Selecao are streets ahead, but S.America-Europe gulf widens - GulfToday

Selecao are streets ahead, but S.America-Europe gulf widens


Brazil’s players and officials pose with the Copa America trophy after winning the final against Peru on Sunday. Associated Press

Brazil’s superiority and depth of talent evident throughout their successful Copa campaign stood out in stark contrast to Argentina’s continued trophy drought and a sub-par event organisation, giving credence to the perception that the gulf between South American and European football is indeed growing.

Argentina’s semi-final elimination by Brazil was less surprising given the off-the-pitch shenanigans that have plagued the side for years.

The Argentines are on their fourth coach in five years with Lionel Scaloni, in his first senior coaching role, still deemed to be a temporary appointment almost a year after taking the post.

Argentina have not won the Copa America since 1993 and they rarely looked like ending that poor run, with Scaloni chopping and changing lineups and their top players, notably Lionel Messi, seemingly incapable of reproducing their club form at international level.

Remarkably, more people attended Mexico’s Gold Cup encounter with Haiti in Phoenix than were at Brazil’s home semi-final against old rivals Argentina.

That match was a classic example of the state of South American football. Moments of individual brilliance by players were quickly forgotten amid bad-tempered clashes and avoidable refereeing controversies.

Argentina were denied two penalty claims and were furious at officials for not even consulting the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), something they had been keen to take time over during other games.

A highly dubious red card shown to Messi in the third-place playoff against Chile only deepened their sense of indignation.

The fallout, with Messi accusing Conmebol of fixing the tournament for the hosts, Brazil coach Tite telling him to show more respect and Conmebol defending itself against Messi’s declaration that Argentina should boycott future competitions organised by what he called a “corrupt” body, again showed that no matter how many gifted players Latin America produces they are all too often overshadowed by the off-the-field circus.

Moreover, the falling standard of football is harder to explain but every bit as obvious.

A South American team have not won the World Cup since 2002 — a record drought — and only one of the last eight finalists have come from the region that until the new century had won half of all World Cups.

At club level, the demise is equally stark. Only one South American side have won the Club World Cup since 2007 and in two of the last three tournaments no South American side have even reached the final.


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