Colombians win competition against Ecuador's Independiente del Valle.


What makes the two young Rosario Central players Franco Cervi and Giovani Lo Celso the players they are?


An interview with Uruguayan sports journalist Nicolás Difiori ahead of Sunday's Clásico.


Taking a look at the next great Argentinian #5, the next Javier Mascherano.


Colombians win the Copa Sudamericana after penalty thriller against Huracán.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

South America's Top Clubs - June 2016

All the way to the top in June: Robinho and Atlético Mineiro.
Despite just one win to start the new Serie A season in Brazil, Atlético Mineiro have gathered the top of the monthly South American club ranking. This was mainly due to their success in the Copa Libertadores. Only recently, they were eliminated on away goals by their countrymen from São Paulo. 

Back in May, it was still Corinthians on top of the Germancopa ranking. In June, the Brazilian champions of 2015 have slipped down to fourth. The dominance (5 of top 7 from Brazil) from one country is only broken up by Boca Juniors and Olimpia who did well in Copa Libertadores or league respectively.

The rules if you missed them previously:
For this table, we look at the last 15 results from each team in South America’s leagues and Copa Libertadores/Sudamericana. A win in the league gets you 3 points, a draw 1. Internationally those numbers are doubled to 6 and 2. 

1 8 Atlético Mineiro Brazil 48
2 3 FC São Paulo Brazil 43
3 7 Boca Juniors Argentina 43
4 1 Corinthians Brazil 41
5 4 Olimpia Paraguay 39
6 12 Grêmio Brazil 38
7 2 Atlético Nacional Colombia 36
8 6 CA Lanús Argentina 35
9 15 Colo Colo Chile 33
10 - Independiente Medellín Colombia 32
11 - Plaza Colonia Uruguay 32
12 20 Zamora FC Venezuela 32
13 16 Estudiantes Argentina 32
14 19 Libertad Paraguay 32
15 - Godoy Cruz Argentina 32
16 9 Rosario Central Argentina 32
17 - O’Higgins Chile 31
18 10 Deportivo Táchira Venezuela 31
19 5 Independiente del Valle Ecuador 31
20 18 Santa Fe Colombia 30

Friday, May 20, 2016

Nacional knocked out in dramatic fashion

The dream is over: Nacional have been knocked out on penalties by Boca Juniors in the Bombonera last night. After 90 intense minutes, it had been 1-1 like in the first leg a week ago. 

The captains Cata Díaz and Polenta before the game. (Photo:
Uruguay's champion could count on a lot of away support over in Buenos Aires. Argentina's capital ended up experiencing a fantastic atmosphere from both sets of fans. 


Boca coach Guillermo Schelotto made one change from the first leg a week ago in Montevideo. Andrés Chávez replaced Federico Carrizo in the starting XI.

Gustavo Munúa on the other hand did not have Kevin Ramírez available at all and Nico López unable to start. They were replaced by Felipe Carballo in left midfield and Leo Gamalho up front.

First half

Boca started well, picking up two big opportunities inside the first five minutes and not giving Nacional the chance to calmly settle in. Esteban Conde was called upon to produce a nice save on a shot from the edge of the area and an even bigger one on the rebound attempt from Carlos Tévez. Shortly after, Juan Insaurralde's header went just wide.

That was it for Argentina's double winner for quite a long time though. Finally, Nacional felt comfortable at the back and destroyed most attacks in midfield already. Whatever came through was headed away with poise from Mauricio Victorino or captain Diego Polenta. Their first half chance came through a header from Gamalho, but it was a rather weak one after Jorge Fucile's cross from the right.

20 minutes in, the visitors took the lead. Sebastián Fernández slid the ball out to the right into the run of Leandro Barcia. He produced a speedy cross, meant for Fernández in the middle again. Instead, it was Boca captain Cata Díaz making contact with the ball and deflecting it high into his own net. Nothing better than a lead could have happened to the Uruguayans who could concentrate on defending even more now.

While the game got quite rough in midfield in the following stages, chances stayed absent for a pretty large time. Only after 35 minutes, Chávez was suddenly wide open at the back post and headed Pavón's cross wide poorly. Right at the brink of halftime, Boca could have scored again, but Conde managed to deny Pavón after he received a lovely assist from Tévez.

