • Comment number 30.

    28 - an option, perhaps, but difficult to find a place for him in the team - looks like they're going with 3-4-3 v Venezuela. To have him in you'd probably have to sacrifice Di Maria and come round to a 3-4-1-2

  • Comment number 31.

    1 - I don't think that Zeemo's poitn stands up (that Brazil and Argentina suffer from just playing South American sides).

    2 reasons - it clearly isn't doing the other South Americans any harm. Last year Uruguay produced their best World Cup for years, Paraguay ever and Chile probably their best discounting the one they hosted in 62. Throw in Ecuador's wonderful achievement in 2006, and I think the lack of quality argument is torpedoed.

    2 - Since the World Cup Brazi have played France, Holland and Germany. Argentina have faced Spain and Portugal, Uruguay have taken on Holland and Germany...

  • Comment number 32.

    The South American giants, namely Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile are still quite a way behind the major European powerhouses. Namely Spain, Holland and Germany. It wasn't too long ago that Brazil and Argentina were ranked near the top. Now both Brazil and Argentina have dropped to the 2nd tier of football powers. This is mainly thanks to their own disorganisation, too many wholesale changes in the quest to prepare for 2014 and poor management from their FAs and managers. Both Brazil and Argentina have the players to field 2 national squads, especially in the case of Brazil, however due to the managers picking the wrong selections, bad organisation and their lack of ability in international management they are no match for the main European powers.

  • Comment number 33.

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

  • Comment number 34.

    The average level of South American WC qualifiers is considerably higher than the average level of European WC qualifiers, so the idea that Brazil and Argentina suffer, comparatively, from lack of quality opposition is not a valid point. All four South American teams made it to the second round of the world cup, while 7/12 European teams did not. Also, the SA qualifiers are less inclusive, so the European teams play a lower percentage of teams that make it to the world cup. It's the European teams that play a lower quality of opposition.

    Why Brazil and Argentina have failed to win World Cups recently has some other cause(s). I'd say the best European teams have always tended to be better organized, and that their level of athleticism and creativity has caught up in recent times--but I'm no expert.

  • Comment number 35.

    How much of an advantage is altitude really?

    To explain, for a side like Bolivia most of their players do play in Bolivia and would be used to the altitude but the majority of south american stars live in Europe all year.

    Surely they would struggle to some extent when they return home to high altitude games, I would assume Colombia would be the prime example of this, Bogota being a high city yet most players based in Europe. Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia still having a large number of domestic players in the national team.

    Having not watched full 90 minutes from these games for a while, do you notice this sort of effect on the Europe based players returning to high altitude for "home" games.

  • Comment number 36.

    As always Tim a good blog and why not apply for Phil's Job. We would get a much better journalist opinion on England.....

  • Comment number 37.

    #3 It doesn't say 'it's', it says 'its'. Read carefully before being so vociferous about grammatical errors.

    Good blog as always Tim


    That's because he edited it. Maybe you should take some time to consider alternative explanations before jumping on someone's back

  • Comment number 38.

    #35- that was a point which was much debated before qualifying for 2010 began. Colombia decided to copy Bolivia and Ecuador by staging games in high altitude Bogota but they found out exactly what you were speculating about, their advantage was minimized by the number of ther own foreign based players who had a hard time adapting to the altitude and eventually Colombia switched their home matches to the high humidity coastal city of Barranquilla where they enjoyed more success. I do not know what their plans are for this cycle of qualifying but I would not be surprised if they do play in Barranquilla once again (which by the way is the home town of both Shakira and Sofia Vergara!)

    Ecuador did not change their host city of Quito but I too thought they were a little less effective in 2010 qualifying at home than they were for both 2002 and 2006. Not surprisingly then, Ecuador we all know qualified for both 2002 and 2006 but just barely missed out in 2010. So I would say the high altitude still is an advantage but perhaps is less so now that some of these "high altitude teams" have more players playing club football away from the altitude than it was 8-12 years ago.

