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South American stars shine in South Africa

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Tim Vickery | 14:22 UK time, Monday, 21 June 2010

The time for definitive conclusions on the World Cup is 12 July. Until then, as we have already seen, Monday's marvel can easily be transformed into Friday's flop. On what has been served up so far, though, it is safe enough to argue that Brazil look best equipped to win the competition.

The 2010 model might not be the easiest Brazil side to love but it is one of the hardest to beat. Well balanced, physically and mentally strong, sure of what it is doing and blessed with deadlock-breaking moments of individual magic, Dunga's team will take some stopping.

This is hardly a surprise. In South Africa, Brazil are reproducing the form that lead them, along with Spain, to be considered pre-tournament favourites.

What might be more of a shock is that Brazil are leading such a strong contingent from their own continent. With an accumulated seven wins and two draws, this has been South America's World Cup so far.

True, Chile could have a problem. Spain losing to Switzerland was a bad result for La Furia, but it was even worse for the Chileans, who now may end up needing a draw against the Spaniards to survive.

Paraguay and Uruguay are not there yet, but they are close.

And only a spectacular collapse will prevent Argentina from reaching the last 16.

Argentina players celebrate after beating South Korea 4-1 in their first round match

Of course, they all might get knocked out before the quarter-finals. It is nothing more than a promising start. But a pattern has emerged. Without suffering a single defeat, the South Americans have seen off three African sides, two from Asia and one each from Europe and Central America.

And more than the results, what has caught the eye is the conviction of the performances and the ambition of the players.

It is true that every World Cup outside Europe has always been won by a South American side. But this time the continent appears to have more strength in depth - certainly when compared with 2002 in Japan and South Korea, when Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador fell in the group stages and Paraguay just sneaked into the second round.

So what has changed? Part of the credit can be apportioned to the marathon format of World Cup qualifiers in South America, where all the countries play each other home and away. This started in 1996 and has clearly had an effect.

Before, there could be huge gaps - sometimes of years - between competitive matches. But since 1996, the South Americans have enjoyed the kind of structure that the European national teams take for granted, with regular qualifying matches. Remember that there are no qualifiers for the Copa America. That means South American countries can invest in a project, employ a coach for the long term and build a team.

This only brings parity with Europe, of course. What is tipping the balance?

In a tournament of cautious, compact teams, there is nothing that destabilises a defence like a dribbler, an individual who in the blink of an eye can take two or three opponents out of the game. This is a South American speciality.

Players like Argentina's Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez of Chile or Uruguay's Luis Suarez are part of the continent's footballing essence, with a low centre of gravity and full of tricks they can pull off at pace.

vick_sanchez_AP595.jpgChile's Alexis Sanchez practices his skills in training

Many in the European game lament the decline of informal street, park and wasteland football, which they blame for the absence of this type of player. Indeed, the European national teams seem full of stale academy products, technically competent but without the spark that cannot be taught, the spontaneous generation of ideas that comes from imagination.

Messi, Sanchez, Suarez - they all have this. They grew up with informal football. Their time with European clubs has given them the rest. Argentina's 1986 centre forward Jorge Valdano once described Messi as a synthesis of street football in his homeland and the Barcelona academy - an excellent observation.

All five South American sides at the World Cup can also count on considerable firepower. All five want to bring their front players into the game.

Uruguay did little against France, likewise Paraguay against Italy. But on neither occasion was there an intention to be negative. They found the rhythm, pressing and athleticism of their opponents hard to combat and were unable to retain enough possession to be dangerous.

In general, though, the South Americans have gone out to impose themselves on a game. Some of the European teams seem obsessed with waiting in their own half and only springing out in numbers when their opponent makes a mistake.

vick_martino_getty595.jpgParaguay manager Gerardo Martino marshalls his side in their Group F victory over Slovakia

I especially enjoyed the words of Gerardo Martino, Paraguay's impressive coach, after his side had beaten Slovakia. Many would have basked in the glory of the moment. Martino, though, took the opportunity to criticize his team's second-half performance. "We forgot our good moment in the first half and resorted to pumping long balls forward," he said. "That's not what we want to do, unless the strength of our opponent obliges us to."

If a country such as Paraguay - poor and with a population little greater than six million - can set such a standard for itself, then why cannot more of the European teams do the same?

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

You got it right. Truly you were spot on. The Germans couldn't deal with the euphoria, the expectation was high. The Argentine team is looking better. Angel di Maria was OK against the Koreans after Nigeria's Sani Kaita (now vilified at home) kept him quiet. Over here in Nigeria, it's blame game and calculations. People are turning to mathematicians to see how we can qualify. Tell Diego to help us. We are praying.
Azubike Finecountry

You give me too much credit! I honestly cannot say that I predicted Germany would lose to Serbia, only that making a great start to the World Cup can cause problems and it would be interesting to see how the Germans, as a young side, would deal with them. Klose, Podolski and Kaita, who you mentioned, are good examples of how the World Cup can quickly turn heroes into villains.

Argentina will make plenty of changes for the match against Greece, but it is likely that Messi will play and the reserves will want to show something. But Argentina cannot take their foot completely off the peddle because a place in the last 16 is not 100% guaranteed.

If Nigeria do not beat South Korea, then from a Nigerian point of view it hardly matters what Argentina do.


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  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent blog. Tim, what are your thoughts about the creativity of the Brazilian team without Kaka? Who can Dunga rely on to do what Kaka does? Even though Kaka hasn't been on form he was instrumental in both Fabiano and Elano goals. And what if there are injury worries. I personally think Dunga has taken a big risk.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well put Tim.

    The man-beating dribbler may sound unsavoury (!) but you are right, so far at this WC it is those players making the difference; along with the players able to spot space and run or pass into it, as opposed to playing directly to feet.

    As a fan of Aston Villa, I have long believed Ashley Young possesses these skills - and this is why I think he is so effective. As I tend to point out to the Young naysayers, he has been the most prolific English Premiership wide player in terms of goals AND assists for three seasons running - fact. In my opinion it's because he has a tendency for that "unorthodox" approach that can knock whole sections of defenses out of the game, and luckily he has great delivery too - but that's a seperate issue.

    It's always those players you see double- and triple-marked because to lose them is to concede goals, the priceless players. I am incredulous that those pace-merchants with mediocre final balls SWP, Lennon and Walcott are all above Young in the England pecking order.

  • Comment number 4.

    Another fine blog Sir.

    Definitely been impressed by the South American sides so far - especially Uruguay, they seem like a decent all-round team. Looking forward to seeing how they do in the second round, assuming they get there.

    I do agree with the post above, to some extent - Young is a better player than Lennon and SWP, but unfortunately he can be a bit hot and cold. I probably would have taken him though.

  • Comment number 5.

    Not only the South Americans but Mexico and the USA are also doing pretty well. I'm actually shocked by the negative football of the European teams bar Germany and Spain. Italy, France and England deserve to be sent home early.

  • Comment number 6.

    5. guyastral:
    You forgot Holland. They just haven't been challenged enough so far. And wait if MANU-killer Robben joins their ranks.

  • Comment number 7.

    Excellent as always Tim. The Chileans have impressed me massively. Fantastic mix of attacking aggression and lightning quick midfield pressure on the ball.

    #3 Jacodemon
    The 'reason' why they are above Young in the pecking order is because he has looked incredibly poor when in an England shirt. All the others have put in assured performances when given the opportunity (unfortunately none of them can do it every game). Just because he plays for the team you support doesn't change this.

  • Comment number 8.

    Interesting and enjoyable as always.
    For me, there are too many robots playing top-level football in Europe. Athletic and functional players who perform a role rather than lead the cast. Managers are increasingly the same, unwilling to take any risks and can often be seen/heard attempting to completely direct play from the touchline. The South American teams seem to have combined these aspects much better, creating organised teams with players willing and able to make a difference.

  • Comment number 9.

    Messi joined Barcelona at age 11 after already playing for Argentinian clubs. So I'm not quite sure that he is a street player. You also neglect to mention Spain, which have several of those type of players.

  • Comment number 10.

    Spot on: the SA sides have been very good so far.

    I'll leave aside Brazil and Argentina because I expected them to be stong and comment instead on Uruguay and Paraguay.

    Uruguay I generally have a dislike for (because of Scotland in '86) but they defended superbly against France and came out and stood up to SAfrica on their home turf and beat them by miles in the end.

    Paraguay have also been strong. Great midfield, particularly Vera who the Italians really struggeled with and he then scored an excellent goal against the Slovaks. My memory from a previous WC of them was alll about their goalie (Chilvert?) who was immense and they were unlucky to go out that time to a Laurent Blanc goal when playing France.

    This paraguayan team seem to have more about them than that one Tim would you agree?

  • Comment number 11.

    BigOhGee you're right, but ask yourself this: on the attacking flanks would you prefer hot and cold, or consistently tepid? (and I feel he's rarely cold... but then I am a huge fan!)

