I think most people would probably agree that the World Cup (WC) is the best sporting event in the world. And if you’re like me, you simply can’t wait until June 2014 (assuming the world doesn’t end sometime around December 2012).
But how many of y’all ever paid attention to the tournaments before the tournament? You know, FIFA doesn’t just randomly select 32 teams to participate in the World Cup Finals. You actually have to qualify!
Of all the continent’s qualifying tournaments, none is better than South America’s. Why? Continue reading and I’ll explain:
FIFA allots the South American federation 4.5 slots to the WC (more on the .5 shortly). The 10 South American countries (Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are sent off to the North American/Caribbean zone) play each other twice, home and away, round-robin style, over a two-year period (from October 2011 to October 2013). Each win gets you 3 points, a tie 1, a loss 0. After 18 matches, the four teams with the highest point totals are granted an automatic berth to the WC.
What makes this time around different?
Because Brazil automatically gets a berth (as host nation), an extra spot is available for the South American countries. So rather than the usual 10 teams competing for 4.5 spots, you have nine teams competing for 4.5 spots (well eight if you don’t count Bolivia, sorry). So South America could potentially send six teams to World Cup!
So, about this .5 thingy?
This time around, the 5th place CONMEBOL country plays the 5th place AFC (Asia’s federation) country in a playoff to determine which federation gets to send an extra country to Brazil 2014. South America has the better teams, making it more likely that they get the extra spot.
Haven’t they already started playing?
Yes, the first 2 of 18 rounds occurred earlier in October…and they didn’t disappoint. The biggest story was Venezuela beating two-time World Champion Argentina (1-0) for the first time in their history. Chile and Peru combined to score six goals in a thriller (4-2, Chile) and Paraguay stole two points from Uruguay with a goal in the 92nd minute (1-1).
When are they playing again?
Match day 3 and 4 are to be held on November 11 and 15, respectively. You catch the entire schedule here.
How do I watch?
You have to make an extra effort, but you might want to go to your local South American restaurant (e.g. a Colombian restaurant for Colombian matches), especially if you want a great atmosphere. You can also order via pay-per-view or stream the games online.
So why should I watch again?
Top to bottom, South America is the most competitive confederation in the world. In the 2010 WC, all five CONMEBOL teams advanced to the knockout stages, and four of the final eight quarterfinal teams were South American. If you can’t wait to watch quality international fútbol before the WC (or Euro 2012), you need to be watching CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying tournament.