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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Europe has levelled the scores. Italy's triumph in Berlin leaves the continent with nine World Cup wins, equalling South America's total.

Europe, of course, has been able to count on a major advantage.

It has staged the competition on 10 occasions whereas the World Cup has gone to South America just four times and not since 1978.

Argentina captain Daniel Passarella holds aloft the World Cup trophy in 1978
Argentina won their first World Cup on home soil in 1978

After staging four of the first 11 tournaments, South America has had none of the subsequent eight, up to and including the next one in South Africa.

The dry run is supposed to be coming to an end.

Following Fifa's new idea of rotation, it is South America's turn to stage the World Cup in 2014.

After an absence of 36 years, the competition is set to return to the continent where it first saw the light.

Much has changed in all this time. When Argentina were hosts in 1978 there were just 16 teams in the World Cup - now there are 32 - and five cities were used.

In four year's time, South Africa plan to get by on the bare minimum required for such an undertaking - nine cities, less than half the amount used in 2002.

But nine cities would be beyond Argentina, which like most South American countries is highly centralised.

Only two countries in the continent have enough cities to stage a 32 team World Cup - and one of them, Colombia, has political problems which rule it out in the short term. Which leaves Brazil.

This reality was quickly acknowledged by the South American Federation (Conmebol).

On 7 March 2003 Fifa President Sepp Blatter announced that the 2014 World Cup would go to South America.

Is Fifa hoping that Brazil will fall short of the requirements so that the 2014 World Cup can be taken somewhere else?

Just 10 days later Conmebol declared that Brazil was its sole candidate. It all seemed cut and dried. But more than three years later we seem no further down the line.

Perhaps as a consequence of Fifa in-fighting, a few months ago Blatter speculated that maybe Argentina and Chile might like to put in a joint bid.

His suggestion came despite the fact that joint bids are supposedly discouraged and both countries were already on record as backing Brazil.

It made little sense. Blatter criticised the state of Brazil's stadiums but those in Argentina and Chile are at least as bad.

It is true that Brazil's stadiums and public transport systems will need a major overhaul to get them ready for a World Cup.

But the more time is wasted before a definitive decision is taken, the less time there will be to carry out the work.

Or could there be another agenda working here? As was the case with Colombia in 1986, is Fifa hoping that Brazil will fall short of the requirements so that the 2014 World Cup can be taken somewhere else more lucrative?

SEE ALSO
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