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World Cup: South Americans looking to break Europe's World Cup stranglehold

Twenty years have passed since a South American country last won the World Cup, two decades in which Europe has totally dominated the greatest football tournament of them all – but are these the finals when the balance of power starts to shift back again?

When Brazil captain Cafu lifted the World Cup aloft in Yokohama on 30th June 2002, as millions of his compatriots celebrated the 2-0 win over Germany, few would have foreseen the drought that was about to follow. 

Brazil's triumph in Japan that night was the ninth by a South American nation, one more than the sum total of European successes. 

Fast forward to Qatar 2022 and that scoreline now reads Uefa 12 Conmebol 9 and that's a power shift which Brazil, Argentina and the other South American raiders are determined to redress over the coming month.

WhatWorld Cup
WhenSunday 20th November - Sunday 18th December
How to watch BBC and ITV
OddsBrazil 7/2, Argentina 11/2, France 13/2, England 8/1, Spain 8/1, Germany 10/1

Market says football's going Brazil!

Brazil are set to be begin the Qatar World Cup the favourites – they are currently 7/2 – with a lot of money riding on Neymar delivering on the biggest stage of all. 

And if he doesn't oblige, then next best is Argentina and Lionel Messi, a man who has had several chances to deliver on the biggest stage of all and blown every one of them. 

Yet for all that, faith in the little man remains strong and Argentina are 11/2. Brazil know a thing or two about favouritism. 

As record five-time winners of the title and quadrennially strong, the selecao are invariably short-priced and headed the outright markets at each of the last two World Cups, failing each time. 

Indeed, since that never-to-be-forgotten night in Yokohama the Brazilians have only once gone past the last eight. 

The fact is, the last four World Cups have been utterly dominated by Europe who produced 13 of the 16 semi-finalists and all four winners including, of course, in Brazil itself in 2014 when the hosts suffered abject humiliation at German hands in the semis with Die Mannschaft going on to beat Argentina in the final. 

So while it's Brazil and Argentina who head the outright betting, it's 1/2 the winner will come from Europe, 7/4 from South America. 

And it's a massive 28/1 that Brazil and Argentina meet in the final, something that cannot happen if the pair of them win their groups.

Messi's fairytale ending?   

Brazil have lost only two matches in the last three years, both at the hands of Argentina whose hopes rest almost wholly in the hands of Messi. 

The PSG star led his country to Copa America glory last year, so ensuring he would eventually go into retirement with a major international winner's medal around his neck. But how about doubling up at the venerable age of 35? 

And how about he really goes out in style and lands the 28/1 that Argentina not only win the trophy but he's also crowned top goalscorer? 

Were that the case, of course, he'd be a good thing for player of the tournament honours for which he is 8/1

It's interesting that even though Argentina don't head outright betting, Messi does head the player of the tournament market, presumably on the basis that the little genius deserves the ultimate, sentimental send-off. 

Remember, it was Croatia's team leader and global icon Luka Modric who won the prize four years ago even though his country didn't win the tournament.

Dare we discount Uruguay – or Ecuador?   

Of course, it's not only Brazil and Argentina flying the Conmebol flag in the middle-east with Uruguay and Ecuador confident they are there to do more than just make up the numbers. 

Having said that, Ecuador can probably be ruled out though they would expect to land the evens that they qualify from Group A. 

Diego Alonso's 40/1 Uruguay, on the other hand, appear to represent lively outsiders as the 14th-ranked nation in the world, especially if seasoned vets of the calibre of Diego Godin, Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates can get the best out of the next generation, the likes of Rodrigo Bentancur, Darwin Nunez and Federico Valverde. 

Suarez is 2/1 to be top Uruguay scorer, Nunez 5/2 while Valverde is 10/1 and also 40/1 to claim most tournament assists.

South America are overdue, of that there's no doubt. Just one of their intake in a final since 2002 is a poor return from a continent steeped in football history, folklore and world-class talent. 

Whether it's courtesy of Messi or Neymar, or even Nunez, the Conmebol class of '22 reckon their time is now.

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