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Copa becoming Brazilian show

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Tim Vickery | 09:56 UK time, Monday, 16 March 2009

As English clubs take a stranglehold on the Champions League, a similar dynamic seems to be taking place in the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent. There are signs that it is becoming a Brazilian show.

There are differences. The Libertadores is much harder to predict than the Champions League because it is much more difficult to sustain success in South America. The constant sale of the best players leaves even the biggest clubs in a permanent state of flux.

This leaves more room for a surprise team to come through, such as LDU of Quito, who last year became the first Ecuadorian winners of the Libertadores (and who, on their showing so far, have little chance of retaining their title).

If a team from Ecuador are the reigning champions, and Argentina's Boca Juniors won it the year before, where is the Brazilian domination?

In the long-term, it is in the underlying pattern. Both LDU and Boca overcame Brazilian opponents in the final, and there were all-Brazilian finals in the previous two years.

Traditionally the Libertadores has been Argentina's thing - their clubs have won in 21 of the 49 years of the competition. But since River Plate last triumphed in 1996, Boca Juniors are the only Argentine side to reach the final. Ten Brazilian clubs have done so in this time.

In the short-term, hints of Brazilian supremacy are there in this year's performances. It is very early days. We are almost halfway through the group stage. The Libertadores, like any cup competition, tends to go to the team that hits form at the right time.

CaracasfansbeforeCopagameagainstLanus

The most brilliant campaign I've seen in my 15 years in South America was Boca's in 2003, when they suddenly found the right position for Carlos Tevez and won both legs of the quarter, semi and the final. Up to that point, though, they had not been particularly impressive.

But, bearing in mind that it is too early for definitive conclusions, this year the challenge from Argentina is not convincing. So far their five representatives have accumulated five wins and six defeats, scoring 12 goals and conceding 15.

Boca, in a weak group, have won both their opening games. But even a diehard fan would concede that they have yet to find the right balance after selling left-sided midfielder Datolo to Napoli. Datolo's pace and lungpower were crucial in opening up space for Riquelme.

River Plate have made an uncertain start. I suspect they will improve - keeper Barbosa, playmaker Gallardo and striker Fabbiani will give them more of a spine - but there is long way to go before they can challenge for the title. San Lorenzo, who I thought might be Argentina's best bet, are struggling away from home and now have goalkeeping problems.

Estudiantes look an ordinary side - ever since they sold teenage star Piatti to Spain Veron has had no one to play with, no quick striker to latch on to his long diagonal passes. And Lanus have a promising young team, top of the domestic championship table, but have yet to find their legs in the Libertadores, and after three games without a win face a real battle to qualify for the knock-out stage.

Some other contenders - Chivas Guadalajara of Mexico are dangerous at home, but look defensively loose. There is also a lack of pace at the back in Chile's Colo Colo, though they have won two good victories and can boast an excellent partnership between wonderfully talented Colombian playmaker Torres and ungainly but effective Argentine striker Barrios.

Nacional of Uruguay have started well and have an excellent youth policy. But do they have the strength in depth to go all the way?

Libertad of Paraguay are another club that are specialising in producing players. They are 100% after three games (the only team with such a record, though Boca could join them). For all their superb organisation, I would like to see Libertad have to chase a game before considering them title candidates.

Which leaves the Brazilians, who so far have accumulated six wins and two defeats - both suffered by Palmeiras, the one Brazilian club in trouble. This is ironic, since they are the ones in the best domestic form.

At international level, though, flaws have been exposed - veteran defender Edmilson's slowness on the turn, highly promising striker Keirrison's need to improve his contribution in the build up play, and an overall lack of emotional balance.

The other Brazilian teams are looking well set to qualify - Sao Paulo will really take some stopping, Gremio and Cruzeiro are strong, and Sport of Recife, who qualified by winning the Brazilian Cup, have surprised so far with two terrific wins.

So if the Brazilians have won the title just 13 times in Libertadores history, why are they looking dominant now?

Partly because the fact that the Brazilian Championship is now played on a league basis mean that the best clubs qualify. But more importantly, because it has become their main priority.

