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Football Whispers
By ESPN Staff

South American soccer federation miffed at U.S.

MARACAIBO, Venezuela -- The South American soccer federation was not pleased that the United States left Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and other top players off the team it sent to the Copa America.

"We like for the continent's most important competition to be respected with the best players," CONMEBOL general secretary Eduardo Deluca told The Associated Press on in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

The U.S. team arrived in Venezuela for the Copa America on June 26 with only seven players from the roster that won the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean over Mexico in the final two days earlier.

Using a squad in which 16 players had 10 international appearances or fewer -- including three who had never played internationally, the United States lost its first two matches against Argentina and Paraguay by a combined score of 7-2 and was on the brink of elimination.

He said the Americans "opted to send a team with some players who aren't their regulars. That doesn't please us," Deluca told the AP.

However, he said the organization hopes for continued U.S. participation in the tournament.

Like the United States, Brazil also was short some stars, including Ronaldinho and Kaka, who asked to be rested. The Brazil squad changes are part of a long-term effort by new coach Dunga to freshen the lineup.

Six members of the United States' CONCACAF Gold Cup team were sent back to their clubs in Major League Soccer, while another, U.S. coach Bob Bradley's son Michael, was sent with the American youth side to the Under-20 World Cup in Canada.

The United States and Mexico are the two invitees from North America. Mexico has regularly been a top contender and when first invited in 1993 lost in the final to Argentina. In 2001, Mexico made the final again and lost to Colombia.

"Mexico is always a candidate to win the Copa. It's in the race. It's one of the best," Deluca said.

He contrasted the second-tier U.S. team to that sent by Argentina, which includes top regulars Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Juan Roman Riquelme.

"In Argentina it's normal," Deluca said. "It's very difficult for Argentina to go anywhere with an alternate team."