The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off in just a few days, and football fans across the globe wait eagerly as they do every four years to see their teams in action. Latin America especially has sent some very strong teams to South Africa.
Brazil and Argentina are both favorites as usual, while countries like Mexico and Uruguay have entered extremely competent sides. But as the excitement builds, many analysts have noticed that the World Cup has a palpable effect on business, simply because of the exposure it gives lesser known countries on the global stage.
Being avid soccer fans here at Nearshore Americas, we’re doing a special feature on World Cup fever and how it boosts interest and investment in the Latin American region. Also read our own assessment of the teams below.
Fever and Intensity
Football is huge in Latin America. From schools and colleges to multinational corporations, it permeates every level of society. Especially in the countries that have qualified this year, the excitement is at a fever pitch. “It’s the event that every Latin American country aims to be at”, says Ruben Sorto, Marketing Director at Grupo Karims in Honduras. The last time the Central American country qualified for the World Cup was in 1982 when as a newcomer, it reached the quarter finals. “That’s the expectation of our team this year. Many of us were kids the last time this happened, so the anticipation here is intense”.
The most popular sporting event in the world has a very positive impact on the national state of mind, and even corporations and governments are leveraging this. “Many companies have set up TV screens in their compounds so employees can watch”, says Stephen Ruddell Lopez, Program Manager at CORFO, Chile’s investment promo agency. “The idea is to support people in all the grief that they’ve gone through with the recent earthquake. People really look forward to it here in Chile. In fact, when some of the games are early in the morning, some companies offer breakfast for employees that come in to watch”.
Sorto also discusses the effect of rising nationalism on the business environment. “I’ve heard that the impact on GDP is a 3-4% increase. That’s because of the business opportunity the World Cup creates, but also the unified state of mind of the entire population. We’re very proud of our country right now”.
Football and Outsourcing
So how does soccer relate to BPO and ITO specifically? It’s all about exposure. The sheer audience size of the World Cup is incredible, and is a priceless marketing opportunity for lesser known sourcing players like Honduras. “It has a huge impact on our country brand and positioning that brand on the world stage, both with soccer fans and in terms of business exposure”, says Sorto.
Smaller LATAM countries with limited populations often get sidelined in favour of larger sourcing rivals like Brazil and Argentina – but the World Cup helps put them on the map. “Many people know us because of our copper, but when we go to the World Cup, they wonder what else we’re capable of”, says Ruddell of Chile. “They realize that we have the financial stability to invest in sending a team and hiring a world renowned coach. If the country is politically and financially stable, companies are willing to consider us”.
Given the current financial troubles in Europe involving Greece, Spain and Portugal, many businesses are in fact turning to Latin America as it wasn’t hit as hard by the recession. While we should be careful of overestimating the effects of the World Cup, the exposure it brings will be another boost to the region’s already growing share of the world sourcing market.
Teams and Favorites
A Latin American winner in this World Cup is a distinct possibility, and there will be some very strong teams representing the region in South Africa this year. We’d like to do our own informal assessment of the various teams here:
Brazil: Five-time winners of the World Cup and the only team to appear at every one, Brazil is a favourite. They qualified comfortably at the top of their group with accomplished coach Carlos Verri, known commonly as Dunga. Formerly a player for the national team, his decision to leave out star player Ronaldinho this year was extremely controversial in Brazil, but the current line-up is strong with players like Kaká, Ramires and Robinho.
Argentina: If Brazil has one rival for the Cup, it’s Argentina. Coached by another famous former player Diego Maradona, the team barely qualified to go to South Africa. But with ace striker Lionel Messi, and mid-fielder Di María’s ability to score from a distance, Argentina looks set for a great performance.
Mexico: Playing the first match of the World Cup with host nation South Africa this Friday, Mexico is bringing a very balanced team – six players were equal top scorers in qualifying. Coach Javier Aguirre’s insistence on harrying opponents while still playing defensively may help or hurt them.
Paraguay: After missing most of qualifying due to an injury, the return of striker Roque Santa Cruz will help Paraguay. “They have a good coach Gerardo Martino, who is keen to replace Paraguay’s typical World Cup timidity with something more aggressive”, writes Tim Vickery, South American football expert for the BBC. Paraguay is very strong defensively.
Honduras: It’s been decades since Honduras qualified for the World Cup, but this year with top scorer Carlos Pavón, the team has potential. Coach Reinaldo Rueda usually includes an extra defensive midfielder, which should help Honduras against Spain and Swtizerland, both in their group.
Chile: This will be Chile’s first appearance since 1998, and they are keen to prove themselves. With Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, they have many healthy fit players like Humberto Suazo and Alexis Sanchez. But Chile’s defense is consistently recognized as a weak point.
Uruguay: The last team to qualify for the World Cup, Uruguay has a strong side but it’s very unclear how they will play. Top scorer Diego Forlán and forward Luis Suárez are a fantastic attacking pair, but the team has some work to do if they are to perform in their first game against France this Friday.
Each of the above teams have tremendous potential, and we will be watching closely along with everyone in Latin America. In our opinion if there is a LATAM winner, it will be Argentina or Brazil. We’d like to hear from you about our assessment – tell us below!