How does one explain European domination of the soccer World Cup?

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)?

Because Brazil and Argentina can only have one team each in the World Cup?

In the last 7 World Cup finals, one team was European and one team was from South America, and the winner has alternated each year. 10 out of 16 doesn’t mean much when most of them lose to Brazil or Argentina.

I can only remember the World Cups since 1966, but in those forty years (call it the modern era, if you will) the winners have been: England, Brazil, W. Germany, Argentina, Italy, Argentina, W. Germany, Brazil, France and Brazil.

So, five for South America (2 nations) and five for Europe (4 nations - shared around at about the same ratio of nations-per-continent, I would guess). If Brazil manage it this time, it would be the first time that a South American side has won the Cip in Europe since they managed it against Sweden in 1958. Then, perhaps one day, a Europena side can win in America.

South America would have a greater proportion of teams in the finals if it weren’t for the fact that so many of them, 180 million, are Brazilian. Brazil alone could probably enter five teams all good enough to get through the group stages. And anyway, South America have done proportionately as well as Europe so far, with three quarters of their countries getting through.

As for African and Asian countries, they still don’t have enough players in the very top leagues. True, many of them play in Europe, but often for mediocre clubs not necessarily in top tier leagues. Whereas European countries and Brazil and Argentina are largely represented by players from the elite leagues, often from the best teams in those leagues.

The mystery to me is why Mexico haven’t done better, historically. 100+ million people in, as I understand it, a soccer-mad country, with the ideal economic profile (rich enough to have a well-established football infrastructure, poor enough to have a steady supply of street kids who spend their entire childhoods kicking a ball around). They should be one of the top football powers in the world.

South America will never have a greater proportion of teams in the finals under the current qualification regime.

This time round 4 teams qualified automatically while Uruguay lost a play-off to Australia. 5 teams is the current maximum representation from that continent.

I’d like to venture that historically, Mexico play a more open, attacking style of football which, while entertaining and endearing, isn’t condusive to long term world-cup success.

Of course, that doesn’t explain Brazil, does it? :slight_smile: