Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


SOUTH AMERICA LOSES ITS LAST MINNOW

Uruguay, behind two goals by World Cup hero Diego Forlan and one by Luis Suarez, out-classed Paraguay in the 2011 Copa America final, cruising to a 3-0 victory in Buenos Aires.  [July 24]

Updated Comment:  The big news out of the South American championship wasn’t Uruguay’s triumph.  After all, the Uruguayans have always taken the Copa America very seriously and, in the process, have won 15 of them.  It also wasn’t the quarterfinal eliminations of host Argentina (14 Copa championships) and Brazil (eight, including four of the last five).  No, the most notable development over the course of the three-week tournament was the fourth-place finish by Venezuela.

You know Venezuela:  Baseball-mad, never won anything in soccer, South America’s perennial doormat, once went 12 years between World Cup qualifying victories.  But in Argentina, the Venezuelans, who showed signs of life during the qualifiers for South Africa ’10, opened play with a scoreless draw with Brazil, then beat Ecuador, 1-0, and tied Paraguay, 3-3, to reach the quarterfinals.  A 2-1 victory over Chile got them into the semifinals, where it took Paraguay penalty kicks to stop them after a 0-0 deadlock.  The party ended with a 4-1 loss to another surprise team, Peru, in the third-place match in La Plata, but four days later the Vinotinto got some consolation after all:  a best-ever No. 40 in the FIFA world rankings, up from No. 69th the previous month.

What does it all mean?  Not all that much, per se.  Teams rise and fall in South America–30 years ago, Peru was in the ascendency; 20 years ago it was Colombia and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia; recently, Ecuador appeared on the verge of a breakthrough.  But with Venezuela’s rapid climb out of what had been a perpetual basement, this small community of soccer-playing nations–10 in all–that make up CONMEBOL can claim that it is by far the most competitive regional confederation in the world.  With Venezuela having attained respectability, it means that South America is the only one with no Andorra (No. 203) or San Marino (203), no Bermuda (185) or Turks & Caicos Islands (193), no Somalia (191) or Mauritania (187), no Bhutan (201) or Timor-Leste (202), no Cook Islands (195) or American Samoa (203).  At present, the worst of CONMEBOL is Bolivia.  No. 80, the impoverished Bolivians are ranked higher than recent World Cup qualifiers like Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, and Trinidad & Tobago .  [July 27]

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