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How the away goals rule counts double in South America

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Tim Vickery | 09:52 UK time, Monday, 23 April 2012

Imagine if Didier Drogba had missed that chance against Barcelona last week at the end of the first half.

It was Chelsea's only shot on target in the match. Had it not gone in, would their approach in the second half have been bolder?

I am inclined to doubt it. From a Chelsea point of view, scoring was great - but even better was stopping Barcelona get on the score sheet.

The away goals rule was introduced to encourage adventure from the visiting side and, for a while, seemed to be successful. But there is a sense now that it often has a very different effect - giving the home side in the first leg a powerful incentive not to concede.

Damian Lizzio of Bolivar celebrates scoring

Bolivar have breathed new life into Bolivian football. Photo: Getty

There are those in Europe who argue that the rule has outlived its usefulness, that in a continent where journey times are short there is no need to offer such a benefit to the away side.

In South America things are different. For a start, the continent is bigger. Journey times are huge, and there are conditions such as altitude and temperature differences which make it hard for the visitors.

Away wins are much rarer on this side of the Atlantic. So far in World Cup qualification there have been 11 home wins and two away. The group phase of this year's Copa Libertadores, the continent's Champions League equivalent, came to a close last week with a score of 56-23 in favour of the hosts.

With this in mind, it is possibly true that the away goals rule makes more sense in South America than it does in Europe. The rule was introduced in the Libertadores in 2005 and has already made its presence felt.

Eight groups of four contest the tournament, with the top two from each group going through to the knockout stage. There, the eight group winners meet the eight second-placed teams, with the group winner with the best campaign meeting the second-placed side with the worst campaign, and so on.

It would be expected, then, that the group winners would prevail. They, after all, have done better so far in the competition. The contest is weighted in their favour by the fact they have the right to play the second leg at home.

This is perceived as a considerable advantage and teams are prepared to fight for it. Had they glanced at recent history perhaps they would not try so hard.

Last year, of the eight second-round contests, five went against form, and were won by the group runner-up. Over the last five years this has happened more often than not.
In considerable part, this is a tribute to the glorious unpredictability of football but it also has something to do with the effect of the away goals rule.

Far from being a handicap, for the inferior side it might even be an advantage to be at home for the first leg, keep things tight and then look to play on the break in the return game.
This was certainly the secret of Uruguayan club Penarol's run to last year's final. As one of the qualifiers with the worst record in the group phase, they were at home in the first leg of every knock-out round - and turned the supposed punishment into a positive advantage.

In those four home games they conceded just one goal - and then scoring on their travels kept getting them through. Penarol then came unstuck in the final, because this is the only time when the away goals rule is not used.

Had it been in effect, their 0-0 draw at home to Santos of Brazil in the first leg would have been a very useful result. In the event, Santos won 2-1 to take the title. If the away goals rule had been in operation then against such proficient counter-attacking opponents the Brazilians might have felt more inhibited about pushing forward.

This is not a problem that the defending champions are likely to face this week, even though the away goals rule is in effect when they get the knock-out rounds underway. In their first leg,

Santos are away to Bolivar, the theme of last week's column who last Wednesday beat Chile's Universidad Catolica 3-0 to become the first Bolivian side to make it out of the group phase for 12 years.

Under Argentine coach Angel Hoyos, once in charge of Barcelona B, Bolivar are not counter-attack specialists and they will also surely be going all out to get the most from playing at the extreme altitude of La Paz.

Brazilian clubs are so uncomfortable at altitude that a few years ago they launched a campaign to ban games in these conditions. Santos have already lost in La Paz in the current campaign, going down 2-1 to Bolivar's local rivals The Strongest.

Should Bolivar pull off a surprise and get through to the quarter-finals, it will surely not come through cunning use of the away goals rule, but rather from the more traditional route of making the most of home advantage.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;

Colombian striker Jackson Martinez, 25, who plays for Jaguares in Mexico, is being tipped for a big-money move to Europe this summer. What are your thoughts?
Oliver Serrant

He's quick, sleek and uncomplicated. A thoroughly proficient front to goal finisher. My doubt is about his touch and overall approach play. He doesn't offer much else, so if he gets a move and he's not scoring early then confidence could slump.

