Monday, 18 July 2011
More than one expert might be asking themselves these questions: What happened down there? Wasn’t Messi playing for Argentina? Doesn’t Brazil have 5 World Cups? Where did all these teams come from? For more than one football supporter, this competition makes no sense without Argentina or Brazil in it. And I ask: Where was Spain 10 years ago? Why does no one question their rise to the top? They of course recognize the amount of work done in the past few years. They can see the amount of stars coming out of that country, who never used to play in a different league other than the Spanish Liga Primera. They are mesmerized by the displays of Barcelona and Real Madrid everywhere and easily discard any rivals that might come their way. And I repeat… how many of those “experts” had the same opinion 15 years ago?
One thing that we can learn from La Roja, is that everything in the world is a process, and success is achieved with work. They did it. And now, South American teams have been doing this for quite some time. Aren’t there Chileans in the Spanish league? Aren’t there Uruguayans in the Italian league? Aren’t there Colombians in the Portuguese League? I beg to differ but this Copa América is NOT a surprise.
As a South American fan who has been watching the qualifiers for the World Cup for so many years, and always marking the matches against Brazil and Argentina as lost causes beforehand, this is an incredible competition. The “little” teams, the countries that when you mention them to Europeans you have to give them a geographical reference such as Brazil, are improving greatly. The 5 representatives of CONMEBOL all passed the first round in the World Cup, and 4 of them got to quarter-finals. This cannot come as a surprise. The world has been warned! A very organized Peru beats the lately-branded favourites for the Cup Colombia 2-0 in extra time. Very close. A slow but strong Uruguay beats a tired-looking Argentina on penalties. A walled Paraguay beats a talent-filled Brazil that could not score a single penalty in the shootout. A concrete and hungry Venezuela, the one that has never been to a World Cup before, beats the raging Reds from Chile in the 90 minutes.
Of course, you can see the results and tell me this is just luck or an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. But that will be as simplistic and foolish as saying that Spain was lucky in Austria, in South Africa, and pretty much in the last 5-6 years. No, just sit down; watch the matches, then speak. That is all we ask in South America. We, the fanatics that are NOT from Brazil or Argentina.
Richard Páez, former Venezuelan coach, said in an interview that Brazil and Argentina have forgotten how to play like South Americans. Maybe that is the key for it all. Qualifiers for Brazil 2014 are wide open.