Second half

The second 45 minutes started less frantically than the previous. Slowly but surely, Boca was the only team to get anything done offensively though, clearly aided by the fact that Nacional did not have to. Pablo Pérez collected three shots by himself until the hour mark, most from distance and either wide or saved relatively comfortably. Nacional on the other hand got opportunities through counters, just could not find the deadly final pass. Often, Fernández was all alone up front with Gamalho being an obstacle rather than help. Once they did get through, but Romero's shot was not dangerous enough to get by Agustín Orión.

A key scene then in the 67th minute. Pavón slided into Espino with a two-footed tackle and magically stayed on the pitch with just a yellow card. The refereeing in general was not good tonight and saw many little, and in this case a big one, errors.

Obviously, when Boca got the equalizer, it had to be Pavón. A long pass to the right knocked out the visiting defense completely and found the run of the striker perfectly. His finish was decent as well and beat Conde to his right side from a pretty tight angle. The fact that Pavón is not too smart showed again during his goal celebration. He took off his shirt and received his second yellow card 7 minutes after his first.

Munúa pulled his last card and brought on the clearly not 100% striker López for Gamalho. In the 84th minute, Nico López actually found the back of the net, but from an offside position. After injuries, a goal and a sending off, Mr. Referee saw no need for any second of added time at the end of 90 minutes, so we went right into penalties.


Let us make it short, Boca were the luckier ones during the crapshoot. The first five attempts from both teams combined all went in, before Pérez had his shot saved by Conde. The goalkeeper show continued, as Porras, Insaurralde and Romero were all denied by the respective keepers. Romero could have brought Nacional into the semifinals with his attempt, instead Fabra made it 3-3. Now, the Uruguayans seemingly without any confidence left, sent the young Carballo who shot right into the middle of the goal. No problem for Oríon, who then left the field to substitute Carrizo. Three days after his 25th birthday, the Argentina fired Boca into the round of the last four.


Well done to team and fans. (Photo:
While Boca was the better team on the night, they were simply the luckier ones at the end. Nacional had it on their plates and let it slip away again. They played a good away game, not allowing Boca too much especially during the first half.

Gamalho and Carballo were weakening the team heavily compared to the usual personnel, which is also a reason why Nacional had trouble offensively. Quite obvious that the only goal came from a combination of Barcia and Seba. Alfonso Espino did really well on the left side until he was overplayed on Boca's goal.

Still, the back four Fucile-Victorino-Polenta-Espino has been one of Nacional's biggest strengths this Copa Libertadores season that sadly came to an end now. They can still go out with their heads held high and hopefully attack again next season with a similar looking team, not destroyed by some buying happy millionaire clubs.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Peñarol steal a lucky point from Nacional

On Sunday afternoon local time, it was finally time for the Clausura Clásico between Peñarol and Nacional. The venue: Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, which was nicely filled despite the persistent rain in Uruguay's capital. 

Exciting clash between two bitter rivals in Montevideo. (Photo:


Nacional were forced into two changes from the Copa Libertadores outing against Boca Juniors. As expected, striker Nico López and Kevin Ramírez could not play and were replaced by Christian Tabó and Léo Gamalho. 
Peñarol made four changes from their 3-0 win over Villa Teresa last weekend. Diego Forlán, Miguel Murillo, Nahitan Nández and Luis Aguiar replaced Diego Rossi, Hernán Novick, Christian Palacios and Nicolás Albarracín. 

First half

No tiredness to be seen early on from Nacional after playing Copa Libertadores football in midweek. They were on the front foot right away and created their first opportunity before a minute was played. Gamalho's header went right into the arms of Gastón Guruceaga. After about 10 minutes, Tabó tried his luck with a lob that sank dangerously and was tipped over the bar by Peñarol's goalkeeper eventually.

It took the home team a while to get into the game, as their first chance came shortly after the quarter hour mark. Nández arrived a little too late at the far post to convert Forlán's decent deep cross. Nacional added two chances through Fucile from distance and Gamalho just missing a header, while Peñarol had the biggest opportunity of the half. After Forlán made Fucile look a little silly at the back, Murillo could not reach the cross of his striking partner at the far post.

