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Is the European game still miles ahead of its World counterparts?

With the Qatar 2022 World Cup fast approaching one question should be in every fan's head and that is ‘Can Europe be stopped?’ Since Ronaldo led that glorious Brazilian team to the coveted prize in 2002 the World Cup has been dominated by the European elite with only Argentina making the final 12 years later in 2014 when Brazil were hosts.Not to mention the fact that African,Asian,Oceania and North American teams now seem as if they are as far away as possible to competing for this prize.So why is that and will this pattern change in the coming years?


The first thing to realise is why the gap between European football has got larger and that can be put down to a variety of reasons.


Firstly a major reason is the money in European Football as this is by far the wealthiest out of all the continents.It was estimated that in the 2019/20 season European Football generated 25.2 billion Euros which considering half the season was played behind closed doors is a staggering amount.In 2021 the Champions League winners received $24 million while the winners of the Copa Libertadores (South America) only received $12million showing the contrast in economics.This revenue allows the teams to invest money in better players,coaching and infrastructure which will almost seamlessly translate over to the international stage as the majority of players are given the platform to familiarise themselves with all sorts of tactical systems.With the best managers and infrastructure such as academies and scouting networks the players are allowed to prosper in their respective leagues and then conduct themselves equally well on the international stage. This could be put down to the factor of football history, but also the way the European game is marketed with interest and the top European teams having players coming from all over the world which generates money.


Secondly another major factor that has allowed european football to propel itself forwards is the organisation. Although UEFA has its problems it is very well organised and has created a worldwide box office tournament in the UEFA Champions League. UEFA also shares revenues around Europe very well which has allowed clubs on the continent to maintain their status. The individual organisation of each league in terms of merchandising,tv rights and image rights has allowed each league to sell football like a product and although this has angered some sections of supporters it has allowed clubs to almost triple their income. This has led to each club having more money to spend leading to the multiplier effect of better infrastructure, players and coaches which can translate in the quality of football becoming second to none. The geography of Europe also makes it easier to organise tournaments such as the Champions league and nations league than other continents such as Asia and South America.


South America.


Although South America has a huge pool of the best players in the World they have recently struggled at World Cup Finals.The first thing that comes to mind after the last 2 World Cups is that the South American teams have struggled against advanced tactics used by European teams.For example when Germany beat Brazil 7-1 in a once in a lifetime scoreline this was due to the Brazilians struggling to overcome the sheer pressure Joachim Low’s side put on them from start to finish.There are also less players plying their trade in the South American game due to the money being put under their noses by their European counterparts.This has led to a decline in the once exciting and exuberant South American games as players are now trained the ‘European Way’ which has led to the Samba style of football no longer existing. It seems as if the South American game has not yet evolved and this needs to be solved quickly otherwise the gap will ever increase. For example the league and cup structure on the continent is gruelling and long for the players so therefore a reform of South American football is needed to produce the best quality achievable.The South American club game has also recently become extremely polarised with Brazilian and Argentinian clubs dominating year after year on the continental stage which means clubs from other countries are struggling financially. This has led to South American clubs becoming very susceptible to selling their best talents at a young age such as the recently departed duo of Marquinos to Arsenal and Almada to MLS side Atlanta. This has led to the respective clubs being full of veterans and little exciting talent. This has led to national teams squads being exclusively made up of European based players such as Brazil and Argentina's most recent squads in the summer of 2022 only having 2 domestically based players each.


Africa.


After all African teams got knocked out of the Russia 2018 group stage things were at an all time low in African football.Things did not get much better after that with FIFA president Gianni Infantino sending a temporary committee to control African football after various corruption scandals broke out.The head of that committee Fatma Samoura did sort out short term problems but many still remain with the infrastructure and money in the game still lagging behind the rest of the world.That is why the CAF is pushing for it’s own super league and a World Cup every 2 years to boost revenue and income that can translate to success on the world stage.Overall the organisation in the African game needs stark improvement with many countries playing home matches in neutral venues due to a lack of adequate facilities on the continent.The disruption caused by the Africa Cup of Nations to the European calendar did not help matters and the drab football that took place with the majority of score lines not reaching above 1-0 showed a lack of footballing quality. The organisation of the tournament also made it into a worldwide laughing stock with the host nation constantly changing,Comoros starting with an outfielder in goal in the knockouts and games being finished with 5 minutes left! These problems show that if African football wants a better future the governance of the game needs to change. There is cause for hope though as European based players start to choose African countries over the European ones which has been declared a serious problem by Head of Football Development for FIFA, Arsene Wenger. This has given Algeria,Ivory Coast and Senegal good foundations to build on for a successful future on the world stage with players such as Zaha and Kamara now choosing to represent their countries of origin. However there is hope that the African game could soon catch up with its world counterparts due to the establishment of the Super League and the close relationship between FIFA president Infantino and CAF president Motsepe.





North America.


Arguably the beneficiaries of the European Game, North American football fans can be excited for the future.In the last decade top European clubs have started to realise the untapped potential in the North American game and this has translated to success for North American football.With players such as Reyna,Pulisic,Mckennie,Aaronson,David and Davies all now regulars in the best club competition in the World (UEFA Champions League) fans should be very excited for what the future holds. This could be explained by various clubs now using global scouting networks to attract the best players and this can be seen especially in the Bundesliga where players such as Pulisic,Reyna and Mckennie have all plyed their trade.With brilliant grassroots organisation and the pull the MLS provides to players oversees the North American game is en route to a successful future.It also seems Mexico have been usurped by the US with the Mexican being defeated by the Amercians in both the Nations league and Gold Cup as well as narrowly avoiding missing out on 2022 World Cup Qualification.This should be of little concern though as Mexico will in no doubt get their customary round of 16 position at a World Cup regardless.Let’s hope the North American game continues to excite for the time the 48 team expanded World Cup arrives in 2026 across Mexico,USA and Canada.


Asia and Oceania.


With only 4 places Asia and Oceania is a small representative at the World Cup and unfortunately they usually flatter to deceive.Asian football is an ever growing business but with other sports such as baseball and basketball still reigning supreme,the respective leagues do not get the attention they deserve.Although the K-League and J-League are strong Asia’s top players still migrate to the ‘big leagues’ in Europe.This can be seen by Celtics recent transfer business where they have raided the J.League of 4 top players who have all gone on to have a successful season. It is still believed however that in the continent there is still a focus on the major European teams and little support for the local game which translates to a lower local quality of football.Asian football is still a work in progress and any teams making it out of the group stage would be seen as a success in Qatar.



With the ever increasing European football industry it is looking likely that the trend of European teams dominating this universal competition will continue.The quality of both team and individual players is outstanding as presented at UEFA Euro 2020 where the football on display was simply outstanding.Neutrals may be hoping that Lionel Messi can inspire again after winning a long awaited Copa America in 2021 and give Argentina a platform to set off on.The same could be said of Brazil and the audacious Neymar.Although European football looks like it could dominate for years the World Cup is always a competition up for grabs and surprises could be on the horizon.The aims of the World Cup are to inspire and share cultures and we have seen plenty of upsets in the past so let's hope that the 2022 tournament will provide another showcase for the people across the world.



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