Copa America: Unreasonable Expectations

by Juan Arango

As the third round of matches gets underway I still don’t see all the doom and gloom in people about Copa America.

Has it been a poor tournament because of the goals and the lack of scoring proficiency?  Absolutely.

Have there been players that have not shown up as of yet?  Most definitely.

With all that being obvious, I have one question for you.  Did you expect anything else?

Copa America is not the exception to this rule.

We are seeing an exorbitant amount of draws in this tournament as well as low scoring. Wasn’t that the same problem that we were complaining of during the first few matches of last year’s World Cup?  Did we forget already when we all went into a frenzy when Germany scored four on Australia?  Did we forget when we thought the Spanish sky was falling after they lost to Switzerland?  Did we forget that we were on pace at one point to see the “worst World Cup ever”?   The problem is not just Copa América, it’s the game at the national team level really eroding tremendously.

The scale of form between club and country has never been so tilted towards the side that pays the bills and it is obvious as to why.

Football at the national team level is not at its best save for a handful of squads. All these squads have one thing in common- their players know each other at a domestic level.

In world football, that in part has to do with the way national teams work schedules are designed. To try and implement in a few days a strategy that usually takes an entire summer and part of the regular season to implement fully does not sound realistic.

To expect to do that in 48 hour increments (aka FIFA International Dates) is ridiculous.

Argentina might have woken up.  Uruguay are still yawning, Brazil are the big question mark now.

Domestic based success

Teams like Spain as well as Germany and the Netherlands are successful right now because it is one of the teams whose players have to travel less, the nucleus of the squad play in the domestic league. Spain continued a trend that has never been broken in World Cup history as there has never been a championship-winning side to have less than nine players on their roster playing in the domestic league. France was the winner with the fewest amount of domestic-based players on their roster.  Then-coach Aime Jacquet only had nine players from Ligue 1.  Four years later Luiz Felipe Scolari had 10 on his squad.

This has been one of the biggest bones of contention by the South American press as a whole.  They believe that having these players together more often helps bring the consolidate the squad, let them know each other better, and also have a simpler means of communication and access to the national team coach. Argentina and Brazil constantly talk about the need to bring in players from their domestic leagues into the fray.  Sergio Batista talked about it as well as did Diego Maradona and they really left much to be desired in the overall decision-making process.

Batista was adamant about having a “domestic side” to participate in the Copa América; but it was the external pressure to bring in the big guns and end an 18-year trophy drought to an end.  The only player from the domestic league to participate in this tournament is third goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo who was part of the team that saw River Plate go down to the second division for the first time in their storied history.    That’s a far cry from the 14 that played back in 1986.

Brazil is not too hot either, although Mano Menezes is a little better.  Seven of the 23 men on his squad play in the Brasileirão.

CONMEBOL’s difficulties

Despite all the praise we want to give Spain, they do not have to do as much travel compared to their South America counterparts.  CONMEBOL is the toughest region to qualify out of on the planet.  Ok, Argentina and Brazil are shoo-ins, but they have to battle in order to get to where they are.  These qualifiers are unforgiving as they might play in all types of terrains and do so in a span of 48-72 hours.  Also the regional rivalries reach a fever pitch of nationalism that very few rivalries outside of the region can attest to.  So regardless as to where these teams are in terms of form, they will give all to scrounge points away from their opponent.

So just in travel time and jetlag there is a disadvantage.  Ok, let’s be honest most of them aren’t travelling coach when making their transatlantic flights so let’s not feel too sorry for them.

In no way, shape or form is this a knock on confederations like Africa and Asia.  The problem is that from top to bottom this region has a stumbling block waiting to come out of nowhere.

I hope I am not sounding like an apologist for South American teams, I am not.  They are first and foremost professionals.

It just seems too easy to trash Copa América when the true problem lies in the international game itself.  That is what FIFA has to look at in order to bring back more quality to the national teams… if that is what they truly want.

Author Info

Juan Arango

Juan Arango

Juan Arango has been writing for the past seven years for various online and print publications in the United States and abroad. Juan started his career at Goal.com as a South American and Spanish league writer then would move transition into the television side working on the soccer matches from Peru, Mexico, and Bolivia over at Gol TV. He returned from a four-year stint in Connecticut, where he worked with ESPN International behind the cameras. Juan also covered high school, collegiate, and professional American sports for various outlets. He returned to Gol TV in 2010, where he is now doing play-by-play for the Argentine, Spanish and Brazilian leagues as well as hosting both La Liga 360 and Oh My Gol! You can also hear him on his weekly segment covering La Liga on Yorkshire Radio in the UK. His career has also seen him do color commentary for the 2009 and 2011 Gold Cup. On the writing end Juan is contributor to 90:Soccer, In Bed With Maradona and several other publications around the world. He was rocked to sleep by tall tales of the 1970 Brazil team, fell in love with the 1989 and 1990 Milan teams, and cried when Atlético Nacional won the Copa Libertadores in 1989.

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