Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Help

---------------
---------------
CHOOSE A SPORT
 
RELATED BBC SITES
Last Updated: Sunday, 16 March, 2003, 19:35 GMT
Who is the world's best?
By Tim Vickery

Edmundo of Vasco shoots past Denis Irwin of Manchester during the Vasco da Gama v Manchester United World Club Championship Group
Vasco prevailed three years ago

How would the top South American sides fare against teams from the Premiership?

A definitive answer is very difficult. There are a whole set of variables that can have a bearing on the result - as shown by the experience of Manchester United a few years ago.

Towards the end of 1999 United faced Brazilian side Palmeiras in the annual Tokyo clash between the champions of Europe and South America. United's 1-0 victory was somewhat against the run of play.

Two factors helped bring it about.

First there was the refereeing of Helmut Krug.

Many blamed United's defeat on blunders from Gary Neville but the truth is that the game was going Vascos's way from the start
Tim Vickery

The German official allowed much more physical contact than the South Americans were used to.

Then there was the weather.

The match was played in the cool of the Japanese winter, allowing United to play in their high intensity style.

The only goal came when Roy Keane made a burst from the holding midfield position to head home a Ryan Giggs cross.

It was the type of goal United were unable to score a few weeks later when they faced Vasco da Gama in the scorching heat of Rio de Janeiro.

This time, in the first and so far only Club World Championship, the honours went to the Brazilians.

Many blamed United's defeat on a couple of blunders from Gary Neville but the truth is that the game was going Vascos's way from the start.

The Brazilians were happy to sit back and draw United forward.

The English side couldn't stop their counter-attacking opponents and struggled against the intelligence of Romario and the ability of Edmundo.

There could only ever be one outcome as Vasco won 3-1.

So factors such as climate and interpretation of the rules have to be taken into account when judging the relative merits of club football in Europe and South America.

The financial chasm between the two continents has got wider in recent decades, and this has an obvious impact on what happens on the field
Tim Vickery

Then, of course, there is the dismal science of economics.

The financial chasm between the two continents has got wider in recent decades, and this has an obvious impact on what happens on the field.

South Americans have always played an important role in European football, but in the last few years an unprecedented amount of the continent's players have made the trip across the Atlantic.

Europe has emerged victorious in seven of the last eight annual Tokyo clashes between the winners of the Champions League and the Copa Libertadores - frequently with the aid of South American players.

Last November Real Madrid continued the run with a 2-0 defeat of Olimpia of Paraguay.

But perhaps if Ronaldo, Cambiasso and Roberto Carlos had been on the other side the result might have been different.

So if the bottom really has fallen out of the European transfer market we could be on the verge of a re-alignment of forces.

If the South American sides will no longer find buyers for all their top players, if they can build a team with the same kind of continuity enjoyed by, say, Manchester United, then they should be able to stand up to the European clubs under any conditions.



E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs

MMIX

Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport