World Cup 2014: Will location hurt European teams?


As a host of Arsenal and other Premier League players prepare for the World Cup in Brazil, one of the biggest debates has been about the chances a non-South American side has at winning the competition. With every World Cup that’s been hosted in South America being won by a nation from the continent, many people have said that it is almost inevitable it will happen again.

So why does this seem to be the case?

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  • The common consensus for the correlation seems to be that the climate is so different that players fail to adjust to the conditions properly, and the combination of extreme humidity and heat in the region means that European players fade as the competition progresses. The humidity in Manaus, one of the locations for World Cup matches, rarely drops below 80% with temperatures constantly around 30 degrees centigrade. There seems to be strong evidence for this having an effect on fitness as South American teams have dominated European teams in the latter part of the tournaments because they have experience of coping physically in these conditions.

    There is also the fact that support will be much stronger in favour of countries that are closer to the venue, and as such there will be limited European support due to the sheer distance and cost of travel from Europe to Brazil. As such, when facing a South American nation, it will have the distinct feel of an away match for any European side. This will put the pressure on the teams travelling the furthest, but will also hit African and Asian teams hard as well due to the history of smaller travelling support than Europeans.

    But could this be the year of change for European teams?

    Taking a look at the world rankings you can understand why people think it might be. The top 3 teams in the World are European, including World Champions Spain, and only 4 of the top 12 are from South America. Gone are the days where it was the Brazilian teams that were feared for their new style of play as Spanish and German teams are dominating world football at both club and international level.

    There is also the fact that, in my opinion, history books are going to play little to no significance in this tournament. I’ve made a little graph to highlight why, looking at the squad composition for 3 of South America’s teams.

    The previous South American World Cup’s were held in a different era of football where players played in their home nations, but that simply isn’t the case anymore. All of the World’s top players now play in Europe, which means that they are used to a European climate and as such their physical recovery process. Of course players from these nations are more used to the climate in the fact they have played more matches than most in the country, and have usually grown up their home nation, but this is simply putting context to a statistic which I think a lot of people have forgotten to do. Nearly every player will be playing a stretch of matches in conditions that is foreign to them, so there will be issues for most teams here.

    Personally, despite the fact the location is not favourable to them, I think this could be the year a European team triumphs in South Africa. Do you agree? Give your opinion below or on Facebook or Google+.