Can you give your views on whether Lionel Messi is a great or not?
Chris Bender

I don't think Messi's greatness can possibly be in doubt. In terms of standard of play the Champions League is the best we have. Season after season Messi is outstanding in it. The best of all time is a different debate and a very frustrating one. How to compare eras? There's the fact that Messi is probably not even the half-way stage of his career


  • Comment number 1.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 2.

    I think that the away goal rule is good in South America but still works in Europe too. There are some cases like when Chelsea played Barcelona where you can see how the home team can defend. But it still makes the ties more exciting because 1 goal can change the whole story. It's definitely too early to say that it should be changed.

  • Comment number 3.

    Excellent read Tim, I hadn't ever really thought about the away goal rule with regards to south american football but always think a 0-0 at home in the first leg is a good result to take to the second leg, as you say, the power of the away goal is huge. I dont know whether or not this is necessary in european football but i do think that it can add an extra dimension to what could be a boring, unadventurous tie without it. Without Drogba's goal being worth double against barca (if the scores are level) would the tie be such an exciting prospect? I for one don't think so.

  • Comment number 4.

    #3 - Drogba's goal doesn't count double - it was a home goal... Way to miss the point!

    The away goal actually suits Chelsea's preferred approach perfectly. Defend at home and sneak a 1-0. Then defend away from home and try to sneak another goal. Suddenly, Barca need 3 to go through and negativity wins the day...

  • Comment number 5.

    Whoopsy, Monday morning makes me stupid. Duh!!!!! Excuse me and my doofuss brain.

    I still feel that away goals make the 2 legged ties more interesting though.

  • Comment number 6.

    The away goal rule works after a fashion but is heavily weighted in favour of the first leg home team. Not least because the 1st Leg home team only has to defend for 90 minutes whereas the second leg home team may have to defend for 120 minutes if the tie goes to extra time. For me the away goals should only count within the 90 minutes and not in extra time.

  • Comment number 7.

    The away goals rule should only apply to 90 in the second leg. Should the tie go to extra time, then the away side actually has the advantage. Personally, extra time should be scrapped and it should go straight to penalties. The only exception being finals on neutral grounds.

  • Comment number 8.

    @6 Problem with that is if it goes to goes to extra time the second leg home team will eventually play 120 minutes at home whereas the other team only played 90minutes at home. Assuming home teams get the rub of the green and the 50/50s I think the away goals rule is a good way of evening up the odds.

  • Comment number 9.

    I like the thought of a team's opponents in the first knockout round being determined not by chance but by their group stage record. I'd love to see this introduced in the UCL - might result in less meaningless games in the 6th gameweek of the group stage!

    Although of course it would effectively seed teams, meaning that we would (probably) see less surprising runs to the latter stages of the competition, e.g. APOEL. I might look back at this year's UCL group tables and see what the first knockout round fixtures might have been...

  • Comment number 10.

    Good article but you have to ask yourself even if the away goals rule wasn't in play would Chelsea really have gone all out attack against Barcelona anyway, I doubt it.

    They played in a manner to contain Barca, who are a far stronger side than Chelsea, and then looked to take a chance when they got one. It was reminiscent of a relegation team playing against the likes of United or City in the PL.

    Its easy to pick out 1 game where the away goals rule resulted in a home side defending not to give away goals, but you can quite as easily find matches where home sides have gone all out attack because they know their chances of winning away are minimal, for example Bayern Munich's 2-1 win against Real Madrid.

  • Comment number 11.


    i agree that the team that plays at home 2nd may get 120 minutes and thats is unfair but usually the group winner/higher ranked team get the 2nd leg at home which then gives them the advantage instead of the lesser ranked team having the advantage.

  • Comment number 12.

    Well, if we didn't have the away goals rule we would see many more games resolved by the travesty of penalty kicks. Is that any better?

