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Can history be made in South Africa?

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Tim Vickery | 15:42 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

In the build up to the draw for the first World Cup to be held in Africa, you can guarantee that one piece of information will be cited time and time again - that no European nation has ever won the tournament outside its home continent.

It's one way of looking at it - a Eurocentric way. The statement means just as much, if not more, if it's flipped around. Only South America has won the World Cup away from home.

There's Brazil's win in 1958 in Sweden - had it not predated the age of mass TV, it's probable that the '58 team would be considered a candidate for the all time best. There's Brazil again in Japan and South Korea in 2002, and in 1994 in the USA. And there's both Brazil and Argentina triumphing in Mexico, in 1970 and 1986 respectively.

Those last two might come as a surprise to some, with the concept (a political one, coined by the French) of Latin America confusing the issue. In cultural terms Mexico might be classed as central America, but geographically it's in the north. The distance between Buenos Aires and Mexico City, for example, is further than that separating London and Mumbai. No doubt about it, 1970 and 1986 are away wins.

Does this make the South Americans the favourites to walk away with the title in 2010? Not necessarily. History is a good guide, but predications need to take into account present day dynamics - and one of the most interesting is taking place in Africa.

When the South Americans carried the cup home from Asia and the Concacaf region, there were no local teams with realistic chances of winning the competition. That might not be the case next year. Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon - sub-Saharan Africa would seem to be well represented.

Back in 1974, when Zaire were the first sub-Saharan team to go to the World Cup, their players were not without technical ability. But they defended as if they had never seen a cross (hence the 9-0 drubbing by Yugoslavia) and they were unsure of the rules. The famous incident at a Brazil free kick - where a defender breaks ranks and boots the ball into touch before the kick has been taken - seems to happen because they are perturbed by Brazil placing men in their defensive wall, a tactic with which they were unfamiliar. It is hardly surprising, African football had been kept out of the loop.

That is emphatically no longer the case. The dreaded word 'naïve' no longer applies. The big sub-Saharan powers have been to World Cups and picked up valuable experience, and their players are well established stars with top European clubs.

It might have been thought that this development would weaken the European national teams. With so many Africans and South Americans across the continent, there are fewer opportunities for local players. On the other hand, though, those European players who do make the grade are being exposed to constant high standard football - and the evidence so far would seem to indicate that the European national teams are gaining more than they are losing from the globalisation of the continent's club game.

In Germany 2006 the vast majority of the senior players from all nations were based in Europe. But it didn't seem to eliminate the home advantage factor. Europe supplied all four semi-finalists - and what I saw of Euro 2008 (which was not all of it, since it coincided with two rounds of South American World Cup qualifiers) would seem to suggest that the standard has risen since then. The fact that next year's World Cup is the first held in winter since 1978 should increase still further Europe's chances of finally coming out on top on away soil.

The South Americans, then, will face stiff competition from both Africa and Europe. Can they overcome it?

Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg
Will Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg play host to another South American World Cup win?

It would be a huge surprise if Chile, Paraguay or Uruguay were to go all the way. The three all count on dangerous strikers. Chile's Humberto Suazo was top scorer in South America's qualifying campaign, and tricky right winger Alexis Sanchez could be one of the names of the tournament. Paraguay have the excellent Haedo Valdez, Cabanas and Santa Cruz, plus the options of Benitez and Cardozo off the bench. Uruguay have a dangerous pair in Forlan and Suarez, big Abreu off the bench and the emerging Lodeiro to set up the play.

But there are huge question marks against all three. Can Chile defend in the air? Can Uruguay defend against quick, mobile strikers? Are Paraguay brave enough to take the initiative against strong opponents?

Realistically, all three would be happy with a place in the quarter-finals - something which does not apply to the continent's big two.

Argentina went out at the quarter-final stage in 2006. At the time Diego Maradona described this as unacceptable, so he has set the bar high for himself in his current job as national team coach. There is lots of work to be done before Argentina can be seen as serious title challengers. Serious questions - such as how will the team defend, and how will they get the best out of Messi - have yet to be answered. But there is plenty of attacking talent to choose from, and Maradona can draw strength from the fact that the World Cup is exactly that - a cup. Italy, for example, did not win a game for over six months before the 1982 tournament - and did not win one for over a year afterwards. They didn't even win any of their three group games. But then they caught fire and in four games beat the best the world could put in front of them and went home as champions. Providing their defence is tight enough, Argentina are capable of something similar.

But they would seem to be some distance behind Brazil. Built on the security of keeper Julio Cesar and centre back Lucio, superb on the counter-attack and dangerous from set-pieces, sure of what they are doing and in excellent form, Brazil are looking ominous.

Normally when they are favourites Brazil can become their own worst enemy. It is unlikely to happen this time. The example of Germany 2006, with the showbiz excesses of training sessions open to the public, is still fresh in the mind. And coach Dunga can be counted on to banish complacency.

But they can be stifled - as shown by four goalless draws in front of their own fans in qualification. They are probably overdue a difficult group. If they are drawn against solid defensive teams this Friday then their bid for the title will come under early examination in South Africa next June.

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

From last week's postbag:

Q) My question is about Uruguay's Nicolas Lodeiro. I thought he looked impressive against Costa Rica and had the potential to be the new superstar at the World Cup.
Would coach Tabarez build his team around Lodeiro already?
David Furrows

I think Tabarez has already made that decision - it's a bold move to throw in a 20-year-old playmaker for his international debut in the play-offs, and Tabarez was rewarded for his courage.

I was in Montevideo for the game, and came away enchanted with Lodeiro's performance. I've been raving about him all year - excellent left foot and vision of the game, chooses his options with great intelligence - but to play so well in such a high-pressure situation was remarkable. He improves the team in a weak area, and allows Forlan to operate closer to the goal. The worry for the World Cup, I suppose, is 'difficult second year-itis.' He's played so much and made so much progress in 2009, that he might start running into obstacles next year as defenders get to know him better.

Q) I have also just watched the first leg of Sudamericana final with LDU beating Fluminense 5-1. I find it a complete disgrace that this match, a final, has been allowed to be played in a place with such altitude like Quito. I noticed LDU lost 2-1 to River Plate in the first leg of the semi-final, and then go and win 7-0 in Quito to advance to the final.

Teams such as Fluminense simply don't have a chance on in places like this because they are not used to altitude.
Luke Vooght

It's such a huge step to ban a place from staging football matches, so there has to be a very good reason.

There is no doubt that altitude represents an advantage against unacclimatised opponents. But home advantage is part of the game. How much is too much? Games take place on artificial pitches and in extreme temperatures and this is OK - so why should altitude be singled out?

I'm not at all convinced that altitude, though it is a discomfort, represents a health risk. Extreme heat, on the other hand, is a known health risk, but plenty of games, including World Cup ones, take place in high temperatures.

The key at altitude, I think, is to adapt your game. The unacclimatised player loses part of his athletic capacity - so the idea is to run as little as possible, keep the ball, and stay compact. Fluminense did none of this - and understandably, they were tired - they've been through a marathon of games.

A couple of years back their neighbours Flamengo had trouble at altitude. The following year in the Libertadores their president was leading the campaign to ban it - while his team were making him look stupid. Flamengo had learned to adapt, and their best two performances in the campaign came at altitude.

Argentina's Velez Sarsfield only lost 2-1 away to LDU this year in the quarter-finals - and without a piece of slack marking at a set-piece they might have won. Their coach Gareca has experience of the conditions and it showed - his team, unlike Fluminense last week, kept compact.

And there is a second leg - Flu will have a packed Maracana and a hot night in their favour in Wednesday's return match.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Ivory Coast are well able to win that World Cup. With players like Drogba, Eboue, Dindane, Kader Keita, Kolo and Yaya Toure etc. they are a very strong team indeed

  • Comment number 2.