    My theory is that our Mr. Young must be an unmanagably arrogant team-wrecker - how on earth else would a player of his proven ability, who is most effective in England's thinnest position on the left of the attacks, not even get a sniff - whereas the unproven (although clearly good) Adam Johnson gets in the 30 off the back of a handful of performances? Gah.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hmm... I think this sort of football 'analysis' is typically a bit over-generalised and over-stereotyped.

    You seem to slot European teams into one group, ignoring the fact that there's huge variation between them (take Italy or France, and compare that against Holland, Portugal or Spain). Nor are the South American teams really as uniform as you seem to describe them. Nor does one type of player alone decide a game (where is, for example, Brazil's 'star dribbler'? Kaka has been a bit anonymous so far).

    And why is it that a qualifying format that has been around since 1996 NOW suddenly has such a huge impact, and not, say, four or eight years ago? Why now? The same system existed in 2002 when, as you say, South American teams, apart from Brazil, did badly?

    I think it's great they're doing well. But I think this analysis rather oversimplifies what is a fairly complex set of things that need to go right for success on the football field.

  • Comment number 13.

    #7 "...looked incredibly poor when in an England shirt"?

    He hasn't done that great, it's true, and while I truly don't mean to be argumentative Young's started one game for England.

    Six other sub appearances, mostly with less than 10 minutes to go. He's played a grand total of about two hours!

  • Comment number 14.

    I have heard over and over again how the UEFA Euro cup is a World cup without Brazil and Argentina.
    Well, Paraguay, Chile, Mexico and the US have made good impressions.
    And Colombia is usually a good protagonist in world stages.
    I think Europe has better club powers, but America has the best country squads.

  • Comment number 15.

    I always look forward to your blogs Tim.

    You're right not to draw premature conclusions, Brazil were my tip as well, but I'm a bit surprised by all the hype surrounding Argentina. I think many of the people waxing lyrical about the Albicelestes, didn't have the opportunity to watch their qualifying campaign. I won't be surprised if Argentina fall at their first serious challenge.

    As for Uruguay, they qualified largely by the efforts of Forlan and benfitted greatly from the woeful mismanagement of Ecuador, and like Paraguay have exceeded my expectations. I was thrilled to see Kike Vera score yesterday. As for Chile, they really could upset the applecart if they get out of their group.

    I think your point about the qualifying campaign is excellent, although I'd like to add that their format ensures a series of tough games. OK, so 5 out of 10 teams quality (if you include they playoff place), which means they can lose a few in comparison to the European sides. But I think, and no disrespect here, playing the poorer sides in Europe provides little or no preparation for the World Cup. Apart from 6 points what did England get out of playing Andorra? The South Americans on the other hand, have a lot of tough qualifying games, which maybe has led to them being a bit more battle hardened.

  • Comment number 16.

    I believe this World Cup is Brazil's to lose. Solid team who have all been playing together for over a year in the national side. Impressively, Dunga's Brazil have only lost 5 times in the four years he's had them and when Robinho and Kaka have started together they have never lost.

    Perhaps the European teams lack the organisation of the South Americans? (fancy that). France, Italy and England all look as the Brazil team did in 2006, too many individuals, not enough organisation.

    The only problem is Kaka's fitness. If the rumours are true then why didn't Dunga take a strong replacement, such as Diego? Surely he should have been given a game or two after the olympics? He's surely shown his quality at Juventus.

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with #12.

    I think it also should be mentioned that two of the South American teams, Brasil and Paraguay, really haven't played with much of the stereotypical South American flair.

    Paraguay actually plays a traditional European style and has been doing so since at least 2002. The current Brasil is the most defensive we've ever seen.

    To me, Chile has been the one team that truly attacks.

  • Comment number 18.

    South americans have always shined in world cups they are the best contient at keeping the ball at certain tempo this is a fact. However apart from argentina and brazil many teams are have to progess past the group stages however this year it seems its the turn of south american teams to do well.

  • Comment number 19.

    Interesting blog as usual.

    Chile looked great but they really do need to improve their shooting.
    Brilliant skill but then they waste it all by having wayward shots instead of passing to better placed collegues.
    I was somewhat surprised to find my first post removed as I was only basically suggesting that the chile player who was writhing on the floor after being lightly hit by behrami may have been exaggerating.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Tim, it really does seem that the European teams have arrived in their worst possible form, and the South Ameriams have hit the ground running, so far I have been really impressed with the Paraguayan team, superb up to this point.
    I sat down with a friend to watch Brazil vs Ivory Coast yesterday and decided to fill in the blanks in the progession of the world cup shown in a news paper. It could be we are on for an Argentina v Brazil Final. Do you see anything different happening?
    P.S. - I just finished watched your movie 10 mins ago (the game of their lives, something you mentioned in a blog a few weeks ago), which is the real reason i'm blogging here and I have to say that I was really impressed with the film, (a bit corney as you might expect) but absolutely fantastic, also I couldn't quite believe you acted alongside such great stars as Gerrard Butler and Sir Patrick Stewart! What an experience it must have been. By the way, good 60's style commentary!
    Cheers Tim.

  • Comment number 21.

    Tim I was reading an article the other day that opined that Western Europeans do not have the same fervour or passion when playing for their countries as the South and Latin American teams, and wondered what your views are on this?

    I can certainly see where that viewpoint would derive from, simply by the way they sing their anthems (Portugal exempt), the way the SQUAD players, specifically, celebrate when they score (pretty much every South American team), they seem to go beserk in a way not associated with Europeans.

    The disappointment at not being picked to play that day doesn't seem to affect them in the personal or egotistical manner it does for example England's players who seem very uptight and tense, reluctant to tap into the support from their fans and to show their emotions. Do you think this has any cultural or social roots attached or is simply part of the Latin mentality which evokes emotion more readily?

    As we have seen in this tournament, and in past (Holland typically), the French and English camps appear to be divided, yet this is rarely heard about the Latin sides who seem a lot more cohesive and together.

    Perhaps European teams do get complacent and don't appreciate national duties as much as players from South America who have to fly all over the world to play qualifiers of the highest level and intensity?

  • Comment number 22.

    For all the criticism of Diego, can't anybody see that he has an unbridled love of the game ? His use of 70 players in qualifying was a way of having fun, of allowing all to play for their country.

    In the end he wittled it down to 23 and the only criticisms that exist are of his dropping the two fellows from InterMilan. Those criticisms are from fans who only watch the PL and a few top european sides. They have no clue as to the chemistry Diego is building.

    And the naysayers who said his ego would prevent him from playing Messi correctly ... what say ye all now? He's embraced Messi, pushing and promoting him at every turn. Unlike Capello, for example, who has nothing kind to say of his team.

    I'll take Diego over a technocrat money-making coaching machine any day of the week.

  • Comment number 23.

    This view that all South Americans went from rags to riches, kicking a ball of socks in a back alley is surely not the whole truth? Sure the teams of the 50s were often like this but the clubs in South America nowadays are constantly on the lookout for young talents they can groom and sell on. Messi's dad ran the club he played for from the age of five, and then Barca taught him a huge amount, i might say most of the technical play and skills he has now (pumped him full of hormones). Kaka's dad owned an academy, I can't speak for all the players in a continent, but this story isn't completely true, however romantic.

  • Comment number 24.

    Couldn't agree with you more Tim about, and I think we should probably be saying Latin American teams rather than South American teams if you include Mexico in this, that 'there is no intention to be negative...In general...the South Americans have gone out to impose themselves on a game. Some of the European teams seem obsessed with waiting in their own half and only springing out in numbers when their opponent makes a mistake.' I think the former is called playing without fear.

    I saw a little of the South American qualifiers and what fantastic entertainment it was, which is what I want it to be. It was refreshing to see away teams, Uruguay and Chile possibly in Buenos Aires, going for the jugular even if coming up short I think. I've really loved watching Chile this World Cup though they aren't as clinical as Brazil.

    Which leads me on to one criticism, and Brazil are the worst, when they get a lead they start running down the clock, especially with simulation. Even though England were never going to score in a month of Sundays, even against 10 men, I was in Shizuoka in 2002 and once Brazil got the lead all we saw for the remainder of the game was Rivaldo crumble to the ground to disrupt and hold up play time after time, often miles from anyone else. In this WC I've been really heartened by the referee crackdown on shirtpulling, rugby tackles, preventing a quick free kick being taken, insolence, etc, but they seem to have forgotten the simulation. Fabiano was at it last night. And while Kako's naughty little elbow in the ribs was Beckhamesque and the Ivorian's reaction a la Simeone, it was a yellow card offence.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Tim

    I really enjoy reading your blog.

    I was just wondering, how do you see tomorrows Mexico v Uruguay game going? With a draw being good enough for both to qualify do you see Mexico accepting this and taking their chances against Argentina, even though they've displayed enough to not be afraid of them, or do you think they'll go for the win so that they can get a much easier game against, probably, South Korea and therefore an easier route to progress, which at the same time may allow a weak France team at the expense of the more dangerous Uruguay?