  • Comment number 13.

    Away goals are brilliant and should never be gotten rid of.

    We still get classic games even with the away goals. Yes sometimes we get results and games like the Chelsea game but we also get the games like Chelsea v Liverpool a few years ago!!

    I think the format of the champions league right now is perfect. My only niggling problem is the fact that games are being played all over the shop, I wish it went back to last 16 first legs over Tuesday and Wednesday and then 2nd leg's two weeks later. Stupid TV rights!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    I have often thought that playing the 1st leg at home is the real advantage not the other way around. When Rangers reached the UEFA Cup final they did it off the back of not conceding at home in the 1st legs and scoring away in the 2nd leg.
    Lose the 1st leg and you can go all out away to try and retrieve matters or should you get a 1-0 or 0-0 at home more often than not an away goal kills the tie.

  • Comment number 15.

    An interesting read, but I think that holding up any game involving Barca as an illustration of the impact of the away goals rule is a mistake. Ultimately, they will always dominate possession and teams will always look to hit them on the break. Their style of play means that the main differences between their home and away performances are not dictated by an away goals rule so much as they are the size and quality of their playing surface.

    But back to the point....

    I think it is still absolutely beneficial to cup football in Europe, and in domestic competition as well. Effectively, by increasing the value of a goal scored or conceded in the event that aggregate scores are level, the rule raises the stakes for both the defending and attacking sides. This means that the balance of power can swing that much more quickly, teams need to be more responsive to the match situation and more often than not, games are more exciting, second legs especially. The point made above about matches not having to be decided by a shoot-out is another strong argument in favour.

  • Comment number 16.

    As an United supporter it pains me to say that a lot of LFC Euro success in the 70's/80's was based on goalless away draws and then winning at home. What is wrong with that? I'm not even sure when the away rule was introduced but that way of playing would still work today. When was the away goal rule introduced anybody?

  • Comment number 17.

    Can I be the first to remind Tim, other posters and as I often have to remind my Dad - away goals count double IN THE EVENT OF A TIE!

  • Comment number 18.

    Away goals do add a whole new dimension to European games and they should NEVER be done away with. Remember CL semi-finals in '99 Juventus wiping the floor with United, Roy Keane header hits the back of the net. Bang! The sudden realisation by all concerned that game is very much on. Conversely Bayern Munich at Old Trafford a couple of years ago when Nani was threatening to run riot.

    Obviously, the extra factor in South America is altitude but I think Tim is being a bit misheivious bringing in factors such as travelling time and conditions. An away goal is the reward for attacking when the natural instinct has often been to 'park the bus' and hold out for a nil-nil.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good article, Tim.

    I don't think away goals are necessary in Europe, if anything they completely change the mindset of some players and coaches of how to approach games. The Chelsea vs Barcelona game is not an applicable example, in this instance. But I am not in favour of the rule at all. I don't like to see a team battle for 180minutes and still be level, only to be put out on away goals. Games should be decided by aggregate scores and if it is a draw subsequently extra time and penalties.

  • Comment number 20.

    Can anyone recommend a good blog site that actually discusses South American Football in English?

    What about River Plate's hard won victory at the weekend in their efforts to climb back from obscurity?

    Congratulations to Huracan AFC (the most famous Sunday League Club from England in Argentina) for their promotion!

  • Comment number 21.

    @12 I'm not a huge fan of the away goals rule, but you are right, obviously penalties are such a lottery (unless England are playing) it's not really fair. My best solution woud be that if scores are level after the two 90-minute legs, then it's extra time, no matter how many away goals each side have. After the 30 minutes of extra time, then count away goals if it's still level.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm not sure the away goals rule is really justified anymore for the traditional reason that it encourages away sides to attack; however it's justified simply because it adds another dynamic to the game.

    There's always an incentive in knockout football to hold on to what you have. If it's a draw and you know you're heading for extra-time/penalties then it's tempting to sit back and keep things tight. The very fact that the away goals rule makes extra-time less likely ensures that you have more attacking football than without it because there's usually one side having to chase the game.