For many years it wasn't. A giant country and the continent's only Portuguese-speakers, Brazil can be very insular. Pele's Santos won the competition twice, but in the mid 60s decided they would rather travel the world playing lucrative friendlies. In 1966, 69 and 70 there was no Brazilian participation, in protest either at financial arrangements, or (in 66) at the fact that the tournament had been expanded to include two teams per country.

Times have changed. Now, with the TV money rolling in, there are compelling financial reasons to take part in the Libertadores. And once Brazil is in and taking it seriously, with a population as big as all the other South American nations combined, it is hardly surprising that the Brazilians teams are the ones to beat.

Comments on this piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;

Q) I think I've seen you refer to the 1924 Olympics as "the birth of the modern game" a couple of times in your column now, and was wondering if you could explain a bit more about this. What changed in the game around this time?
Ben Chester

A) I see it as the moment when football stopped being another sport and started to become the global game. Firstly, in purely technical terms - for a number of reasons the game had really caught on in South America, where it had been re-interpreted by the locals, who had developed an artistic, balletic style very different from the muscular, straight-line running school of the English. Uruguay were unknowns when they turned up in Paris for the 1924 Olympics, and then they slaughtered all-comers. This new style of theirs was better on the eye than anything anyone had seen before - and effective as well. This set off a fever for the game.

In organisational terms, Uruguay's win was the moment when the World Cup came to life. The Olympics was for amateurs. England had professional football, and was still seen as setting the standards in the game. But these Uruguayans seemed to be even better than the English. How to find out? There had to be a tournament that was open to everyone, amateurs and professionals alike. And so the World Cup was born. Uruguay, who'd also won the 28 Olympics in Amsterdam, hosted it in 1930 - and the English, to the eternal shame of their narrow-minded administrators, declined the desperate invitations to participate.

Q) Naohiro Takahara, Japanese international had a spell with Boca Juniors although I think he only played a handful of games, what I want to know is how did this move come about? How well did he perform and what the supporters must have thought about. It's strange to see a Japanese player moving to Argentina.
Jawaad Kaleem

A) A big part of Boca's success in recent years is their business-minded approach. They were quick to latch on to the realities of the global market, for example, and invest heavily in producing players with the aim of selling them to Europe and thus financing a competitive squad. I think they signed Takahara with more than eye on commercial possibilities - exposure to the Japanese market, etc, especially as they were heading to Japan to dispute the Inter-Continental Cup against the champions of Europe. Then-coach Bianchi, though, made sure that football considerations spoke louder than commercial - he left Takahara out of the squad.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Tim,

    Interesting article - one thing I think it clear is that there is a lot of good Brazilian teams - but no real special ones.

    Fluminense weren't exactly a team that stood out head and shoulders above the rest,. Therefore teams LDU of Quito are always going to have a chance, especially when the task of the knockout rounds can be reduced slightly by home conditions (although I'm not willing to open up the altitude/heat debate).

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

  • Comment number 2.

    Tim, you mention that colo colo can be viewed as contenders, given that the copa has never been won by a Chilean side, do you think that's is likely that we would see a successful campaign from colo colo this year?

  • Comment number 3.

    sorry my post should have read not been won by a chilean side since 91.

  • Comment number 4.


    I can't see it - but then again I never imagined that LDU would win the thing last year. As I wrote, the Torres-Barrios link up is terrific, but I do doubt them defensively - Riffo and Mena are not the quickest pair of centre backs in the world. They've already lost at home - to Sport of Brazil, and I think their group (Palmeiras and LDU in it as well) is the toughest of all of them - so even after 2 great wins, qualification for the knock out stage is by no means assured.
    It's interesting to see that they've changed the formation - they've played a back 3 for years - it seemed ingrained in the club's DNA, but have now switched to a back 4

  • Comment number 5.

    Tim, thanks for taking the time to respond,

    Yes from what i've seen of them this year they do look good going forward but look very suspect at the back.

    The next 2 games, being away to LDU and Sport should give a better indication on how they'll fare, if they can take 4 points from that anything is possible later down the line.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Tim. I'm an Ipswich Town fan and we have just signed Luciano Civelli from Banfield for £1,000,000. Seems a lot of money, but do you think he'll make an impact in english football?

