SOUTHRISING

South Amer­i­can teams dom­i­nat­ing the tour­na­ment

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Bradley Brooks

Four of five South Amer­i­can teams (in­clud­ing Paraguay) still alive en­ter­ing round of eight

‘When it’s time for the Cup, our hearts burst and the crowds vi­brate, see­ing our boys come home, play­ing for their flag.’

ROSANGLEA PEREIRA, Brazil fan, on South Amer­i­can soc­cer’s suc­cess

RIO DE JANEIRO — Across South Amer­ica, soc­cer fans are feel­ing the joy of vic­tory — spiked with a twist of re­venge.

The con­ti­nent’s teams have dom­i­nated at the World Cup.

Of its five na­tions in the field of 32 on open­ing day, four are still alive headed to the quar­ter­fi­nals: Brazil, Ar­gentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Just Chile — the only South Amer­i­can team to lose in the tour­na­ment — has been elim­i­nated. And the Chileans fell in the sec­ond round to Brazil.

The way the draw is set up, the semi­fi­nals could be an all-South Amer­i­can af­fair.

Af­ter watch­ing her nation’s best play­ers de­velop at home and then leave for big con­tracts in Euro­pean leagues, the past cou­ple of weeks have been sweet for Brazil­ian fan Rosan­gela Pereira.

“We know our play­ers go abroad for the money — but we miss them!” Pereira said Tues- day while watch­ing Paraguay’s win over Ja­pan on Copaca­bana beach. “When it’s time for the Cup, our hearts burst and the crowds vi­brate, see­ing our boys come home, play­ing for their flag.”

The con­ti­nent’s fans have had a lot to cheer about.

Go­ing into the quar­ter­fi­nals, South Amer­i­can teams have 10 wins, four draws and two losses (Chile also lost to Spain in group play). Ar­gentina leads in goals

Con­tin­ued from C1 (10), shots (75) and shots on goal (36).

Europe, on the other hand, had only six of its 13 teams ad­vance to the sec­ond round, and it will have only three teams in the quar­ters. Euro­pean teams went 1510-14 in group play, and tra­di­tional pow­er­houses Italy and France failed to make it out of their groups.

There are sev­eral pop­u­lar ex­pla­na­tions for the South Amer­i­cans’ suc­cess.

Some have spec­u­lated that their tough qual­i­fy­ing road helps once they get to the World Cup. Un­like in Europe, where Spain could get a group that in­cludes, for ex­am­ple, Faeroe Is­lands and Moldova, there’s one big group in South Amer­ica and few cup­cakes. Only two points sep­a­rated Uruguay, the last South Amer­i­can side to make the field, and the next three teams from that con­ti­nent.

“We have in South Amer­ica two teams, Brazil and Ar­gentina, who have mag­nif­i­cent records in the World Cup,” Uruguay coach Os­car Tabarez said. “They are the gold stan­dard. Ev­ery­one in our con­ti­nent is work­ing hard to chase them. A lot of time, ef­fort, re­sources are be­ing di­rected to­ward the na­tional teams.”

Also, while top play­ers do go to Europe, there are good do­mes­tic leagues in South Amer­ica where play­ers can de­velop, mak­ing for deep na­tional ros­ters.

“Our kids be­gin when they are very young,’’ said Car­los Vil­lareal, a 35-yearold banker from Paraguay. “The best ones are signed by rich Euro­pean club teams, so they reach their max­i­mum by play­ing the tough­est com­pe­ti­tion in the world. Just look at how many of the top stars in Europe — Lionel Messi, Kaka, Ronald­inho, Maicon, Car­los Tevez, Diego For­lan Brazil leads all coun­tries with five World Cup ti­tles, while Ar­gentina and Uruguay have won twice each. and more — are from South Amer­ica.’’

Twenty-two-year-old Ed­uardo Brasil knows the real se­cret to his nation’s many vic­to­ries.

“It’s in our veins; we are born know­ing how to play. Look at those boys over there,” he said, mo­tion­ing to a group of three young kids kick­ing a ball around on Copaca­bana beach dur­ing Paraguay’s match. “Europe comes and robs kids over here as young as 14. But they al­ways come back to their na­tional teams for the Cup.”

Over in Buenos Aires, the joy that coach Maradona and his star-stud­ded team are bring­ing to Ar­gentina with their gor­geous play is gen­er­at­ing enor­mous pride.

“You have to be happy. The poor­est coun­tries are dom­i­nat­ing the world,” said 70-year-old taxi driver Deside­rio Vil­lalba, an Ar­gentina flag flap­ping from his ra­dio an­tenna. “Those who in­vented the game are al­ready out. It is very com­i­cal.”

PARAGUAY

LA AL­BIR­ROJA (THEWHITE AND RED) • VS. SPAIN, 1:30 P.M. SATUR­DAY (ABC)

Of five South Amer­i­can teams to reach the World Cup, four re­main alive for this week’s quar­ter­fi­nals — Brazil, Ar­gentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

BRAZIL

EL SELEçãO (THE SE­LEC­TION) • VS. THE NETHER­LANDS, 9 A.M. FRI­DAY (ESPN)

URUGUAY

LA CE­LESTE (THE SKY BLUE) • VS. GHANA, 1:30 P.M. FRI­DAY (ESPN)

AR­GENTINA

AL­BICE­LESTE (WHITE AND SKY BLUE) • VS. GER­MANY, 9 A.M. SATUR­DAY (ABC)

An­dre Pen­ner

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