Are South American World Cup Qualifiers the Toughest Challenge in Football?

Are South American World Cup Qualifiers the Toughest Challenge in Football?

In the exciting universe of football, where passion and competition intertwine, there is a region that stands out for the intensity of its battles on the road to the glory of qualifying for the World Cup: South America. The South American qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup are a unique scenario where greatness is fiercely contested.

This corner of the planet houses some of the most titanic and respected national teams in the sport, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.

Immerse yourself in the heart of the South American qualifiers and discover why this path to qualification is, without a doubt, the most demanding test for countries seeking to reach the pinnacle of world football.

Antonio Valencia, the former captain of Ecuador in 2017, expressed in an interview with ESPN: “The most difficult way to reach the World Cup is through the South American group.” He added that… “You can play in Barranquilla, in northern Colombia along the Caribbean Sea, where it’s 40 degrees and humid. La Paz, Bolivia, is at almost 4000 meters above sea level. It takes two or three days to prepare to play a match there, and then two or three days for the body to recover. It’s really challenging, even for an Ecuadorian used to playing at almost 3000 meters in Quito.” All this without even mentioning that the intensity of the fans is three times higher than in European football. Furthermore, the overall quality of football fields is somewhat lower compared to Europe, where quality is the norm.

The parity at the level of South American teams, excluding the three aforementioned, is a phenomenon that highlights the extreme competitiveness of the region. An eloquent example of this equity is the case of Chile, which, after being crowned as the best team in America by winning the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, surprisingly failed to secure its presence in the 2018 World Cup.

Despite the expansion to 6.5 slots for the 2026 World Cup, the competitiveness among South American teams remains notably marked, as evidenced in the latest results of Matchday 5, which left Brazil (the team with the most World Cup victories) in 5th place on the table after losing 2 consecutive matches.

This situation contrasts entirely with the European qualifiers, where there is not the same intensity in the fight for qualifying spots, given the difference in quality between the teams.

The unpredictability and the fierce struggle for a place in the final stage of the World Cup continue to be distinctive features that make the South American qualifiers a true football battleground. Who are your South American candidates to qualify for the 2026 World Cup?

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