The quest to find out which is the best football team takes on all kinds of guises. For international football the general method comprises a tournament, consisting of small groups of teams playing each other, the highest rated teams then entering a knock-out stage, culminating in a final to determine the ultimate champions.
The recent Copa America (American Cup) is such a tournament to determine which nation is the footballing champion of South America. It has recently highlighted something distinctly dodgy with tournament football.
Take Paraguay, for example. In the recently ended 2015 tournament Paraguay reached the semi-final (best 4), going though 4 matches to reach this stage. However Paraguay won only a single game, against guest team Jamaica, 1-0. For the record the other games were 1-1 against Uruguay, 2-2 against Argentina, and 1-1 against Brazil, which Paraguay eventually prevailed 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out.
So Paraguay reached the semi-final having scored 5 goals and conceding 4, and wining only once against Jamaica, a nation which is not exactly considered a footballing powerhouse.
So this kind of thing sometimes happens, what’s the problem? Why shouldn’t a relatively lesser nation have its chance for glory once and a while. It’s boring if the same teams win all the time. I have a lot of sympathy with this view, but let’s also look at the previous tournament.
In the 2011 Copa America Paraguay advanced all the way to the final. This time it didn’t win any of its matches. It drew the lot. Again for the record, 0-0 against Ecuador, 2-2 against Brazil, 3-3 against Venezuela, 0-0 against Brazil (2-0 on penalties), and 0-0 against Venezuela (5-3 on penalties).
In the knock-out stage Paraguay played 4 hours of football without scoring, winning both games in penalty shoot-outs. In fact it would have been possible to win the final in the same way, thereby becoming champions without winning a single game.
Paraguay did what they had to do, and were totally within the laws of the game, but two consecutive tournaments reaching the final in one and the semi-final in the other, stellar achievements, through winning only one match does not seem right.
Just to end the Paraguay saga, it was beaten 1-6 by Argentina in the 2015 semi-final, and 0-3 by Uruguay in the 2011 final.
I have my own ideas for solutions, but my eternal frustration is with FIFA. This, and many other anomalies in football are simply being ignored. FIFA seems only concerned about keeping the status quo, the same people on the same gravy train.