    Sorry for the long question!

  • Comment number 26.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Chilean victory today against a thoroughly boring, negative Swiss team who seemed intent on killing the game and play acting to restore the balance of players on the pitch. Shame on them, second only to the Brazilians in spectacularly feigning injury.

    I've watched almost all the games and like everyone else have had to sit through some awfully biased and gushing commentary when it comes to the likes of Italy, Spain, France and England, etc, playing against the 'smaller' teams. It fills me with joy to see these teams lose or draw to so-called 'lesser' opposition and to see the smirks and adoration wiped from the faces of BBC's and ITV's panels.

    As a further example of the poor & biased televised coverage, Chile V Honduras on ITV, prematch: a feature on England, and then the half time talk: literally, the same recorded feature on England. Almost no talk whatsoever of the two teams playing the live televised match (of course because there were no premier league players on show -it just of no interest, is it?).

    I pray this is the underdogs' World Cup.

    Ooh, have I been angry lately.
    And as for Mick McCarthy as a a football commentator, my God, you may as well employ a tin of baked beans.

    Rant almost over,


    p.s. Tim, I've followed your blogs for the last two years or so, living in SA myself for the best part of it. Have you ever thought of changing your blog title to, 'My undying sycophancy for all things Brazilian and Argentinian - the others are irrelevant'?

  • Comment number 27.

    Messi joined Barcelona at age 11 after already playing for Argentinian clubs. So I'm not quite sure that he is a street player. You also neglect to mention Spain, which have several of those type of players.

    Messi is a street player.

    And No Spain does not have the type of player. There is gulf separating Spain from Brazil, Spain plays nice fluent Football in wide spaces. South American in general and Brazilian in particular make incise and probing passes in crowded and tight sopace in particular even in other teams penalty box. The reason they can do it, is because their players have incredibly skill in controlling the ball, Spanish players come no where close to that. Fabiano and Eduarda Silva (his goals against Everton),are prime example.

    What happens to Spain when team bunker down? They are reduced to make crosses, and rely on law of averages to convert one of the crosses in goals. Same is true of Holland.
    Brazil on the other hand needle through the bunker. They can because they really are far more skilful with ball than anything Holland or Spain has to offer.

    Here is what Spain done against teams that played organized defense in real competition.

    Swiss Failed to score dominated but didn't create meaningful chances
    USA Failed to score dominated but didn't create meaningful chances
    Iraq: dominated but struggled and scored 1 goal.
    South Africa another struggle to score
    @ Turky Outplayed but scored on route 1 fashion to win
    Germany dominated but scored 1 but did not create any chances
    Italy dominated but failed to create an real chances
    Sweden Dominated score the winning goal route 1

    Their best performance have been two thrashing that they gave to Russia.
    US bunkered against Brazil too, But Brazil carved into the bunker by precise and clinical passing all the way to mouth of goal. They actual created numerous chances before scoring their 3 goals.

    Holland are easily the most over rated attacking style.

    It seems that Football fans and pundit stake an opinion on a team and feel compel to defend it even presented with contradictory evidence. Perception is that Netherlands have this maculate collection of attacking player, but saddled with average defense. Reality is quite the opposite. Their attack has let them down, and their defense has kept them in contention. I cannot think of a time when Netherlands defense was cause of their getting knocked out. It has been their much taunted attack that’s been rendered toothless and pedestrian. 2008 EC (Attack failed miserably against Russia, a header on free kick by RVN), Defense kept them in the game. 2008 European qualifiers. Pathetic attack nearly
    Kept them out of tourney (1-0 win over Luxemburg in must win game! ) on Albania’s upsetting of Bulgaria save Holland. 2006 WC. Scored 1 goals against Serb team that leaked goals (they gave up 10 goals). And looked completely toothless against Portugal.
    2004 EC. There players failed to score a single goal against Sweden and Portugal.
    Portugal had an own goal, they won against Sweden on PK.
    2002, failed to score against Ireland and were eliminated. Even in this tournament they had some luck scoring.

  • Comment number 28.

    12 - of course the argument is simplifed - i have a battle aganst the word count every week!

    26 - wrote
    " I've followed your blogs for the last two years or so, living in SA myself for the best part of it. Have you ever thought of changing your blog title to, 'My undying sycophancy for all things Brazilian and Argentinian - the others are irrelevant'?"

    An inaccurate criticism. Firstly because I've often criticised aspects of Argentine and Brazilian football. Secondly because i've tried as much as possible to include others - this one ends on Paraguay, two weeks ago was Uruguay, a couple of weeks before that was mainly Chile. I've done Peru, Colombia and Ecuador recently, and there's been stuff on Bolivia and Venezuela in the past.
    The brief is to make the piece as relevant as possible to the British reader - and in terms of interest and importance, Argentina and Brazil are streets ahead. This is reflected in the topics - though never with sycophancy.

  • Comment number 29.

    A previous poster made the point about South American sides appearing more close knit and together as a unit, which everyone pulling in the same direction and enjoying each other's success. In a lot of the games you notice this as well, where individuals, which allowed to express their individual talents, realise that the team takes precedence over individualistic needs.

    I think a reason for this different mentality amongst South American teams is that many of the South American countries are socialist in nature, or have moved back towards socialism over the last 10 years after the failed free market policies imposed upon them by international institutions like the IMF.

    After the horror imposed by free market philosophy, I think a lot of people have realised that self interest cannot take importance over team work, and that cooperation is and always will be superior to competition. Therefore, you see the South American teams playing as a team, and feeling more pride in the success of the team. Conversely, some teams like England seem fractured, and many people have criticised the players for behaving selflessly and not combining to play as a team.

    Add to this the alleged factions in the England camp and the known divisions in the French camp, and you realise that the free market anti-society model adopted mainly by the UK and also in some ways by Western Europe has had an adverse effect on many aspects of society, including sport. Because we in Europe (especially the UK) live in a society where competition is seem as desirable, where individualistic concerns are seen to be more important than helping others or working together to achieve a common goal, we ourselves begin to behave like the way the technocrats want us to.

    So it is a breath of fresh air to see the South American teams play with passion, joy and teamwork, with a real community spirit apparent in their camps. It is good to see players playing for something that cannot be reduced to a simple cost benefit analysis, namely pride for their jersey and pride in being part of a collective effort to achieve a desirable goal.

    In the UK, with the emphasis in the last 20 years being on making money, and with the value of everything being reduced to "what is it's financial value and the return on investment?", is it any surprise that the players don't seem to be playing as a team with pride and joy? Many of the players see the world cup, and probably think, "what do we get out of winning the world cup?" They realise that, financially, they will receive significantly more financial benefits from 3 months of the Premiership season than they will from increased sponsorship deals they may get if they win the world cup. They will probably feel ashamed for thinking this way, and won't admit it, but it's not their fault, because the society organised for us by the Establishment has obliged us to think in this cold, "bottom line" type of way, in order to function in UK society.

  • Comment number 30.

    28 - wrote
    ''in terms of interest and importance, Argentina and Brazil are streets ahead''

    But why are Argentina streets ahead in importance? Historically maybe,but scraping into the World Cup in fourth from the qualifying group? Way behind an exciting, young, top-scoring, balls-out, attacking Chilean side or even the Paraguayos who comfortably qualified ahead of them?

    I think my main annoyance is the collective journalistic gushing over the big teams and the excruciatingly small amount of respect paid to the teams bereft of Premier League players, because, you know, there are many of us who would like to know more about the lesser-known ones and hear their individuals given equal credence by match commentators - not just the European-based, overpaid superstars.

  • Comment number 31.

    Slightly off-topic Tim, but..
    Has anyone already told you that in this new picture you look just like Brazilian singer Zeca Pagodinho (who I'm sure you like)? :-) :-) :-)

    Cheers and thanks again for the great insights.

  • Comment number 32.

    I honestly think that the Europeans don't take acclimatization and preparation as seriously as South Americans do. And that habit maybe due to the dynamics of the South American qualifying model. It’s absolutely dreadful watching Brazil or Argentina play in Bogota or La Paz, which are at much higher altitudes than the rest of South America.

    I would also highlight this argument observing the sequence of the arrivals in SA: for instance, Brazil was the second team to arrive in SA, just a little after Australia. The Spanish were the latter to arrive. My point is that the Spanish did not have the same time the Brazilians had in order to get to know the Jabulani ball and the short-grass fields of the Stadiums - which speeds up the passes. And those are the two instruments players use to do their job and show their abilities.

    Though is nonsense to put the responsibility for the results we’ve been watching on the screen solely on those factors, I do imagine what impact they’ve had on these first matches.

  • Comment number 33.

