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CONMEBOL shining in South Africa


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Aside from the vuvuzelas and some questionable refereeing decisions, the headline news to come out of South Africa is the performance of all five South American representatives in the group stage of the World Cup.

Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile have added to the spark that Brazil and Argentina almost always carry and have brought the international spotlight upon South America despite the fact that a CONMEBOL side, other than the two titans, has not reached the World Cup quarterfinals in four decades.

Following mixed results in past tournaments, many have questioned if the "other" CONMEBOL teams could represent the region as strongly as giants Brazil and Argentina, although there have been isolated cases of successful runs by the non-traditional squads over the years.

Back in the 1970s, Peru was as consistent as the top two with some of its own attractive attacking style and technical abilities. In the 1980s, Uruguay's club teams were a force, but that never translated into success for its national side. In the 1990s, Colombia was picked to raise a World Cup trophy but never saw those predictions come to fruition. Paraguay had a respectable run in 1998, and Chile today is one of the more attractive sides in South America with some young talent still yet to fully develop.

After Argentina's and Uruguay's thrashings of South Korea and South Africa, respectively, this past week, Brazil looking strong and Paraguay and Chile turning in impressive first matches, South American teams are a combined 5-0-2, and all five have a realistic chance of advancing to the knockout rounds. South American success might not be limited to to 2010 either – World Cup 2014 will be hosted by Brazil.

Here is a detailed look at how the five CONMEBOL sides have fared in South Africa so far:


The Celestes' young starlet, Nicolas Lodeiro (Ajax), showed his vulnerability by picking up two yellow cards after coming off of the bench in Uruguay's opening draw against France. What could have been disaster for the Uruguayans, especially dealing with a wet field and dealing with nerves in a second game of a World Cup, turned into relief as the Uruguayans held on to share the points.

The match gave them the chance to feel out their chemistry and execute their set-pieces, which were crucial during World Cup qualifying. In their match against South Africa, manager Oscar Tabarez got the best out of his trio of strikers, Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, who all provided much-needed and successful pressure on the Bafana Bafana and held the host country's attack down.

Forlan scored twice to add to his stellar year, which already includes the cup-clinching goal in the Europa League, Uruguay's biggest test comes Tuesday against Mexico, a team the Celestes have had a poor record against in the past.


South American opposition already know about the Guarani's defensive stance. The whole world already knew about Italy's. It made sense that both teams' passing games were essentially ineffective in their 1-1 draw.

The rock-solid, defensive-minded players on both sides created havoc and enforced a physical presence on each other. Paraguay manager Gerardo Martino was rewarded after having second thoughts on Dario Veron's position in Paraguay's back line and instead deploying Antolin Alcaraz, who netted the Guarani's goal.

Both the South Americans and defending champions are expected to move on to the next round at the expense of New Zealand and Slovakia.


The Rojos were not necessarily picked to make it out of this group that includes Spain and Switzerland, but those who doubted the Chileans may not have watched the marathon South American qualifiers, where Chile finished second to Brazil.

Incredibly, Chile's 1-0 win over Honduras was its first victory in a World Cup since 1962, when it hosted the event. Chile's free-flowing style overwhelmed Los Catrachos, even though the scoreline didn't reflect that. The dynamic and fast Chilean team was without its injured leading scorer, Humberto Suazo, who plays for Real Zaragoza on loan from Mexico's Monterrey.

The Rojos have enough depth, though, with Udinese's Alexis Sanchez, Sporting of Portugal's Matias Fernandez and Boca Juniors' Gary Medel, who are good enough to spark a deep tournament run. Chile's matchup with Spain will be a true test of that depth, and a win over La Furia Roja could cement the nation's spot atop its group.


Argentina's dangerous array of forwards made sure the world knew of their intentions early on with wins over Nigeria and South Korea, and out of all the favorites in the tournament, Diego Maradona's side has been the most impressive.