  • Comment number 23.

    @1 - I like your sentiment but it wouldn't make much difference if they moved Hampden Park up there. The elevation of Ben Nevis is less than half than that of Qutio and about a third of La Paz.

    I've actually been to Bogota, which sits about twice the height of Ben Nevis and I got a crazy headache for about a week. It really is just an oddity in world football. Playing football on a mountain basically.

    Still its a great leveler that just doesn't exist in European football.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm not sure having away goals or not would make any difference to the Barcelona vs Chelsea tie.

    As always when Barcelona play an English team (Arsenal perhaps the only exception) the tie will depend on whether Barcelona can break through a 10 man defence, hoofing if to a target man who will be instructed to 'win' fouls (dive) so the big lumps can get forward for set pieces.

    Obviously all neutrals will help Barcelona (the football team) will win, but unfortunately the cynical, defensive, anti football, cheating style of the English teams sometimes prevails. You only have to look at England beating Spain 1-0 to see that unfortunately anti football can on occasions triumph over football.

    Still, It's probably best that the English football teams get a little bit of success in this fashion. Otherwise the International football team will copy the Cricket, Rugby and Athletics teams and 'nationalise' anybody who fancies a few quid to call themselves English.

  • Comment number 25.


    Well there is Andorra, but only at a paltry 1000 metres elevation. But even if it were a boon for the home nation, unfortunately they will never be able to put out a side to take advantage of it.

    I think The Tenth Beetle might have been referring to the sheer inhospitableness of Ben Nevis but then again some would say, Glasgow is even less so whenever England roll into town.

    Agreed, Barca not a good example to argue the relative merits of the away goals rule. Personally, I would keep the status quo until someone comes up with a better solution.

  • Comment number 26.

    Never liked the away goal rule at all, nor any rule which changes the value of a goal. Over two legs both teams have home advantage so I don't see how travel distance, altitude or anything else comes into it. The game is all about which team scores the most goals, not where they score them. If a team wins 3-2 at home and loses 2-1 away, then both teams have scored 4 and it's unfair to double the value of the away goals. Good point about the extra time only being in the second leg - I've always felt that was an unfair advantage to the visitors. Play 90 minutes at home then 90 minutes away and if it's tied, go straight to penalties.

  • Comment number 27.

    Very insightful and enlightning post, Tim. But I missed some more detailed statistics to make your claim stronger.

    I am a fan of the away goal rule. Actually, of anything that avoids games going to a penalty shoot out.

    It is a shame we don't have a one game final in the Libertadores. Make it a big show on a big stage. But no one around cares about other countries' clubs and travelling is too expensive... maybe one day!

  • Comment number 28.

    I've recently arrived in Quito and I am checking out the teams and players. One guy who looks like a good prospect is Martinez of Deportivo quito. He usually plays on the right wing and i think he is trying to copy Neymar with his Cockateel haircut. Do you know much about him and his prospects of playing in Europe???

  • Comment number 29.

    I always believed the away goal rule had everything to with encouraging the visiting team to be less negative and absolutely nothing to with atmospheric conditions.
    If, as you say, it's designed to assist those sporting teams living nearer to sea level then perhaps we should insist that athletes from those high altitude countries are made to wear diving suits and lead boots to give our lot some hope of competing in the long distance events at this year's Olympics.
    No ? Of course not. Which is why your argument is utter tosh.

  • Comment number 30.

    11-2 in World Cup qualifying. 56-23 in the Libertadores. Is that a strong home win %? I don't know what the European & CL home win % is, but I imagine it would be similar?

  • Comment number 31.