    Tim another great piece of writing but you've fallen into the trap. Despite european teams never winning outside of Europe it's not as if European teams have flopped.
    2002 was a freak world cup which will be remembered for the dodgy refereeing.
    In 1994 7 of the 8 quarter finalists were from Europe, Italy were penalty kicks away.
    1986 3 of the 4 semi finalists were from Europe and Germany lost a close one.
    1978 5 of the 8 teams in the second group phase were European and The netherlands were a posts width (in injury time) away from winning.
    1970 5 of the 8 quarter finalists were from Europe and 2 of the semi finalists.
    If you look at south americans in European finals (which you did) in the last 6 european tournaments out of the 24 semi final places available only 3 have gone to south american teams (Brazil in 1974, 1998 and Argentina in 1990). That is pretty poor record.
    The fact that Europeans have never won outside of Europe is a meaningless bit of trivia that I think shouldn't get the light of day, but unfortunately does.
    On African football the growth is clearly down to the diaspora without it African football would be where asian football is (one or two stars but the rest utter tosh). For example Algeria qualified ahead of Egypt, but Algeria's squad included 14 players who were born and raised in France. To me that says nothing about algerian football and everything about the depth in French football. The same could be said about Drogba who moved to france when he was 5 and but for 3 years between 8-11 grew up there and learnt his football there and if it wasn't for the fact he was a late bloomer would most probably play for France. I think African football is still kept out of the loop, but now by the sons of emigrants rather than dodgy FIFA politics (which are still dodgy mind but now in reverse).
    I personally think a European team will win, and should win. The world cup outside of Europe can't do with another 2002ish farce with upsets and dodgyness applenty. The best world cups tend to always be the ones where the big boys come to the table and play their best, I hope this won't be an exception. As Brazil mustn't win at all costs (for the sanctity of the beautiful game if anything) then it must be a European team as the Argies haven't a prayer.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ah Tim, you're awake! Was wondering if you'd joined the pre-championship celebrations by Flamengo fans and made it a little late last night :p

    As for the blog's question: I think Europe may finally do it outside the Old Continent, but given my recent football predictions, I better shut up since I'll probably jinx European teams :D

  • Comment number 4.

    Of course Europe can provide a winner. Isn't there something else more interesting or topical to write about.

  • Comment number 5.


    It will be winter in SA during the finals. More suited to European teams, esp. the Northern contingent - even England might have a chance.

    I would even add that Europe are more likely than any other continent to win in 2010.

  • Comment number 6.

    This will be the first "away" World Cup in which European teams will be playing in their own time-zone. I wonder if that will help them?

  • Comment number 7.

    As someone who lives in Peru I'm used to my team having to play at altitude against a number of different teams, invariably we lose! But that's life and the beauty of living in such a richly diverse country. This year though, Peru's two most popular teams who both are based in Lima at sea level, Universitario and Alianza Lima have made it to the championship play off final. Come on Alianza!!!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    #4: Europe probably CAN provide a winner, but until now it hasn't happened, in almost 80 years of World Cup football. That's interesting enough a topic to feature in a blog that comes by every week IMHO.

  • Comment number 9.

    How can you say Argentina winning in Mexico was winning away from the home continent?

    I know the distances are far but they are culturally linked. Argentines have more ties to Mexico than to say Ecuador, but since Ecuador is closer you count it as home. You can't just go by distances, Colombia is closer to Mexico than it is to Argentina and they are probably closer linked also.

    I think your residing in Brazil has isolated you from the rest of the continent.

    I said continent

    In the Spanish speaking world you grow up learning that there is one continent named America, its not separated into North and South. Because of travel issues two separate confederations were created not because they believed it was two separate continents.

    When Uruguay had their camp for the Costa Rica game last month they stayed in Guatemala. The Uruguayans left Guatemala saying that they felt like they were at home because of how the people treated them.

    Chile and Mexico are closely linked also, should Brazil's win in 62 be considered an away win considering Chile and Mexico are culturally similar.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog ,Tim I think the fact that it's winter and the altittude will affect some teams.On WFPI Iasked about LDQ vs Fluinese and altitude played a factor in their win. I remember 1970 World Cup in Mexico,weeks England spent getting use to the heat and altitude.

    Confederation's Cup this year showed that,especially the teams with European based players. Gloves will be a vital item,with ground frosts a regular occurence.

  • Comment number 11.


    By that logic, would England winning a World Cup in Australia be more "home" than winning it in Italy, Russia or France?

  • Comment number 12.

    Bookmakers are pretty shrewd,the top 10 in the betting 7 are European 2 S.American and 1 African team,

    Looking forward to World Cup draw on Friday at 17.00 GMT.what does everyone make of the seedings?

  • Comment number 13.


    Using Tim's logic

    Had a team like Colombia won the World Cup in 86 it wouldn't be considered home.

    Even though its closer to Mexico than it is to Argentina.
    And has just as much if not more cultural ties to Mexico than it has towards Argentina.

    You have to remember that kids in spanish speaking Latin America are taught in schools that there is only 1 continent named America. Its not separated into North and South.

    The football confederations were separated because of travel issues. It was a lot tougher to travel long distances in the 20s than they are now.

  • Comment number 14.

    Shot Gooner:

    I'm not sure about this but aren't the top 8 seeds (not in any particular order):

    South Africa (hosts), Italy (holders), England, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, France & Spain?

  • Comment number 15.

    I think it's entirely possible that an African country goes far in 2010, I think one from Ivory Coast, Ghana or maybe Cameroon could reach the semi-final stage.

    I'm not saying they'll necessarily win next year, but Spain are currently the best team in the world, and I see them as favourites.

  • Comment number 16.

    Tim Hi

    I listened to radio station preview regarding the World Cup draw yesterday.

    The guest spoke of "The Easiest" draw that England could have. He mentioned Uruguay would be the most favourable for Capello and Co due to the way they "struggled" through against Costa Rica.

    What are your thoughts please?

    Lodeiro will surely be prised away from Nacional soon wont he?

  • Comment number 17.

    Another great read Tim.

    I know your domain is South America, but just wondering if you could shed any light on the recent passing of Larissa and Mexico striker Antonio De Nigris? from what i have read he seems to have been somehting of a nomadic player, but any news on the circumstances surrounding his death, and its reaction in Mexico? Cheers.

  • Comment number 18.

    Pretty sure the seeds havent been announced yet. thats being done on wdnesday, two days before the draw.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm sick to death of Brazil/ Barcelona et al. and their seeming god-given right to "The Beautiful game", especially in Brazil's case it is a myth propagated by the great teams of old. They were shocking in 2006. And I certainly was not in any awe of anything other than FIFA's incompetency in 2002. I see them as a team of cheaters and divers -like a whole team of Didier Drogbas. I'm not looking forwards to seeing Danny Alves rolling around on the turf for 5 mins a match.
    I would absolutely love it to see somebody give them an absolute stuffing- preferably by a truly great team such as Spain. Or England -that would be truly humiliating for the international fawning media.

  • Comment number 20.

    #19 - you are sick of the hype around Barcelona, yet you call Spain a "truly great team". Don't you see a contradiction there with the high degree of overlap in players? Especially since it can be argued that the two players key to the success (in terms of wins and visual appeal) of both the teams are Xavi and Iniesta?

  • Comment number 21.

    Personally, England will never have as good a opportunity as provided in South Africa. No more talk of humidity or +90F temperatures-although they should never be an excuse.
    The conditions in June in South Africa will be close to early March in the UK. However, this will also help other European teams especially Italy and Germany.
    The South American teams best suited to South Africa I suspect will be Argentina-who seem to be able to win in any conditions.

  • Comment number 22.

    Post 14 Man City fan,seeds are announced on Wed 2nd Dec,are they usin FIFA rankings?

    South Africa are 100/1 and Spain are 9/2 favourites,Brazil Italy Germany France.Argentina,England. Post 18 thanks for info.

  • Comment number 23.

    Insightful article Tim, a very good read indeed. Post no.2(MJ)has made some excellent points in reference to the success of the African dispora in France in particular. Some of France's biggest stars, past and present hail from Africa and beyond. This says a lot about French football and society in general. But what about the large ethnic Asian population in the UK? Perhaps this indicates unease, prejudice and lack of universally shared values within British society in general?

    On the issue of whether a European team can win this year, I think our chances have never been stronger. Brazilis the main obstacle, as usual. I genuinely believe Spain, with their fabulously talented attacking players along with a better managed (than the previous 10-12 years)England are Brazil's closest competitors. Then there's Argentina, France, Italy and Germany-all capable of performing at the highest level. I can put my house on one of the seven teams I've mentioned to win it. Did someone mention Ivory Coast? Good team, one or maybe two world class players but-no chance in winning it, trust me!

  • Comment number 24.

    studentgrant75 - I do understand where you're coming from re: Barcelona - they have a good season and the media laud them as the finest footballing team ever, the heart and soul of a region, the model of player development etc etc. Yet historically they are far behind many other sides in European terms, and even last year relied on significant 'assistance' (no comment about from who, don't want my comment to be barred by the BBC who love to fawn over certain football authorities) to beat Chelsea in the semi-final.

    But you can't bracket Brazil in the same category. Yes, they were flabby and complacent at 2006 - but for the three World Cups prior to that they were the best side. They're usually a model of hard work, skill, discipline, and a fantastic togetherness. They combine the technique of the Dutch with the mentality of the Germans and the passion of the Italians, with the respect of footballing history of the English. I for one hope we see a fine Brazil team next year in South Africa - preferably destroying Argentina and the over-hyped Spanish along the way!!

  • Comment number 25.

    I would have to say the key factor separating Spain and Brazil, the two favourites, would be physicality. Spain seem to maintain a (much) higher technical ability due to the number of flair players they line-up. Whilst Brazil's team is dominated by dual-role, often defensive minded, midfielders. From what I have seen of them I would tell my own team not to try and score from corners and merely pass the ball back out to the centre backs to avoid the inevitable counter-attack goal that would insue!

    Unfortunately, whilst Brazil continues to grow attackers such as Kaka or Maicon who have an enviable physical presence, it does seem an implausible challenge for Spain or any team with such technical ambitions to overcome.

    @ #19: Feel free to point out any occasion where the media have labelled the Spanish as playing anything other than the beautiful game. Whilst you're at it you might also notice that Brazil are known almost entirely for counter-attacking and their outrageous physical presence from set pieces since Dunga set things up. As for England and 'truly great'. I am English and not one for history especially, but really...

  • Comment number 26.

    The environmental conditions in South Africa represent in interesting factor in how well teams adjust. While the venues vary, a quick look at Johannesburg, the venue for the final (on July 11th) shows that while the average high temp in July is 61F/16C, however the Final will be played at 2030 local time so the temperature is likely to considerably lower.

    This year, for example, the temperature in Johannesburg at the date/time the Final is scheduled to kick was 53f/12c, in 2008, it was 44f/6c and 50f/10c in 2007.

    While this might appear to favor Northern European Teams, another factor that will not, will be the altitude. While not has high as Mexico City at 2,240 m (7,349 ft), situated at 1,753m (5,751 ft) the elevation of Johannesburg is likely have some affect.

    In addition, it is worth noting that both the semi finals will be at or near sea level in Cape Town and Durban on the 6th and 7th respectively, so it is doubtful that any team in the Final would have an advantage by being better acclimated to the altitude.

    I cannot wait to see what happens with the draw on Dec 4th. I think that is the most open World Cup in decades and I am sure that we will have more than our fair share of surprises come July 11th next year.

  • Comment number 27.

    i think the altitude scare mongering is getting out of hand!

    firstly, altitude is not merely a condition that penalises northern europeans - brazil, argentina, uruguay and paraguay are lowlanders uncomfortable at altitude - the chileans have a bit more exposure to it.

    secondly, 1753 meters is fairly mild - you have to get above 2,000 for much of an effect to be registered.

    thirdly, anyone can adjust given time - and there's enough time between the end of the season and the start of the world cup to ensure that it's not a problem.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm starting to get tired about all these altitude comments! Thanks Tim for clearing it up on comment #27! I ask english people who have never tried to play football at altitude (or even who have never been at altitude, period) not to whine about how "unfair" it may be: playing below 3000 m is something very "doable" by football players as they are fit athletes. These excuses about Quito being too high or Johannesburg (!) being at altitude are very lame. Only is it above 3000 m that altitude is an important factor (like in La Paz, Bolivia, or Cusco, Peru) during games and, even then, it all depends on how the teams approach the game! Otherwise, teams that play at altitude would win everything, isn't it? However, this is not the case in a million years: many teams have come and beat "altitude" sides at their grounds without much trouble: it's all about playing a clever game, very unlike what Maradona set up in La Paz back in April! Moreover, only two "altitude" teams have ever won an international tournament in South America (Cienciano of Peru and LDU of Ecuador). Even more, Cienciano, who play their games at the 3500 m of Cusco have never won the national championship in 108 years of existence! If "altitude" teams had it so easy at home, then I'm sure their records would be faaaaaaar better!

    Anyhow, I just wanted to make sure that people who have never been in altitude understand that all this fuzz about altitude is not right at all!

    On another matter, Tim, could you please talk more about countries other than Brazil in your blog? I know this is your "speciality" but, as a Peruvian, I would really love it if you could tell people in England how South American football is more than just São Paulo or Boca Juniors, as LDU is clearly showing! This doesn't mean I don't like reading your posts, on the contrary, I really love it, but sometimes it gets boring to read about Brazil over and over again, especially because I see this blog as an opportunity to "measure" what the average Englishman knows about South American football, and I hope that, through your blog, this knowledge increases beyond Río, São Paulo and greater Buenos Aires!


  • Comment number 29.

    I agree, Tim, and more so with post #26 comments on the temperature.

    If ever there was likely to be conditions that suit a Northern-European kick-and-rush team, then this would be it.

    So England might have a chance after all, despite being (when we're honest with ourselves) rather mediocre.
    Just need Capello to aid the press in talking-down Englands prospects.

    In 1990 I felt England were handed appropriately low expectations, and really did quite well.

  • Comment number 30.

    Altitude factor is a big consideration but I agree it becomes pronounced only upwards of 2000 and affects people used to the sea level most, like say the Netherlands. Most teams will be coming from some altitude to start with and Jo'burg differential will be 1000 or less for the majority. Biological adaptations are always possible though these need a measure of acclimatizing.
    The bigger factor will be varying temperatures, going as low as 6 *C for upper regions SA (Jo'burg, say) for late games. This World Cup is not as African as it may look at first sight. African/Asian teams will be coming from the Northern hemisphere, in the thick of summer. They will not be biologically quite used to such chilly conditions. It will suit the European teams though.

  • Comment number 31.

    Just to clarify my original comments regarding altitude. I was merely stating that it was "a" factor, rather than a potentially significant. Tim, as former RAF Aircrew, I agree in your assessment that the effects don't become significant until you are over 2000m (1968 Olympics are a case in point).

    I did, however, come across the following interesting article regarding some research on the effects of altitude on Football in particular.

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry, here is the link to the article:

  • Comment number 33.

    Mr. Vickrey, you seem to suggest that WC is just that - a Cup - so any team can win it. The more interesting inference to me in that observation (that it's just a Cup) is that it just takes one opponent to eliminate a favourite.

    Two factors come into play here: the opponent's discipline and the coach's tactical acumen. Guus Hiddink (for Chelsea against Barcelona), Bob Bradley (USA against Spain and for one half against Brazil), Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea against Arsenal this past Sunday), Manuel Pellegrini (Real Madrid, almost, against Barcelona) have all shown that outstanding defensive discipline and good tactics is a good match for great technical play.