Astonishingly, UEFA Champions League hero Diego Milito has only seen 11 minutes of action in two matches, a testament to the abundance of power the Argentines boast. Gonzalo Higuain netted a hat trick against South Korea, as a byproduct of sensational creation from maestro Lionel Messi, and Carlos Tevez has made many threatening runs to keep defenses off balance.

Messi looks and sounds like he's on a mission to fend off the criticism he faces back home when he puts on the blue-and-white shirt, as he has come up with some impeccable runs and has displayed well-timed unselfishness.

With just a game against Greece remaining, Argentina looks like a sure bet to be a major player in the knockout stage.


The North Koreans did well to sit back and defend against the likes of Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano and Elano, but in the end, the five-time champions knew the virtue of patience would be needed with little space in which to play their brand of soccer. With the world watching its every move in its first game of the World Cup, Maicon and Elano scored to lift the favorites to a 2-1 victory and three crucial points.

The Selecao still have a lot of soccer left in the Group of Death, but they have been known to progressively get better in these tournaments, which is always a scary thought. Their next test comes Sunday against the Ivory Coast in what could be one of the more open and splendid games of the first round.


What do you think of the South American sides? Will we see another team besides Argentina and Brazil in the quarterfinals? Do you think the World Cup will be lifted by a South American team?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. no rose glasses here, amigo. you’re looking to Klinnsmann for tactics? the guy who Americanized the German team by bringing in American trainers and psychologists and told them to have more fun? what revolutionary tactics has he ever employed? Germany didn’t show any in 06, Bayern certainly didn’t light the world on fire while he was there.

    meanwhile, Bob Bradley is getting shoutouts from the Swiss coach for showing the way to beat Spain. can you cite a single instance of a manager anywhere giving a shoutout to Klinsy? he was a great player. he was just what Germany needed in 2006, to relax and play like they were capable of. but let’s remember. Klinsy is the ONLY manager of a national team to do worse in a hosted cup than in the previous one. the only one. a third for Germany, hosting the cup, really isn’t that fabulous of an accomplishment. they’re freaking GERMANY. this is a team that has finished in the top four 11 of the 18 times the tournament has been played. no other team has as many top four finishes (Brazil has ten)

    this is the guy who is going to teach us tactics? the guy with no experience teaching ANYONE tactics? just cause he was a great player? please.

  2. Who cares if the title is ‘comparatively meaningless’? It’s competitive matches versus friendlies (which really are meaningless)

  3. Well, Algeria DID just draw England the other night. Although your point is well taken — African teams have really stunk the place up this tournament.

  4. I’m not a BB hater, but take off your rose colored glasses for a minute. We won two matches and lost three in the Confederations Cup. The Spain win was great. They played like crap until they got mad that the media was criticizing them. We won our qualifying group because Mexico was playing terribly at the time and the rest of CONCACAF is awful. I love that the US players show grit, but I would rather see tactical awareness that doesn’t make it necessary for us to come from behind in almost every situation.

  5. nobody cares about the confed cup. I think tournaments such as africa cup and gold cup would definitely gain if held every four years. otherwise the title is comparatively worthless

  6. Seriously? We’re still talking about Klinnsmann? Didn’t he get fired from his last job? What would Klinnsmann have accomplished that Bradley hasn’t? First place in qualifying? A second place inthe Confederations cup, includingbeing, until this week, the only team to beat Spain in three years? A team that exceeds the value of it’s parts, and plays with serious heart and grit? A team that was robbed of a winning goal yet still controls it’s own destiny entering the final games of the group stage? What the hell else do you want? If that’s why Klinnsmann didn’t become the US manager, then I think we won, no?