    Maybe Tim or one of the Ecuadorian posters could reply to this, why does Ecuador play at the Estadio Atahualpa in Quito, which is a typical oval shaped stadium with a running track around it instead of Liga de Quito's home ground, Estadio Casablanca which is roughly the same capacity, is more modern and has fans much closer to the field as it does not contain a running track? I would think Estadio Casablanca would give Ecuador even more of a home field advantage than they enjoy at the Atahualpa.

  • Comment number 39.

    That should read, "low altitude, but high humidity, coastal city of Barranquilla..." in my post above.

    No surprise that all 4 home teams won last Friday especially with two of the region's powers Argentina and Uruguay each at home. But now we get to see how both will do on the road in this 2nd day of matches. Argentina travels to play Venezuela in humid Puerto Ordaz while Uruguay plays at Paraguay who not only will be looking for revenge from their Copa America Final defeat but also looking to right themselves after last week's disappointing loss in Peru. Paraguay I think still feel the loss of Salvador Cabanas, whose career ended when he was shot in the head in Mexico City in early 2010, he was the heart and soul of that Paraguayan team and gave them some dynamism in attack which they have since been missing. I get the feeling both Argentina and Uruguay would be satisfied by taking one point from their visits tomorrow. Anything more would be a bonus.

    Tim is right the Chile-Peru match is a fierce rivalry, probably the biggest national team rivalry in South America which does not involve Argentina, Uruguay or Brazil. Chile are one of those teams who will either look very good, as they did throughout much of the World Cup and Copa America, or will make silly mistakes which lead to their self destruction, as they did last Friday versus Argentina. There rarely is any medium ground with Chile. As for Peru, I am really curious to see how their well organized team under Sergio Markarian will do on the road. In Copa America they showed a lot of defensive solidity which will be useful especially on the road but will Markarian drop one of his talented four attackers (Pizarro, Guerrero, Farfan or Vargas) to take a more pragmatic approach on the road?

    As an Argentine, I am cautiously optimistic about our team under Alejandro Sabella. I do believe he will provide more balance to the team as he seems the coach best able to combine Argentina's attacking flair with some defensive solidity. Tomorrow's game against Venezuela should begin to give us some more answers in that regard. If Romero is unable to play in goal, I would prefer to see Orion rather than Andujar as I think Orion is more consistent than the sometimes error prone Andujar. I eventually hope Catania's Matias Silvestre and Napoli's Hugo Campagnaro join Nicolas Otamendi as central defenders on the squad as the defense gets renovated.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:

  • Comment number 40.

    lucas is overated 31 mil on fifa lols

  • Comment number 41.

    Rosarino: I must take issue with you with respect to your contention that Chile played well in the Copa America. The blew it BIG time! They had a great chance of making it to the final, with Brazil and Argentina out, but they totally underestimated Venezuela and quickly found themselves 2-0 down, before they finally woke-up and started playing. This was a great opportunity for Chile to go on and perhaps even win the tournament but they failed dismally.
    Chile are a team that need their best 11 players on the field as they do not have great strength in depth. They badly missed Alexis Sanchez against Argentina. Had he been fit to play then I think that the shaky looking Argentine defence would have had a little more to think about. The game against Peru on Tuesday night will be a good test for Chile and we will see where they are now after their Copa America disappointment.

  • Comment number 42.

    I have to get my Venezuelan geography staright, Venezuela-Argentina will be played in Puerto La Cruz not Puerto Ordaz. It still should be humid there though!

  • Comment number 43.

    #41- Chile did blow it big time in the quarterfinal loss to Venezuela. That game showed one of Chile's great weaknesses, defending set piece plays, but prior to that match Chile were having a very good tournament which was the basis of my comment that overall they did well in the competition. Their ultimate disappointment in failing to get past the quarterfinals should not take away what otherwise was a good tournament for them. More than a tournament winner can be considered to do well.

  • Comment number 44.

    @31 Tim

    'torpedoed'? Ouch!!

    @ one or two others

    Let's just say you are all right and the rest of South America are not 'pot 3' standard.