    While I love the style of football played by Barcelona, Spain, and Arsenal, and generally hate the way the USA National Team plays, I must say I was impressed by the discipline of the US team against Spain in the Confederations Cup. Neutral football fans should watch that game -- Bradley's boys gave a textbook rendition of "team shape", and how along with that discipline, a mistake or two by the favourites, and a dash of luck can lead to an upset.

    The bottomline: if I had to pick a team for the WC, I'd pick the tactically most disciplined team that has the right personnel to execute the tactics -- in order, England, Mexico, and Brazil. Watching Brazil is like watching the USA, with a lot of more physical and one or two brilliantly talented players (Kaka, Robinho, Adriano) added. Mexico appears to have turned things under Aguirre, and boasts some exciting talent of their own. England has it all - if anything, an abundance of stars, some of whom (still, despite Capello) don't seem to work too well together.

    On the other hand, the way Puyol and Ramos played in the Clasico, maybe I should go with Spain after all.

  • Comment number 34.

    Tim, i'm sure i remember Brazil only just qualifying for the 2002 world cup and then going on to win it, thats why i think Argentina cant be ignored, they will be as dangerous as ever

  • Comment number 35.

    "9. At 6:37pm on 30 Nov 2009, Panfilo85 wrote:

    How can you say Argentina winning in Mexico was winning away from the home continent?

    I know the distances are far but they are culturally linked."

    Using that logic, England would not count as being in a different continent if they played in America. Or Argentina or Mexico playing in Spain.

    Whilst the cultural link is clear, it is a matter of fact that Mexico is not in South America.

  • Comment number 36.

    Messi has won the Ballon d'Or,Spanish clubs swept the board.Does that make La Liga the strongest league in the world.we will fin d out when the World club championship start in UAE next week.

  • Comment number 37.

    Brazil V Ivory Coast for the Final.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm not one for judging a team on their past exploits or reputation but I must take exception where Barcelona are concerned, in recent times anyway. When they play well they are pretty much unplayable. The way they pass the ball around with options every time is just poetry to watch and when a move does break down, they are on the opposition in a flash forcing them to either give possession away or cause the attack to fizzle out. In Messi, Xavi and Iniesta they have arguably the three best players on the planet at the moment. They are a joy to watch.

    Anyway back on topic, Spain will walk the World Cup no one will have an answer to their total football.

  • Comment number 39.

    My question is about Borussia Dortmund's Lucas Barrios, who was purchased from Colo Colo during the summer. The guy was an absolute goal machine in the Chilean league (for both Cobreloa and Colo Colo) and he started the new season with a bang in the Bundesliga. Do you think we'll see him at the World Cup? Bearing in mind he's never played a game at international level yet.

    He was born in Argentina but I believe he wants to play for Paraguay (his mother's country of birth) and then there's the question of whether he qualifies to play for Chile too.

  • Comment number 40.

    Not sure about Brazil being overdue a tough group - one or two European teams certainly are!

    England to name one.

  • Comment number 41.

    An African team will not win.

  • Comment number 42.

    I personally think Ghana will be much more dangerous than the Ivory Coast with the exception of Drogba. Essien and the other powerhouses in the Ghana midfield will be taking a lot of the more diminutives SAmerican midfields to task. Its going to be interesting.
    Spain are favourites for me.

  • Comment number 43.

    The fact of the matter is that with it being winter, there should not be too much of an advantage to anyone.
    Whilst Brazil and Spain are favourites, it should be noted Brazil never do well when clear favourites...

    Could easily be an African team that wins it, but will probably be a European team (unfortunately)

  • Comment number 44.

    African teams will have an interesting time at the World Cup in 2010; whilst they are very good athletes and so have no problems with the altitude, they will not be used to the low temperatures and could suffer accordingly. However, I tip Ivory Coast and Ghana to be in the quarter-finals.

    As for European teams, I believe this is their best chance; same time zone, European weather, all these things mean that it will be like playing at home for them. Interesting point that the Dutch will feel very at home due to the language spoken.....

    anyway Quarters finalists : Ivory Coast, Ghana, ENgland, Spain, Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Germany
    semi-finalists for me are Brazil, England, Spain and Holland.
    Final: Spain ENgland
    WInner..................No Idea :D

  • Comment number 45.

    35. At 08:53am on 01 Dec 2009, Raffazza wrote:
    "9. At 6:37pm on 30 Nov 2009, Panfilo85 wrote:

    How can you say Argentina winning in Mexico was winning away from the home continent?

    I know the distances are far but they are culturally linked."

    Using that logic, England would not count as being in a different continent if they played in America. Or Argentina or Mexico playing in Spain.

    Whilst the cultural link is clear, it is a matter of fact that Mexico is not in South America.

    It's also pretty ridiculous to imply that the reason European teams have not won on another contintent is cultural. No matter how close cultural you may think Argentina and Mexico are, winning away from home has little to do with it. In a world cup you are part of a squad that has everything done for them, most of your meals are sanctioned and prepared, the only real exposure to a foriegn culture is actually 90 mins on the pitch with the oppositions fans and oppositions players. ... It's doesn't wash. I don't think it's significant either just pure hassard that no European team has won outside of Europe, this years candidates are surely Spain but they usually implode in the tournament.

  • Comment number 46.

    Completely agree.
    Historically it would have potentially a lot to do with the fact that Euopean players had a longer season, and a lot of world cups have been at extreme heat.
    Nowadays, most players in the top teams will play in Europe, and with a longer time allowed to recover post season, we should see Europe at its best

  • Comment number 47.

    @ #2

    Isn't there an old saying that goes along the lines of 'only the winners a remembered, no-one ever remebers the losers.'

  • Comment number 48.

    Hello Tim,
    I think you give too much weight to this statistic especially given how many European teams came very close to winning tournaments outside of Europe. I am not sure I also understand why this is important? Is the point that Europeans do better 'at home'?

    I think it is interesting to ask whether African nations can win or come as close to the top as possible. While Ivory Coast and Cameroon are strong contenders I believe that Ghana can actually do it. What an amazing thing that would be!

  • Comment number 49.

    47 -the saying exists but it's nonsense - betrays the essence offootball, which is that how you do it is as important as what you do.

    Brazil in 82, Holland in 74, Hungary in 54 - none of them won the cup, all of them fondly remembered.

    40 - England overdue a tough group? Got the group of death in 2002 - which pre-tournament favourites Argentina failed to qualify from.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think that the biggest pointer as to whether the location of the World Cup will have an effect was the Confederations Cup. Brazil won this tournament but Europe's strongest representative, Spain, played very well and did not look uncomfortable. Complaisance set in and they did not go through to the final.

    Now that most players from the nations likely to win the World Cup apply their trade in Europe I don't think that the South African climate will negatively affect them. The low temperatures will not put, say, Robniho off as he would have spent two winters in Manchester.

    However, and what was evident from the England v Brazil match played in Doha, if the reverse where to happen, i.e. the climate was hotter than Europe, then Europeans struggle as they are not used to it, simple as that.

    2010 is a Europeans team best chance to win a tournament away from 'home' but not because of any particular leap of skill / fitness's just that the climate is the same.

  • Comment number 51.


    "Not sure about Brazil being overdue a tough group - one or two European teams certainly are!

    England to name one. "


    Eh? Are you basing this opinion on very recent history, i.e. the last World Cup? (When England, with Sweden, T&T and Paraguay did have an easy group)

    But 2002 - Argentina, Sweden, Nigeria the "group of death" it was called...after that you're entitled to a couple of easier ones on the basis of one group of death per 8 groups.

