South America's elite move into World Cup qualifying homestretch
With South American qualifying for the 2010 World Cup resuming next month, the top four positioned teams of the continent tested their strength in what ended up being worthwhile friendly matches on Wednesday. While Brazil, Argentina and Chile claimed hard-fought victories in Europe, Paraguay lost in Asia.
While all four nations are expected to qualify directly for the World Cup, they will have to continue to progress in order to be in ideal form just in time for the finals, which kick off in less than 10 months. Here's a brief check-in on each of the four South American teams:
The five-time world champions may have improved to 10-1 this year, but their 1-0 victory against Estonia on Wednesday in Tallinn wasn't pretty. The
But is this worrisome for Brazil ahead of the clash with archrival Argentina on Sept. 5? Not at all. The majority of the Brazil squad played few competitive matches since the vacations, and this was clearly noticeable on the field. For instance,
Chilie's impressive 2-1 victory over Denmark in Copenhagen was another example of why it can be considered a realistic threat at the World Cup next year. The Chileans are only a step away from securing World Cup qualification after a solid campaign in which they have won eight of 14 matches. Former Argentina boss
Could Chile be a World Cup contender? Indeed. Chile is one of the most entertaining teams in the world, and it seems capable of mixing it with the top teams. Any win in Europe is a good one, particularly if it is against a team that leads its World Cup qualifying group in style.
Besides Brazil and Argentina, in recent times South American teams have struggled during the World Cup, especially when facing substantially taller European teams like Denmark. The height factor is always important for South American teams to overcome, and with Chile possessing several small, technically gifted players, its showing was very positive.
After leading the South American World Cup qualifying table for several months, Paraguay has experienced a sudden change of fortune. And though its World Cup position isn't at risk yet, it will need to pick up its game or else it could once again be sent crashing out in the group stage of a World Cup.
Paraguay struggled to find its feet in a 1-0 defeat to South Korea on Wednesday in Seoul. This surely concerns coach
Paraguay has taken the same attacking approach throughout the qualifiers, whether playing at home or away. This isn't a very sound strategy in such a strong qualifying zone, and it explains the defeats to Uruguay in Montevideo and to Brazil in Recife. With only 10 months left until the start of the World Cup, Paraguay is in a race against time to rediscover its old self.
Argentina's exciting 3-2 win over Russia in Moscow was exactly what it needed. Not only was it a motivating result for the two-time world champions, but it will also take heaps of pressure off
After such a good performance against one of Europe's better sides, the much-criticized Maradona will be thinking that he might really be the right man for the job after all. Even if the embarrassing 6-1 loss to Bolivia in April won't be forgotten, Maradona got it right this time. He outwitted
Now after such a motivating win, what can be expected from Argentina against Brazil? With a little more than three weeks before the big game, Argentina should be a lot more confident. Having struggled in its previous two qualifiers in June,