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Clean sweep for South America

2010-06-26 07:21

Pretoria - Chile's progress to the second round of the Soccer World Cup means that every South American team made it out of the group stage for the first time in 20 years.

Chile, despite a 2-1 defeat to Spain on Friday, joined Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in the round of 16.

That's the first time each South American representative has done so since the World Cup in Italy in 1990.

However the achievement of the class of 2010 is superior to that of 1990 when Brazil was the only team to top its group while Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay all progressed despite finishing third.

This time, all the South American sides bar Chile topped their groups.

The 1990 tournament had 24 teams in six groups, with the four best third-placed sides going into the round of 16. Since 1998 when the tournament was expanded to 32 teams, only the top two in each group go through.

It's possible that South America will make up half the quarterfinal lineup in a week's time as the only all-South American clash in the round of 16 is Brazil-Chile. Uruguay faces South Korea, while Argentina confronts Mexico in the second round for the second straight World Cup, and Paraguay takes on Japan.

Add in the United States and there's a distinct American feel to the round of 16. Honduras was the only team from the Americas not to progress from the group stage.

In stark contrast to South America's achievements, Europe has suffered its worst showing in the group stage since the World Cup was expanded to 32 teams. Only six of its 13 participants made it through the group stage, with 2006 finalists France and Italy the biggest casualties.

Europe's numbers will definitely be reduced to three by the quarterfinal stage as they all play each other. Germany takes on England, while Spain faces off against Portugal, and Slovakia confronts the Netherlands.

Though Europe's teams may not be faring as strongly as they usually do, it will be no surprise if one of them makes it to the final at Soccer City in Johannesburg on July 11.

Europe has had a finalist at every World Cup since the second tournament in 1934. In 1950 there was no final as such, though the last match between Brazil and Uruguay involved the only two teams who could win the trophy _ Uruguay shocked the footballing world and 200,000 Brazilians by winning the match and the tournament.

However, history suggest the winning team will be South American. No European side has won the World Cup outside the confines of its continent. Brazil is the only team ever to win outside its continent, in Sweden in 1958 and in Japan/South Korea in 2002.

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