For the first time in twelve years, there are no South American teams in the semi-final proving the dominance of Europe in this sport.
Brazil were dealt a shock exit from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, when the stunning Belgium overwhelmed them on Friday to record a famous win. Earlier on in the day, Uruguay were also put to the sword by France, meaning that every South American team had been knocked out of the World Cup and not a single one would be playing in the semi-finals, for the first time since 2006.
This stunning turn of events proves how the South American teams are not as mighty as they used to be in recent decades and that the regression, which slowly started right from 2014, has taken its full toll at this World Cup.
The stunning 1-7 drubbing which Brazil received at the hands of a ruthless Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, proved the end of their “golden era” and also indicated that the baton of domination in world football had changed hands.
For Brazil and Argentina especifically, the pressure of having to perform at the highest level along with some inadequeties in their squads have resulted in a stark regression in their game. Not only did they fail to win the past two Copa Americas, which were won by Chile (who ironically failed to qualify for the World Cup this year), but the South American giants also failed to give a display of the free-flowing, attacking football which has made them famous over the years.
For Argentina, the heavily under-pressure Lionel Messi once again failed to give an inspired showing like Diego Maradona did in 1986 and the repetitive losses in finals have seemingly taken away the belief from the team. After losing the World Cup final and back-to-back Copa America finals losses to Chile, it seems like Messi has himself given up any hopes of winning silverware with his nation. Argentina looked a struggling, broken unit during the World Cup this year, in which problems with manager Jorge Sampaoli and the lack of a coherent squad cost them dearly.
Brazil looked to be back on track after manager Tite had overhauled their playing style and seemingly created a solid team heading into the World Cup. While the Selecao were superb in the group stages and also against Mexico, things broke down for them against Belgium. The lack of a defensive general like Casemiro cost them badly and Tite’s stubbornness in sticking with the same, underperforming players cost his side dearly.
Uruguay have actually been decent performers for South America considering that they’re always looked upon as “underdogs” and have performed well under long-time manager Oscar Tabarez. They were defensively superb in the 2018 edition, but the lack of creativity and depth in midfield ultimately cost them against France. But, teams like Uruguay and Mexico actually showed development in their game during the tournament and with both shocking European giants Germany and Portugal, proved that they were headed in the right direction, despite their flaws.
Brazil were the only South American team in the quarterfinal stage in 2006
One factor behind their regression has been that the technical players of these South American teams have not being synched well because of their development happening at European clubs. They get used to playing the “European way,” which is why we’ve noticed a slow death in the “Samba” football which Brazil were well known for.
The European players undergo the right kind of development and are similar to what is wanted from them, which is why we’ve seen them perform so well as a unit during the World Cup. They’ve come leaps and bounds in the past four years, while the South Americans have just kept on regressing.
Another persistent clog in South American football has been the lack of technical players coming through the system since Brazil’s World Cup success in 2002. While the likes of Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez (to a certain extent) have shown themselves to have the technical awareness to lead their teams, their teammates haven’t really been that technical aware over the years. But, the worries seem to be continuing for them and the recently concluded FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups, which were both won by England, proved that none of these teams really have a “glowing generation” coming in the future for them.
It seems like the “Power Football”, which has been the motto of the European teams for so long now, has only kept on improving while the South Americans have slacked off after the initial success in the 21st century.
This decline in South American football is a sign of worry for the mighty continent, which has given football many legendary figures over the years. But, a lack of want in the teams, coupled with the fact that their players enjoy performing for their clubs over their countries, have acted like plagues which could ultimately result in the erosion of the “South American” way of football.