Maradona: South America will never eclipse Europe

PRETORIA - South America will never be a greater football power than Europe, Diego Maradona said on Saturday after the region's five teams all qualified for the second round of the World Cup.

But South America, level with Europe at 9-9 in world titles, can continue to provide great players to clubs around the world, the Argentina coach told a news conference.

"We'll never be more of a power than Europe," Argentina's World Cup-winning former captain said.

"The best prize South America has is to know that we give all the clubs in the world great players," he said.

"And (we ask) that when those players get to the national teams, (the clubs) return them to us with the time and care with which we hand them over to them."

Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay depend on their many exiled players to build teams capable of performing as well at the World Cup as they have done in South Africa.

Four of the quintet won their groups while Chile finished second in theirs behind European champions Spain, the pre-tournament favourites.

Maradona said coaches of junior players in South America had to understand that they should not allow them to move abroad before they were ready for top flight football.

"(Coaches) have to draw a definitive line for the kids who are emerging," Maradona said.

"We can feed (the overseas clubs) with good players while thinking about our youth schemes so the kids dream of playing in Europe but are well prepared, not send a kid of 15 or 16, 17 who doesn't have the basic elements to play in the first division."

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