Friday, February 19, 2016

Surprises and convincing Mexicans - Copa Libertadores Week 1

Convincing, but ineffective: Sporting Cristal. (photo:
Week 1 of this year's Copa Libertadores group stage is in the books. Here is my opinion on how things went, who surprised and who convinced.

The biggest shock of them all clearly came in São Paulo, where visiting The Strongest stole a 1-0 away win. Their chances of reaching the round of 16 are as bright as ever, considering their magnificent home strength in La Paz' mountains. But at the same time, this would lead to one of São Paulo or title holders River Plate going out. After seeing River's recent Argentine league defeats, I don't feel good about their defense. Will it be enough to get by the Brazilians? 

The other Brazilian teams don't exactly seem ready for the big title yet either. Corinthians with their late lucky win, Palmeiras inexplicably drawing against first time participant River Plate de Uruguay, despite leading twice. Neither of them will go very far as of today, unless they significantly improve. Grêmio will need to do just that as well. Their poor showing against Mexico's Toluca led to their first loss in a group that includes San Lorenzo and LDU Quito. 

Only Brazilians up to par seem to be Atlético Mineiro. After boosting their squad with the addition of former Real Madrid striker Robinho, they're one to watch when it comes to the later stages, assuming they can find the form at the right time. Coming from behind to win in Peru was a good sign of the team's morale and fighting spirit. 

In general, both Mexican teams did well and won with a numerical disadvantage. Pumas and Toluca look good in their respective groups and might well find themselves in the round of 16 as well. After Tigres' success and final appearance in the past edition of the Copa Libertadores, maybe one of these two can go far too.

Paraguay's clubs disappointed. Olimpia was poor in their loss to Venezuelan Deportivo Táchira, Cerro Porteño incredibly lucky to get a point out of Santa Fe. Lastly, one of the more positive surprises was Sporting Cristal. We knew they did well in Peru, but dominating Peñarol the way they did is another cup of coffee. More of this please from a great football nation that sadly declined through the last years!


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