South American team will rule world
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
Brazil' striker Robinho (top) is carried by teammate Kaka during a World Cup training session at the Saint Sthithians school in Johannesburg. (AFP PHOTO/ANTONIO SCORZA)
A South American team is winning this World Cup?
The only tough question is, which one.
Uruguay, the last team from CONMEBOL to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, squeaked past South Korea and looked like a world-beater. The way it fought back through a Luis Suarez wonder-brace was impressive.
Argentina goes Monday, while the three other South American sides, two facing one another, stake their claims in the coming days.
All five teams from the continent remain and very well may be the top five teams in the competition. Seriously. South American teams simply haven't cooled off after a hot start in South Africa.
And the way the draw has played out, four South American teams could reach the semi-finals, a far cry from 2006 when four European teams reached that stage.
Credit superior tactics. None of the teams really play much of an old school 4-4-2. They utilize hybrid systems, basically working in diamond formations with lots of support coming from each direction. They come in waves and are effective.
And it's positive movement. There's a desire to attack and is much more advanced and effective than the basic 4-4-2.
Make a note of that -- it's time the 4-4-2 is buried for good. It's just completely out-dated, stale and unimaginative.
Back to the contenders. If I were to pick one team to win it, Brazil would be my choice. I don't care who they're playing; they're the better side no matter the day or opponent.
Brazil is a special group; almost as complete a team as possible. For all the skill in the side, it's also got a lot of pushback. That sandpaper got the Brazilians through the group phase with relative ease.
If teams play a chippy, in-your-face style against the Samba boys, they'll be punished. Ivory Coast tried that and failed. Portugal did as well and it didn't work. When it gets physical, Brazil gets stuck in. But when it's time to turn on the style, none are as stylish.
This Brazilian team is a modern day version of Beauty and the Beast. They show so much grace at times, but won't get pushed around. That's what makes them great.
Case in point Friday -- after Portugal's Pepe flied in for an ugly tackle on Felipe Melo, the Brazilian struck back. Not in a dirty way, taking out the legs or an ankle. He went body-to-body, a professional foul to send a message. The yellow card was worth making the statement.
Brazil coach Dunga took Melo off then and the midfielder went into the locker room for treatment. But message sent -- Melo and Brazil will not be messed with.
If Dunga's boys wanted to beat Portugal, they could have. Playing for a tie was always in the works since a spot in the knockout round was already wrapped. No Kaka, no Elano and Robinho, who was rested, suggested as much.
And rest assured, Dunga's ready for his team to hit its stride against Chile. Still, for me, Brazil is by far the best team at this tournament.
Who can stop them?
Argentina maybe. From a style perspective, it would be the ultimate chess match.
Argentina has no easy path to get to the final, though. Mexico is a stern challenge but winnable. Then it's England or Germany waiting. Either way, that match-up would have soccer enthusiasts salivating.
Nothing I've seen at field level suggests the English or Germans would be able to contain the dynamic attacking midfield/recess striker trio of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, and Angel Di Maria. Their movement off the ball is too intelligent and varied. And the steady centre-midfield duo of Javier Mascherano and Juan Veron are well-schooled in snuffing out standard attacking schemes.
In battle of styles, Argentina wins.
And don't count out Uruguay and Paraguay. Uruguay Coach Oscar Tabaraz has done a magnificent job changing tactics, dropping Diego Forlan into deep positions where he can be more influential. Superior organization and intelligence makes them scary good.
Paraguay, after winning their group, plays the least-likely opposition in Japan. Paraguay is by no means sexy, but again, well organized with players that can stretch the field.
Striker Lucas Barrios has been great, but has yet to score a goal. I expect an offensive outburst against Japan. And if Paraguay gets to the next round, Spain or
Portugal won't intimidate.
Chile, has drawn Brazil: hard luck for a young, up-and-coming team. The injustice of a poor decision for a red card against Spain led Chile to this unfortunate fate.
Nonetheless, that's the case, and Chile will be the first South American team to pack its bags and head across the Atlantic.
And the Samba boys will dance on.