Europe on the rise

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PARIS, July 7 – Whether The Netherlands, Germany or Spain win the World Cup on Sunday one thing is for sure – it has been Europe's tournament.Uruguay’s elimination by the Dutch on Tuesday means that for the first time since England succeeded Brazil as winners of the trophy in 1966 there will not be the cyclical victory for a European and then a South American team and a European side will lift the trophy for the first time outside their continent.

It all looked very different at the outset of the tournament as several of the European heavyweights struggled to make any sort of impact but as it has progressed they have grown in strength while the South Americans flattered to deceive.

For UEFA President Michel Platini, twice a semi-finalist with the wonderful France team of the 1980’s, there has been a certain logic to it and obviously given his position a lot of enjoyment to be derived from it.

"The three nations who have won the most youth events over the past 10 years are now in the final four," said the 55-year-old former midfield general prior to the semi-finals.

"Can all of this be put down to mere good luck? I don’t think so.

"Nothing could be more pleasing than this state of affairs. Three teams with youth and freshness at their heart, deploying playing systems that leave considerable room for creativity.

"This not only makes me happy – three great football nations can also derive pleasure. Above all, it is just reward for the long-term efforts of three associations who have invested in education and training."

While Europe revels in its dominance, there will be much soul searching in South America.

Uruguay and Paraguay will not be so involved as both over achieved by reaching the last four and eight respectively but the giants of the South American game, Brazil and Argentina have a lot of soul searching to do.

Dunga was sacked as Brazil coach after an astonishing turnaround in their quarter-final with the Dutch saw them lose not only control of the match but also their self-control on the pitch, unlike Brazilian teams of the past and a stark contrast to the ice cool play of their coach when he was skipper in 1994.

The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) will want no repeat of that collapse in 2014 especially as they will be hosts and it is for that reason that the World Cup winning coach of 2002, Luiz Felipe Scolari, is top of their list even if he is under contract with Palmeiras till 2012.

He seems to fit the bill ideally as the federation’s president Ricardo Teixeira wants an experienced coach "who can withstand the pressure that comes with a World Cup finals being hosted in Brazil."

As for Argentina, until Diego Maradona decides on his future plans and whether he will carry on as coach there is not a lot they can do in seeking to improve on a record that has seen them fail to reach the semi-finals for the past five renewals.

Many have implored their idol to stay on but more reasoned observers have called for him to stand aside as his tactical inexperience was seen clearly in the manner in which his side were dismantled by the Germans in the 4-0 quarter-final defeat.

For once it seems that the 49-year-old playing legend may side with the voice of reason leaving the way open for his successor to further develop a team always brimming with talent but which needs more than just an ardent fan as was the case with Maradona to nurture it.

South America’s time will surely come again, but for the moment it’s the footballing reputation of Europe that holds sway.

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