BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery

Archives for February 2011

Giovanni Hernandez - from mediocre to maestro

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Tim Vickery | 12:14 UK time, Monday, 28 February 2011

There is no doubt about my favourite performance so far in this year's Copa Libertadores. It is that of veteran Colombian playmaker Giovanni 'The Prince' Hernandez for Junior Barranquilla against Gremio of Brazil.

The 34-year-old may have run out of puff in the second half, while Gremio tightened up their marking, but Hernandez took control, giving an exhibition of old style number 10 play after the Colombian side had gone behind to an early goal.

Out came his favourite tricks - the 'look one way, give the pass the other' ball, the tight-angled short passes, the probing long balls that split the opposing defence.

One minute he was dropping deep to find space and orchestrate the play, the next he was popping up in wide spaces high up the field - from where he scored Junior's equaliser.

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Debutants in the Libertadores spotlight

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Tim Vickery | 18:07 UK time, Monday, 21 February 2011

Of the field of 32 teams in South America's Copa Libertadores, only two have not yet been in action in the group phase - and the pair are among the most famous names in the competition's history.

Independiente of Argentina have a record seven titles to their name. Uruguay's Penarol are five times champions and were winners of the first version back in 1960. Neither club have lifted the trophy since 1987 but they have won nearly a quarter of all the Libertadores titles between them.

And they meet on Thursday.

Independiente have already been in action, creeping past Ecuador's Deportivo Quito in the qualifying round. Inaugural champions Penarol are therefore the final team to make their debut. In the 2011 Libertadores, the first shall be last.

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Brazil seeking the right mentality

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Tim Vickery | 13:38 UK time, Monday, 14 February 2011

Last July, in his first press conference as Brazil coach, Mano Menezes said that he was aiming to include a sports psychologist in his back-up staff.

Brazil had just lost their heads as they bowed out to Holland in the World Cup quarter-finals and Menezes was aware that in 2014, on home soil, the pressure would be much greater.

The events of the last few days have shown just how important the mental aspect is likely to be for the next World Cup hosts.

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Will amazing miss prove costly for Ecuador?

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Tim Vickery | 11:34 UK time, Monday, 7 February 2011

It was a miracle of Marlon de Jesus - and I am still trying to work out how he managed to miss the target.

Last Thursday, in the South American Under-20 Championships, Ecuador's burly striker Edson Montano burst through the right of the Uruguay defence, got to the byline and rolled the ball square to the equally burly De Jesus, who, positioned no more than three metres from the goal, contrived to shoot over the bar.

It is a trick he would probably be unable to repeat if he tried.

The game situation made the miss all the more astonishing. It came in the 88th minute of a hard fought 1-1 draw. The consequences are apparent from a glance at the tournament table. The six remaining sides in the competition are playing off for various prizes. As usual, the top four will qualify for the World Youth Cup. But, since the scrapping of the Under-23 championships, the top two will also qualify for the 2012 Olympic football tournament, which is a big deal in this part of the world.

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