Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Mind The Gap - What Gap?

Much has been made of the apparent failure of many of the big teams and success of the so-called smaller teams at this summer's world cup. However, when you look closer, the failure is more accurately defined as European failure as opposed to big team failure. Yes, both Brazil and Argentina have at times struggled, with Brazil failing to beat Mexico and Argentina struggling to beat Iran. They appear to have been caught out by the pace and organisation of their opposition's defending.

 In contrast, the European team's struggles have gone beyond struggling to win. In many cases they have jumped all the way to struggling, and often failing, to avoid defeat. It is easy to complain and roll out the usual clich├ęd responses to world cup disappointment, but should the performance of European teams at this World Cup be a shock to anybody other than those who do not understand football.

 European teams had always failed to win the trophy outside of Europe until four years ago, and have never won in South America, (just as the process is true in reverse). However, they still managed to compete well, providing semi-finalists and finalists on numerous occasions. The lack of international teams at a competitive level outside of Europe and South America allowed this to happen. The sheer number of European teams competing ensured some level of success.

The last time the competition was held in South America, Argentina 1978, 10 of the 16 competing nations were European (62.5%) and 3 were South American (18.75%) with one each from Asia, Africa and CONCACAF (6.25%). Those three teams combined only managed to take one point from games against European or South American opposition (Iran v Scotland). They were there to make up the numbers and give credibility to the competition being a World cup.

That was then. This is now.