  • Comment number 7.

    Does anyone know whether the Copa Libertadores is being covered in the UK at all, in the form of live matches or highlights? Reading this column has really piqued my interest in it.

  • Comment number 8.

    Tim, LIbertadores became a object of desire of Brazilian clubs clearly after São Paulo's run in 1992-1993. Adding to this São Paulo fanaticism towards Libertadores (is by very far more important than anything), I'd add three other components:

    - the final decay of the State Leagues, which were enough to make many clubs believe they were "big" in national perspective (when they clearly weren't)

    - the increase of the value of the world champions title. As São Paulo, Grêmio, Santos, Internacional and Flamengo have it, its rivals started to get obssessed with it

    - as it is not possible to have 12 champions a year (and there are at least 12 supporters crowds who believe their teams are major teams, when in truth there are four or five tops), places at Libertadores became valuable goods to avoid the sensation that the season was lost.

  • Comment number 9.

    8 - I think there's a factor which is crucial in this transformation (space considerations stopped me going into it above) - the end of hyper inflation in 1994.
    Hyper-inflation made any structure viable - all you had to do was pay late, and so the Brazilian clubs could stay in their fantasy land where becoming champion of their state (Brazil has 27 of them) was more important than becoming champion of the continent.
    Tke hyper-inflation away, and the structure collapses - the state championships should have been scrapped, but because they prop up the power structure of Brazilian football, in a typical local compromise they have been shortened - which allows for a longer national championship, but throws the calendar out of sync with the rest of the world.
    In the real world - ie one not distorted by the affects of hyper-inflation, winning the Libertadores is clearly more interesting in both financial and footballig terms than becoming one of 27 state champions - it's taken a while for the mentality to follow the economic change, but it's clearly happened now.

  • Comment number 10.

    Tim excellent and thought provoking article,I am a big Boca fan and watched them struggle against Dep Tachira of Venezuela.Accleary you can catch Copa Libertadores games on Setanta tv. The best no 10,Riquelme misses Dantolo,I was very saddened to hear of the retirement from International football of Juan Roman Riquelme.
    I know he cited diffences between him and Maradonna,but Argentina have two tricky WCQ at end of the month and though he has young promising squad experience still counts.
    One club cup Brazil have only won once and Argentina well and truly dominate is Copa Suderamerica.Internactonal of Brazil won it 2008,my other Arsenal won it in 2007.Do you think gerrymandering has had some affect? Look forward to speaking to you on WFPI on BBC Radio 5 Live.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tim,
    A lot of hype surrounds a young Brazilian lad Jean Carlos Cherra.
    I think he is 14 years old but already attracting huge interest from many of Europe's giants.
    Videos of his talent are all over sites such as Youtube.
    Was just wondering what the latest news is regarding this kid and what your opinion of him was.

    Cheers.

    Jacko_gtfc

  • Comment number 12.

    !) Ronaldo has shown he can still score, do you think there's any chance of him being included in the squad for the Confederations Cup?

    2) How much do you rate Carlos Vela? And have you watched him play for Arsenal? I feel he has great potential

    3) The U-17 South American Championships are starting next month and it should be very good. Who should we look out for? Lets hope we find the new Messi or Pato

  • Comment number 13.

    i think there has been huge change in the game just in the last 35-40 years. the defenders are so much faster and play closer and more physical. it makes me think the players 40 years ago would struggle to play today...

  • Comment number 14.

    Am I right in saying that Sao Paulo drew with Medellin this year (took a last minute equaliser!)? I think Medellin look the best out of the Colombian teams in the tournament. . .

  • Comment number 15.

    11, Jacko_gtfc,
    your gonna be in for it if Tim catches your post. (Regular readers and listeners to the phone-in will tell you)

    Like Graham Taylor didn't like orange..
    Tim doesn't like the hype over kids.

    That wasn't quite as poetic as i hoped for, but i think you get my drift.

  • Comment number 16.

    Tim, do you feel a Mexican team will win the Liberatores in the near future?