    Just to point out. There have been around 19 World Cup tournaments. 9 haven for Europeans and 9 for South Americans. Despite that the number of places availables for Europeans are notoriusly higher that the South Americans. The world's best players world wide recognized has been from South america as well (Pele, Garrincha, Maradona, Ronaldinho, Messi), Rooney o Beckam are far away from this level. The most expensive Europeans leagues (Italy, Spain) are full of Latin americans. To qualify to the world cup, every team has to play against Brazil and Argentina, not again Monaco, Israel or "istan" countries.Obviously in Europe there is the money but not the skills....

  • Comment number 34.

    #29, SlightChange, in 1998 I remember that Paraguay goalkeeper who used to take their penalties was asked, before their game with France I think, if he was feeling any pressure. "What pressure?" he replied. "Back home there are people wondering how they're going to feed the family. Now that's pressure." Or something along those lines.

  • Comment number 35.

    Suarez is the tournament's biggest diver and should be booked out of the World Cup. Football can do without his hystrionics.

  • Comment number 36.

    Answer to comment number 29:

    Team work in South America has NOTHING to do with socialism!! that's a complete simplification of our idiosincracy. 10 years of so called 'socaialism' couldn't change a complete social structure. Europeans have this big individuality brought to them by modernity and the full access to every sort of commodity. South America, on the contrary, has very limited access to many things that are given for granted in Europe. Therefore, to live a life with some dignity, South Americans HAVE to develop a sense of solidarity only comparable to the one Africans have. In the case of Chile, when you live in a country that is fully destroyed every 15 years by a major earthquake, there's no other way of living than having solidarity. That way of being translates, in this particular case, into good team work. =)

    Chile has a good team now. Very good players, not just two, all of them are good. And we have Bielsa, an amazing coach with strong discipline, bright mind and humility. To us, being just were we are, after having such a huge earthquake, is something to be grateful.

    Cheers to every team and every country!!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    Goes without saying, but I will: top-notch stuff. My only possible quibble is that while the benefits ascribed to the long qualifying format, of which i'm a fan, appear to have helped solidify a team like Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina were all smashingly inconsistent and only really seem to be revelling now in the short-term pressure cooker that is the WC. The wonderful Martino's Paraguay are the exception there, of course, and it's great to see their slick buzz being highlighted.

    @15 Having watched all of Argentina's qualifying games i'm happy to report that that's precisely why i'm so chuffed at how the team is playing. It bears little or no resemblence to that shower. It's a new formation with largely new personnel, or at least some of the old personnel in different positions.

    Off the pitch, too, Diego looks like a man reborn: every single decision he's taken (since the squad debacle and , er, besides Jonás at right back) has been spot on, from the build-up, to their training centre (Bilardo had quite a bit to do with that, I admit, too), to organising the team around Messi, to playing to their strengths, to the subsitutions, has been spot on. The reckless treatment of his players during the qualifiers has given way to a lucid Diego whose cheerleading ability has finally become a virtue.

    @29 Intriguing, sir, and oh how I wish it was true! As I spend my all too frequent days off from my pittance paying job sitting freezing my arse off in an unheated, overpriced tumbledown gaph in Argentina, however, I'm not sure your talk of socialist utopias in South America is quite accurate.

    What could well be spot on, though, and this ties in to the 'street football' thread, is the old adage that tough lives breed character. Or to put it another way: the teams doing best at this WC (besides Brazil, who are an unstoppable machine and will win it inevitably before doing so again next time at home) are the ones who have balls:

  • Comment number 38.

    Having seen Chile vs Switzerland today, I agree that Switzerland were negative (especially since they had a player sent off after 30 mins) but I fear that Chile missed a big opportunity to seal their place in the knock-out phase of the tournament, let down by their finishing. With Spain having scored 2 (only! but still enough) and Switzerland finishing against Honduras, Chile now have to go out to defeat Spain, because playing for a draw is dangerous and defeat puts Switzerland into contention with a swing in goal difference. I hope Chile go for it and are brave, but they may leave space for the excellent spaniards to exploit.

    I wonder Tim, if you agree that the African teams have been let down in the first tournament on their own soil, by conservative european managers, following the avoid-defeat policy of their peers at home? Arguably South Africa were always going to struggle as they haven't had a quality team for some time, and not even Carlos Alberto could save them, but surely Cameroon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast might have expected a little more?

  • Comment number 39.

    I think every one is being unfairly critical on the Germans...
    Yes they were excellent against Australia but then failed to capitalise against a very organised Serbian side.
    They were down to 10 men for over an hour, (Klose is especially unlucky to be sent off very softly for the first time for his country), and then preceded to be the more attack minded and had most of the chances, even missing a penalty unusually for them...
    Apart from Argentina and Brazil, Germany are right up there.
    They look like they may be the best European side in there, Spain and Holland lack the killer instinct I feel to finish off teams whilst it's best not to talk too much about France, Italy and England

  • Comment number 40.

    The best South America team apart from Argentina and Brazil are Chile. Sadly, they were unable to convert most of their goal scoring opportunities and as a result of this, will fail to qualify from their group.
    Chile is good but Spain is even better and have to win their match against Chile - and they will win it. Switzerland will win against Honduras who will be deflated knowing that they are out of the tournament. Goal difference will carry Spain and Switzerland into the second round.
    They don't know it yet but Chile is already out.

  • Comment number 41.

    i feared for chile from the moment that the swiss beat spain - it switched chile's decisive game from the switzerland clash to the one against spain - much harder.
    i think they'll miss the thrust of fernandez and the ball winning of carmona (both suspended) and while i can see them causing spain some problems, i can't see them holding the spanish passing for 90 minutes.
    what a difference those 2 missed chances from parades would have made - effectively they would count double in the goal differences stakes - one extra for chile, one against for the swiss. as it is, they have to hope that honduras will play with plenty of pride against the swiss.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm going to chide you slightly Tim for a well written piece. It is too easy to credit South America's success on ghetto football and tricks learnt on the streets.

    Basic ball skills may be learned there, but these South Americans are well schooled in tactics and know there place in the formation. They have clearly had knowledgeable coaches and have been put into formal coaching once they have been plucked of the streets (if ever they were).

    If we are o have any hope in the future, we have to train our youth in skills, technique and tactics, because heart, passion, commitment and aggression are just empty words and no match against real football players.

  • Comment number 43.

    Dear Pushthered,

    Off course Kaká is an excellent player and we will miss him against Portugal, but it will not be a problem at all. We have other very talented players in the bench, and if Dunga is intelligent he will put Nilmar to substitute Kaká. Hugs. Kátia from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Comment number 44.

    42 - the role of street football in producing the gifted individual is only one of 3 factors i identified.

    i've been thinking more about the role of the qualification campaign. True, Argentina have been able to regroup after a bad campaign because they have so many good players to choose from - same as brazil in 2002.

    The other south american teams, though, are showing us what we knew they could do because we saw it in qualification.

    The last 2 south american coaches to win the world cup - parreira in 94 and scolari in 2002 - both said the same thing. the tournament itself was relatively straightforward. the hard part was qualifying.

    outside south america it's easy to underestimate the gruelling intensity of the qualification campaign. there is no such thing as a game where the away side takes the field guaranteed to win. perhaps it's better preparation for a world cup than the festival of rabbit killing that is the european qualifiers.

  • Comment number 45.

    43 - in a way i think that kaka's absurd red card might have done brazil a favour. he was on a yellow, and thus in danger of picking up another one and missing a big game. instead of which he sits out a (for Brazil) fairly meaningless game against portugal, and comes back clean for the knock out game.

    having said that, dunga made a mistake. kaka was wound up by the fierce tackling of the ivory coast - for 15 minutes before his red card brazilian tv was urging dunga to replace him - they were talking about it on the bench (brazilian tv loves to lip read the coaches - my favourite was dunga's instruction to maicon to grab an opponent's arm), but they delayed too long, kaka got too involved in protests and shenanigans and ended up seeing red. it was avoidable - but as i've said, i don't think is does brazil any harm.

  • Comment number 46.

    Chile were great but their finishing was dreadful, and that may come back to haunt them should they lose to Spain, which means we may end up with dull defensive Switzerland qualifying instead, that's football and the Chileans will have nobody to blame but themselves. Let's hope that's not the case so that we can continue enjoying their attacking, entertaining football, in any case, look forward to see that Chile vs Spain match. Hopefully, they'll get a better referee than the dreadful one that Chile-Switzerland had.

    Great to see all the South American teams doing so well, all giving it a good go, another testimony to their skill, tactics and how much harder the South American qualifiers are when compared to, as Tim so aptly describes it, "the festival of rabbit killing that is the european qualifiers".

    It's been an enjoyable world cup so far, with the only blemish being diving/playacting, which is getting worse as the tournament progresses. Once the sole dominion of italians, it has now spread to most if not all teams in this WC... a real shame. I'm not a fan of stopping games for a video referee but maybe players being penalised for playacting after games have been played may act as a deterrent.

