The South American bus was motoring down Highway 2010 early in the tournament.
All five teams from South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) advanced into the World Cup second round. All but Chile advanced into the quarterfinals – and the Chileans were thrown back by fellow CONMEBOL participant Brazil. So, the lower continent was all the rage, with breathless talk of how this was South Americas’s fiesta.
Things didn’t go nearly so swell in the quarters, as we know, with only the Diego Forlan-driven Uruguayan express moving on.
Still, did South America do enough to deserve six spots next time around?
South America has been awarded 4.5 spots in recent World Cups – four spots plus the ability to add a fifth in a play-in series. That may seem like it’s essentially a fifth spot, since the play-in has been against the apparently weaker CONCACAF or Oceania countries. Remember, Uruguay is in the semifinals only because it finished fifth in South America and squeezed past Costa Rica in a playoff last November (doing so by a slim margin, by the way.)
But Uruguay was also involved in a play-in for Germany 2006 – and fell to Australia in PKs. So, it’s not as automatic as it seems.
So, you can make the argument that South America is right where it deserves to be place-wise. But remember,Brazil will host in 2014, so the five-time champs’ spot is guaranteed. FIFA, then, must decide whether to award 3.5, 4 or 4.5 spots elsewhere. (FIFA has said South America will retain four spots, plus Brazil – but these things are heavily political and tend to change.)
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez weighed in last week: "The fact that there are four South American teams in the last eight does not surprise me," he said. "I think it is something that should be considered when deciding how many places each continent has at the next tournament. It is clear that South America has brought a lot to this World Cup."
Whatever happens, it could well affect the United States and the CONCACAF region. That’s because the one spot (or half spot) would probably be subtracted from this region. Would that be right?
Probably. When is the last time a CONCACAF team moved into the quarterfinals without beating another team from the region in the Round of 16? Think about that for a second before you answer. Remember, the United Statesadvanced to the World Cup 2002 quarters by defeating Mexico.
Mexico, of course, is a second round loss waiting to happen – and has been for a long time.
El Tri has made it to the quarterfinals twice – but only in tournaments the Mexicans hosted, in 1970 and 1986.
So, if you subtract the significant advantages of home country edge, and subtract the instance of beating another CONCACAF side, it has NEVER happened in modern World Cups that a side from this region went through to the quarterfinals. That’s not good.
So, it wouldn’t surprise me if CONCACAF gets just three spots for Brazil 2014, with South America getting four plusBrazil? Not at all. FIFA understands the value of getting plenty of South American teams to Brazil 2014.
Of course, you could also argue against so much African representation, given how poorly six entrants did this year, with so much expected of them. So it is possible that South America gets if expanded representation and CONCACAF retains its full complement of 3.5 spots.