    The effect of the 'away goal' rule was obvious at Chelsea. It was brought in 30 or 40 years ago to try to make European games more attractive. Away sides were making no attempt to attack resulting in terribly uninteresting football. Make a goal scored away worth two (in the case of a draw) and suddenly the teams changed their tactics. Now it's not the away side that's scared of conceding, it's the home side. A 1-0 can appear better than a 3-1 win. Last week in Europe the scores were 1-0, 2-1, 2-1 and 4-2. If Chelsea were playing anyone else apart from Barcelona, then you'd have to conclude they have the best chance of the 4 home sides to go through.
    Despite appearing to be against the 'away goal' rule however, it often leads to both teams trying to score, which can only be good for the game.

  • Comment number 32.

    30 - i went into the stats in depth a couple of years ago - what I found was that in South America (Libertadores and World Cup qualification) the usual ratio of home wins to away was around 3:1.
    In Europe (World Cup qualification and Champions League), I found around 1.5:1

  • Comment number 33.

    29 wins this weeks award for completely missing the point.

    Legislation is enacted with the aim of moving people in a certain direction - but there is no guarantee that society will see things in the original spirit.

    The piece argues that the original intention of the away goals rule was to give the visiting team an incentive to attack - but often these days its biggest effect is to give the home team in the first leg an incentive to defend - and this, surely, was not the original aim.

    I don't know what the solution is - I am putting this forward for debate.

  • Comment number 34.

    28 Fidel Martinez of Deportivo Quito is a class act, who is now really flowering. He was pat of the Ecuador side that won the 2007 Pan-American gold medal - afterwards he was picked up by Cruzeiro of Brazil. Don't know if moving so early did him any good in the long term, but it certainly didn't work out in the short.
    He's picked up momentum after moving back to Ecuador - was decisive in D Quito winning the domestic title last year, and he's looking even better in this year's Libertadores. A poor man's Neymar is still something to be!

  • Comment number 35.

    This is random but I was wondering if anybody here watches Universidad de Chile? I watch them and they just ooze class every game, especially at home. I think they will beat Deportivo Quito in the Libertadores.

  • Comment number 36.

    I think removing the away goals rule would just reverse the situation; instead of the away team having the incentive to go for it while the home team sit back(if they're weaker) - you'd just find the away team sit back instead.
    Funny though, when you mentioned away goals in South America I thought you might at least mention the Copa do Brasil; where in the early ties if the away team wins the first leg by a 2 goal margin or more then they qualify for the next round without a second leg taking place - a great way of reducing the number of fixtures.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sorry Phil, I cannot agree with your comments especially Post 33. As many posters have said already you can hardly get a more atypical example than Chelsea v Barcelona.

    Going back to '99 (can you tell my approximate age / alleigances?) the home tie in Man Utd v Inter was a master class in acheiving the target of a healthy 2-0 lead that was thought critical to take to the San Siro (albeit IIRC with a helpful bit of refereeing in disallowing Simeone's header). Although I accept that this was now 13 years ago, and especially Utd have a much more negative approach than previously. But I believe it was you that pointed to the similar example of Bayern v Real recently.

    And isn't that another beauty of the away goals rule - it plays differently in the first and second legs; and to hell with the old truism that it is better to play the home leg second.

    To be honest, how dull are 95% the 'league' games in the CL, compared to the two-legged knock-outs? And as for being fair, well not always - he says, recalling the late goal by Porto under Mourinho - but I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Though I accept that all my references are European, I bow to your superior knowledge of how away goals now affects South American football.

  • Comment number 38.

    Sorry Tim! Of course I never confuse you with the celebrity chef. Or the rugby front-rower, celebrity chef.

  • Comment number 39.

    #33 Tim

    I suppose its had a counter effect tactically to what was intended but coaches will play to the weak points when they need to. There may be a benefit for smaller teams facing bigger chequebook opponents - as one poster above said it was a tactic used by Rangers to good effect in their UEFA run - and a counter to the seeding system in European club tournaments which ensures that the bigger clubs avoid the other bigger clubs.

  • Comment number 40.


    You are rightly pointing out some of the positives for the away goals rule but do you not agree that there are now a lot of teams setting about two legged ties so as not to concede the dreaded away goal?