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim, i disagree about the reason you point for the state championships situation. i don't think the end of hyperinflation was the cause of their decadence. We had many memorable moments in state championships through the 90s, even some years after inflation was under control. In 1995, for instance, i watched two of the most fantastic matches (and finals) i've ever seen: flamengo x fluminense (the famous renato gaucho goal) and corinthians x palmeiras. Rio de janeiro championship in 1997 e são paulo's in 1998 and 1999 are other examples.
    Actually, their decadence coincides with the players exodus to europe, which reached its peak this decade. State championship existed for all these decades because the main states had strong teams and great players to make it interesting. However, if even the national championship level is quite weak nowadays, it is natural that state championships don't draw the same attention they used to. Ronaldo's presence this year (along with washington and keirrison) really shows how even some few great players can make a championship interesting again...

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Tim,
    Whats your opinion on the whole Maradona-Riquelme situation?

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi Tim,

    I enjoy your articles but I must say that some could be a bit more objective, not only giving the Brazilian side of things.

    Regarding Copa Libertadores, I would agree that the Brasilian teams have more strength in depth. However, I think that you could have mentioned that Boca Juniors of Argentina have dominated the tournament since it was expanded in 2000, winning four titles and losing another final on penalties, while Brazilian teams have one total of 2 (two!) titles during the same time period. I back Boca to make it 5/10, and think that Riquelme could play an important role, now that he is free to focus on playing for his club.

    After Riquelme and Maradona falling out, what do you think Argentina's starting line-up will/should be in 2010? I would go for Romero; Zanetti,Demichelis,Garay,Insua; Maxi,Mascherano,Gago;Messi,Higuain,Aguero

  • Comment number 20.

    Tim last October you wrote a very good blog Riquelme- a dying breed it got over 200 post comments.I earlier on read your article in The World Game magazine titled Argentina's Personality Clash do recommend everyone read it.I posted it to several facebook friends.
    Details the rift between these two 'heavyweights' but the future of Argentinan squad.There is one player I like to see in the squad he was hailed as the next Maradona over hype but has been overlooked by sucessive coaches Javier Saviola.

  • Comment number 21.

    It seems to me poor old Tim has brough his natural English insularity to Rio and found the perfect place to confirm all his old prejudices.This article lets be honest destroys the mans credibilty.Lets talk facts.
    Brasils clubs have won 13 to Argentinas 21.Even this decade of "dominace" by Brasils clubs as the money rolls in has seen the massive total of TWO Brasilian triumphs whilst our poor Argentine clubs have had FOUR victories.As an Argentine fan let me in Cesar Menottis words be the first to congratulate Brasil on their imaginary victory.
    To confirm the reality of poor Tims minds demise is Argentina clubs almost total dominace of the Copa Sudamericana also in this decade of Brasilian dominance.

  • Comment number 22.

    I would also like to know how soon a Mexican team is to winning the CL?

    Living in Guadalajara, I have seen Chivas playing and think they could make it through they showed in last years Copa Sudamericana that they are able to progress, in a 2-legged game, having eliminated River Plate with a fantastic display over 2 games.

    Their defence is very prone to mistakes but their attack can be deadly and at home they feel like they can beat anyone. But showed that they can perform away. They got a very good draw against Lanus in the first game and that was without a few important first team players due to them being with the national team.

    Also, what is the south american reaction to Mexican teams? Do they enjoy the added competition or resent the invitees?

  • Comment number 23.


    I'm finding it very funny to be accused of taking a Brazilian point of view. I remember the last Copa America, when Brazil beat Argentina in the final and I regretted it, calling it a triumph for pragmatism but not necesarily a good thing for football - then I got lots of hate mail from Brazilians accusing me of seeing things from an Argentine point of view!

    if I'm being shot from both sides then I'll take it as proof that I'm hitting a balance!

    i have no national bias one way or the other - i'm just giving my own view as I see it.

    To my mind, the fact that 10 Brazilian clubs have reached the Libertadores final while only Boca from Argentina have done so is a powerful statistic - and as I tried to argue, though it's very early days, this year's results and performances would tend to back up this trend.

