World Cup: Is this Europe's chance?

World Cup: Is this Europe's chance?

After the first round of the 2014 tournament, hosts Brazil and Argentina remain on course for a dream final, with their respective sorcerers Neymar and Messi banging in the goals for the two teams to top their respective groups.

The popular argument was that the heat and humidity of Brazil would slow the European giants down, favouring the South Americans and Central Americans, and even the Asians.

While champions Spain, Italy and England have gone home, the rest of Europe's big guns are coping pretty well, with the likes of Germany, Holland, France and Belgium all looking like title contenders.

Mexico and Costa Rica have been irrepressible for Central America, Asia has been embarrassed.

South America's other hopefuls have also flexed their muscles.

While Brazil and Argentina have moved into the knockout stages with mostly little fuss, the likes of Colombia and Chile have surprised many with their attacking style and indefatigable spirit, while Uruguay have dug deep to come through a tough group.

The problem for South American supporters is that four of the five sides have to knock each other out from now, and the team most nervous, I would think, is Brazil.

With each passing match, Luiz Felipe Scolari's men haul even more pressure on their shoulders and facing Chile is no mean feat. Colombia or Uruguay will lie in wait next in the last eight.

Jose Pekerman's Colombia and Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay meet in the Round of 16 and the build-up to the clash will all be about Suarez.

The Colombians will be buoyed, both by their run into the knockout stages and the four-month ban on Suarez.

If Brazil are to get to the semi-finals, then they will have to go through two South American teams who will be deadly keen to cause one of the upsets of the World Cup.

The Europeans will love the fact that these four South American sides will have to battle for one semi-final spot.

Many neutrals will consider it unfair, especially when the likes of Chile and Colombia displayed such attacking verve and fearlessness in the group stages.

On the other side of the draw, Argentina have clinched a second-round place easily and look to have an easier route to the final than their arch-rivals Brazil.

Standing in the way of Messi and Co. are Switzerland, Belgium and Holland, who have a tricky second-round tie against Mexico to negotiate first.

Despite winning 10 of 19 World Cups overall, no European team has won in South or Latin America in six attempts - with Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina all victorious twice.

But with better knowledge and preparation, and with fitter players, the possibility of a European conquest in Brazil is growing by the week.

Especially when the hosts will have to knock two South American nations out to get to the last four.

Neymar and Messi need to move through the gears, or there could be tears among the South Americans at the 2014 World Cup.

This article was first published on June 27, 2014.
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