  7. Well that and a spot in the Confederations cup. And since it then ha to be played the year after the World Cup to qualify, it would still conflict with Copa America. So either we do an A and B team, or we exhaust our players and piss off clubs. Remember, Gold Cup and Copa are both next year. By that time out European players (and Donovan) will have been playing non-stop, without a full month off, since August of 2008. Club season-Confederations Cup-club season/qualifiers-World Cup-club season-Gold Cup (remember, there’s the 2013 confederations cup spot on the line-Copa (if we were going) then another full club season. That’s four straight years without a break. That’s insane. And a recipie for failure.

    Copa is fun, but it isn’t our tournament. Give me the two cycles of gold cups to try out new players under pressure and a Serious shot at the Confederations cup. And if we don’t get to Confed, we still have a tournament to work on our team before qualifying starts that fall.

  8. I’d say it’s time CONMEBOL and CONCACAF quit screwing around, and join forces to create an actual challenge for UEFA in terms of region-wide supremacy. USA and Mexico are wasting their time with minnows like Guadeloupe and Haiti. If these two regions became one, they’d have 8 qualifying spots, and maybe one playoff. We’d still probably qualify almost every time, and the biannual regional championship would be far more entertaining, and probably wouldn’t only be held at Gillette Stadium, Soldier Field, and the HDC. Not to mention the financial benefits. Frankly, I don’t see how this hasn’t been talked of yet.

  9. So what? I’d say the point is the have the best 32 teams, not the most geographically diverse. Does Algeria really deserve to be here over Colombia or Ecuador? Hell no!

    Maybe what they should do is have two playoff spots for CONMEBOL- one vs. CONCACAF 4 and the other vs Africa 5.

  10. Yea, I’d be all for the Gold Cup only being once every 4 years.

    The cup that awards nothing, other than a ridiculous/over-the-top/eye-sore of a trophy is irrelevant as it is impotent.

  11. Technically possible, but I think Honduras will struggle to even earn a point in this tournament. The other 7 should advance. Pretty good record.

  12. The US was not invited to the 2011 Copa America after it sent a 3rd-rate squad in 2009. The US royally screwed up with that whole deal, and CONMEBOL was justifiably upset. We lost Klinsmann as coach and severed ties with CONMEBOL just to cater to a few MLS coaches. What a joke.

    Having said that, I do find it a bit interesting though that Mexico is now being allowed to send its 2012 Olympic Team with 5 over-age players.

  13. we got to stop holding the damm gold up every two years. Period A copa america with all of south america and six concacaf squads would rival a Euro in terms of ratings and Quality

  14. In years where the Gold Cup does NOT send you to the Confederations cup, sending our A squad to the Copa America makes much sense. In years where it DOES send you to the Confeds Cup, I still think USSF/Bob Bradley/Whoever made the call was spot on to use our A side to win the Gold Cup and go to the Confeds.

  15. Mexico has been playing in the copa america since 1993 I believe. The US on the other hand has decline on occasion to participate. Last I heard the Conmebol was going to stop inviting the US for not taking the tournament seriously.

  16. its amazing what moving the world cup out of europe can do. i hope to see more of these “non-traditional” teams doing well.

    Also as mentioned in another comment.. we really should take part in the Copa America with the best team available at the time.

  17. Too bad Sepp sees this as a bad thing. Thats why the World Cup has to be in Europe almost every other time. I still dont know why they canceled the rotation system. I guess FIFA aka UEFA 2 doesnt want fair play.

  18. True, and once again European teams do poorly when the tournament isn’t held in Europe. Can you say “soft Euro?”

  19. This is good for the game and well over due. I just wish South American teams hadn’t allowed themselves to become so “Europeanized” over the years, but I guess this is the current trend for soccer. Even Africa seems to be focusing more on defense.

  20. There are only 10 nations in CONMEBOL and they have 4 automatic spots (with the 5th qualifier playing against our 4th). Giving South America a 5th automatic qualification spot would put half of that region in every World Cup.

  21. I think that FIFA should take a qualifying spot away from the African nations and give it to the South Americans. I say this only because there was talk of taking a spot away from CONCACAF


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