    And i don't think the Copa Sul or Sud Americana has sufficient credibility to be used as a measure for anything.

    Pedernera (19) - an interesting 2010 team - my disagreement would be in the back four. I like Garay, De Michelis is OK, but as a pair - too slow for my taste. maybe Forlin will come through. And the full backs - will Zanetti last (could Angeleri come through?), and after the U20s, not too convinced by Insua at left back - it's a problem position.

  • Comment number 24.

    it's interesting - more than that really, it's thoroughly depressing - to see how the power of nationalism can turn intelligent minds to mush.

    Post 21 - my native insularity, as you call it, has seen me criss-cross South America, all expenses out of my own pocket, in search of football.

    What are 'all my old prejudices' which you accuse me of? I'm a fan of football, a hater of flags and national anthems. For the record,my favourite type of football (and the beauty of the game is that it can be interpreted in different ways)is well-played Argentine football. I'm not part of any insular or prejudiced campaign to undermine it. I have consistently argued against the 'Brazil=good guys, Argentina=villains' stereotypes which are often found in the English press.

    The article clearly states that Argentine clubs have won the Libertadores 21 times to Brazil's 13. But, in my view, there is a new dynamic going on as a consequence of which I expect that gap to close. That's all I'm doing - identifying a dynamic. I could be wrong, the world is always changing, and in ways that surprise. But if I am wrong it will not be the result of insularity of prejudice.

  • Comment number 25.


    post 17 - the continuation ofthe state championships and the exodus of players to Europe are closely connected.
    If you are wasting over three months of the year playing against sides that have no supporters (in Rio, the second most important of the state championships, many of the crowds are below 500) you are clearly operating way below your economic potential - thus making player sales all the more necessary.

  • Comment number 26.


    14 - indeed Medellin got a draw away to Sao Paulo and were seconds away from a win - though the balance fo the game was with the Brazilians and Medellin scored with a rare break out.
    They have some interesting players - Ortiz in defence has done really well, Vanegas at the back is an old war horse, Restrepo is a central midfielder I've long admired, Corredor looks interesting, Jackson Martinez poses a threat and this young substitute Arboleda plays with refreshing talent and enthusisam.
    But they've drawn all three games so far - and really need a win tomorrow night at home to compatriots America.
    Colombian football continues to frustrate - around 5 years ago I thought they might be on the verge of a breakthrough. it never came.

  • Comment number 27.


    22 - Mexican teams have been close to winning - Cruz Azul were only beaten on penalties in the 2001 final, and America and Chivas have enjoyed good campaigns.

    This year - well, San Luis are not going to win it. Chivas, as you say, can be very attractive - i'm a big fan of Arellano, who came off the becn last week against Caracas. But for me they look too loose defensively - the pitch looks huge, there's so much space there, and the keeper doesn't convince me.

  • Comment number 28.

    OK Tim I apologise for stating you were prejudiced but then I have to say I disagree completely with your hipotesis.Youe argument doesnt stand up.Argentinas clubs have even in this decade won more Libertadores and way more Sudamericanas.I admit River has had a terrible decade but as so often after one of Argentinas many busts the small clubs who are well run(Velez/Lanus) come to the fore.Brasil will of course have years of domiance but anybody who saw yesterdays Velez-River game need have no doubt about the standard of Argentinas futbol.Even if you only see a rerun now watch it great entertainment huge intensity passion of and on the field everything.On the contrary I think with the credit crunch more of our players will stay home and tecnicos such as Zubeldia,Cappa,Gareca,Sensini and Gorosito will ensure our futbol is not only entertaining but as competitive as ever

  • Comment number 29.


    I saw the Velez -River game and I agree - with the observation that a centre back as slow as Seba Dominguez of Velez was quickly found out in Brazil when he played for Corinthians - thought he was at fault for the River goal when he was too slow to close down Villagra.
    River - and again this is stated in the article - are a team I expect to improve. We shall see if they, or any of the Argentine team, can make a challenge - perhaps Boca have a chance if they can find the right blend - there are some excellent players coming through - maybe San Lorenzo can do it.
    But your idea - with the credit cruch more Argentine players will stay at home - applies equally to Brazil, so I don't think it will give Argentina a competitive advantage.

