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Page last updated at 19:55 GMT, Thursday, 24 June 2010 20:55 UK

World Cup 2010: South American teams set the standard

Uruguay's striker Diego Forlan (R) runs off from the jubilation of his teammates

By Vladimir Hernandez
BBC Mundo

If this World Cup has already taught us one thing, it is that in South America football is more than just Brazil or Argentina, who have already qualified for the second round.

Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile are yet to lose a game in South Africa, and only Chile is still fighting to make it to the last 16.

The highly-rated performance of these three teams may have come to some as a surprise - but not to South Americans.

This is the standard which was seen during the home and away qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup which began in late 2007. Then, 10 of the continent's nations fought it out for four hotly-contested places in the finals in South Africa.

Forlan has been one of the outstanding players so far, and his first strike in Uruguay's game against South Africa is surely in the race for goal of the tournament

A fifth spot was available via a play-off with the fourth-ranked team in the Concacaf, the North and Central American Football Federation.

If you think Brazil and Argentina had a stroll in the park to get to South Africa, you are wrong.

Diego Maradona's Argentina squad almost did not make it and had to wait for their final match against Uruguay to secure the last automatic place available.

Dunga's Brazil were the first team to qualify for South Africa, but it was Paraguay (the third) who led the way during most of the two-and-a-half year campaign.

Chile finished second in the table, with an impressive away record, even winning at high altitude in Bolivia, where Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, were crushed 6-1.

"This is one of the toughest qualifiers in the world," said Maradona.

"I think Ecuador [edged out in the last official match by Uruguay] deserved to be here. And it is definitely not the same to play against the likes of Ecuador than against, let's say, the Faroe Islands," added the Argentina manager.

On form

There are many different reasons to explain why Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile have done well.

In Uruguay's case it could be related to the high-energy performance of Oscar Tabarez's team, but it is mainly due to the attacking threat posed by two of the highest scoring forwards in Europe last season: Atlético Madrid's Diego Forlan and Ajax's Luis Suárez.

Forlan has consistently scored 20-goals a season since leaving Manchester United in 2004, and this season he finished with 28 goals in all competitions and he won the Europa League with Atlético.

In South Africa, Forlan has been one of the outstanding players so far, and his first strike in Uruguay's game against South Africa is surely in the race for goal of the tournament.

However, Suarez's scoring record is even more impressive. He scored 49 goals for Ajax last season, which has made him a highly-rated and sought after striker.

Paraguay's Cristian Riveros with team mate Roque Santa Cruz

Extended highlights - Slovakia 0-2 Paraguay

The success of Paraguay and Chile could also be explained in a similar way. Both have two good Argentine coaches who have instilled belief and an attacking football philosophy into the sides.

Since becoming Paraguay boss in 2007, Gerardo Martino has transformed a side traditionally known for its defensive nous.

Against Slovakia last week, we saw what this new Paraguay is all about. With three strikers, they dominated possession and were always on the attack, a far cry from the team that drew a blank against England in Germany 2006.

Interestingly, the current manager of Chile, Marcelo Bieslsa, was Martino's coach when he was a player.

The Chileans have been playing the expansive football espoused by Biesla, who, with this squad, is looking to avenge a calamitous run as Argentina's coach, when the finals took place in South Korea and Japan in 2002 and his side went out in the first round despite being tournament favourites.

But, maybe even more importantly, Bielsa has instilled belief into Chile, which makes them look confident in their style and game, led by the impressive Alexis Sánchez.

"There are very good teams and players from South America here in South Africa, I think it is just because our qualifying round is just very tough," stated Forlan.

History plays in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina's favour when a World Cup is played outside of Europe, as they have won them all.

But what remains to be seen in South Africa is which one of the South American sides will have the grit and flair to go all the way.

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see also
Dunga takes on Brazilian press
24 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Forlan delighted by Uruguay win
22 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Paraguay display dismays Martino
24 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Chile coach cautious after win
21 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Paraguay confident of qualifying
20 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010

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