    Going back to the point I mentioned in comment 1,
    Is there another reason as to why in the last 30-odd years Brazil only have 2 WC wins and Argentina only 1?

    Surely it all can't be down to disorganisation and mismanagement like poster 32 mentioned.

    The likes of Careca, Zico, Socrates, Batistuta, Veron, Riquelme to name but a few never won a WC.

    Or am I just making an issue out of nothing?

  • Comment number 45.

    Have to say I love the qualifying system in south America and would like to see something similar in Europe. That way, top European teams would have to play at least 1 team of quality in their campaign rather than their "fiercest" opposition being the likes of Switzerland, Serbia and the Czech Republic. Yes that would mean more games but we could just reduce the amount of friendlies. England wouldn't need to have friendlies against Spain, holland, France etc I they played a quality team in their group.

    For this euros there are definitely far too many groups, with some of them containing only 5 teams! Having 6 groups of 8 teams or even 5 groups of 10 in my view would be a big improvement. At least UEFA could trial it one year and see how it goes. It would add a bit of variety.

  • Comment number 46.

    All very interesting Tim, but were you aware that Uruguay also played on Friday. Remember them? Fourth ranked team in the world currently and the current Copa America champions. They won 4-2 by the way.

  • Comment number 47.

    Rosarino: Thank you for your comments and agreement with me over Chile's exploits in Copa America.
    Can you tell me when Argentina are going to find a reliable and safe goalkeeper who can command the 6-yards box, grab the ball as opposed to punching it (which most Argentine keepers seem prone to do) and can deal with corners and freekicks? I read that you say that you hope that Romero is back tomorrow against Venezuela. Are you aware that he cannot make the AZ Alkmaar (Holland) first team at the moment and the 22 year old Esteban Alvarado Brown (Costa Rica) is the first choice between the posts. Romero was too unreliable with his mis-timed punches and inability to deal with any high balls that came into the 6-yards box, much like he was in the World Cup in South Africa.
    I really feel that unless Argentina can find a safe and reliable keeper then this will hinder their chances of winning the World Cup in Brazil, which probably presents the best opportunity they have had to win since their victory in Mexico in 1986.
    I will be interested in your views on this subject.

  • Comment number 48.

    #47- While I do think Sergio Romero needs some work on crosses, overall I think he is a pretty good goalkeeper and is an excellent shot stopper. He had a good Copa America as he continues to mature in the position. He was transferred from AZ to Sampdoria in Italy where he is the team's starter, just as he was when he was with AZ. I think he is developing into a pretty good goalie but I think Agustin Orion, currently with Boca but an ex Estudiantes goalie, should be Romero's backup instead of Mariano Andujar.

    As for the future watch for Esteban Andrada of Lanus who was on the most sub 20 team. I was hoping Oscar Ustari, the goalie on Argentina's 2005 sub 20 world champions, would become the eventual national team starter but the poor guy has suffered one injury after another since his transfer to Getafe in Spain. I doubt if he ever will live up to the potential he showed as an sub20.

  • Comment number 49.

    46 - did a piece on Uruguay the day they won the Copa America. and led with them last month in a piece on the September friendlies.

    I don't think they were the story in the first round - there was not much doubt that they would beat Bolivia.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think some people here have much more confidence in Orion, one of Argentina's back up keepers, than I have.

    Surely San Lorenzo fans recall his contribution to the Libertadores campaign in the centenary year.

    Andara is certainly one to watch, but ustari is not the only Argentine keeper who has struggled to make the breakthrough - anyone remember Bizarri?

  • Comment number 51.

    sorry, Andrada - lazy late night typing!

  • Comment number 52.

    That current Uruguay team you talk about, reached the world cup semi-finals.
    Could you honestly see the likes of Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Czech Republic or Sweden getting that far?
    Well yes I could see all of these teams get that far if they like Uruguay produced their best team in a generation or two. All teams come and go in cycles and its not so long ago that the WC saw strong Swedish and Russian teams and others such as Romania and Bulgaria. Arguably Uruguay only got as far as they did on the wing and a prayer of a Ghana penalty debacle. Very good team though but I also have memories of them in 86 against against Scotland and it wasn't nice or pretty.

