Four of Brazil’s five remaining challengers in the 2011 Copa Libertadores crashed out of the Round of 16 this week, leaving Santos as the country’s solitary representatives. Argentina have fared no better, with Velez Sarsfield the only one of their five entrants to make it through to the last eight.
FIFA.com reflects on a bad week for Latin America’s traditional powerhouses and a great week for the underdogs, as the Copa Libertadores field was reduced to eight.
Game of the week
Internacional 1-2 Penarol
Goals: Oscar 1 (Internacional); Alejandro Martinuccio 46, Juan Manuel Olivera 50 (Penarol)
The cards were stacked in the defending champions’ favour after last week’s 1-1 draw in Montevideo, and even more so after Oscar’s well-executed drive gave them a first-minute lead. O Colorado were stunned at the start of the second half, however, Alejandro Martinuccio levelling the tie with a superb strike and Juan Manuel Olivera adding a stylish header to put the visitors ahead and leave Inter needing two goals to advance.
Yet, despite exerting plenty of pressure on Sebastian Sosa in the Aurinegro goal, the holders could find no way through. The win was only Penarol’s third on Brazilian soil, and after slumping to heavy defeats to Independiente and Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito in the group phase, the Uruguayan team are suddenly dreaming of another Copa crown.
Surprise of the week
Cruzeiro 0-2 Once Caldas
Goals: Diego Amaya 66, Dayro Moreno 71
Having swept all before them in their group, hammering 2009 champions Estudiantes twice and scoring 20 goals in six games, Cruzeiro’s tie with Once Caldas looked to be a formality, especially after the Brazilian outfit won the first leg 2-1 in Colombia. A Raposa were in for a nasty surprise at their Belo Horizonte stronghold, however, conceding two second-half goals in the space of five minutes and failing to react in time. After scraping through to the knockout phase with the worst record of the 16 qualifiers, the Colombian club now have a last-eight meeting with Santos to look forward to.
O Peixe were made to sweat by America before booking that date, however. Protecting a 1-0 lead from the first leg, the Brazilian heavyweights were indebted to a flawless display by goalkeeper Rafael as they somehow kept Las Águilas at bay in Queretaro, emerging unscathed with a goalless draw. Santos can now turn their thoughts to gaining revenge over Once, the 2004 champions, who beat them in the last eight that year.
Santos’ Tuesday-evening success seemed to augur well for Brazil’s phalanx of representatives. Yet Wednesday turned out to be a black day for their fellow countrymen, with all four Brazilian teams in action going out. Joining Internacional and Cruzeiro on the wayside were Fluminense, who travelled to Asuncion with a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead only to be stunned by Libertad. The Paraguayan hosts cancelled the deficit with two second-half free-kicks, the second of them scored five minutes from time by Miguel Angel Samudio, and killed the tie with a third goal in stoppage time.
Gremio then took their leave of the competition when they lost 1-0 to Universidad Catolica in Santiago, Mirovan Mirosevic scoring the only goal of the night as the Chilean club completed a 3-1 aggregate win. The exit was Gremio's first in nine ties at this stage of the competition, with Catolica now looking to go one better than their previous best performance in 1993, when they finished runners-up.
On Thursday evening it was Cerro Porteno’s turn in the spotlight, as they squeezed past Estudiantes on penalties after two games that failed to yield a single goal. The Paraguayan team converted all five of their spot-kicks and went through courtesy of Diego Barreto’s save to deny Facundo Roncaglia.
Another tie to end all-square was Jaguares’ meeting with Junior de Barranquilla. The two had drawn 1-1 in Mexico last week and shared four goals in Colombia as the men from Chiapas through on away goals, all this after Junior had taken the lead three times.
Finally, Velez Sarsfield completed the easiest of passages of all the quarter-finalists, beating Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito 2-0 in Ecuador to seal a 5-0 aggregate victory, further indication of the threat the Argentinian side pose this year.
Player of the week
The 22-year-old goalkeeper was O Peixe’s hero of the hour in Mexico, making five great stops at least, most of them to deny Angel Reyna in the second half, when America had the visitors against the ropes. Santos have plenty of attacking brilliance in the shape of Neymar, Paulo Henrique Ganso and Elano, but as they showed on Wednesday, they can also defend.
2 - The last time Argentina and Brazil had only one team each in the quarter-finals was in 1994, at a time when only two sides from each South American country were allowed to take part in the competition. Velez Sarsfield and Sao Paulo were the clubs in question, with Velez going on to beat the Brazilians in the final.
What they said
“We knew we had to be patient if we wanted to turn the tie around, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy. We were tactically disciplined, though. The team was ready for the challenge and the third goal gave us the confidence to see it through,” Gregorio Perez, Libertad coach.