Argentina found themselves as a team facing Costa Rica after desultory draws against Bolivia and Colombia. A must win situation against a team with a huge incentive to force a draw.
Brazil also followed suit with draws against Venezuela and Paraguay. They face their weakest opposition in Ecuador far from the high altitude comfort of Quito. Uruguay similarly face an already eliminated Mexican team composed of mostly second stringers. The last round has been fortuitously lined with weaker opposition with few stakes to play for other than pride.
Mano Menezes has already conceded that the Brazilians did not show the requisite patience against Paraguay. But more damagingly, many players played out of position and forced into a number of individual errors. In particular, Dani Alves was found wanting in stopping Marcelo Estigarribia from his Gareth Bale impersonation. Their insipid performance has renewed calls for Ronaldinho and Kaka.
These are the growing pains of a team putting its faith in a new generation that includes Paulo Henrique Ganso and Neymar alongside veterans like Alves, Elano, and Lucio. There is a degree of unfamiliarity evidenced in the different tempo and the missed connections. The learning curve will have to be extremely brief but like Argentina against Costa Rica, the Selecao might finally gel to get past Ecuador in style. If that happens then Menezes has the template of a squad that will do battle for the 2014 World Cup.