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Are South Americans the Best Soccer Players in the World?

Are you a Latina soccer fan looking for your latest soccer fix? Well, read on to see which continent produces the best soccer players.

Linda Carter

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South America is soccer crazy, just ask anybody you know from the continent, but there is a fierce rivalry between them and their European counterparts as to who is better. While club football might be years ahead across the water in Europe, South America consistently impresses on the global stage, producing superstar after superstar.

In this article, we'll explore the history of soccer in South America, look at how both continents have performed in the World Cup, and compare the top talents produced by each. Whether you’re an avid soccer fan who follows every possible match or just somebody who wants information to go with the latest soccer odds, we’ve got you covered.

A Brief History of Soccer in South America

Soccer is deeply ingrained into the South American way of life. It's the most popular sport on the continent and has been for decades. It continues to produce some of the best players in world football and has a rich history dating back to its beginnings in England, where it was first played in public schools as a way to stay fit.

The first recorded instance of soccer being played outside England took place when two British sailors kicked about on a beach near Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1867. It would be another 20 years before any other record exists of the sport being played on South American shores.

In Montevideo, Uruguay, two British ex-pats set up a team known as "The Cricket Club", which would later become "Penarol", and began playing competitive games against local teams made up of British immigrants.

Soccer quickly caught on throughout Uruguay and Brazil and by 1900 there were around 150 teams playing competitively between the two nations alone. The sport's popularity also spread to other South American countries like Chile and Argentina during this time period, with Argentina forming its own national association just eight years after England had.

Read also: AC Milan: A Giant Trying to Wake Up, Will it Succeed?

Which Continent Is More Successful?

Both continents are pretty well split when it comes to head-to-head honors, with Europe just slightly leading the way with 12 World Cup wins to South America's 9. South American countries dominated the early years of the World Cup, with Uruguay lifting the inaugural tournament before Europe made a surge a couple of decades later.

While Europe has pulled ahead in recent years, much of this can be put down to the rapid professionalization of club football in Europe and the excellent infrastructure in place, a luxury not available to a majority of the soccer teams in South America, with some countries also having below-standard stadiums and training facilities.

Despite this, South American teams still perform consistently well at the major tournaments and you'd be foolish to write off any of the big three (Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay) when the World Cup comes around because of the huge amount of quality available. After all, nobody does it quite like the South Americans.

Which Continent Produces Better Players?

In terms of individual players, there's no doubt that some of the greatest talents ever to grace a soccer pitch have come from South America. 

Players like Diego Maradona and Pele became household names all over the world thanks to their exploits on both club and international levels. Maradona even went on to be named FIFA Player of The Century in 2000 after gaining 52% of over 200,000 public votes cast, with Pele second at 48%.

Other legendary South American stars include Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta, Carlos Valderrama, Alfredo Di Stefano, and Zico. The more recent crop of legendary players have been nothing short of amazing too with the likes of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, and Neymar Jr. all lighting up the European game for more than a decade, all of whom once played together at Barcelona.

Right now there seems to be a balance with both Europe and South America producing some amazing players that look destined for the top. The key thing is that most, if not all, of South America's best soccer players, can be found playing their soccer in Europe, being key players for the biggest teams in the world.

Right now we have the likes of Vinicius Jr. (Brazil) starring for Real Madrid, Lauro Martinez (Argentina) scoring goals for fun at Inter Milan, and Darwin Nunez (Uruguay) tearing it up for Benfica. There's something special about South American players that Europeans don't seem to be able to replicate, a balance of flair, productivity, and general flamboyance that has become the standard for any South American player playing at the top level.

So... are South American players better? It's impossible to say with absolute certainty. What we can say with a lot of confidence is that South Americans have a certain level of flair that is unrivaled anywhere else in the world. It's no surprise that some of the best players in the history of the game are either from South America or the Iberian peninsula, where the people speak either Spanish or Portuguese. 

So sure, for argument's sake, South American players are the best, and a fair few Europeans might agree with you.