    1998 - Romania (who were s*** hot at the time, with Hagi, Dumitrescu, Ilie, Petrescu etc) seeded as they also did very well in USA 94. They won the group. Tunisia (ok, bottom seed) and Colombia, who again, were a decent team, Asprilla, Valderrama, Serna, Cordoba, Mondragon). I'd say an average group

    1994 - n/a

    1990 - Holland, England, Ireland, Egypt. A good top seed, a good third seed - a pretty tricky group, esp. as Ireland will always find 10% extra when playing England.

    So, in summary, your point was bolewax.

  • Comment number 52.

    doh, Tim, beat me to it

  • Comment number 53.

    Hello Tim,

    An interesting article. My post, however, is about Nicolas Lodeiro. I believe I've heard you mention him before and I know that you rate him very highly (as does Rafa I hear). But I've just had a look at his wikipedia page and I understand he's owned by a company called BBC Sport?!! A case of shameless self promotion, perhaps?

    If only our license fees were spent on promising South American play makers, as opposed to giving Chris Moyles or Fearne Cotton wages, the World would be a better place...

  • Comment number 54.

    I don't think the winter factor will be as obvious as you make out. I seem to remember Messi, just as an example, playing well enough in Glasgow and Donetsk in the last few years in the Champions League! Similarly if altitude is going to be such a big factor why don't the European teams use the near 6 weeks preparation time, which has been built in for them after the 2002 shambles, to acclimatise to the altitude? The winner always has a plan, the loser always has an excuse etc.

    For those who don't like the eulogising over the current Barcelona team, you are perfectly entitled to go and watch Stoke City if you wish.

  • Comment number 55.

    54 -I don't think anyone in their right mind would argue that winter puts the south american teams at a disadvantage. Buenos Aires in July, for example, is like walking inside a fridge.

    The point is that winter conditions are not a disadvantage for the europeans - so they can argue that this world cup will take place on a level playing field.

  • Comment number 56.

    I was about to post the same Tim. This generalization that all the countries in South America have a tropical weather is the same to think that all the European countries have a cold one.

    Apart of this, to think of any team as possible winners is a nonsense. If Brazil or Spain were to lose Lucio and Kaká, or Xavi and Casillas because of injury they wont be the same.

    The WC is a short tournament, where luck, a good draw and a good mental and physical form are the key.

    Sorry for my English.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm hoping that Spain can provide the answer to a couple of the questions posed in Tim's last two blogs. Firstly, by becoming the fisrt European to win the World Cup in another continent. Secondly (and more importantly for me as a neutral) by making the team and the type of football they play the star of the tournament. This Spain team are playing the most impressive possession football that i've seen in 20 years of watching the game. I think it would be a victory for football if they could overcome the more pragmatic and physically strong teams to lift the trophy.

  • Comment number 58.

    Interesting article, Tim.

    Following the recent first cap earned by Hulk against England, I was wondering if more young players will follow his path and consider playing in Japan. There are many journeymen Brazilian players in J-League squads but I think Hulk is the first to have used a spell in Japan as a springboard to better things. And what do you think of Hulk's chances of making the World Cup squad? Rather slim, I'd imagine...

  • Comment number 59.

    Fair enough re: the winter point, my mistake!

    However, it's interesting that Brazil seem capable of coping better in hot climates than most major nations (like in Japan/Korea and against England in Doha recently) given that the majority of their players play the majority of their football in mild conditions (by comparison)in Europe. It must have something to do with their physical preparation for games/tournaments, a point I seem to remember last week's blog alluding to!

    I'm with everyone else here who wants to see Spain, or maybe Holland, or anybody else imitating that style, to win the thing. Argentina winning with Diego at the helm would be something else too! Predictions just now are too far away for me, let's see the draw first!

  • Comment number 60.

    58 - it was hulk's form in portugal that got him a call up - i don't see japan as being particularly relevant.

    and he is very much an outsider for a squad place - the only reason he got a chance last month was that with no break in the brazilian championship the local based players (adriano and diego tardelli) were not called up.

    it's difficult to see him in the world cup 23 - but a lot could happen between now and then - injuries, adriano could go off the rails, so never say never!

  • Comment number 61.

    As a Brazilian with Spanish passport I'm very happy to see that my two nations favourites to the tournament. Seeing that Brazil won most of its would cups outside south america while the europeans never won it outside europe would give an obvious advantage for us, but there's only one world cup I'd consider for that argument:

    1958 in Sweden.

    Why so? Because it was in the heart of the enemy.

    Winning in North America(1970, 1986, 1994) or Asia(2002) is irrelevant, somebody had to win, but in 3 of these 4 years a south-american nation had the best team, and in 1994 both teams were evenly matched(and the penalties decided, with a bit of luck, for the south-american nation)

    So will be South Africa for the South America x Europe conflict, irrelevant. It'll be a coincidence if Argentina/Brazil win it, the confirmation that "outside europe-disadvantage" doesn't exist if an european team win it, something special if an african nation wins it and the end of the world if somebody else win it.

    But if any European nations wins 2014, then it'll be something as good as if not better than Brazil's victory in 1958.

  • Comment number 62.

    1. Agree completely with galoucura's comment above (and also Tim's point in the article), that Brazil in 1958 is the only truly incredible feat, winning in the "heart of the enemy". As Tim said, if it hadn't predated mass TV coverage, it would be held in much higher regard as an achievement.

    2. In terms of what counts as winning a WC "away", politically Mexico is in North America (I don't understand the talk of Spanish-speaking kids learning of one single America), however culturally it is also classed as Latin America (Latin America doesn't exist politically - it's South, Central and North); in which case the bottom line is that European nations have only won the tournament when it's been staged in Europe and Brazil has the only truly "away" win (1958).

    3. Favourites for the WC, I think England have their best chance for a long time. Can't discount Spain, despite their habit of underperforming; Germany are always there and seem to have a pretty good team; Brazil of course currently in form, but hated home and abroad. An african nation will not win it, but they will put on a good show and at least 1 team will reach the semis.

    Oh and as a Brazilian living in England, I have no objections to Tim writing about Brazil! Keep it up please Tim!

  • Comment number 63.

    I am the only one who thinks that Lucio (like Rio) is currently either off-form or slowly declining. He stills attacks well for a central defender but has had a copule of odinary performances for Inter this season.

  • Comment number 64.

    Please dont despise South America ( Brazil ) fo that matter, we all should be thankful for that country constantly producing skilled and entertaining footballers from the time one can remember Jules Rimet Trophy, how many players have gone to be stars from Europe, Shame!!!! Englishmen are still heard chanting ROONEY.......... recent emergence of Xavi & Iniesta , realistically PELE to KAKA , countless stars are being generated and we as football fans really do enjoy their game, please dont give place for your envious thoughts because Europe cant produce players like Brazil does. Every Big Club in the world does have Brazilians playing a big part .remember..... Enjoy the game not for who is playing but how they are playing

  • Comment number 65.

    Could Spain winning not count as a home win, after all they are only separated from Africa by the straits of Gibraltar. I've seen it on a map and it looks like one decent jump could get you across.

    Mind you, Gibraltar actually belongs to us Brits, so that would make it a home gig for England.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi Tim,

    Again it's nice to get the inside information on countries like Chile & Paraguay where we only know about the big European based names.

    Have to say though, again I can't believe your ridiculous defence of games at altitude.........give it up!

    Altitude and temperature extremes are two totally different things and suggesting they can be compared is a poor effort. Temperature is a problem that can be dealt with - an environmental factor that may have to be prepared for - i.e. taking on plenty of liquids, or wearing under armour & gloves etc. A discomfort but not a major influence on performance if you're a well prepared elite level athlete.

    As we all know altitude CANNOT be prepared for in any other way that getting to the venue at least 10 days before, which isn't possible in football.

