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Europe and South America rivalry leave the rest behind

By Josh Knox

The end of the group stage at the World Cup has highlighted the imbalance in world football with just two countries from outside the traditional power bases of Europe and South America making it through to the round-of-16.

Four of South America’s five teams (80 per cent) progressed to the knockout phase while 10 of Europe’s 14 entrants (72 percent) made it through their groups.

The make-up of the round-of-16 teams reflects the dominance of these two confederations in FIFA’s top 10 rankings which comprises seven teams from Europe and three from South America (including Chile at number 9, even though it didn’t qualify for Russia)

Despite the top-ranked team Germany crashing out in the group stage, European nations have performed much better at this World Cup than in Brazil 2014 where only six teams from the continent made it to the knockout stages.

It is true that, this time around, European nations are largely playing in their own time zone although this ‘advantage’ is negated by the fact many of the South American players are also based in Europe with their club teams.

But all of this dominance also highlights the fact that the remaining three confederations – North and Central America (CONCACAF), Asia (AFC) and Africa (CAF) – barely made an impression on the tournament.

None of Africa’s five teams were able to get out of their groups in Russia after Nigeria and Algeria were able to do so in 2014.

North and Central America also had less influence in Russia than four years ago with Mexico the sole CONCACAF representative after Costa Rica and Panama both went home winless.

Asia had five teams in Russia, including Australia, but only Japan made it to the knockout stage.

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