Tuesday, 26 November 2013 4:21 PM
With the World Cup draw 10 days away, we take a look at how the rest of the world qualified, starting with South America.
World Cup Stats – South America:
Number of Participants: 5 (including the host, Brazil)
Numbers of qualifiers: 9 (excl. Brazil)
Numbers of winners: 9
– Brazil: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002
– Argentina:1978 and 1986
– Uruguay: 1930 and 1950
– Brazil (hosts)
The South American Football Confederation qualifiers are known as the toughest in the world.
The fact that two of the strongest teams in the world are from South America, is only part of the deal. It is a simple format – a round robin involving nine teams (Brazil, the tenth, qualified automatically as hosts) playing for four and a half places.
There is also the issue of matches played at altitude, notwithstanding the cauldron that is playing away from home in South America.
As it were, Argentina, Columbia, Chile and Ecuador filled the first four places and thus gained automatic qualification. Uruguay finished fifth, equal on points with Ecuador, but with an inferior goal difference were thrown into a play-off.
Socceroos fans will remember with equal pain and joy the occasions when CONMEBOL’s fifth placed team would take on Oceania’s best for a place at football’s top table. This time, though, Uruguay came up against Jordan, who had finished only three points in arrears of the Socceroos in Group B of the AFC qualifiers.
The qualifiers started way back in June 2011. 16 matches home and away is an arduous, lengthy journey.
Argentina, with one of the world’s very best, Lionel Messi, in their ranks, was expected to qualify with ease. That they finished only two points clear at the top of the standings, is a clear indication of the strength of the South American qualifying group.
As well as Messi, they have Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Their task was made a little bit easier by the absence of Brazil and they eventually qualified as winners, two points clear of Columbia.
Columbia, like Argentina, won exactly half of their matches. Spurred on by the firepower of their superstar striker, Radamel Falcao, the Columbians finished with nine wins, three draws and four losses from their campaign.
Chile finished third, two points behind Columbia. Whilst the Columbians have Falcao, the Chileans have Barcelona forward, Alexis Sanchez, whose brilliant chip against Real Madrid in the recent Classico was the talk of La Liga.
Sanchez is Chile’s diamond and he has proven invaluable. At the age of 24, he has already accrued 64 caps and scored 22 goals to go with them. Among them was a brace against England at Wembley Stadium in the last round of international friendlies.
Ecuador snuck in to automatic qualification in fourth place. They finished with a goal difference of +4, enough to beat the Uruguayans into the much coveted automatic place.
Most of their players ply their trade in their home country, but their captain is easily recognisable – Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia. Although he is in and out of the side at Old Trafford, he is an integral part of the Ecuadorian side and he was a big part of their qualification campaign.
Finally, Uruguay. They finished with a goal difference of 0, despite beating Argentina 3-2 in their final match.
In Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, they possess two of the world’s most lethal strikers and in many ways it is a surprise that they qualified the long way around.
107-cap forward Diego Forlan, captain Diego Lugarno and Juventus defender, Martin Caceres, are all familiar names.
As it were, Uruguay’s play off against Jordan was terribly one-sided. Uruguay smashed the Jordanians 5-0 in the first leg, before cruising through a 0-0 draw in the second to guarantee their place in Brazil.
And what of the hosts?
With Luis Felipe Scolari, the coach of the 2002 World Cup winning squad, back in charge, the Seleção will be gunning for a sixth World Cup.
Their squad is a galaxy of stars. David Luiz, Oscar, Ramires, Robinho, Willian, Neymar and Hulk are regulars. This Brazilian side is so good that Ronaldinho, Kaka and Alexandre Pato sit on the periphery.
One thing is for sure: There are no bad teams in South America.