    Finally, Brazil continue looking strong and now we know, judging by their second goal, that Luis Fabiano has a future as a basketball player should he choose to leave football...the way he juggled that football would put Thierry Henry to shame... well, maybe not. ;)

  • Comment number 47.

    Tim, what are your thoughts on the new fight Dunga got himself into, in the post Ivory Coast match interview? Basically, Alex Escobar (which maybe you know personally from Sportv, and imho, at least from a tv spectator point of view, seems to be one of the coolest, calmest and funniest sport reporterer/commentator on brazilian tv), from Globo, was on the phone with another Globo reporter and he said something on the phone, Dunga interrupts the interview and starts acting all ironic towards Escobar and then starts saying off-mic, lots of foul words (in portuguese), out of nothing, with an ironic smile on his face.

    All brazilian media has supported Escobar and bashed Dunga for that (not only his bad attitude out of nothing, but also saying lots of nasty words on national live tv) in an interview.

    Dunga´s hatred of the media really annoys me. It seems he forgets WHO pays his salary. Maybe his brain doesnt go far enough to realize from where all CBF and FIFA money comes, nor that most of his salaries as a player also came from the MEDIA (advertising, which is shown on TV) as well as any extra money he makes on tv advertising.

    ESPN and Globo are speculating that FIFA may punish Dunga just as they did punish Diego Maradona.

    it would be good for Dunga to suffer some FIFA or CBF reprimands or punishments. He may be good as a coach, but he certainly lacks the dignity that the coach of the national team should have.

    ps: I am not rooting to Brazil, because I think Brazil winning a 6th title now and possibly a 7th title in 2014 would NOT be good to the World Cup.

  • Comment number 48.

    btw, can you comment on the polemic Luis Fabiano goal?

    most of the english speaking world (mainly) is already bashing Brazil (as well as all other latin american and latin european) teams for cheating, diving, etc.

    I dont even think Luis Fabiano´s goal really FITS in the cheating category alongside Henry´s and Maradona´s goal.

    I say that because in the first handball, replays show he had his eyes closed (he was about to shock in the air with an IC player), and when he opens the eyes, he doesnt even knows where the ball is.

    the second handball, it was in his upper arm. Although obviously illegal, ANY player will open his arms to try to reach the ball with the shoulder in those microseconds. Not always the player is able to reach it with the shoulder or breast, and in those cases, the ball usually his the player´s open arm.

    Again, its a faul and illegal, but I dont really see it as INTENTIONAL cheating, since the intention is NOT to handle the ball, but to reach it with your shoulder/breast.

    Now, I am not sure what % of english players would stop such a play in front of the goal if the ball touched their biceps, but I dont really blame Luis Fabiano to continue the play.

    After all, handballs ARE prone to referee interpretation, who may decided to not call a foul if he thinks it was unintentional.

    further, many people diss Luis Fabiano for telling the ref the ball touched his shoulder, when the replays show it touching his arm.

    people base this interpretation in a camera without any sound, showing the ref laughing and Luis Fabiano pointing to his shoulder.

    while it IS a possibility that he was indeed lying to the referee, wasnt it also perfectly possible that Luis Fabiano was saying to the referee EXACTLY the same he told in the post match press-conference? That it was UNINTENTIONAL? He would be pointing to his own shoulder to tell the referee that he TRIED to dominate the ball with his shoulder, not that he DID dominate the ball with the shoulder.

  • Comment number 49.

    Excellent thoughts Mr. Vickery. Agree that Switzerland beating Spain was bad news for Chile and although having 6 points Chile might well not get through. When was the last time that a team with 6 points did not qualify for the next round? However I saw some things about Spain (negativity) against Honduras which gave me hope for the Chileans and maybe they will spring a surprise. It is virtually a knockout game as with Switzerland almost certain to whack the Hondurians, then Spain must win to progress. It would be sad if the most attacking and entertaining team in the tournament (Chile) was to go out.
    After the disasterous campaign by the African teams, FIFA had hardly reduce the number of automatic qualifying places for the S. American teams for the 2014 World Cup, which I believe is being mooted, to give Africa one more qualifying place. Even Uruguay who got through by the 'back door' are showing up well, surprisingly, and Forlan has been one of the stars.
    The comments by the so-called British 'experts' on Radio/TV has been nothing short of embarrassing. They disagree with every refereeing decision. They seem not to appreciate that it is the English referees who ignore the laws in the Premiership and repeatedly fail to book players for shirt pulling or tackling from behind. Klose's red card was correct. Twice he tackled from behind and caught the opponents ankles. In England nothing would have happened. Hell! you have to break a players leg in the Premierhsip to get sent-off and even then everyone screams that it was unintentional and a harsh decision by the referee. That's why the English team/players are so bad. Very few can actually control the ball. Why is Theo Walcott virtually 'washed-up' at 21? Because he's been kicked from pillar to post, suffered numerous injuries and gets practically no protection from English referees. I've seen him put 6 feet in the air on numerous ocassions and the defender get away with a finger wagging from the ref. The deplorable Mick McCarthy and Mark Bright have this idea that you cannot book a player in the first minutes of the game! If the offence warrants a booking then you do it.
    Back to the W.C. - as I have strong connections in Chile I really hope that they can progress but do Chile have adequate replacements for the missing Fernandez and Carmona? Will the disappointing Suazo get another chance? His first minute booking was total stupidity by the player. Over to you Tim.

  • Comment number 50.

    @48 "...already bashing Brazil (as well as all other latin american and latin european) teams for cheating, diving, etc."

    Unfortunately, we've seen quite a bit of this but not only from the latin teams, Germany had a couple of players yellow carded in their first game for diving and the Africans seem to have gone to the Italian school of Advanced Playacting and Diving, just to name a few.

    Until FIFA decides to get tough on this, it will continue, and why not?, when young kids see how professionals get away with it and teams even win world cups because of this (W Germany in 1990, Italy in ... any year) they'll just imitate their conduct and the cycle will never break. The change in attitude needs to be at all levels of football.

    If players know that they'll be up for hefty punishment from FIFA for playacting/diving by getting suspensions and significant fines (unlike Rivaldo's laughable 11K francs fine back in 2002 for playacting) they will hopefully think twice about it.

  • Comment number 51.

    @49 " Chile have adequate replacements for the missing Fernandez and Carmona? Will the disappointing Suazo get another chance?"

    Valdivia is the natural replacement for Fernandez. In fact, he's performed a lot better than Fernandez in the Chilean national team, the problem is, Valdivia is a 45-minute player, ie. he only lasts half a game. That's why he usually replaces Fernandez at half time. Starting from the first minute, he'll struggle after the break.

    Suazo was the South American leading goalscorer of the qualifiers, he just lacks some match time, he should be back from the start, but he better get his act together quickly.

  • Comment number 52.

    A final comment - I may be alone in this thought, but I still feel that when the Argentines come up against a decent team with attacking wingers, they will struggle to cope with that defence that Maradona keeps faith with. Surely Group B must be the weakest in the whole championship. Greece have been dreadful and slow in defence, while Nigeria have hardly mustered a shot on goal in 2 games (1 shot - 1 goal) and have been hugely disapponting, and S. Korea were so negative against Argentina, and just wanted to keep the score down in hopes of qualifying in 2nd place. How FIFA were able to place these 3 in the same group is a mystery. Any team that is prepared to attack the Argentine defence will have success as Guiterrez and Heinze are dreadful tacklers and De Michelis heavily over-rated. I look forward to watching Argentina against either Uruguay or Mexico in the next round and seeing how they cope with a decent team. Of course Messi is brilliant but he can't help the defence as well as make goals for the entire 90 minutes!

  • Comment number 53.

    Excellent blog. Cheers Tim.

    Agree fully with your comments about the benefit of individual stars such as Messi and Sanchez but am going to try and offer my take on the South American dominance that is happening thus far:

    European football has seen a massive increase in tactical awarenes in recent years. This has been coached into the players from their early days and, in the process, arguably some of their individuality is coached out of them. In Europe it is only those whose gifts are simply too great for a manager to ignore (e.g. Messi, Ronaldo) who are given license to effectively do what they want on the pitch. Everyone else needs to fit the system.

    This leads to challenges for managers. Most European managers recognise the need for some individual brilliance, but their time seems to be spent trying to balance this trying to balance this with the need to adhere to a collective formation. The most successful European manager of recent years is Mourinho. Why? I'd argue that it is because he has simply given up on the pretence of having the odd individual in his team (see how he was happy to be rrid of his top scorer in Ibrahimovich) and focussed 100% on the collective. Dull to watch certainly, but because he is making fewer compromises it is successful.

    Brazil seem to be a mixture of the two approaches and this strikes me as a great balance. Essentially, the back 6 (including the two central midfielders) play to a rigid formation and are exceptionally disciplined. This allows the front four to do whatever they please and respond to the game as it develops. This is arguably easier when you have Kaka, Robinho et al. Suppose I'm suggesting that the nature of football and its coaching in Europe these days hasn't allowed players to develop in such a way that they could fulfill the roles that Brazil's front four do.