    You say in your answer that teams need to adopt a defensive strategy, not do much running etc. The reader is talking about the COPASUDAMERICANA Final Tim! Do we really want finals decided because one team is finished after 15 minutes, or, as you seem to be suggesting, do we want one team to spend 90 minutes counter attacking, when in reality they are the better team? What sort of a spectacle is that for what is supposedly meant to be a major final? Ridiculous. Would you have wanted to watch Barcelona sit back and defend for 90 minutes in the Champions League final, with Messi & Iniesta never dribbling because the altitude made it impossible for them? Xavi never getting forward to join the attack because he knew his team would be exposed when he was incapable of tracking back? It would have ruined the game wouldn't it? & that's exactly what altitude does to the games in South and Central America.

    No one wants to see that. They want to see the best team put on a show & win. Seeing a team nowhere near the best in the competition pick up a trophy on the strength of their home form at altitude takes away from the tournament i'm afraid, and I hope FIFA gets it sorted soon so the joke can stop blighting latin american football.

    The sooner games at altitude are banned the better. Home advantage is about the other team having to travel, having less preparation time etc, not about their aerobic capacity being affected. Like i've said before, athlete's are banned from training at altitude before competitions like the Olympics - Isn't that just home advantage for the people that live in those places though Tim? No, it isn't, because no one wants to see someone winning the Marathon becuase of where is home town is. They want to see the best athlete win it.

    Your constant defence of the farce MAKES ME SO MAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

  • Comment number 67.

    Playing games at high altitudes represents a disadvantage for the team with players not used to playing at said altitued. But it representes a disadvantage for the players not only to their stamina, etc, but also their performance depending on the tactics...

    People tend to note that most teams play well at high altitudes, but that's because their players are fit enough, and are experienced enough that they can play with another tactic succesfully.
    However, there are players, like in the case of some players of River Plate (U), that aren't that professional, and can't adapt themselves to a whole new tactic only for playing at high altitudes (the altitude affecting them too).
    So for those teams, if you continue the tactics you played before you will lose since your players will not adapt to the altitude, but if you change tactics you will also lose wince your players aren't versatil enough to play so...
    So if you are such a team, what are you supposed to do when in such a situation? Wait a miracle happens so you end in a draw or try with all you want and lose 7-0?

    Everyone keeps talking about high altitude games but only refering to World Cup qualifying matches, were all players are professional, fit, and can adapt to any tactic, and thus can play at such altitude and fare well..
    Yet in aspects like Copa Sudamericana, hell even Copa Libertadores, not all players are wonderful, and most teams depend on certain tactics for those certain players (and don't have enough money to get better players). So expecting them to change their tactics or lose embarrasingly is unacceptable, since in both cases you are just telling them to not play football like they want, and you are hindering the show and ultimately the competition itself (I think if River Plate played LDQ in any other stadium at low altitude, they would have passed to the finals, and hell they could have won the trophy altogether)..

  • Comment number 68.

    # 65 Regarding your comment on 'one good jump' you could get from Spain to Morocco over the Gibralter Straight.

    Completely ludricous. At the shortest distance it is still roughly 9 miles. This is an impossible distance for any human being to jump. Even if you morphed Usain Bolt with a flea and kangoroo evidence has proved he still come some 3 and a bit miles short.

    However my grandad did once jump from Alaska to Russia. Mind you he was damn quick so it was all in the run up.

  • Comment number 69.

    "Hopefully we will be more lucky this time. We want to avoid the big teams like Brazil, Germany and England." Drogba.... England, a big team, Don`t make me laugh. Where are Spain, Holland, Italy & the cheats of France. All of these played England off the pitch in 3rd gear. Drogba`s agent must be promoting a 2010 sports personality of the year. Please, enough tripe.

  • Comment number 70.

    #69 I think it might have something to do with respect for the league and club that pay his wages and the fact his club captain is also Englands skipper.

    Anyway, when recently have France and Italy played us off the park in 3rd gear?

    England aren't THAT bad you know.

  • Comment number 71.

    I take your points Tim and fully see where your coming from. Every team should be entitled to home advantage if it’s a two legged affair, but I really think CONMEBOL should re-consider having a 2 legged final, and have the final in a neutral destination.
    They should follow the example UEFA have employed for the Champions League.
    Going to the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro tonight shouldn’t be to much as a disadvantage condition-wise for LDU, the only disadvantage for them is facing the fans of the Tricolor who aren’t going to affect LDU physically.
    I’m not to familiar with what the weather conditions are like in Quito, but being a South American country I would imagine they will be use to heat to a certain extent, as most teams in South American should be, I would expect.
    In response to your comment about how Fluminense should have adapted to the conditions, I’m not sure if it’s possible for them to adapt to the altitude within a space of 2 days in the time that there in Quito for. It’s impossible for them to fly over to Quito any earlier to adapt due to there league campaign.
    I also agree with your point about how Fluminense have had a marathon of games, but as Cuca said, this is not an excuse for Fluminense. Players such as Rafael, Gum, Fred, Maicon, Alan, Dieguinho and Dalton haven’t featured in many games this season due to either injuries or simply not breaking in the first eleven, since they have, it’s been the turn around of Fluminense season, and a hugely successful one.
    I’m sure tonight we will see an incredible second leg, whether Fluminense can get four goals tonight I’m not so sure, however if anyone is capable of doing it with how things are going (the 3-2 match between Cruzeiro and Fluminense comes to mind, with Flu being 2-0 down, and coming back 3-2 away), Fluminense are certainly capable of it, but it’s going to be tough, because LDU are a quality team I hope CONMEBOL can consider a one legged neutral final, because it’s an important game.
    God bless both teams, but with Fred and Conca we have a great chance
    Lastly Tim, what do you make how the season will end this coming Sunday, will Fluminense stay up? Flamengo have surely got the game in the bag against Gremio no?

  • Comment number 72.

    there's a huge - and to my mind insurmountable, in the short term at least - problem to the idea of a final on a neutral ground.

    south america isn't europe - distances are vast, mass salaries are low and air travel is expensive (as i know very well - it all comes out of my own pocket). a neutral ground final makes it impossible for the ordinary fan to go.

  • Comment number 73.

    I agree with previous readers who have commented regarding heat vs altitude and which is worse in that you can't really compare the two.

    Heat affects both teams equally, whereas altitude only affects the team that is not used to those conditions. I fully respect a team's rights to play "at home", but it has to be a level playing field so to speak. I don't think it's fair to say playing at altitude is merely a team's right because it is their home. It produces a biased result not based on the ability of the players, unlike heat which I think affects both teams equally on the day.

  • Comment number 74.

    a fine article tim.
    good points: africans do have a higher chance than before. africans do have a advantage from the cup of nations (if they avoid injuries) and europe must win otherwise most likely brazil or argentina will win and south america will have won in europe, asia, north and south america and africa. conquered the world.

    the favourites are:
    4 or 5 teams from europe and the big 2 from south america
    then africa
    then north america
    and finally asia.

    i would love an african team to win but only on merit. not dodgy refereeing like south korea got in 2002.

    as for advantages to europe i agree on the climateas it will be winter (i thought it would be 40 degrees hot).
    the influx of talented african footballers particularly in france has bought the best out of europeans.

  • Comment number 75.

    I have, with due respect, to take issue with some of MJ's (post 2) comments.

    First, Tim did not, at any point say European nations had 'flopped', nor did he insinuate any sort of 'poor showing' in any of his post with regards European nations success (and that's the key word) in winning (and there's another) the World outside Europe. I fail to see how he fell into any 'trap'.

    All the column points out, and as this is one of those 'nasty' facts that people seem to think are avoidable by simply dismissing them, is just that - no European nation has won the World cup outside Continental Europe. It doesn't matter how many teams reach the quarters, semis, or final, the simple irrefutable fact is, no European nation has succeeded in doing what the South Americans have, and again this fact, not wishful thinking, and that is win a tournament outside their continent.

    Whatever the reasons for that are, and some of the excuses postulated are laughable, ‘dodgy decisions' in 2002, the climate etc, none of which are in any way meaningful, it is not ‘trivia’, it is a fact, and one worth getting concerned about.