  • Comment number 30.

    Fair point about Dominguez and as neither Fabbiani or Falcao are blessed with too much speed he didnt get caught out but the pibe Otamendi is exceptional.River may improve but will have to get a result in Montevideo.They dont have the overall squad after so many years of mismanagement but from 18 down there are a crop of kids coming to match the early 90s.Its very early in the Copa to judge too much traditionally Argentine clubs are slow starters as everyone is trying to win everything and as in Europe some clubs Liverpool for example are like Boca better in the continental competition whilst other Manchester/River are better in their leagues because they are more attack orientated t pick up 3 points.Sao Paolo i beleive is favourite but there are still many candidates and someone like Colo Colo with a well balnced side could make a big run like Liga

  • Comment number 31.


    First time I'd seen Otamendi and he went straight into the notebook - very impressive centre back.
    This is one of the things I enjoy most about South American football - the chance to get an early view at terrific young talents.

  • Comment number 32.

    Well we agree on most things it appears.Forlin of Boca is another promising center defender.What do you think of Buonanotte I think he is a glorious talent if well managed and thought a little patience he isnt far off Messi even if smaller.Perhaps having Gallardo around will bring out the best in him.

  • Comment number 33.

    I was at the Velez vs River game yesterday.
    It was a decent game and Otamendi deserves the praise he's been given. He's not played many games but he dealt very well with Falcao and Fabbiani. Actually I thought all the best players yesterday were defensive, the two 5s, Ahumada and Razzotti were impressive.

    As mentioned above Forlin, the Boca centre-back, looks a really good player, very mature.

    Left-back has been a problem for Argentina but Papa is a decent player and has improved lots over the last year. He had a quiet game yesterday and might never be real world class but I think he'll be a regular now for several years and will do fine.

    As for Buonanotte, don't dare mention him in the same breath as Messi!
    He had an excellent Clausura 08, followed it with a dreadful Apertura 08 and this year he has continued struggling.
    He hasn't got a real position yet and he can't conduct a team playing from 10. He does have talent but he's got a very long wat to go.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good rant! No matter the point you want to make, there will be always someone moaning you are being "insulated" or whatever...
    Personally, I think you achieve a good balance between the South American teams considering you are based in Rio.
    Being a Brazilian, I'd rather obviously that this column would be dedicated to the Brazilian football as I have no interest whatsoever on what happens to the other countries, but I am not that narrow minded to deny that there must be lots of fresh talent and some good football rolling over there to be admired as well.
    As for the Libertadores, I don't think clubs are taking it any more seriously now than before. It's always been very much appealing to lift that cup, but as any cup format, any team that achieves a good run can go on to win it. I guess Brazil is only having a good spell in recent years, overall I don't honestly believe in this pattern you described.
    Keep well.

  • Comment number 35.

    Sure Buonanotte cant yet control a team as enganche.Can Messi? We will now get the chance to see that Roman is gone I have my doubts.Ahumada and indeed Razzotti were excellent but I thought Augusto Fernandez is returning to a high level.Papa is a good left back although Villagra outshone him this day even without that beautiful gol.I agree with our Brasilian friend that the Libertadores is for a club who can get on a serious run as in South America we dont have the same incidence of money domination and our clubs remain exactly that true clubs not the multinationals that CONTROL European futbol which is why the Copa is the most exciting unpredictable club competition in the World.As for Mexican clubs playing of course we want them in it makes the competition even better although travelling from Buenos Aires to Mexico midweek and maybe then to Jujuy for a league game on Sunday is a serious problem

  • Comment number 36.

    Lasaetarubia,

    First, it doesn't make sense bringing up the Copa Sudamericana in this article. Just read the title, it says "Copa becoming brazilian show."

    Second, Tim is right. Brazilians are dominating the Libertadores and the fact that Boca Juniors have, this decade, won it more than any other club doesn't mean that Argentina is the dominant force. Boca is just ONE club.

    I really think that you are the insular and prejudice one. Football is not only Argentina.

