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Phil Schoen talks about Round 3 and 4, South America Qualifiers, Qatar 2022


Sean Wheelock: Hey, everyone, welcome to FITE. I'm Sean Wheelock. Before I was a combat sports commentator, I was a soccer commentator and through this work, I had the opportunity to get to know and become friends with Phil Schoen. We were both Year one Major League Soccer commentators in 1996. Phil doing the national matches for ESPN and me doing the local broadcast for the Kansas City Wiz. 10 years later, Phil and I spent six weeks in Germany commentating the 2006 World Cup, which remains one of the absolute highlights of my life. I'm now very pleased to be joined by the man himself, Phil Schoen, truly one of the greatest soccer play by play commentators in US History.
Hey, you! Feel great to see you.

Phil Schoen: Thanks. Try the veal. I'll see you later. Can't get any better than that.

Sean Wheelock: Phil will be the lead English language commentator for South American World Cup Qualifiers, which you can watch on FITE. They also will be coverage for all matches in Spanish, plus Brazil's matches in Portuguese. Now you can order individual matches for the upcoming match days Round 3 and 4, and you can order which I recommend it's going to save you a lot of money all of the matches from match days Round 3 and 4 for South America in their entirety, it's one deeply discounted price. So South American World Cup Qualifiers Match day 3 takes place on November 12th and 13th. Match day 4 set in one day, November 17th. You can place your order right now again individual matches or in their entirety on the FITE website and through the FITE app.

Phil before we talk about these upcoming qualifiers, we have to reminisce this. 24 years ago I was actually living with my mom. It was kind of like.. remember, in almost famous, when the Cameron Crowe character they find out he's a little kid and they bust him when he's writing for Rolling Stone. It was kind of like that for me. I had quit college. I was back home living with my mom. I was doing indoor soccer. I sent off a tape I didn't specifically and intentionally did not show them what I looked like because I was so young and I wound up getting hired for The Duke Kansas City matches in 1996. That was crazy I remember, producers would be like, where's your dad and when is he coming to the commentators? like No, sorry.

Phil Schoen: It just struck me a quarter century ago. It's hard to believe and as you mentioned, the time we had in Germany is still one of the highlights of my career and my life. Six weeks there, and it's strange. I might have had the chance over the years, to do work in other countries. South America, in fact doing some qualifiers in Copa Americas. I've been in England for a while. It was just something about Germany. I felt right at home, and maybe it was the World Cup, just the mentality that they had. But it was an amazing experience, and the football was an added bonus.

Sean Wheelock: We had a great crew there. The play by play guys were the two of us and Dave Johnson, who's still in MLS. He has been with the team since 1996 and we had Jeff Vegas, Christopher Sullivan, and Manny Lagos and we had so much fun. It was mix and match and again I look back at that time I missed my daughter, who is now 15. My older daughter. I missed her first birthday, but she doesn't remember it, and it was just such a pivotal moment in my life. In my career, you obviously achieved a lot more success and fame in soccer than I had. You had done the national matches at ESPN, but for both of us, it was still. It was our first World Cup, and I have a theory. Everybody who becomes a soccer fan enters through the World Cup. That is the entry point for everybody. So, for you and me is the hardest of our core soccer fans to be there. It was just something really special.

Phil Schoen: I think at least from an American perspective, you're probably right. That might be changing now, 24 years.. to Major League Soccer. And even when you take a look at some of the things, they're going on down in the lower levels with USL, etc. I mean, look at what Tulsa's doing. Look at what Detroit is doing. Even pretty much non-league football. There's something about the sport that grabs you, and in the United States, for years, the National Avenue was the most, in many ways, not even including the US National team but it had to do with your heredity and where your family came from. And I think if you were just, neutral, observant, impartial observer, getting the chance to watch your World Cup was probably the easiest way. Nowadays, Thanks to what goes on FITE, and with ESPN and everything that's out there. I mean, there's no better place on Earth to be a soccer fan than the United States, because you're gonna watch pretty much every ball that's ever kicked. But I think that's open the door beyond Europe, beyond even North America, throughout the World and South America there's something about the way they play. I know we talked about this the last time heading into the World Cup Qualifying, but there are that familiarity and contempt on mutual respect. I mean even the Venezuela's and Bolivia's of the world who might tend to be in the big picture stepping stones. Venezuela, particularly because Bolivia actually has been to a couple of World Cups. But even they have their moments, and it wasn't that long ago, Venezuela almost qualified. Bolivia has had its shocks along the way. The fact that everyone knows everything about everyone. There aren't many surprises so and sometimes it just comes down to raw talent.