    Hope that makes some kind of sense. Sure that may will disagree, but would be interested to hear what people think.

    Oh, final point: With the Champions League now becoming the ultimate holy grail for European sides rather than their respective leagues, I think the tactical approach in Europe may also approach these 'big' CL games with a fear of losing as the overriding driver behind selection and style? Possibly too much knock-out football being played?

  • Comment number 54.


    I think you're missing the point here, mate.

    This blog uses facts, not speculation. You do not report any team unrest from "sources close to...". There are no links direct to the News of the World website. None of the people you mention seek to blame someone for something.

    You haven't even taken the opportunity to show a photo of a Brazilian woman in a tight t-shirt.

    Shame on you. The reputation of the BBC now hangs in the balance.

  • Comment number 55.

    @52. The weakest group in the whole championship is surely the now infamous EASY group C.

  • Comment number 56.

    guyastral - you may well be right. But I was meaning in terms of one country dominating (Argentina) and the remainder being so weak. In Group C all seem evenly matched and therefore it is tough for any 2 to advance, but Argentina simply have it far too easy in Group B. I wish that Chile had been in Group B and perhaps Greece in Group H alongside Spain and Switzerland. This would have been more balanced grouping, but I guess FIFA did not want to put 2 South American countries in the same group.
    best regards.

  • Comment number 57.

    Nice one Tim. True the Euro contingent has been a bit of a disappointment this time around, but I am just fine watching the South American quality entertainment... :)

  • Comment number 58.

    In South America most young players play futsal from a young age, this is why their close control is streets ahead of ours, not because of socialism! As a young player myself i've seen how bad Englands youth system is, wasted talent and poor management/training means the game turns into a size contest and hard tackles meaning players like messi would not make it here.

  • Comment number 59.

    It's weird but in England, whenever we see a young talent take to the field in the premier league, any skills/tracks/dribbling ability seem to gradually disappear over time. They get trained for percentage plays and have the natural talent drilled and trained out of them.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hi guys. Good post and serious comments as always.

    Let me tell you that as a chilean Im quite optimistic about the outcome of the Chile vs Spain game this Friday. I'm sure it will be an unmissable and emotional match to watch though.

    We have missed loads of goals that's true, but Im pretty sure that as long as we keep creating opportunities Suazo will show why he's one of the best strikers in South America. On top of that a sort of "common place" has been created around the Chile defense: in 180 minutes there has been only ONE clear chance to score by our opponents. In fact the spanish attacking style is less awkward for the likes of Gary Medel, for me one of the best defenders in the tournament so far. Chile will play with a line of four in the back.

    On top of that Spain will have to play at their best under extreme pressure against an eclectic type of tactic. Alexis Sanchez will have a party on the right flank of the pitch.

    What else? Spain and Chile will go through. I do not see the Swiss winning against a limited Honduras side that, after all, received only 3 goals by the most attacking minded teams in the world cup.

  • Comment number 61.

    Since the fall of Uruguay South America has lacked any consistant third team in football (after Brasil or Argentina).

    Every World Cup its different, sometimes Urguguay is there, sometimes Chile, Ecaudor, Paraguay, Colombia ..

  • Comment number 62.

    A good example to look at would be Anderson of Man Utd. For Porto he played in a more attacking role, had freedom to do skills and dribble past players and was being dubbed the next Ronaldinho!! Look at him now!! What did they do to him?! He now plays in a much more defensive role and doesn't look like he will ever get his attacking ability that we saw at Porto back!!

    But I really don't think you can describe the attacking flair as coming from street football because there are plenty of flair players in europe especially in Spain

  • Comment number 63.

    the second handball, it was in his upper arm. Although obviously illegal, ANY player will open his arms to try to reach the ball with the shoulder in those microseconds. Not always the player is able to reach it with the shoulder or breast, and in those cases, the ball usually his the player´s open arm.

    Again, its a faul and illegal, but I dont really see it as INTENTIONAL cheating, since the intention is NOT to handle the ball, but to reach it with your shoulder/breast.
    A very long way to conclude that the second hadball was illegal. He probably knew it himself once the ball struck his upper arm but continued and scored. As you say it was down to the ref to spot it but players tend to know it themselves.

    Not sure the media are just exclusively panning the SAmericans and SEuropean teams for supposed diving. ICoast are attracting a bit of the wrong kind of attention for it at the moment for obvious reasons.

  • Comment number 64.

    "Klose's red card was correct. Twice he tackled from behind and caught the opponents ankles."

    This decision would be correct if such an (in my view much too) rigorous standard would have been applied in the other matches as well. I advise you to look out for fouls from behind where a player tries to get the ball but (slightly) touches the opponent's leg or ankle instead. It happens multiple times in every game and never have I seen a yellow card be given, let alone a second yellow/red.
    (By the way - whatever the rules say - a second yellow card should only be given in very, very clear cut cases because the referees should try to minimize the number of games that are decided by the referee.)

  • Comment number 65.

    Feeling from the ground in south africa (that is in the work place, etc) is as soon as we out tonight, support will be given to which ever African team remains and then South American teams....Wonder if that will help them?

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi Tim,

    Great article as always. Do you have any news on ELANO. He's had a fantastic World Cup so far and always give Brazil that little bit extra. It will be a shame not to see him play again in this tournament.

    The performances of ELANO & ROBINHO just show how much the English Premeir league cannot spot a talent. LAMPARD is one of the best players in the EPL, but have you seen his performances so far at the WC. He cannot compete at International level.

  • Comment number 67.

    Thanks everyone for some excellent comments.

    If anyone is interested, i have an article on chile at in canada - go to sports and then to soccer.

    and also a piece on brazil's coach, media relations etc at sports illustrated - and go to soccer.

  • Comment number 68.

    Post: 66 - gbengakoya

    I don't think Elano not playing again would be too much of a problem - his position can be easily filled by either Daniel Alves or Ramires.
    The omission and deciding who to replace Kaka for the last group-match vs Portugal is interesting but not critical - I would guess Julio Baptista??
    I expect Portugal to come forward and try and close Brazil down by marking Gilberto and Melo, then that gives space elsewhere on the pitch - if the central midfielders move up towards them, it would leave a Ramires free and gives Brazil space to exploit.
    If the wide players come inside, then Maicon and Bastos are free. Lucio and Juan are in there for defensive awareness, but more important than their tough tackling is the way they simply don’t let the opposition have the ball.
    Given Portugal's position in the table, and the fact that Ivory Coast can't really level with them on 4 points (unless they beat North Korea 11-0!) I expect Portugal to play a neutral, safety-first match, get a draw and ensure they get through to R16.

  • Comment number 69.

    The performances of ELANO & ROBINHO just show how much the English Premeir league cannot spot a talent. LAMPARD is one of the best players in the EPL, but have you seen his performances so far at the WC. He cannot compete at International level.


    A very narrow minded and ill-informed comment, how can you compare two totally contrasting styles of football, namely Brazil and England.

    I would like to see how many goals Robinho would score whilst carrying out general midfield responsibilities. Fans of south american football seem to believe that the game is only about skill and dribbling and apparently Europeans only care about tactics and industry.

    Why don't both continents supporters remove their blinkers and appreciate a combination of the two is far more balanced.

  • Comment number 70.

    i agree with pushthered - i think dunga takes a big risk with this team because he has not many options on the bench. If kaka or robinho get injured, that does not leave many creative players...who can he bring off bench? baptista is not a creative player...too much depends on kaka getting back to form and robinho continuing to play well...
    in brasil, as you must know being in rio, there is a lot of concern about how dunga makde the selecao...he left out some great players like Ganso and dinho...also he seems to refuse to take good experienced players with him and prefer to have rubbish players on the bench like baptista and grafite who do not know how to robinho said, there are many stiff waists in this team...
    same problem with strikers, only depends on fabiano who sometimes goes many games without a goal...leaves behind neymar and does not call on ronaldo who even 60-70% fit is better finisher than any player in selecao and scored great gols for corinthians...
    many cannot understand why players like ganso, neymar, ronaldo and ronaldinho gaucho (and even r carlos who also play well for corinthians) cannot even get a place on the bench - dunga does not have enough game changers like these players...but he is too stubborn to admit...result, if brasil do not win this, dunga will be blamed for taking this selecao muito fraco...

  • Comment number 71.

    I would change street football for Futsal, which makes us really skilful because you can dribble in a short space... look at Messi, Robinho, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and many others not famous that are coming soon like Neymar from Santos, all of them starts playing in the streets or on the beach but they have improved themselves in futsal no excuses for the boys in Europe, for they have a lots of courts here in every school, they just have to start to learn like Spain has done...very strong Futsal rival of Brasil.

  • Comment number 72.

