South American teams dominating the tournament
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.”
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.
EL SELEçãO (THE SELECTION) • VS. THE NETHERLANDS, 9 A.M. FRIDAY (ESPN)
LA CELESTE (THE SKY BLUE) • VS. GHANA, 1:30 P.M. FRIDAY (ESPN)
ALBICELESTE (WHITE AND SKY BLUE) • VS. GERMANY, 9 A.M. SATURDAY (ABC)