    Dealing with (as I found it particularly worrying) the idea that 2002 was exceptionally marred with skullduggery, is a classic product of ‘media age’ thinking. Sadly, World cups, going back to the earliest days have been besmirched with cheating, acts of deep cynicism and dire refereeing. One famous football pundit stated '[the 1962 World cup] nearly saw the death of the game' in their review of a tournament that was blighted by cynical play, collusion, and refereeing errors that caused uproar. On the issue of 'climate', I doubt very much that the (European) Latin nations can really lay much claim to failure due to 'heat' nor even can the likes of the Germans where both winters and summers are much more extreme than the UK. The thing is, nor would they..........

    As for the comment (not by MJ I hasten to add) that a World cup final 'is always a spectacular event' just due to the nature of it, oh brother........... In a word, no. I have (sadly) witnessed too few 'quality' World cup finals and too many, frankly dismal ones, to consider that comment as anything more than an insult to a genuine football fans intelligence.

    Can Europe break their duck? Well, Spain look a good bet, tough to beat, some of the best players in the World in midfield and up front, and a solid back four. Their only worry would be if the majestic Iniesta and Xavi were injured, as their loss would be critical to any team. Elsewhere, doubtless (sadly for football) Germany and Italy will, as usual, grind their way through to the later stages, Portugal will shame themselves (again) by playing depressing football and indulging in unsavory tactics, yet reach the Q/F, while England will go in as 'one of the favorites', and then implode when it counts.

    As ever then it will be left up to the South Americans to deliver the football, but, can they do it? Brazil are efficient, but not breathtaking football wise, Argentina have the players but no 'team' and a coach who could either shock us all by getting it right when it counts, or, (and sadly more likely) implode when it's too late for Argentina to do anything about it.

    Can an African nation win it? It seems unlikely. Despite having local advantage, and at last, a strong set of players, do they have a 'team' that is strong enough? Not on paper at least.

    From long experience with World Cup's now, only two things are certain: a) FIFA's edicts will eventually ruin it as a spectacle and b) the same old faces will be there or there abouts.

    Sorry, but unlike many of the other posters I don't see that as a good thing.

    PS. Tim, just because Brazils triumph in 1958 wasn’t in the ‘media age’ it doesn’t’ mean that we can’t agree they weren’t the best World Cup winning side ever.

    They were.

  • Comment number 76.

    To all those people who say that palying at altitude is unfair, when was the last time a good team actually lost at altitutde? I think for every game lost at altitude it's more a matter of bad tactics than anything else. If a team knows it's going to be playing at altitude it should prepare for it, tactically, physically and mentally. There are no excuses. A lot of good teams have won at altitude, and this was due to good preparation, nothing else. Not acclimatisation, but good tactics.

  • Comment number 77.

    Here's my prediction: Ivory Coast, world champs

  • Comment number 78.

    @76: I would class Argentina as a good team. Likewise I would class River Plate as a good team. Getting crushed 6-1 by Bolivia of all teams and River getting dismantled 7-0 does seem to tell its own story. I agree that given the appropriate tactic preparation(something which national teams don't really have the chance to have I think you will agree) you could marginalise those results, but really. Although I am a sucker for agreeing with Tim on most, if not all other, occasions I don't really see how you can condone results like that. Imagine if Manchester United won every home game by at least 5 goals. A lazy example, I know, but you would be suspicious I do think.

    As someone said earlier; do I want to see Messi or some other such fantastic player deduct some numerical figure of dribbles from his game to preserve his energy... nope. Perhaps it is possible, but that does not mean that it should be the case. The point is there isn't an alternative, which the only retort that seems worthwhile.

  • Comment number 79.

    HexaSA2010 I 100% agree with you! LDU will always have a greater chance than other teams who are not use to altitude. They are use to the altitude, teams such as Fluminense simply don’t have time to adapt to the conditions.
    Heat would affect both LDU and Fluminense if it was that hot, but altitude will and only did affect the team who are not use to playing in it, and of course that was the case with Fluminense.
    Tim, Fluminense marathon of games cant be an excuse for them, even Flu know this, because most players have not featured for the team for the majority of the season. Flu players are young and fit, but altitude takes it to a different level.

    However, tonight, the second leg of the final ended 3-0 to Fluminense, although it was inevitable that Fluminense would be on the attack from the off, and LDU went down to 10 men, Fluminense were completely superior to LDU, LDU only got in the half of Fluminense few times.

    Fluminense didn’t exactly play a great match, with the likes of star man Conca not doing much, but having said that, the referee lost the plot totally tonight, Flu's star man Fred got sent off for absolutely nothing. If he stayed on the pitch I’m convinced Flu would of got the all important fourth goal. After all the time wasting, I was shocked to see just 4 minutes of time added on, where 3 minutes of the 4 were taken up with the LDU keeper laying on the floor pretending to be injured. The referee didn’t add more time on. However, this is football, these kind of things happen, but its a shame. Congratulations LDU! There a good team, but not that good. I’m sure they will continue to do well in competitions, particularly in there home ties.

    Fluminense now have a big game away against Coritiba on Sunday, and if they don’t lose they stay in Serie A. Its the least the team deserves.

  • Comment number 80.

    I find the complaints about altitude ridiculous and laughable.. One of the comments seems to imply that River's 7-0 loss to LDUQ is unfair and that the first match 2-1 score shows the real balance between the teams. I mean, how ridiculous is this?

    Other people say that heat affects the teams equally (hahaha) while altitude does not. Please...

    Anyway, my rant is over

  • Comment number 81.

    jsp, so you think that altitude is going to effect LDU? There from Quito! They live in the conditions! There use to it.
    Im not in any way saying the 2-1 win that River Plate had over LDU reflects the real balance of the teams! Far from it because LDU are a quality team! but find out what the players who play in altitude what say what its like. I just cant ignore the suprising results that come out of altitude places. Argentina and Brazil experience it alot, and there suppose to be up there with the best teams in the world and they hardly ever win in Quito. Forget about what Flu players have to say then, find out what the best and fitest players in the world have to say about the conditions, like Messi, Tevez, Kaka, Ronadlinho etc.
    Tim, you yourself mentioned the altitude in your voice clip claiming if Flu could handle it, why mention it if you dont believe it will effects the Flu players.

  • Comment number 82.

    Earlier in 2007, Brazilian club Flamengo said they would not play again at altitude after several of their players needed oxygen during a game against Bolivian team Real Potosi, held at nearly 4,000m (13,120ft).

    Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, said the organisation had expected protests from Latin America.

    "The executive committee have listened to a proposal from the medical committee and have decided to act because to play at above that altitude is not healthy or fair," he said.

    Heres a quote from Tim.'' There are options, then, for Maradona to chew over. Wednesday away to Bolivia will teach us little. The extreme altitude of La Paz makes the game a one off. ''

  • Comment number 83.

    Hey fluminensefan,

    Sure, definitely there is an advantage to being in the altitude.

    I just think that the issue is at the same time a little more complicated than just saying "altitude is unfair", and at the same time (like everything in football) guided more by passion than by reason.

    I guess what Quito fans find infuriating about the whole argument is that there was no issue at all when Ecuador was being a punching bag (before the 90's). At the same time, teams from the highlands find it difficult to play in the coast, with its sweltering temperatures. So eliminating altitude venues would mean that teams from Quito would be playing two away games...

  • Comment number 84.

    9 man Quito hung on to win the Copa Suderamericano,Flu did well 3-0 but Fred getting sent was silly.Of all things to argue with the Paraguayian referee.

    Isee Maradona's 2 month ban extends to the World Cup draw Friday evening[ on BBC 2at 17.15].FIFA says he is not welcome there.

  • Comment number 85.


