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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Big two cruising through
By Tim Vickery

Juan Pablo Sorin celebrates scoring for Brazil in their win over Peru
Argentina are coasting through World Cup qualifying
With eight rounds completed in South America's World Cup qualifiers, it now seems clear that the campaign contains two separate competitions.

Brazil and Argentina can use the remaining 10 rounds to prepare their team for Germany 2006.

Meanwhile, the other eight nations are caught up in a fierce fight to get on the plane.

This might appear as a statement of the obvious.

Brazil and Argentina are South America's acknowledged big two - the only teams who are feared worldwide.

But outside the continent it is easy to underestimate the difficulties of getting through qualification in South America.

The likes of Chile and Peru may not be global powers but at home and in front of a packed stadium they are not an easy match for anyone.

The geography of South America makes life difficult for the away sides - vast distances mean long hours of travel and huge temperature differences.

There is no such thing as an easy away game in South America's World Cup qualifiers
Then there is the aspect of altitude.

Bolivia and Ecuador are rarely beaten in their mountain strongholds.

Unlike Europe, there is no such thing as an easy away game in South America's World Cup qualifiers.

It is worth remembering that Peru stopped Argentina making it to the 1970 World Cup.

Lightning very nearly struck twice in 1986, a tournament Argentina went on to win.

Brazil had huge problems getting through to the World Cups of 1994 and 2002 - both times they ended up as champions.

In the last qualifying campaign they lost six of their nine away games.

In comparison, the current campaign is more of a serene stroll.

Last time they lurched from crisis to crisis, using four coaches and a staggering 62 players in their 18 games.

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira
Parreira has the opportunity to develop his Brazil squad

At times they were so desperate they would have liked to play all 62 at once.

In the eight rounds of this campaign they have used 26 players - as coach Carlos Alberto Parreira gently goes about dismantling the 2002 team and introducing the latest products of Brazil's ever-active production line.

Parreira can plan with his sights on Germany and, after the weekend's action, Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa would seem to be in the same happy position.

Unforgiven for the 2002 World Cup flop, Bielsa has come in for vicious treatment from supporters in Buenos Aires.

Local FA boss Julio Grondona would have made himself very popular by sacking Bielsa and replacing him with the peoples' choice, Carlos Bianchi.

But Bielsa has hit back - first with the fine football of his team in the Copa America, then with the Olympic title and now with Saturday's 3-1 win away to Peru.

The victory in Lima would seem to be the clincher.

Unless things go badly wrong it is hard to see Bielsa being replaced before the next World Cup.

With qualification looking a relative formality, it means that next year's Confederations Cup takes on extra importance for Brazil and Argentina.

The competition will give them the chance to test their teams, under European conditions, against worldwide opposition.

It is even better preparation for the World Cup than the qualifiers.

And Brazil have an early chance to taste the atmosphere when they travel to take on Germany in a friendly this Wednesday.

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