Ten teams from Europe are through to the last 16 (Germany, Sweden, England, Portugal, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Ukraine, Spain, France), while Asia has none, and Africa only one (Ghana - a major blow to their wish for increased representation at the next event, in South Africa in 2010). The other qualifiers are Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil from South America, Mexico from the ridiculously easy CONCACAF qualifying groups, and Australia (one of the stars of the tournament - handled by the best coach).
The top European Leagues are full of foreign players (interestingly, of the Tunisia side that started yesterday only one player, the 40-year old goalkeeper, played his football in his home country), which gives those foreign players a chance to improve as they pit their skills week by week against some of the best in the world. Indeed, some have argued that the large number of journeymen in Europe’s top leagues has had a detrimental effect on the quality of the European national sides.
Yet, we’re not seeing that at all. Moreover, smaller European nations, such as Switzerland and Ukraine) have also performed well at the World Cup, even though around half of their players play in the “minor” Swiss and Ukrainian leagues.
So what gives? Why do the European teams (together with Brazil and Argentina) continue to dominate soccer at the highest level, when games are played on a level playing field (sorry, Korea, but in Olympics and World Cups NOT played at home, you guys will always struggle)?