  • Comment number 37.

    Interesting information on football teams playing in South America's Copa Libertadores. It is a joy to read what all Tim has been writing for us from his participant observations and reflections on the football fields and soccer circles in Latin America. Thanks for enlightening many of us ardent lovers of the beautiful game.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 38.

    Jawaad Kaleem - re Boca and Japan. On a visit to Buenos Aires I saw a huge advertisement (I think it was Nike) which said something like......Japan: Our other 'barrio' - or such like. Just goes to show it's not only Man Yoo who can develop a brand.

    On the subjest of the Copa Libertadores whatever happened to Once Caldas? 2004 winners were they?

    http://www.realfootballargentina.blogspot.com/



  • Comment number 39.

    What about Fabian Monzon for the Argentine left back position? I've not seen any of him since he left for Betis but at Boca he was putting in some pretty assured performances so he should be in with a shout, plus he played pretty damn well in the Olympics. Then there's the two River full backs in Ferrari and Villagra, towards the end of Passarella's reign Ferrari was seen as a possibility and was even included in the local training camps for the national team. Villagra has also started to mature but he needs to step up a level really; he shows flashes of quality but then makes a fool of himself. Mind you, that's River's defence to a tee.

    Falcao for president.

  • Comment number 40.

    I am glad that this debate kicked off, because the second parallel between the European Champs Leage and Copa Libertadores is that whilst Prem League may be better in Europe, doemstically it is possible worse for entertainment and technique than Spain.

    In my humble opinion same applies to Brazil and Argentina in above context. I have always found ARD futbol more entertaining than Brasil interms of an event or spectacle.

    The Velez-River game was good. 2 great goals but something leaves me frsustrated with River. They lack some leadership. The best side they had in recent years seemed to be the Mascherano, Lucho, Gallardo, Cavanaghi team of 2003-04. They always seem to outplay Boca but Boca outfoxed them with shock goals.

    Good debate.

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi Tim. What do you make of Sao Paulo's chances in winning the Copa Libertadores' this year? Personally I think there the team to beat in South America this year. Winning Serie A 3 years in a row, keeping holding of star players such as Hernanes, Borges and Dagoberto, and buying Washington, for me there just going from strength to strength. They have only won 3 Copa Libertadores', with the last one being in 2005, surely another one is due for them?

    I would like to also add, what do you make of Fluminense chances of the Serie A title this year? With the additions of Fred from Lyon, and Brazilian world cup winning coach Parreira, being able to keep hold of Conca, and bringing back Thiago Neves on loan, do you think Flu are in with a chance? Will Thiago Neves be returning to Al Hilal? or is there noises of him staying at Fluminense?

  • Comment number 42.

    1) Ronaldo has shown he can still score, do you think there's any chance of him being included in the squad for the Confederations Cup?

    2) How much do you rate Carlos Vela? And have you watched him play for Arsenal? I feel he has great potential

    3) The U-17 South American Championships are starting next month and it should be very good. Who should we look out for? Lets hope we find the new Messi or Pato

  • Comment number 43.

    Great blog, great discussion as always.

    One question though, what's the strength in depth like in countries such as Brazil? I happen to follow the Dutch Eredivisie a bit and there are seem to be quite a few players that have made the step from the lower leagues of South American Football from clubs such as Joinville (a certain Douglas springs to mind).

  • Comment number 44.

    Why dosnt it make sense to bring the Sudamericana to this.Is it not another test of Brasil-Argentina or do the Brasilians not get any money for this and we do?.And as i said to Tim is 2 copas in 9 years dominace.Is it any different to 13 in 50?
    Of course you are right futbol is more than Argentina but of course only slightly
    As for River outplaying Boca and losing well that is often the case as to play for River is to play to entertain while to play for Boca is to sweat for the shirt just one of the reasons its the SUPERCLASICO

  • Comment number 45.

