CONMEBOL's supremacy over Europe once again shows in latest international break
It is often said that the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers are the toughest in the world. While European and Asian sides tend to battle with one or two tough teams per group, things in South America are quite different and all 10 team play each other twice and the top four advance to the World Cup, while the fifth-placed team plays a two-leg playoff with the OFC representative.
This often leads to some very good teams missing out on the World Cup. It happened to Chile this time around, but in recent years teams such as Colombia, Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador have all witnessed the same fate. But the international break usually shows that South American sides are some of the best in the world, and tend to defeat European teams time and time again. The latest round of international matches did nothing but confirm that.
Of the seven CONMEBOL sides that played this week, six escaped with wins and all of them were against European sides of decent level. Even Chile managed to escape with a win away from home, further showing that missing out on the World Cup, at least in South America, is not a real indicator of one team's strength.
Let's start with Brazil. Even though Tite still do not know if he will have Neymar available for the World Cup, the team keeps winning and showing that they can replace the PSG star comfortably. This time, La Selecao didn't have problems to defeat the tournament's hosts by 3-0, where goals from Joao Miranda, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho - all of them in a 10-minute span - were enough to seal the deal. Once again it was confirmed that Brazil's depth is amazingly huge.
Argentina could say the same, though. They had one of the toughest games on paper since they played against Italy, but Jorge Sampaoli's men had a solid performance on route to a 2-0 win. Even though Argentina didn't have the likes of Lionel Messi, Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala, the team still delivered an impressive outing and won thanks to Ever Banega's and Manuel Lanzini's second-half strikes.
Uruguay played in China against the Czech Republic, and they cruised their way towards an easy 2-0 win thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Uruguay has not had to go through a rebuilding process since the manager, Oscar Washington Tabarez, trusts his players but also has two of the world's top strikers. The sole presence of Suarez and Cavani transform Uruguay into one of the most complicated teams to face in the world.
Peru also featured in this round, and they cruised their way towards a comfortable 2-0 win over Croatia in Miami. Despite the fact that Ricardo Gareca's men had a few absentees here and there, such as Paolo Guerrero and Pedro Gallese, they delivered an impressive performance on route to a comfortable win against one of the most talented teams in Europe. It was certainly a good proof of what Peru can do in the World Cup.
As mentioned, Chile secured a 2-1 win over Sweden in Stockholm, in what was Reinaldo Rueda's first game with La Roja. The Chilean side controlled the game from start to finish and ran away with the victory thanks to a late goal from Marcos Bolados, who was winning his first cap with the team. In fact, the Chilean display was so good that many pundits were still questioning how such a good team was not playing in the World Cup.
But if we are talking about impressive results, then we need to highlight what Colombia did since they travelled to France and came back from a 0-2 deficit to secure a 3-2 win over the home side, one of the main candidates to win the World Cup in roughly three months. Colombia fell in the score quite early, but goals from Luis Muriel, Radamel Falcao and Juan Quintero lifted Los Cafeteros to a huge result that should boost their morale considerably.
Only time will tell how these sides will fare in the World Cup. But there is no question that they should cause some massive havoc on Russian soil once the ball starts rolling. They certainly have enough quality to do so.