Argentina and Brazil lose way as Uruguay shine
Johannesburg: South America will never match Europe in terms of soccer success, according to Diego Maradona whose words were brought into sharp focus in the World Cup quarter-finals.
South America was hailed for its success in putting four teams into the last eight, one more than Europe with the other nation Ghana.
But only Uruguay, perceived as the weakest pre-tournament, progressed.
Lionel Messi and Kaka came to South Africa as candidates for player of the tournament along with Europeans like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, but they were let down by flawed management.
Coaches Oscar Tabarez of Uruguay, Paraguay`s Gerardo Martino and Chile`s Marcelo Bielsa stood out for their sound work at the helm of their teams. They had but one truly world class player among their three squads: Diego Forlan.
Maradona and Dunga, on the other hand, left players behind that critics argue would have improved their teams -- the way leading South American players do with their European club sides.
The problem lay at the heart of South America`s big two.
"Uruguay`s was a great achievement... they had an inspired Forlan (and) based their success on playing as a team," Argentine 1978 World Cup winner Osvaldo Ardiles said.
"Argentina started very well but then came the debacle against Germany. With the players they have, they should have done better," Ardiles told Reuters in a telephone interview from his London home.
"Brazil`s was the biggest failure, having gone to South Africa as favourites alongside Spain," Ardiles said.
He said Brazil had had the choice of fielding a team full of skilled players like in 1982 when they failed to lift the trophy, or "a more miserly team and (try to) win."
"Dunga put his cards on individuals and failed," said Ardiles.
Kaka had the company of what Eric Cantona once famously called water carriers while some skilled ball players were left at home.
Dunga took charge after the 2006 finals, looking to inject discipline into a side with too many perceived fun lovers like Ronaldinho.
In the process, though, Brazil turned their back on flair and panicked when they made a couple of mistakes in their quarter-final defeat by Holland. A Dunga tearing his hair out on the touchline was not the leadership they needed at that point.
Maradona said after Argentina`s 4-0 humbling by Germany that in his day individual players could "carry the team on their shoulders" but that players like Messi and Rooney now depended on the team to play at their best.
"It`s different now. I think we used to be more selfish and today`s player is more practical, more collective, does everything with a team mate, the new trend," Maradona said.
"We had players who would carry the team on their shoulders. Rooney and Messi will work it out that when the team needs them they`ll be available."
Messi, sparkling early in the tournament but forced deeper into midfield with each match to get the ball, lacked the very kind of framework Maradona enjoyed when he captained Argentina to success in 1986.
Tabarez was given an unprecedented four-year period in which to build his Uruguay team, whereas Argentina turned their back on the same kind of system that brought them their two titles in 1978 and 1986.
"Let`s hope this World Cup performance opens our minds and makes us think that this is the way to continue being competitive," Uruguay captain Diego Lugano told Reuters.
Meanwhile, other South American countries have been making plans, conscious they must make the biggest possible effort to reach the next finals on their own continent in Brazil 2014.
Colombia have given the national coaching job back to Hernan Gomez, who was in charge in 1998 in France before steering Ecuador to their first finals in 2002.
Uruguayan Sergio Markarian, who was in charge of Paraguay from 1999 to 2002, has been appointed by Peru, who finished bottom of the 2010 qualifiers and last reached the finals in 1982.