The results of the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals are officially in the books, and (as usual) the final four teams are represented by European and South American countries.
This time around, there are three national teams representing the continent of Europe in Germany, Spain, and Holland, and one national team representing the continent of South America in Uruguay.
Out of the 18 final events in the history of the World Cup, every winning nation has come from these two dominant continents. With Ghana being the last non-European-non-South American team eliminated in this year's tournament, we're going to witness the first continent to collectively win its 10th championship.
Looking at the previous stages of the World Cup and its history, one would notice that the last South American team left standing does not have the greatest chances of winning this year's World Cup. Before this year, Uruguay had not made it past the Round of 16 since they claimed fourth place in 1970.
Luis Suarez's one-game suspension puts Uruguay at a disadvantage, as well. Suarez has scored three of Uruguay's seven goals so far, and is a huge asset to Uruguay's offense.
This doesn't even acknowledge the fact that their opponents in the Netherlands are in the midst of a team record 24-game streak of not losing a match. They haven't lost a match since September 6, 2008 when they lost to Australia, and the last time they did not win a match was when they drew against Paraguay in a friendly match on November 18, 2009.
On the plus side for Uruguay, every time the World Cup has been hosted outside of Europe a South American team has won, including the two times Mexico hosted it and once in the United States and South Korea/Japan respectively.
Although it seems as if Uruguay has very slim chances of winning the World Cup, one can easily notice that the South American teams seem a lot more difficult to beat than the world expected. When Argentina barely got through, people were blaming Diego Maradona and his tactics. Although you can put some blame on his skills (or should I say lack of skills) as a coach, you have to keep in mind that South America is getting more competitive year after year.
Five South American teams qualified for the World Cup this year: Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay. All of them made it past the group stages and advanced to the knockout stages. Four of those five teams advanced to the quarterfinals; the team that got eliminated (Chile) faced Brazil in the Round of 16. To put it in a ratio, half (4/8) the teams left in the tournament represented South America.
When discussing Chile's win, Kaká stated, "It shows the strength of South American football recently. All teams advanced from tough groups and they are showing the talent we have in the region."
Then the quarterfinals came along. The almighty Brazil got eliminated by the underrated Netherlands. Argentina finally suffered their first loss since the group stages against Germany…and it wasn't pretty. Paraguay put up quite a fight against the highly favored Spain, but David Villa finally found the back of the net in the 83rd minute for the only goal of the match to give Spain the victory. The only team who advanced to the semifinals defeated Ghana after a very controversial finish: a handball, a red card, a missed penalty, and a 4-2 victory in penalty kicks.
Out of the four teams that advanced to the quarterfinals, only one team advanced to the semifinals. Isn't it funny how the tables can turn around so quickly?
It's also quite ironic how the South American team with the worst record to qualify for the World Cup has gone furthest in the tournament. Also, since 1962, the title of winning the World Cup has switched from South America to Europe. Italy won it in 2006, so it's time for Uruguay to bring a title back to South America…isn't it?
However, there is something impeding this pattern from continuing…and it's all in this picture:
With all of these patterns and all of these statistics set on the table, something has to be cancelled out. In the World Cup, anything can happen. We've already seen a whole lot of surprises; just look at Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile.
Several people have been creating reasons for South America's recent success. Some have speculated that their tough qualifying road helps once they get to the World Cup.
Unlike the top European teams, where Spain could get a group that includes, for example, Faeroe Islands and Moldova, there’s one big group in South America and few teams that are considered "easy to beat." Only two points separated Uruguay, which earned its spot by beating CONCACAF member Costa Rica in a playoff, and the next three teams.
Also, take a look at the best players who play for the South American national teams. Lionel Messi, Kaká, Luis Fabiano, Daniel Alves, Maicon, Diego Forlán, Maxi Rodríguez, Carlos Tévez, Gonzalo Higuaín, Luis Suárez , Gabriel Heinze, Justo Villar, and Alex Sánchez are only some of the big names who play for European clubs yet still come back to play for their country for tournaments like the World Cup. One could even make the argument that the best players in European leagues are all South Americans.
While many top South American players do go to Europe, there are still some very good domestic leagues in South America where players can develop, making for deep national rosters.
With all of this said, what are your thoughts on Europe's competition with South America?
Do you see South America becoming the more dominating area of football continentally someday, or are the European powerhouses too much to handle for South America to ever be considered the all-around dominating continent?