Why are South American teams dominating this World Cup?
There are more South American teams than European teams in the World Cup second round. That hasn't happened in decades. What's going on?
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There are many theories about the dominance of South American teams in this World Cup, but few indisputable facts.
When Marcelo Bielsa, as studious a soccer coach as ever lived, was asked why South America had more teams in the second round than Europe for the first time in decades, the Chilean coach responded: "I don't really know. I simply prefer to say nothing because I don't know what to say."
Indeed. Football is often inexplicable.
An Italian colleague has a theory that this World Cup is a reflection of the new world order. It is the Cup where the economically depressed and decadent Europeans (and Asians) were beaten by the growing and exuberant Latins.
But Argentina? Unbeaten and irresistible.
Uruguay? One of the surprise teams so far.
Still, the question is why. The only decent reason I can come up with is the globalization of the game.
South American players are playing in Europe in increasing numbers. They were always technically better than their European counterparts. They are more skilled and better at doing the unexpected. They are more likely to produce that one moment of magic that changes a game.
What Latin American football lacked was organization, both on and off the field. While it remains as disorganized and corrupt as ever off the pitch, that is no longer as much of an issue now that the players are going to Europe at a younger age and staying there.
In Europe they have learned about organization and strategy and tactics. So now they play better football and are just as tactically astute.
It’s a potent combination. And it heralds a nightmare future for the Old World soccer powers.