After a great start from Nacional who showed no tiredness in the first half, Peñarol got into the game a little better after quarter of an hour and produced some first chances. Especially Diego Forlán proved instrumental going forward yet again and had his foot in every chance. The rest of the first 45 minutes was even between the two foes and rightfully ended tied at zero.

Second half

Goal from Diego Polenta. (Photo:
If you enjoy spectacle, now was your time to tune into this game. Only three minutes into the second half, Mathías Aguirregaray thought it was a good idea to lift his leg high up against Tabó. He hit the winger and Nacional was awarded a correct penalty. As López missed today's game, it was the captain himself who stepped up for the penalty. Diego Polenta left no doubts and fired it into the bottom left corner for a 1-0 lead for Nacional.

Yet again, it took the home team about 15 minutes to find their game - at least for a short while, as we found out later. Forlán's shot sailed over the bar and coach Jorge Da Silva brought on Hernán Novick for the toothless Murillo. Hernán thanked him right away by kicking a lovely corner into the penalty area, finding the head of Aguirregaray. The defender then found the back of the net and it was all tied up again (62').

The situation lasted for only three minutes, before Nacional got their second penalty of the evening. Aguiar caught Barcia's foot on the edge of the penalty area (yes, inside) and yet again the referee pointed to the spot. Big game players are made for this and Polenta showed again why he is just one of those by converting his second penalty, cooly into the same corner. 2-1 Nacional!

Following their second goal, it was all Nacional going forward. Peñarol hit a wall whenever they attempted to attack their opponents. Big chances from Romero and Sebastián Fernández multiple times were the consequence. The striker will regret his finish in the 77th minute the most of all. A 3 on 1 counter led to Seba standing all alone in front of Guruceaga, but instead of firing it into the net, he put it wide.

Peñarol were even further weakened shortly after when Fernández had broken through on a counter attack yet again. Guillermo Rodríguez brought him down as the last man and saw the red card. Nothing spoke for yellow & black to come back and somehow they still did it. In the last minutes of a four minute long injury time, they created their first chances since Nacional's second goal. Esteban Conde had the better end of Aguiar's freekick, but when the midfielder crossed for Marcel Novick, the goalkeeper was powerless himself. Novick's header flew against the inside of the post and into the net for a much celebrated equalizer by one half of the stadium.


Creator of Peñarol's lucky point: Marcel Novick. (Photo:
An extremely lucky point for Peñarol considering their disadvantage with 10 men and their inability to create any chances throughout the last 30 minutes. Still, they believed in themselves at the end and came away with yet another lucky Clásico draw as they did the last time out in the Apertura.

Impressive today: Double goalscorer Diego Polenta led his team throughout the 90 minutes and fully convinced. On the other side, it was the Novick's that proved decisive in Peñarol's comeback.

With three games left in the season, Peñarol stay on top for now, awaiting Plaza Colonia's match against Sud América. With a win, the outsiders can leapfrog both of the big teams. However, Nacional will have to hope for both of them to drop points eventually to have a chance of winning the Clausura title.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Peñarol take on Nacional in Clásico Uruguayo

A ground-breaking game for both teams is what it is all about in this season's Clásico Uruguayo. Yesterday, the visitors celebrated their 117th birthday

Key man on Sunday: Seba Fernández has never lost a Clásico. (Photo:
When Peñarol play against Nacional, a ton of pride and bragging rights will always be on the line, seperating the country in two halves. This time around, the game is being played in week 12 of the Clausura and has significant influence on the title. Both teams are currently seperated by just two points, so it is a winner takes the league lead situation (Plaza Colonia can interfere with that plan). 

In recent weeks, the two clubs have both done their homework quite well in the league (see infographic below), Peñarol is on a four-game winning streak, while Nacional has not lost in five. One series has to end on Sunday afternoon at the Estadio Centenario (8:30pm CET).
Going into the game, Nacional has the well-known and probably best trouble surrounding them: Success. Their road to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals means that the Clásico is scheduled inbetween big international games for the first time in quite a while. Injuries come along with it, as top striker Nico López will miss the rivals clash. Not only because of López' absence, Sebastián Fernández will play a key role in Nacional's attempt to get all three points. So far, the former Uruguayan international has not lost a single Clásico he played in. 

