On June 30, it turns 20 years old. Two whole decades since that night of glory for Brazil in Yokohama. Since this guilty hand error by Oliver Kahn on a strike from Rivaldo, which had given Ronaldo the opportunity to tip the World Cup final in favor of Seleçao. Since this double by the legendary center-forward Auriverde, again goal scorer at the end of the match against Germany (2-0), which had offered the Brazilian people the joy of a fifth victory in the World Cup, the first of the millennium.
Since then, there has been a shortage. Brazil still sees its world title counter stuck at five. And no other South American country has managed to take over. Twenty years without lifting a World Cup, it had only happened once for this continent, between the two titles in Uruguay in 1930 and 1950. And in a completely different context, as there was no Mondial between 1938 and 1950 because of the World War II. Never, on the other hand, had South America, which won a total of 9 world championships out of the 21 already disputed, remained without coronation under four consecutive editions.
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There is a paradoxical side to this unprecedented situation. By 2002, the year of Brazil’s title, of the five South American teams present in Asia, three of them had been eliminated in the first round (Uruguay, Argentina, Ecuador). That’s as much as the following four editions combined (Paraguay in 2006, Ecuador in 2014, Peru in 2018). Amsud even had a nice group shot in 2014 with four teams present in the quarterfinals, or half of the field. The regularity is undeniable. But it does not end. And only Argentina has represented South America in the final of a World Cup in 20 years, in 2014.
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If Uruguay has written its name on the list twice, the phenomenon mainly concerns Brazil and Argentina. The two dominant nations on the continent, the two to be systematically among the favorites at each edition, and the first two in the South American qualifying tournament who have composted their ticket to the next World Cup in Qatar. They are best able to put an end to this scarcity, the causes of which are not so obvious to identify. “I think it has to do with a long-term project, content work“says Claudio Gugnali, former assistant to Alejandro Sabella at the 2014 World Cup.
A context that does not add up to serenity
The state of form in the competition obviously plays a key role. But to reach the end and lift the trophy, it is above all the final touch of a work that has begun long before the start of the tournament. A continuity that Brazil or Argentina have not necessarily managed to put in place, unlike other nations. “It was no coincidence that Spain won in 2010emphasizes Gugnali. It was no coincidence that France won in 2018, it reflects long-term work. I think it also reflects a kind of serenity around these teams.“
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The context is really important. The expectations are huge for each nation, even more so for the two South American giants. In Argentina, without a title since 1986, as in Brazil, as the unbearable pressure on Seleçao’s shoulders for the home World Cup in 2014. With the criticism that comes with it. They had especially created a very heavy mood around Albiceleste in 2018. Under these conditions, it is difficult for a football team, no matter how talented it may be, to give its best performance.
The weight of Europe’s economic power
There is also a structural cause that should not be overlooked. For the South American selections do not necessarily start on an equal footing with their European counterparts. “It is above all the economic power that changes the gameexplains Gugnali. Do not forget that all the best South American players play in Europe. For example, Germany 2014, there were almost 80% Bayern and Borussia players. We, 95% of the group, were spread all over Europe. Imagine that Neuer, Lahm and Müller, for example, I played do not know how many matches together, week after week. We, Biglia and Gago saw each other every three months, fast to play two games and go. Of course, it is not the same. And it is the economic power of your championships that allows you to do that.“
After all, Brazil and Argentina intend to put an end to this South American famine in Qatar. They will each be able to rely on a collective that has shown its solidity in the qualification phase. And on extraordinary people like Lionel Messi for Albiceleste or Neymar for Seleçao. Even though the two PSG stars are not really going through the best season of their club careers. But in the selection, the situation changes. “One can not believe in such a player“, assures former Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson, consultant for BeIN Sports, before promising:”This World Cup year will be his.“That’s all the Auriverde people could wish for to finally relive Yokohama’s cheers.
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