EVIANS-LES-BAINS, France - Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino has refuted the idea that the South American World Cup qualifying system is too easy.
Martino, whose team beat Brazil and Argentina on the way to their fourth successive World Cup, said competition was much fiercer in South America where teams also had to tackle unusual conditions, including matches at extreme altitude.
"It's the other way around. I think that for many teams the European qualifiers are much easier," he told Reuters on Thursday at his team's pre-World Cup training camp overlooking Lake Geneva.
"Maybe we should have a non-regional qualifying tournament and see how they (European teams) get on when they have to play at 3,600 metres above sea level."
South America, which has 10 national teams, has four guaranteed places at the World Cup finals while a fifth team plays off against a side from the CONCACAF region.
Europe has 13 places for 53 teams and Africa five - plus hosts South Africa - for 53 teams. Asia has four, plus a playoff, for 43 teams.
"If you look at some of the European groups, there's a huge difference in quality between the top and the bottom teams. That doesn't happen in South America," Martino said.
"In some cases in Europe, you can see which teams are going to qualify from the start."
"If you have a look at South America, you will see that the teams are very evenly-matched. There's no game where you can assume you're going to get all three points.
"Even in the case of Peru, who finished bottom this time, neither Brazil or Argentina could beat them away and even Buenos Aires, Argentina needed a goal in injury-time to beat them.
"You have to play Brazil, who have won the World Cup five times, and you have to play Argentina, who have won twice.
"There are also the conditions to think about. They distances are huge, you have to play in heat, or in La Paz at 3,600 metres above sea level, which requires special preparation."
Paraguay face Italy, Slovakia and New Zealand in Group F.comments