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20 years of hunger: why South America can no longer make it to the World Cup

On June 30, it will be 20 years. Two full decades since that evening of glory for Brazil in Yokohama. Since this guilty hand fault by Oliver Kahn on a strike from Rivaldo, which had allowed Ronaldo to tip the World Cup final in favor of the Seleçao. Since this double of the legendary center-forward Auriverde, again scorer at the very end of the match against Germany (2-0), which had offered the Brazilian people the joy of a fifth victory in the World Cup, the first of the millennium.

Since then, there has been a shortage. Brazil still sees its world title counter stuck at five. And no other South American country has managed to take over. Twenty years without lifting a World Cup, it had only happened once for this continent, between the two titles of Uruguay in 1930 and 1950. And in a completely different context, since there was no had a Mondial between 1938 and 1950 due to the Second World War. Never, on the other hand, South America, victorious in total of 9 World Cups out of the 21 already disputed, had remained without coronation during four consecutive editions.

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“Basic work”

There is a paradoxical side to this unprecedented situation. In 2002, the year of Brazil’s title, of the five South American teams present in Asia, three of them had been eliminated in the first round (Uruguay, Argentina, Ecuador). That is as much as the four following editions combined (Paraguay in 2006, Ecuador in 2014, Peru in 2018). Amsud even had a nice group shot in 2014 with four teams present in the quarter-finals, or half of the field. The regularity is undeniable. But it doesn’t end. And only Argentina has represented South America in the final of a World Cup for 20 years, in 2014.

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If Uruguay has entered its name on the list twice, the phenomenon mainly concerns Brazil and Argentina. The two dominant nations of the continent, the two to be systematically among the favorites at each edition, and the first two of the South American qualifying tournament to have composted their ticket for the next World Cup in Qatar. The best able to put an end to this scarcity, the causes of which are not so obvious to identify. “I think it has to do with a long-term project, substantive work“says Claudio Gugnali, former assistant to Alejandro Sabella at the 2014 World Cup.

A context that does not lend itself to serenity

The state of form in the competition obviously plays a key role. But to reach the end and lift the trophy, it is above all the final touch of a work begun long before the start of the tournament. A continuity that Brazil or Argentina have not necessarily managed to put in place, unlike other nations. “It was no coincidence that Spain won in 2010emphasizes Gugnali. It was no coincidence that France won in 2018, it reflects long-term work. I think it also reflects a form of serenity around these teams.

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The context is indeed important. Expectations are enormous for each nation, even more so for the two South American giants. In Argentina, without a title since 1986, as in Brazil, like the unbearable pressure on the shoulders of the Seleçao for its home World Cup in 2014. With the criticisms that go with it. In particular, they had created a very heavy atmosphere around the Albiceleste in 2018. Under these conditions, it is difficult for a football team, however talented it may be, to give its best performance.

The weight of Europe’s economic power

There is also a structural reason that should not be overlooked. Because the South American selections do not necessarily start on an equal footing with their European counterparts. “It is above all the economic power that changes the gameexplains Gugnali. Don’t forget that all the best South American players play in Europe. For example, Germany 2014, there were almost 80% Bayern and Borussia players. We, 95% of the group were scattered all over Europe. Imagine that Neuer, Lahm and Müller, for example, played I don’t know how many matches together, week after week. We, Biglia and Gago saw each other every three months, quickly, to play two matches and leave. Of course it’s not the same. And that is the economic power of your championships that allows you to do so.

Despite everything, Brazil and Argentina intend to put an end to this South American famine in Qatar. They will each be able to rely on a collective that has shown its solidity during the qualification phase. And on extraordinary individuals like Lionel Messi for Albiceleste or Neymar for Seleçao. Even if the two PSG stars are not really going through the best season of their club careers. But in selection, the situation changes. “You can’t believe in such a player“, assures the former Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson, consultant to BeIN Sports, before promising: “This World Cup year will be his.“It’s all the Auriverde people could wish for to relive, finally, the jubilation of Yokohama.

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