South America dominant as Europeans struggle
Bloemfontein: The powerhouses of European football are struggling to make an impact at the World Cup but amid their woes South American teams are building up a formidable record.
Brazil, Argentina and Chile started with two wins apiece and Uruguay and Paraguay have also impressed. In total they have racked up a formidable eight victories in 10 games with two draws and not a single defeat.
But it`s a different story for Europe. Most spectacularly of all, 1998 winners France have imploded amid recriminations following an opening draw with Uruguay and a miserable defeat to Mexico.
Euro 2008 champions Spain and three-times World Cup winners Germany have also tasted defeat while England have laboured to two draws and defending world champions Italy were held by lowly New Zealand.
Argentinian legend Maradona had a rough assessment for sides from Europe, where most of the world`s top talents ply their trade.
"I`m a bit disappointed with France," Maradona said. "France is not having the best of times. The intrinsic value of the players in France should get them on a higher level."
But despite Spain`s shock opening defeat to Switzerland, Maradona tipped them to come good. "Spain, I think they will do well. The way Spain started, they were coming to pick up the World Cup and we were all playing for second place.”
"Italy, my God. It must be a huge scandal in Italy when they see that."
Maradona chalked up South America`s World Cup dominance to tough qualifying, the same path that his side struggled through last year.
"The qualifying round in South America is quite competitive," Maradona said. "Europe has tough qualifying but you can also end up playing the Faroe Islands. South America has teams that are fit for a World Cup."
South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who masterminded his native Brazil`s World Cup win in 1994, welcomed the good results for South American teams, saying it showed skill could prevail over physical strength.
"South America once again has been able to show the strength of its football," said Parreira, whose side slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Uruguay.
"If you are rapid in your play, if you are creative in your play, you will get results."
He said Brazil would do well, adding: "The Brazilians perhaps haven`t yet used their experience to the full. They haven`t put their foot fully on the pedal."