    I have to correct you re Liverpool's European success during the 70's/80's. The away goals rule was in use then so your argument that their success was built on achieving 0-0 away results and then finishing the tie off at Anfield runs counter to the point about away goals. Allied to that, if you had checked, you will see that there were in fact no 0-0 away results for Liverpool in any of those successful campaigns.

  • Comment number 41.


    It is why the game needs to keep evolving. Coaches/tacticians will inevitably find ways to exploit laws instigated with the best intentions. Take for instance, although not a law, the well intentioned knocking the ball out of play when a player goes down. We all know how that is being thoroughly misused now.

  • Comment number 42.

    Disgraceful displays like Chelsea's vs Barcelona are not uncommon in the Libertadores, especially with small teams. 28% possession? The difference is budgetary. Chelsea played like a small team with a star-studded roster. Pornographically disgraceful.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm in favor of abolishing the away goals rule effective next season. Without this obsolete rule teams would be more attacking especially the home sides as now conceding a goal would not be such a disaster anymore. Will lead to more entertaining games. And ties that are level after 2x90 will go to extra time thus even more entertainment instead of the 'both teams scored the same number of goals, but we declare its over anyway because team X played more defensively at home and did not concede whereas team Y played more attacking and did concede' setup we have now. Teams are punished with the away goals rule for being more attacking at home, 3-2 0-1 will get you eliminated. If anything, there should be a home goals rule and not an away goals rule. Away goals rule encourages defensive football.

    And also I like to remind people that penalty shootouts are not nor have they ever been a lottery. Taking penalties can be trained and they are a competition of skill and mental strength. Germans and Brazilians know this, sadly the English do not. And don't forget, its always the losers who cry 'lottery', the winners know better.

  • Comment number 44.

    I suppose that Tim forgot something very important "Small teams in South America DON'T park the bus at home", also only 2 teams did that away this season and lost 6-0 away, in contrast with Europe there is much more equality in South American football.

  • Comment number 45.

    Interesting point about the altitude. in the first two 2006 WC qualifying dates in Sept 2003 I went to Bolivia's first two games. The first one was in Montevideo and Bolivia was crushed 4-0. Four days later I was in La Paz and watched them beat Colombia 5-0 or something close to that. It was like watching two different teams. I am in the US and do watch some of both the CL and the Copa Libertadores. I would say that playing away in Europe just isn't the daunting task that flying 4 to 6 hours and 25 degrees temp difference plus potential altitude issues that are faced in South America. One exception is having to go to Russia in the winter and their artificial turf.

  • Comment number 46.

    As always Tim a great blog.

    The only problem I have with the away goals rule is why does it still apply during extra time. Teams shouldn't be able to score one goal in extra time and effectively win the match as the home team now needs to score two. I know some will say well that team is still away from home but they've had an extra half an hour to score when the away goals rule applies.

    This aside it does make the games much more exciting as the away team must attack but often the home team doesn't.

  • Comment number 47.

    Just scrap the offside rule...forget about all the rest of the nonsense. I have yet to hear a decent argument for keeping it,unless you like dodgy offside goals deciding huge games... just scrap it and lets see some attacking football...

  • Comment number 48.

    Hello Tim,

    An interesting article, particularly as the team I follow, Corinthians, is headed for a tricky tie with Emelec (as you mentioned previously, Flamengo's conquestors, in a sense) with the "2nd leg home advantage" !
    In view of Corinthians' rather fraught history in the competition, the inevitable resulting pressure and their rather humiliating loss on Sunday to a Ponte Preta side which simply outplayed them, how do you rate their chances this year?
    Can they win on their "Titebilidade" alone?

    PS. Will you be returning to Redação soon? It has become a regular feature of my Tuesday mornings, but now I'm afraid I might just have to work instead!


  • Comment number 49.

    48 - doing Redacao this Thursday...

    Corinthians - weekend's accident apart are a thoroughly solid team and can't really see them falling to Emelec. Thereafter, emotional aspect will clearly be key

  • Comment number 50.


  • Comment number 51.

