It has been 15 days since the qualifying race for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ came to an end, time enough to reflect on the success stories and the disappointments of a long campaign. With that idea in mind, FIFA.com has carried out its customary survey of South America’s national coaches, asking them to pick out the players, coaches and teams that most impressed them during the CONMEBOL qualification tournament.
With Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay set to find out their fate in Friday’s Final Draw in Cape Town, we bring you the views of the men who matter as they select the continent’s finest.
You can see the votes cast by each of the region’s ten coaches by clicking on the link on the right.
Best team: Brazil (62.5%)
It was no surprise to see A Seleção earn the recognition of the majority of the continent’s coaches as the most impressive team in the competition. During the course of their campaign the Brazilians collected 34 points, a haul that got them the vote of Argentina’s Diego Armando Maradona, who said that Dunga’s side won the group “comfortably”. Chile finished the group in second place just a point behind the five-time world champions, and were the only other team to get a mention, pulling in 25 per cent of the votes.
Best player: Humberto Suazo (18%)
Goals are the only statistics that count in football, so it was always likely that Humberto Suazo would come out on top in this section. The Chilean striker earned the most votes thanks to the ten goals he scored, enough to make him the top marksman in the qualifiers. A number of other notable names also earned the coaches’ approval, including the attacking quartet of Alexis Sanchez, Kaka, Luis Fabiano and Salvador Cabanas. The evergreen Argentinian Juan Sebastian Veron and Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar were mentioned in dispatches as well.
Biggest disappointment: Ecuador (25%)
The Ecuadorians were masters of their own destiny with two games remaining but defeats to Uruguay and Chile knocked them out of the running. Having qualified for Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, their elimination came as a surprise to our respondents. Some of the coaches found the question a little uncomfortable, however, and either answered “All the teams who failed to qualify,” or chose not to respond at all.
Best coach: Marcelo Bielsa (50%)
Chile's spectacular qualification surge ensured a big vote for their Argentinian supremo Marcelo Bielsa, who steered La Roja back to the big time after a 12-year absence. They man they call El Loco, who had been out of a job since leaving the Albiceleste post in 2004, finished well ahead of his closest challengers, Paraguay boss Gerardo Martino and Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez. Curiously, however, Bielsa declined to name his coach of the tournament.
As in other years, the survey threw up some eye-catching results, nowhere more so than in the Best match category, with each coach selecting a different game. Yet while most picked out one of their sides’ victories, there were some who took an alternative view.
Peru’s Jose Del Solar picked out Brazil’s 3-1 win in Argentina, while Sixto Vizuete, Diego Maradona and Eduardo Lara named three wholly unexpected encounters as their favourites. The Ecuadorian went for his side’s 1-1 draw with the Brazilians in Quito, while the Argentinian legend opted for his team’s 2-0 defeat to Ecuador. Lara followed suit by nominating Colombia’s 1-0 reverse in Buenos Aires, a match the Cafetero coach described as “a hard-fought game that generated a lot of very interesting tactical, technical and physical points”.
There were also a few intriguing selections made in the Breakthrough player category. Most of the ten participants singled out one of their squad members, with Ecuador’s Luis Valencia and Jefferson Montero both getting honourable mentions along with Chile’s Gary Medel, Tomas Rincon of Venezuela and Bolivia’s Marcelo Martins. Luis Fabiano was the only player to pop up in two different categories, receiving votes as both best player and breakthrough player.