    Love your blog Tim. I was just wondering if you could shed some light on this Neymar player. He's supposedly attracting the interest of Europe's elite clubs. If he is good enough he will move sooner or later, where do you think he will end up? Where would you like to see him make a name for himself in Europe?

  • Comment number 86.

    Guys I have a solution to the playing in altitude thing:
    - Make the altitude-acclimatised team (i.e Ecuadoreans and Bolivians) play with 9 men from the start! There has to be a handicap to make it a fair event.

    jsp (and others), you cannot argue with the medical fact that if one team is used to the altitude they will be at a physical advantage to the unacclimatised team, who will have reduced oxygen availability in their blood system. No matter how hard they try they cannot overcome this physical effect on their bodies in such a short space of time. Heat on the other hand affects both teams equally because they both start at the same baseline. We are all human, it doesn't matter if some normally play in heat or not, our bodies can easily adapt to heat by increasing heat loss (through dilating blood vessels), cooling the your body temperature by sweating and making you keep yourself well hydrated by drinking more fluids. Like I said before, this is all medical fact.

  • Comment number 87.

    @ Dale R, this is not River Plate from Argentina we are talking about, they are from Uruguay, and although they have performed admirably this season, I don't think they are THAT good a team. As for Argentina getting hammered, there are many reasons. Firstly, Argentina were not playing well at the time anyway, so even though some expected a victory, it was never cut and dry. Secondly, the tactics they tried to use were crazy. This is were preparation comes into play. They tried to run circles around the bolivians, as they probably would have done at home. Tactically, they could have sat back a bit more and preserved their energy, passing the ball more, building up play. Not everyone loses when they play away at altitudes, and generally this is because they go with a good game plan and stick to it. How much of that defeat was Maradonna's fault we'll never know. The fact is, players will get tired more quickly when playing at altitude if they are not acclimatized, so they should prepare a game plan that suits them for that game.

  • Comment number 88.

    Of course records are meant to be broken. but experience of winning on foreign soil is a huge, huge advantage. that is another plus in brasil's direction, in addition to the well organised, talented team they currently have. argentina struggled though eliminatorias, but who knows - they may produce one of those stories where they hit form right at the key moment before copa do mundo starts. as for european nations, you can expect the usual suspects to go far but winning it - again - outside their own continent is a tall order, form and ability not withstanding. the very diffferent cultural surroundings of africa will play a huge part. as may the africa winter (summer) - maybe to brasil's disadvantage. but i do think an african nation such as ivory coast or ghana can go far. maybe even have the mettle to be crowned champions. that certainly will change international football, for the better i hope (become less eurocentric)

  • Comment number 89.

    '' Ecuador has not been a happy hunting ground for Brazil. The five-time World Champions have never won and never even scored a goal on Ecuadorian soil in a World Cup qualifier, having drawn once in 1993 and lost 1-0 twice in the previous two qualifying editions. ''

    Correct me if this quote is wrong please, but if this is the case then I dont think people can argue that altitude doesnt effect teams.
    I think that says it all there needs to be said about how altitude is a big advantage to teams who are not use to the conditions. All the great Brazil sides that have gone past over the years cant even score a goal in such an important match as a World Cup qualifier.

  • Comment number 90.

    Just in these qualifiers, they have lost to uruguay (1-2) and venezuela (0-1) at home. They are not 2 of the biggest or best teams in the region, nor are they acclimatised....

    The argument shouldn't really be whether it affects teams, it's more about what the teams do to counteract it. It's home advantage after all, and there are many who make the most of it, and some that don't. (Bolivia for example)

  • Comment number 91.

    Segio Lahaye. I was informed by my Venezuelan friend that when Venezuela beat Ecuador 1-0, they actually spent a few weeks in Ecuador to acclimatise to the conditions. With the european schedules and the busy national schedule the players have in Brazil, im not sure if its possible for them to spend this amount of time to acclimatise for one game. Im sure clubs wont let them

  • Comment number 92.

    Well, these are trained athletes. They play at a disadvantage in altitude, but not what its made out to be by some. I have never heard of anybody needing oxygen in Quito. In Cuzco (much higher) well, I would not be that surprised. On the other hand training in humid high temperatures causes heat exhaustion and stroke. That is a medical fact.

    In fact, it happened to me. I trained martial arts and hours after the long belt test (in high temperatures in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles,CA) I became disoriented and just collapsed.

    I myself have gone to Quito after 15+ years of being away at sea level, and sure, you do feel the altitude if you do strenous exercise, but sincerely I don't think its the behemoth some people make it out to be.

    Ecuador has lost at home to teams lesser than Brazil, even when they were not acclimatised. Copa America was held there in 1993 and Ecuador (I believe) didn't even make it to the semifinals. Argentina won against Mexico.

    In the end this is just my opinion, but at least I believe it can be said that this is not a clear or easy issue.

  • Comment number 93.

    well said jsp

  • Comment number 94.

    You cant really say that Xavi and Iniesta are the key to Spains success, dont get me wrong theyre great, but surely Torres and Villa are more instrumental? You could put Alonso and Fabregas in centre midfield and im sure they would still set up a lot of chances but the key to Spain winning so much is that they have probably the best strike partnership in the world at the moment, which means theyre always going to get goals no matter how many chances they make.

  • Comment number 95.

    If there are 3 teams that can go the distance they are: Ivory Coast, Australia and could even be Serbia

  • Comment number 96.


    Sorry to push you on this, but I really would like an answer: If Barcelona were playing the Eurpean Cup final, at altitude, against a team used to altitude and were forced to abandon their wonderful attacking game and spent the entire game defending & playing counter attack, whilst Henry, Messi & Iniesta never went on any dribbles because they were physically incapable of doing so wouldn't you question the validity of the game?

    Personally I think you, like every other right minded football fan would want to see a level playing field which allowed the players to play, & the best team to hopefully win, & not a game where one team had a huge physical advantage which in no way corresponds to the fitness, ability or preparation of their opponents.

    I'd be really interested to know.

  • Comment number 97.

    Well, looking at the way the draw's come out, Fabio Capello will be cautiously dancing in the aisles.

    Couldn't really have been given a nicer group, which England should feel confident, if not certain, about winning.

    Then it looks like Germany or Ghana in the R16, most likely France in the QF and quite possibly Argentina or Ghana in the Semi Finals.

    They've avoided Spain, Brazil, Holland, Italy and the Ivory Coast before the final, which is just the job, isn't it?

    One thing's sure. England won't be able to blame altitude for losing. All their teams en route wouldn't have an undue advantage, so there aren't any excuses.

    If they're good enough, there's as good a chance as you're ever likely to get to reach the Final of the World Cup. That's not saying they will, it's saying that if they're good enough they might very well.

    And in a World Cup Final, anything can happen.

    Lippi vs Capello??

    I'm sure Fabio'd be up for that, wouldn't he??!!

    I have to say, if Lippi managed to get that far, he should be inducted into the FIFA hall of fame. But he's done it once, so who says he can't get there again?

    Paddy Barclay will be looking at his 9-1 on England with renewed hope this evening.....

  • Comment number 98.

    95 -

    LMAO!!! lol

    Australia & Serbia to go the distance? Yeah alright mate.

    I'll get myself down to the bookies as soon as can get out of this straightjacket!

  • Comment number 99.

    OMG STOP IT! Altitude only affects PLAYERS (that is, FIT ATHLETES) above 2000m! None of South Africa's venues are even at 1800m so why do you keep talking about it?! If you've never been at altitude then DON'T OPEN YOUR MOUTH to talk about stuff you don't know!

  • Comment number 100.


    lol. What conversation are you involved in gunner_caot89?!

    The altitude games people are talking about are in south and central america in places like La Paz, Mexico City, and specifically this week, in Quito after they won the Copa Sudamericana after massive home wins in the semi-final and final - at altitude.

    DON'T OPEN YOUR MOUTH to talk about stuff you don't know!

    lol. That was hilarious reading that. Thank you


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