Sean Wheelock: Let's get into these qualifiers. Upcoming again match days Round 3 and 4. Match day Round 3, November 12th and 13th, match day 4, November 17th through the opening to match days. Brazil and Argentina - two matches, 100% record, six points. Let's talk about Brazil first. Neymar scored three goals. Brazil scored nine goals. It's a long, grueling campaign. There are 18 match days, you are home and away with everyone but a great start from both sides of the two. I've been a little more impressed by Brazil than Argentina. What about you?

Phil Schoen: I would have to agree, although I think Brazil has already gone through what Argentina is in the process of going through as far as a bit of a rebuilding again, going back to a couple of tournaments ago with Tite jumping in, and Argentina. That's why even these you mentioned 18 games, you can't afford to give points because it wasn't that long ago Colombia actually missed out on the World Cup by a single goal, not a point but in the tiebreakers, a single goal scored over an 18 match period kept them out of the World Cup. So you can't overlook anything. But I remember it was a couple of tournaments ago where Brazil was struggling through the first two, made the switch Tite came in. Argentina was struggling for the first three or four. They made a switch, both of them qualifying. But it is right around this point where things get real, and I know we're going to talk a little bit more about some of the other teams. But you don't wanna be looking up at everyone four games in, and that's one reason why for Brazil and Argentina, to be off to this good to start gives them a little bit more breathing room. And I think we're seeing that with some of the player personnel choices.

For Brazil, this is a team that is in the process of tinkering, maybe trying to find who can step in when Alison might be out in goal will find out. This is a team that is totally reliant on Casimiro in the midfield. How can they get more people involved to take some of the pressure off of Neymar, especially when he's gonna be hampered, if not totally absent, because of the injury that looks to keep him out till the end of November. Here, someone else needs to step up, and Gabby Jesus is another one, he looks like he could be hurt. The one thing again, though, is - this is Brazil, and there are probably 1000 people they could conceivably call in that would do something, and there are probably a good several dozen who would come in and do something amazing, so that's what Tite has to do is, though, to find that chemistry to put this together. And I think the return to form of Philippe Coutinho, maybe with Neymar limited, this gives him a chance to throw his hat in, but again, he's coming off of a little bit of an injury. Who knows how it's gonna play out?

And when you take a look at these upcoming games, they're a little fortunately, taking on a Venezuela that is down on their next match is gonna be the tougher one, and I have a feeling they'll save some of their regular starters for the trip to Montevideo. But I agree with you. I think Brazil is in better shape now. But then you have the flip side of that coin. You don't wanna peak too early. So if you're already playing your best and you're what? 10 months, 12 months away from the end of qualifying and 18 months, perhaps away from a World Cup itself, you'd rather peak then. So for Tite trying to keep things fresh, find some new faces, and continue to build.

For Argentina, it's a team that is trying to find goals. Defensively they've made a few changes here. They're both on the backline and in the net. You think with Lionel Messi that creating chances would be easy, but they're trying to find a new way for Lionel to play him, just like a Koeman is for Barcelona. This 33 year old Messi, who's dropping back to more of a playmaker role rather than a play finisher, role. There have been a few bumps in the road. They've had their moments, but they've also been vulnerable.

Sean Wheelock: Phil, Peru is a side that people just don't often outside of Peru really talked about in South America. You know, the conversation always starts with Brazil and Argentina, and then generally it matriculated to Uruguay and Colombia. Peru doesn't get talked about. I don't think nearly enough. They qualified, of course, for the World Cup in 2018. It was their first appearance in the World Cup since 1982. They were runners up in the 2019 Copa America, a bit of a tough start again. It's just two of 18 total match days. A draw a loss through the opening two matches, but there's something about this Peru side that I like. I was so impressed by them at last year's Copa America.

Phil Schoen: No, and I think even you look at the last World Cup where they got knocked out in the group stage. That had to do with Tapia, getting a concussion in the first game and he missed the second and was limited in the third. If he would have stayed healthy, I think they could have made it out of the group stage and made some noise. This is a team that is near and dear to my heart. I grew up watching them. My wife is Peruvian, so she normally doesn't care about football. But when I'm watching Peru, she gets involved.

Brazil has its samba football, Argentina, obviously with maybe a little more fierceness but it has a certain rhythm, Uruguay with a toughness. But when you talk about box to box the center of the field, I don't know if there's a team that plays better than Peru. Their problem has been in the box, is defending and then actually putting the ball in the back of the net themselves. And as José Mourinho is fond of saying, until they find a different way of determining a winner, most of the only things that matter is - Do you keep goals out? Do you put balls in?