    Great blog, Tim. It's been refreshing to watch the South American teams so far - particularly Chile - as compared to the most of the drab football we've seen from the Europeans. Ok, Spain have played some 'pretty' stuff, but far more exciting to watch the South Americans. Will certainly be disappointed if Chile do go out. Sanchez has looked excellent. As already said, why can we not embrace that sort of individual flair in England?

  • Comment number 73.

    Chile were good in their first game but a bit below par since.

    Uruguay are the team that's impressed me most so far, and Forlan one of the players of the tournament.

  • Comment number 74.

    A comparison of Chile and England:

    England: lots of established stars
    Chile: no big stars, though Sanchez, at least, will become one.

    England: relying almost exclusively on veterans. The oldest England team ever.
    Chile: key/core players from their 2007 youth squad.

    England: resorted to long ball after getting the lead in the fifth minute against the US

    Chile: play positively the entire game, even when ahead. (It must be said, given their height, when defending against tall Europeans well-drilled on set pieces, the best defense for Chile may be a good offence.)

    England: unable to complete passes, vary their attack, chase the ball aggressively, or even, in many cases, run very quickly.

    Chile: almost continuous series of reasonably well-conceived and well-executed attacks, featuring 4-8 passes and variation in method and field area--right flank, center, left flank, long shots, etc. In addition to dribbling and passing skill, they're simply fast. Every loose ball, it seemed, the Chileans beat the Swiss to --even before the Swiss were playing with 10 men.

    England: Look petrified.

    Chile: "won't let you get near the ball."--and attack whenever they have it.

    As to SA dominance so far:

    1. We'll have to see if it continues
    2. These things are cyclical, Europe and SA learn from each other, and it goes both ways. In '98 Brazil couldn't defend French set pieces. Since then they've gotten much better.
    3. The wild and wooly SA qualifying does seem to have helped them, again, because teams could afford to lose games. What they couldn't afford to do, in the long run, is not play their best, and not play as a team. In contrast, European teams may have been playing too tight--eke out a key game or two and qualify. But why wasn't this such a big help in '06?
    4. Both the ball and the pitch may be major factors. Don't know how many shots I've seen go a couple of feet high. It would make sense that the difficulty aiming the new ball hurts the teams that rely on precise long range shooting and crossing more, which tend to be Europeans. The pitch may make long passing trickier. In both cases, teams that rely on dribbling and short passes should benefit (though this would include Spain and Portugal.)

    To me, there's one lesson above all, maybe two: ignore young players at your peril in big international competitions. They're more resilient, physically and psychologically, and, most importantly, they may well not feel the pressure as much, or have any reason to doubt their abilitiies. 2. Playing stupidly is a common problem, and one managers as a group are keenly tuned to avoid. But not really playing at all, which describes England and France, is an even bigger problem, and one managers may need to consider more carefully.

  • Comment number 75.

    One more thing, why is Thiago Silva on the bench instead of Juan? Thiago has had a stellar season at Milan and I think he would be better in the position. Strange choices by Dunga indeed.

    Overall I think South Americans have a quality to them that Europeans cannot emulate. South Americans seem to have a passion for football and place a greater emphasis on passing on the ground and individual skill seems to flourish. Only recently in the form of C. Ronaldo do you see South American flair in Europe.

  • Comment number 76.

    Spot on blog Tim and plenty of intelligent responses!! Couldn't agree more about European teams resembling robots in their style of play!! It would be good if the remaining "stodge" (Italy, Spain (don't think they were that brilliant playing Honduras last nignt) and England)follow France out of the tournament!!

    PS: Keep an eye on Denmark going a long way!! I admire their ethics!! (No cheating)

  • Comment number 77.

    Interesting how not too long ago, people were saying the likes of Slovenia and Slovakia would slaughter teams such as Chile and S America.... where are they now?

    I really enjoyed Paraguay's 2-0 win over Slovakia on Sunday morning, remembering some of those comments! A win over New Zealand and we'll top the group, the next game might not be all that easy, but i think our team is well equipped to defend against the best teams and to surprise them on the counter.

    I think a lot of people underestimated teams for this world cup, especially in the British press. Obviously, they'll never admit that their team just isn't good enough, they'd rather moan about the "negative" or "defensive" football of the "smaller" nations!

  • Comment number 78.

    Just got to say that i think Mick Mccarthy is an outstanding commentator

  • Comment number 79.

    Post 70: supercampeaobrasileiro

    There are many 'what ifs' in your post. It's like saying 'what if Messi and Tevez get injured for Argentina'?

    As soon as you let the public and the media start picking your 'dream-team' for you, you may as well quit being a coach.
    * Dunga left out Neymar because he didn't deliver at the World Cup Youth Level
    * Dunga left out Ganso because...well...what has Ganso actually done to warrant being picked?
    * Dunga left out Adriano because Adriano has 'off-the-pitch-issues' and had many chances to impress.
    * Dunga left out Ronaldinho for the same reasons - he's not a team player anymore.
    * Dunga left out Ronaldo because is is a) 33 years old b) 4 years past his primse and c) overweight

    The results that Brazil '09/'10 have achieved speak for themselves. You cannot play 'joga-bonita', anymore because of the physical changes in football in the last 10-15 years.
    Mythical Matchup: Brazil '82 vs Brazil '10: I'd say Brazil '82 manage to keep up until the 70-80th minute, then Brazil '10 take over and win the match, easily.

    As things stand, Brazil are top of Group G and have looked pretty good getting there....

  • Comment number 80.

    Post 70: supercampeaobrasileiro
    What a lot of rubbish!

    Fat Ronaldo, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Roberto Carlos, are you out of your mind? you must be a frustrated Curintiano! Typical, know little about football, weak irrational argument and opinion!

    Dunga picked the best possible Brazilian team, no way Ronaldo or dinho let alone the RC would have a chance in this WC! Who else did you want, romario? rivaldo e cafu? I would too if they were at least 10 years younger!

  • Comment number 81.

    I could write for paragraphs and paragraphs about street football and our exciting Uruguayan team, but I've already wasted way too much time with this WC games. So:

    1) Tim, for once I hope you're wrong, VERY wrong about the tournament being won by slow starters... we can already crown Italy if that is so, and forget about our Southamerican teams. Things are going so good even Palermo scored a goal!

    2) You have a blog in Canada??? Any readers besides a couple of garotinhos in Toronto's Brazilian community? If you need some traffic just write an entry contrasting futbol with curling and we'll all go from here to defend the beautifull game :)

    And finally, in Uruguay is not "street football".. is futbol de campito o de potrero... anyone can translate?

  • Comment number 82.

  • Comment number 83.

    Hi Tim

    Just wondering what do you think will happen Bielsa after the world cup?
    I think it would be great to see him coach a club side in Europe, he is obviously a very deep thinker and the way he sets out his side's makes it a joy to watch,I hope they get a bit of luck against Spain because they deserve to qualify, in no way should they feel inferior to Spain because I think Chile are more exciting to watch, much quicker on the attack as well, Spain have more clinical finishers but its going to be no stroll for Spain.
    Vamos Rojos
    From a huge Albiceleste fan

  • Comment number 84.

    Wow! Lots of opinions! I get the feeling there will be a good level of representation from Latin American teams in the last 16 which should lead to some entertaining free flowing football matches.
    I'm a fan of Brazilian football and I get the feeling Ramires may have a good World Cup run... In any case I can't wait for the 2014 event as I've got a place in Bahia.....!

  • Comment number 85.

    @SPFCBrasil and Silversurfer

    Not out of my mind and i DO know about obviously dont watch brasil football amigos or you would know that i am saying the truth!!!! Not need to insult me with your comments please - not weak or irrational.
    YOU BOTH MISS THE POINT - those are not my first team choices, but should be in reserves on bench for sure. You think I am mad but then why do millions of people in brasil agree, including romario and pele? Are we/they all mad? You do not have grace amigo, none at all..

    - silversurfer, have you ever seen ganso play??! Ganso not even on bench when you have OLD GILBERTO SILVA on the field and many defensivo players!!!

    - ronaldo is still most clinical goal scorer for brasil and you cannot ignore his goals for corinthians - are you saying better to have grafite than ronaldo? please!!! Easy to criticise him and make fun but you dont actually admit to the truth that he can still score great goals!! Why not have him on bench...makes no sense.

    - again, neymar not even on bench when you take nilmar and grafite - please!!! that makes no sense

    - r carlos plays v well in that position and there are not so many good players in that position - had v good season with corinthians as well so please dont talk about this as if no one in brasil did not think he would be in ignore form and prefer to just make fun without the facts!!

    - i did not say that adriano should go!! he has problems in the head!! i agree on this silversurfer!!

    i hope they win but i dont like the selecao... my opinion and that of many others.

  • Comment number 86.


