South American Futbol - Libertadores, Sudamericana, World Cup 2010

Who will lead the South America-Europe struggle, rulers of the world?

The Cup this year is not expected to be any different. In actuality, the bulk of the nations from the remaining four continents have little chance, and Brazil is a virtual lock to win a record-breaking sixth championship. With that, South America would be two up on Europe.

It sounds simple, right? Not quite.

Compared to their South American colleagues, the Europeans appear to have a significant edge. The World Cup will not only be held in Europe, but 14 teams from that region will compete there, as opposed to just four from South America.

Nine different European countries have hosted the World Cup; all but one (Brazil in 1958, in Sweden) saw Europeans take home the trophy. Realistically, Brazil and Argentina, which have won a combined seven Cups and appear to be in great shape, are South America’s only realistic possibilities this year.

Lionel Messi of Argentina believes that Ronaldinho would be a better star if Argentina won the World Cup and potentially defeated Brazil in the championship game. Has “The Flea” provided any clues as to what the title battle would entail?

Although it is far too early to predict Messi’s ideal final, we can evaluate the chances of both teams as well as those of South American neighbors Paraguay and Ecuador.

The World Cup will be Paraguay’s third consecutive appearance, and they are aware that inexperience is no longer an acceptable defense. A large portion of its team competed in the 1998 and 2002 tournaments when Paraguay lost to France and Germany, two top-tier opponents, in the round of 16.

Traditionally defensive, Paraguay has maintained its cohesion while greatly enhancing its offensive capabilities. The team is more dynamic than in prior World Cups because of Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Haedo Valdez, and Julio Dos Santos. Anibal Ruiz, the team’s head coach, has pledged that his team won’t hold back too much and would instead use attacking strategies to make use of the speed he possesses up front.

The group in which Paraguay is placed is set to be fiercely competitive and features debutants Trinidad & Tobago, England, and Sweden. Paraguay has the talent to continue, even though both European nations are favorites to move to the second round.

Paraguay must win its opening group game against England to increase its chances of moving on to the second round. A tightly packed Paraguay will likely play on the counterattack while pushing gradually to control the midfield and searching for openings to expose England’s defense.

Given that it has only won once in its previous nine games, including a discouraging 2-1 loss to mediocre Macedonia last week, Ecuador enters its second World Cup with poor morale. Although unexpectedly, the Ecuadorians have a solid chance of moving on to the second round, the signs don’t seem positive for them.

Along with the host nation Germany, they will compete against Costa Rica and Poland. They must defeat the Poles in their opening match, but they must be mindful that Poland is very swift on the counterattack, which La Tri finds difficult to handle. Given that both sides play a similar brand of soccer, the matchup with Costa Rica should be an open one. It is quite improbable that Ecuador will upset the Germans at home.

Brazil will win a record-setting sixth World Cup, barring a major catastrophe. This team is by far the best in the competition. In every facet of their game, the Brazilians are outstanding, and it appears as if they can only grow better. Even though they played against relatively poor opposition in their exhibition games, they showed off some great offensive soccer. They should breeze through to the next round if that pattern holds if it does.

The Seleço is under a lot of pressure since it is the team to beat. Since the excellent Brazil team of 1982, which easily won its group before losing to eventual champion Italy in the semifinals, there hasn’t been such a clear favorite at 5-2 odds.

The Brazilians are well aware of the potential danger posed by their group’s adversaries. In reality, they frequently face difficult teams who resemble Australia and were held to draws by Croatia and Japan last year. However, Brazil should establish its rhythm as soon as possible because it outperforms its competitors.

Argentina is the tournament’s second-most capable team on paper. However, it does not ensure success. The Argentines, like Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, and Serbia and Montenegro in ’02, are members of the Group of Death. There will be competition, but the Albiceleste stand a decent chance of winning. Head coach José Pekerman is aware that for that to happen, his squad must play not just attractive soccer but also efficient soccer.

Ivory Coast is viewed by Argentina as its toughest group opponent for some reason, while Serbia and the Netherlands, who are looking to regain support following noteworthy absences in 2002, receive less attention.

In its resounding 2-0 victory against Angola last week, Argentina showed off its strength and depth. With strong teamwork and some promising early hints in the assault, the Argentines dominated the game.

Argentina or Brazil would probably need to perform miracles if South America is to maintain its supremacy at the World Cup. That task will be entertaining to see in Germany.



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