    Aside from that EEuropean teams have tended not to travel that well outside Europe but hopefully that will change. Generally they produce good technical players and every so often a Lobanovsky, a Hagi or a Stojkovic comes along and makes it special.

  • Comment number 53.

    Good stuff as usual Tim. No real surprises in the opening round, Chile extremely naive but then I suppose they couldn't see themselves holding a side like Argentina to a draw away from home so just went for it. Could've made them work a bit harder though - I do like Valdivia but surely a more defensive-minded player in there would've been a better shout.

    Peru are in with a great chance of qualifying IMO. With Guerrero playing well and Pizzaro and Farfan back, that is a splendid range of attacking options. As well as Chiroque, who was for me one of the most enjoyable players to watch at the Copa.

  • Comment number 54.

    Zeemo, the reality is there is no simple reason to explain these things, but ignoring the development of defensive football generally over the period - success is not somehow guaranteed in a cup format when you come up against quality sides. Holland played some of the best football ever seen in the 70s but never won the WC.

    You have mentioned a list of great Brazil or Argentinian players who didn't win the WC over the past 30 years, but you could do the same for every other big footballing nation since the 80s (eg Gullit, Van Basten, Rijkaard for Holland, Baggio, Maldini, Baresi for Italy etc).

    James @ #41 - as I remember it, Chile got back into the game at 1-1 in the 2nd half and for all the world looked like they would go on and win that game. Poor defending at a set piece did them again, but really they did not deserve to lose the game overall IMO. They did play ok going forward I thought, without ever hitting top gear, and were a bit unlucky at times.

  • Comment number 55.

    You have mentioned a list of great Brazil or Argentinian players who didn't win the WC over the past 30 years, but you could do the same for every other big footballing nation since the 80s (eg Gullit, Van Basten, Rijkaard for Holland, Baggio, Maldini, Baresi for Italy etc).

    And you could say the same for every great player irrespective of whether they had played in a BIG team or not: George Best, Jimmy Johnstone and Denis Law to name but a few, from countries which will probably never be in any danger of getting far in any tournament. The Brazil of '82 were wonderful to watch but fatally defensively flawed.

  • Comment number 56.

    #44 - In the 8 World Cups from 1982 on, half of them have been held in Europe. None have been held in South America. European countries won all 4 of the cups held in Europe. They have only won 1 cup held in another continent. Brazil and Argentina have won the other 3 cups staged on other continents.

    So I think the 'home continent' advantage may explain why Brazil and Argentina have 'only' won 3 of those 8 World Cups.

  • Comment number 57.

    Why are there so many comparisons between different regions? This is a fruitless task. Good teams come and go from every corner of the planet. US amateurs once shocked England (1950), as did "unknown" Hungary (1953). Germany fell to Algeria (82), Italy almost succumbed to Cameroon (82) and Nigeria (94), Argentina were overwhelmed by Cameroon (90), Spain fell to S. Korea (02), Senegal pulverized France (02), Germany collapsed against Croatia (98), winners Spain lost to Switzerland (2010), Italy choked against New Zealand (2010), Uruguay trounced by little Denmark (86), Ghana shocked the Czechs (06), Mexico trounced France (10) etc.

    In all these examples, the so called "minnows" shocked the world. There is no science that can explain these results. And it has nothing to do with the type of grass, eggs, air, beef, garri, or coffee in each "minnow" country. It simply so happens that every once in a while one country produces a constellation of super skilled players who happen to gel at the right time and under the right coach (i.e. one who lets them play without interfering too much e.g. Ramsey, Santana, Michels etc.)

    Let's enjoy the breathtaking and joyful insouciance of the current crop of South American players. In two years we will find out who is good enough.

    Thank you Tim for your insightful S.A. coverage.


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