In the past few weeks, the likes of Sergio Aguero and Klaas Jan Huntelaar have sounded out a South-American home advantage at this year's World Cup in Brazil.
It has been 12 years since a South-American side last won the sport's most coveted prize, the FIFA World Cup. Brazil's victory in 2002 was also the last time any South-American side has reached the final. In fact, no South American side has made the final since, the last 4 finalists being European. Aside from Brazil, the Uruguay squad of 2010 are the only South-American country to reach a semi final since 1990.
In the build up to this tournament, much has been written about the idea that South-American sides would have a considerable advantage over other continents for a plethora of reasons. When England took on Italy in their first game in Manaus, the temperature was 30 degrees. If you believe everything you had read beforehand, you would have expected to see a slow paced, sluggish performance a la that game in South Africa against Germany.
Alas, the 90 minutes in Manaus saw some of the quickest paced football of the entire tournament and possibly as good as England have performed under Italy. Not one single excuse about the humidity was heard, merely that England were beaten by a team who quite simply knew how to win under pressure.
It seems that people are under the illusion that England's astronomically funded World Cup squad, like many others playing in the tournament have not been subject to the best technology, training and preparations. Technology today gives teams the opportunity to train in specialised facilities within which they can change the humidity and the temperature.
Plane-hopping from place to place is common practice amongst football's elite nowadays, and with early preparations in specially build training camps, acclimatisation is massively quicker than in years gone by.
What most have ignored is the fact that only one of Brazil's starting XI against Croatia plies his trade in his native Brazil; Fred. Four of the XI played in England last season, with the others scattered around Europe. What advantage? Though they may have been brought up in Brazil, they too have to re-acclimatise, so it seems ridiculous to use that as an excuse, or as a reason for some sort of advantage.
The only argument that seems to hold up, and rightly so is the fact they will be playing in front of their brilliant home following and will be desperate to lift the trophy in the rebuild Maracana stadium in Rio on the 13th of July.
(This is not the time to bring up the argument of refereeing home advantage, let us hope that the abysmal performance of Yuichi Nishimura was a one off)
Similar stats apply for the tournament's other South-American big hitters, Argentina, with only Maxi Rodriguez from their starting XI playing for an Argentinian club. The myth of a 'home' advantage just doesn't hold up, it's just an easy sound bite.
So, will a South-American side win this World Cup? Yes, maybe, possibly. But, if they do, don't believe that they had much of an advantage in doing so, they will have won it because they were the best performers and beat the best teams around them on the way.