I think I agree with you from an approved perspective. These are gonna be two games that are crucial. It's kind of the team I was talking about at the beginning where you don't wanna be four games and looking up at everyone. They fought back against Paraguay and showed some spine. They had a lead late against Brazil, but then blew it and end up losing 4 to 2. This is gonna be an interesting first match on the 13th because it's one of the rivalries that someone gets buried among the bigger ones is the war of the Pacific as they take on their neighbors to the south, in Chile, on the road in Santiago. This is gonna be one that could get a little testy. It's gonna be very important for Peru to at least come away with a point. You want to try and get the points on the road game. Try and get the winds as many as you can at home and then finish in the top four or at least the top five to stay alive. So if they could get a point against Chile, gives them a little bit more luxury because they're going to take Argentina on at home in the second match. And there's a big history between Argentina and Peru. One of the reasons Peru hadn't made it back since '82 was because of some of the performances there against Argentina. But I agree with you this could be one of those Dark Horses, one of those Cinderella's.

Columbia has shown some flashes now that James is kind of back in form, but they're still looking for someone to put the ball in the back of the net consistently. Zapata has it for the club, but not so much for the country. I think you're also looking at an Ecuador squad that's showing maybe their start last time it was a little bit of a fluke. They kind of fell out as the season progresses, Determined progressed. Uruguay is another team I'm looking at. Chile, perhaps with Alexis Sanchez coming back to form looked really good, Arturo Vidal as well, but you're talking about a marathon, and those guys aren't getting any younger. It's Uruguay I think that has bled in some new players. They do have Maxie Gomez, but it's still probably going as far as Luis Suarez and Cavani can take them. I think that Peru wants to stay close. Maybe not to the Brazil and Argentina, but to Uruguay and Colombia to try and make sure they're still in the running 18 rounds in.

Sean Wheelock: So the last thing that I wanna ask you about is what I think is going to be the glamour fixture. Upcoming of these next to match days, it's on match day Round 4 November 17th, Uruguay home to Brazil. Now I talked about the fact Neymar has already scored three goals. Luis Suarez has also scored three goals. It's difficult to say on match day 4 again of 18 and South America it's critical. But man, this is big.

Phil Schoen: It could be. Look at Uruguay. They looked good against Chile. They did what it took, got the 2:1 victory. But then I'm not sure what happened. And again, especially with Óscar Tabárez is the dean of coaches. He's been there, I think, since Noah. But when you take a look at trailing for nothing against Ecuador, they did fight back, put two goals in but was too little too late. This is gonna be an interesting one. Going first to Colombia, where I think is probably the one where they need to try and get a result. They need to try and grab those points back. And then if they don't or if they have to settle for one that puts more pressure on Brazil. If they do get the three that maybe allows them to be a little bit more cautious. But you're right as far as an influential match on the rest of the 18 this match in Montevideo is gonna be one of the tougher trips for Brazil. And if Neymar is not there, Jesus is not there, Coutinho is not there conceivably, this is gonna be a very difficult match and you wonder whether Tite, and I'm never gonna say they play for the draw. They don't. They will go out. They'll try and attack. They'll try and push. But he's maybe not to the point of a Scolari he's a pragmatic coach, and he's not going to push to the point where they're gonna be vulnerable enough to lose all of those points, so we'll see how things play out. But that is a big match. And I think there are some other interesting ones. I know Paraguay. Maybe it's an unfenced team, but they're gonna have a little bit of a tough time against Argentina. Then they host Bolivia. Look in the early match Colombia - Uruguay, as I mentioned, could be a crucial match. But as far as the highlight can't mismatch, you're going back in many ways to the birthplace of the World Cup. One of the foundational rivalries of South American football and that is Uruguay and Brazil.

Sean Wheelock: And that is a great Phil Schoen. He is the lead English language play by play commentator for South American World Cup Qualifiers on FITE upcoming match days Round 3 and 4. Match day Round 3 is taking place over two days. November 12th and 13th matchday Round 4 in its entirety on November 17th. So again on FITE all matches available with English and Spanish language commentary for 2022 South American World Cup qualifying plus the Brazil matches with the option of Portuguese commentary. Remember, FITE offers, single match pricing or what I recommend for you hardcore watchers it is far the best deal. One price fits all that gets you every single match. Deeply discounted South American World Cup qualifiers match days Round 3 and 4.
Phil again, I've known you for 24 years. You're one of my heroes in soccer broadcasting. So great to talk to you, Thank you, my friend.

Phil Schoen: Thank you it's a pleasure. Let's do it again.

Sean Wheelock: That is the great Phil Schoen. We will absolutely do it again. I'm Sean Wheelock. Thanks for watching us on FITE.

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