Why Chile, Colombia and Uruguay are the dark horses for the World Cup

Uruguay Football Stadium

The South American trio could cause some surprises in Brazil.

Much has been said about the climate at next summer's World Cup in Brazil. Many have said that England will simply have no chance of winning the competition due to the difference in weather, altitude and climate. How much can the climate affect the game? After all, it's still the same players, playing with the same ball, just in a different country.

For the aforementioned reasons, Brazil and Argentina were quickly installed as the tournament favourites. The combination of it being played in their home continent and the fact they have such talented squads means that they could well topple Spain next year. The competition will also suit the rest of the South American qualifiers, and three teams in particular who have strong squads could cause a few surprises next summer.

Chile: World Ranking - 12th. Star Player - Alexis Sanchez

Chile qualified for the World Cup after finishing third in the South American World Cup qualifying campaign. Chile have a good blend of experience and youth in their side. Their captain is goalkeeper Claudio Bravo who has 76 caps. The 30-year-old plays for Real Sociedad and is a very dependable 'keeper. They also have Gonzalo Jara, Gary Medel, and Jean Beausejour who will be well known to English fans. All three have over 50 caps. England will see first hand how dangerous this side can be in a friendly on Friday. The Juventus duo of Mauricio Isla and Arturo Vidal add further quality. Matias Fernandez of Fiorentina gives the team creativity and combined with Alexis Sanchez shows Chile's attacking prowess at it's best. A good mix of attack minded players, and strong experienced defenders and midfielders.

Colombia: World Ranking - 4th. Star Player - Falcao

Surprising that they are currently ranked the fourth best side in the world, but we all know not to read too much into those rankings. It does reflect a strong showing from the Colombians in the qualifying campaign though. They finished just two points behind Argentina in second place. This will be their first World Cup since 1998 and their first since winning the Copa America in 2001. Carlos Valderrama's hair remains a memorable image for me from France '98. With the team now based around Falcao, Colombian fans believe they are enjoying a golden generation of players and James Rodriguez of Monaco is also a key player for them. There is also plenty of experience in the squad and even a player who played for them in the 1998 World Cup; Faryd Mondragon is in the latest squad for a friendly against Belgium tomorrow, aged 42. Former AC Milan defender Mario Yepes, 36, is the captain of the nation.

Uruguay: World Ranking - 6th. Star Player - Luis Suarez

The reigning Copa America champions have yet to actually qualify for next summer's tournament. They finished in fifth place in the qualifiers and have to beat Jordan in a play-off. The first leg was played on Wednesday and Uruguay won 5-0. So it looks as if the first ever winners of the World Cup will be joining the party in Brazil. Uruguay are the sixth smallest nation to ever appear at the World Cup, and last time round they finished in fourth place. Luis Suarez famously stopped a certain Ghana goal with his hand, and they went on to beat them on penalties. Much of the 2010 squad remains, and that is why they will be a team no one will want to face in Brazil. Even Diego Forlan is still in the squad now playing with Internacional. Edinson Cavani and Abel Hernandez also provide strong attacking options. In their latest squad for the play-off match they had 15 players with over 40 caps. The continuity of the same players such as Walter Gargano, Alvaro Pereira, Maxi Pereira and Diego Godin makes it hard to find a weakness in the Uruguay side.  

image: © jikatu

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