    The sudamericana - or sulamericana - has no relevance because it has no credibility.
    It's a purely made for TV competition to fill a hole in the second half of the year. Boca and River don't even have to qualify - they are in it automatically - and, unlike Argentina, Brazil uses it to give some international action to clubs that didn't qualify for the Libertadores.
    The Brazilians usually enter with reserve sides - as did Boca this year. Internacional, the first Brazilian winners, played the early rounds with reserves, and then picked the first team when they had a chance of winning, as an early present for their centenary.
    The Sud/sul Americana is not a fair judge of the relative strengths of anyone - a team from Peru has won it, a team from Bolivia has reached the final - when is the last time a club from these countries did anything in the Libertadores? Many years ago.

  • Comment number 46.

    River and Boca not having to qualify merely shows their dominance over Brasilian clubs to the rest of America does it not?Someting not to be countenanced in Rio I am sure
    However I have to agree with Brasils method of qualifying their clubs somethine which used to happen in Argentina in the era of the Copa Conmebol when the likes of Talleres,Lanus and Rosario Central were winners.

  • Comment number 47.

    Post 7 Accleary you can catch a live Copa Libertadores 0.45 on Setatanta 2as Boca Juniors travel to Paraguay to take on Guarani.If you cant stay up hi lights Thursday morning or tape it. Riquelme was given a wonderful reception at the Bombonera the first game since he announced retirement from international football.Defending champions won 3-0.
    Why has Roma's Rodrigo Taddie nver been picked for Brazilian squad Tim.I am an Arsenal fan in the Champions League game last Wednesday he was my man of the match.Made the goal for Juan set up Baptisto howler a very good midfielder.

  • Comment number 48.

    46 - It actually means that River and Boca have a huge marketing power in south and central America. Its no surprise that they can attract attention from those parts, they have a historic of many successes, some good players from other countries play (or played) for them, and the main two points:
    The language and cultural one. (I'm not saying that the culture of all the countries there except Brazil are identical, simply that they have more similarities then with Brazil's culture)
    The fact that some of those leagues were heavily influenced by Argentina's league. - example: their format
    Also some media sources do target all south and central America at once (except Brazil) due to language similarities and thus, it ends up spreading the tales of the two most powerful club in the bloc. Its like what happens with Manchester United but in a smaller scale.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just been watching Guarani v Boca Juniors Copa Liberatores game. The Paraguayan side gave Boca a fright played well and scored a 35 min goal. In fact I said to a facebook friend Ross are they Hull in disguise the same gold and black strip underdogs going a goal up. Kept Boca at bay, like Hull were undone by a dubious goal.Remember I am a Boca fan.The penalty that never was Boca player simulated caught out the Chilean ref and he awarded a penalty,which Riquelme duly took and scored.
    Bring on the heavy weights two excellent subs,Martin Palermo the all time Boca goalscorer and Rodrigo Palacio rumour has it Lazio put a bid for this little gem.Guess correctly they both scored and a couple of shots hit the woodwork final score Guarani 1- 3 Boca Juniors.
    Guarani not in their home stadium which holds less than 6,000 played in a neighbouring stadium with a 25,000 capcity so Boca top the table with 9 points, like my Arsenal bringing on the big guns changed the game but like Hull they held the glamour club. There is talk of making the Argentinan championship one long season, the defending champions Boca in 9th position at the moment more like Europe season.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi Tim
    I was wondering your views on the "new Robinho" neymar, I know he's young but do you think he'll be as good as Robinho.

  • Comment number 51.

    Shotgooner (post 49) - As a Boca Juniors fan you should be ashamed of this lie; "Martin Palermo the all time Boca goalscorer". Have you never heard of Roberto Cherro? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Cherro)

  • Comment number 52.

    Point taken English peasant,a lot of the was as as amateur Cherro scored I am taking as a professional player for Palmero and he is only 25 goals behind him

  • Comment number 53.

    It is really a pleasure to see an European reporter being so aware of South America's teams.
    My compliments Tim!
    I live in Australia but I am Brazilian.
    I am a Gremio supporter and here is really tough to bear the soccer news.
    That's the reason I came to your blog and what a surprise!
    Finally, I've found a webpage where there is proper knowledge about that very tough championship.
    I definitely, will be a fan of your blog!
    Success!
    Cheers,

    Jorge

 

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