    Ronaldo: he scored 12 times last year (not even in the Top 15).
    But come on, let's face facts: he's 33, overweight and you seriously think that because he can score against teams like Vasco or Gremio or Palmeiras each week...he'd so the same at World Cup level, at South African altitude?
    Roberto Carlos: now 35(?) and also plays for Corinthians.
    There's a reason these guys play for Corinthians now and NOT at Inter or Real or Chelsea - they are PAST their prime and could not compete at this level.

    Nilmar plays at Villareal and has proven himself at La Liga level last season and in his last 3 starts for Brazil, he's scored 5 goals.

    Grafite - I can't comment on, because I have not seen him play either for Wolsburg or Brazil. I DO know he's scored 50 times in the last 3 seasons

    One player I WAS surprised Dunga left out was Douglas...I would have taken a chance on him instead of Ganso...

  • Comment number 87.

    A coach is never going to please everybody with his selection of players, but considering what Brazil have won under Dunga, he seems to know what he is doing, as far as obtaining results is concerned.

    Ronaldo, R Carlos, Adriano and others have already done their part for their national team, completed their cycle and we should just enjoy the memories of those days when they were at their football peak and move on.

    As far as Ganso and Neymar are concerned, I haven't seen them play but Dunga considers Brazil does not need them at the moment and they'll probably be better off developing for the next world cup in Brazil itself where the pressure to win will be immense.

    Now, if you expect Brazil to play attacking, beautiful football, then I'm afraid you'll need a time machine because the last time Brazil played like that was in 1982. Ever since then, they have treasured results over style and have adopted a counterattacking style which has been very efficient. Brazil playing the "jogo bonito" is only a myth.

    If you want to see attacking, attractive football at this WC, you have to look elsewhere, to Argentina, to Chile especially, and see how Bielsa's team shows everybody what attacking football is all about. They may not make it all the way, but at least they're entertaining.

  • Comment number 88.

    Post 87 - BladeRunner: "Now, if you expect Brazil to play attacking, beautiful football, then I'm afraid you'll need a time machine because the last time Brazil played like that was in 1982. Ever since then, they have treasured results over style and have adopted a counterattacking style which has been very efficient. Brazil playing the "jogo bonito" is only a myth."

    Couldn't have put it any better myself!!

  • Comment number 89.

    Tim, do you think that teams like Chile and Paraguay benefit from having a smaller pool of players than say England or France? From picking the squad, then the team and formation there alays seen to be choices and options/ dilemas for England wheras as the above two mentioned seem to me almost like club sides. The players know each other well, they know the system well and they know their role in the group. Makes them strong units aswell as good individual players.

  • Comment number 90.

    a smaller pool of players only results in less depth of players in a squad, so it's more of a disadvantage really.

    Bear in mind also that most players from the South American national teams play for clubs in Europe, Mexico, etc, so they don't get to see each other until they're together in the national team and only on FIFA dates. English players all play for english clubs so they don't have to deal with issues such as extensive travel and the like.

    Players knowing the system well and their role in the group would have more to do with the coach and his strategies, wouldn't it? Interesting to note that Gerardo Martino (Paraguay coach) learned his trade under Marcelo Bielsa (Chile coach) while they were both at Newell's. And they both have managed to get excellent team performances from their squads.

    Both teams have defined systems and all players know what is expected of them, that's what makes them strong units. No prima donnas in these teams!

  • Comment number 91.

    @ 74--> thanks for you accurate analysis on Chilean game =)

    @83 --> Gracias, albiceleste, por tu apoyo!!!! =)

    This is the first time in my life that Chile has true and good options of winning the World Cup. We have a top group of players and an intelligent coach. After such a huge earthquake we had in February 2010, this team has given joy and hope to my country. We all know things will not change, but the happiness of watching your team winning game after game is unpayable. Of course all our opponents are to respect and even to fear. We look up to Brazil, for example, with admiration that has no end. However, in our hearts, we have a little hope that make us believe that this World Cup might be ours...

    Cheers to all!

  • Comment number 92.

    Dear Tim,
    I'm a carioca who has been in Europe for some years now. A couple of comments and a question-
    Aren't the SA dribbling skills a consequence of history and culture as much as the street playing? Any day you go to to a Rio beach you'll see lots of people doing juggling and dribbling with the ball - many of them middle class kids who don'r really do "street playing". Granted, these aren't the people that will end up as professional footballers, but that's just the example. If you're a Brazilian toddler, you're taught to dribble long before you have any idea of what a cross is, and that does not depend on social class.
    More of the same: here in the UK, when I have a kickabout with British friends, before playing what we do is to get some 30 meters apart from each other to practise long passes and crosses. I lived in France too, and the pre-kickabout routine there was a short circle with fast one-touch passes. In Brazil the pre-kickabout routine is often a keepie-uppie circle (what people do at the beach) or a dribbling routine (the "bobinho"), with one or two players in a circle trying to take the ball from the others. Street playing or not, my impression is that Europeans just don't do things like the "bobinho".
    Anyone watching or reading about football in England will often be told about "great tackles". That's something that still surprises me - the British devotion to something that in Brazil is seen as the signature of the talentless player, the "carrinho". My question: is my memory playing tricks on me, or is there no expression at all in Portuguese that means "great tackle"? From a Brazilian perspective, isn't "great tackle" an oxymoron?

  • Comment number 93.

    92 Leeds!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrreat tackle with a scottish accent, haha, yes, that is the essence of the contrast! How well put!

    I would submit like I did in other posts in the past, that the fields in Northern Europe do little to encourage dribbling. Wet, slick billiard-like pitches encourage long range passing and long distance shooting. The ball runs faster so there is a predilection for faster players and size is all important because long balls mean high balls and you have to have towers to defend and attack the 'English' ball.

    Once the ball is put on the floor these same towers look wooden, but the sliding tackle works because the wet grass does not hurt. Try a sliding tackle in a Buenos Aires potrero or in a pelada in Copacabana...

    On another rant, FIFA should be accountable for the conditions of play in South Africa: is someone keeping stats on throw-ins and goalkicks per game? The ball is constantly out of play, no curling the ball around the wall in freekicks thus encouraging fouling in attack zones outside the box and let's not talk about goalie blunders. Are these blunders supposed to make for better or more exciting football?

    In Canada, where ice hockey reigns they call their street hockey 'shinny.' Could this be an equivalent to futbol de campito or potrero?

  • Comment number 94.

    Absolutely spot on Tim!

    As an avid reader on your thoughts and observations I've really been looking forward to the South American teams and especially the enganches who break down defences.

    I cannot wait for CHile v Spain. Chile have not surprised me at all with their unique formation and pace down the flanks.

  • Comment number 95.

    Tim, do you read any of the British press? They are slaughtering Paraguay for the game against New Zealand. Personally, apart from the finishing, i think they played a very good game. They limited New Zealand, who were rarely a danger to us, controlled possession for large parts of the game, passed the ball well in midfield and had several shots at goal.

    If England had played that way in any of their 3 games, I'm sure they would have been praising them!!! Are they just bitter?

    According to ESPN website Paraguay had 17 shots and 66% possession, compared to England Slovenia, England had only 13 shots at goal and only 45% possession! And that was one god awful game, yet the press loved it!

  • Comment number 96.

    Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay & Uruguay will all top their groups. Chile should go through, albeit behind Spain, I think.

    The Europeans (in what was billed, weather-wise, as a good WC for Europeans) are really struggling. And clearly another will go between Germany & England. Spain are the only ones likely to make the semis, I think, and I see 2 South American sides waiting for them in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

    A shame for England, but the lack of goals has stuck them in an impossible side of the draw for them. They will need a lot of luck even to make the semis, and frankly I see it ending against Germany.

  • Comment number 97.

    I meant 3 South American sides, of course. Doh.

  • Comment number 98.

    Hi Tim...I just heard you on Radio NZ - couple of my football mad friends phoned me and said 'hey, you should listen to this guy - he's brilliant!" .And turns out it's my old mate Tim from Warwick days! TIm - TIm - get in touch. I'd love to hear from you and have a catch up....How are you? I'm Josie Pagani these days, not Josie Harbutt - as Im sure you'll agree, a much better Latin surname! YOu look exactly the same...
    We're all knackered after getting up at 2am for the All Whites..How do I get in touch with you?


  • Comment number 99.

    Hi Tim, I believe european teams are struggling in world cup because most of the best players in top leagues are south americans. Look on Inter in italy, they are the champions in Europe but without italian players.

  • Comment number 100.


    i agree that younger, fitter and thinner players should be in first choice team!!

    BUT i still think that fenomeno deserves to be on the bench because he can still score at highest level and there is no reason why he cannot be player for 15 or 20 minutes as a reserve...33 years is not exactly ancient! he has much experience and can still contribute a lot...we shall have to just disagree about this respectfully and i shall wait for dunga to leave his job!!

    i would say that it was funny hearing british commentators say that ronaldo would never score again last WC and then he went and equalled muller's record...people love to write off fenomeno!!


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