    With relation to the Libertadores games, once the fixtures reach the knockout phase would it not be more exciting for them to play a single leg knockout game at a neutral venue?

    The venue should ideally be equidistant between the two teams so no one gains an advantage in terms of flight times and also played at an altitude that isnt beneficial to either side.

    For example, the forthcoming game between Bolivar and Santos could be played in Paraguay.

    I imagine this idea would be a complete logistical nightmare for the organisers and they'll always be quibbles that so called 'neutral' venues will still favour one of the teams in some way.

    However, it was just an idea I had so I thought I'd throw it into the mix to see what reaction it gets.

  • Comment number 52.


    Just to shoot down my own idea a bit more. I imagine the club chairman will be incensed at the idea of losing the gate receipts on the home ties.

  • Comment number 53.

    Without the away goals rule Barca would probably be in the final of the CL this season, as they wouldn't have committed so many players up the pitch as to allow Torres to waltz past the keeper without a hint of a challenge in the 90th minute, and against 10 men they surely would have won in extra time.

    So I'm in favour of it, just because Barca winning the thing every year would be boring. And no I'm not a Chelsea fan.

    Sorry this has nothing to do with SA football. But a lot of the comments on the blog were about Chelsea Barca prior to yesterday's game.

    So to ask a relevant question to Mr Vickery, how tough will the Uruguay team be for Team GB at the Olympics? (and Brazil if we get that far, which we won't)

  • Comment number 54.

    I am happy to answer Michael's question as to how strong Uruguay will be in GB's group.

    Very strong. The senior team has great strikers and defensive midfielders, but the under-23s have the opposite strengths.

    Abel Hernandez is a powerful left footed striker, and Luis Suarez will probably be his partner, with Groningen's Texeira on the bench.

    In midfield there is Bologna's Gaston Ramirez on the left wing and Ajax's under-achieving poor-man's Messi Nicolas Lodeiro either wide right or behind the strikers.

    In defence there is a very good left-back in Leandro Cabrera, and Bari's Diego Polenta should partner Sebastian Coates although senior skipper Diego Lugano wants to play.

    The coach will certainly not use Forlan plus Suarez plus Cavani, as he knows the team had the Copa America last summer and have the Confederations Cup next year, and the World Cup the year after. He will probably pick one senior player in each of defence, midfield and attack.

    I'm much more excited about Olympic football than the Euros, as we are effectively seeing the spine of the Brazil and Uruguay teams which are nailed-on semi-finalists at the next World Cup. In contrast, we've seen overnight that Spain is in decline and needs new blood from this age group.

    So in summary:

    Uruguay = Ramirez, Lodeiro, Coates, Hernandez +3
    Brazil = Neymar, Ganso +3.

    I'm not sure English audiences realise the quality that will be on display!

  • Comment number 55.

    #4 As it turns out resolve and character won the day rather than negativity.

    I believe every team should play to its strength within the rules of the game, as Chelsea have done. I appreciate the fact that it is difficult to respect other people's methods when it is different from what you prefer. But everyone deserves to be themselves.

  • Comment number 56.

    I guess an alternative to away goals rule, maybe we should consider awarding more points the more goals are scored.

    Home teams that go for compact, organized approaches to games tend to leave themselves open if opposing teams have good wide players who stay wide to stretch the full-backs. Another striking option like a big lump who can attack crosses can also make a difference in games which are going away from the attacking team.

    @Tim Vickery: about Jackson Martinez; are you aware according to Colombian sources Liverpool have made a down-payment on him for $3m already, with $6m to come later. Is this true? Do you think he can succeed at the club with good service/playing alongside Suarez? Does he have the physicality and technique that suits the premiership? Is he overpriced? Can he be a different option to what we already have up-front?

  • Comment number 57.

    It is a real pleasure to support your favourite team, but when there is another team, playing better - then it is OK to greet it too! Moving Companies

  • Comment number 58.

    I really think to make football more attractive then away goals should be worth double. Like in Euro competitions, it encourages the away team to be more positive and attack rather than just playing for a boring no score draw!!!


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