Coach Gustavo Munúa cannot afford to rotate in the biggest game of the season, since all hell would break loose from the supporters should they lose this one with a B squad. Whoever is able to play (Romero and Ramírez were doubtful too after taking several knocks on Thursday) will be in the starting XI. Leo Gamalho and Christian Tabó were named prime options to replace López and Ramírez.

Peñarol on the other hand do not have any international distractions anymore and can concentrate fully on the league. While they would probably prefer something else, it does help them, shown by their recent success. Admittedly, their playing style did not convince and the opponents were not exactly the elite in Uruguay either. Their real challenge comes on Sunday. Diego Forlán will most likely start for the yellow and black, after being demoted to the bench for the first half in the win over Villa Teresa. When he came on, things started to go Peñarol's way. 

Despite the completely different preparations towards this game, it would surprise anyone if we did not get a close affair on Sunday as well. Betting companies such as bwin see Peñarol as favourite nevertheless, with odds of 1.83. A Nacional win would multiply your stake by 4.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Statistical overview of Nacional vs Boca

Last night, the first impressions after Nacional vs Boca had me talking of a relatively even game in the match report. Just how even was it exactly and what can be expected for the second leg in a week's time?

When taking a look at the statistical overview from last night, we can see that our first impression was surely not a wrong one. Even possession for the most part, even shots on goal fired by both teams. Just accuracy-wise, Nacional had the slight edge. Boca's one shot on goal from Frank Fabri actually found the back of the net. 
Boca's large amount of 26 fouls came together in the first half predominantly. Especially during the first half hour, the Argentine double winner lacked precision, structure and a strategy from coach Guillermo Schelotto. Admittedly, they got it together eventually then and managed to play a much better second half, in particular during the early stages.

The passing accuracy of both teams was not far from one another either. Nacional's players managed to get 78% of their passes to a teammate, whereas Boca reached a final number of 81%. 

A player that stepped up offensively in Nico López' early absence due to injury was Sebastián Fernández, who has been in good form lately. He not only collected the largest amount of shots for the Uruguayans, but also managed to score the equalizer with a lovely turnaround shot.

Overall, there are not many facts that would indicate a much different game at the Bombonera next week. Boca has one huge advantage though: They can save energy and their key players will get rest in the league, which is already over for the club. Whether they win or lose does not matter anymore. Nacional on the other hand have the biggest game of their season sandwiched between the Copa Libertadores quarterfinal legs as they welcome Peñarol at the Centenario.

Nacional and Boca draw in exciting clash

It was a big night for Nacional and Boca Juniors. In Montevideo's iconic Gran Parque Central, Uruguay's champion hosted their Argentine counterparts. Boca went into the game unbeaten in the competition so far, but not really in form either. Nacional had lost one game that did not matter anymore previously. Could it be anything less than a great one?

Gran Parque Central pre-game crowd.

Nacional made no changes from their previous Copa Libertadores game against Corinthians. Nico López was indeed healthy to play after taking a little knock in the league the past weekend. 
On the other side, the visitors made one change from their 3-1 win over Cerro Porteño as regular Gino Peruzzi replaced Cristian Erbes. 

First half

No chance for Carlos Tévez against Mauricio Victorino. (Photo: Ovación)
The first half did not let us wait long with the first opportunity as Mauricio Victorino's header was not dangerous enough two minutes in. Nacional were aggressive in midfield duels from the get-go and decided many 50/50 battles for themselves in that way. Around Boca's area, a lot of set pieces brought the potential for danger, but were not used accordingly.

Nacional's best chance came in the 22nd minute, a shot from Jorge Fucile that sailed towards the inside of the right post, but Orión got over to make the save. About half an hour into the game, Boca tried to implement a little more structure into their attacks instead of hitting long balls and hoping for the best. It did not work amazingly right away either, but after 33 minutes it was Gino Peruzzi collecting Boca's best opportunity with a shot from distance himself. The defender fired it just wide.

In the 38th minute, Nico López' day was over already. Sadly, his injury seemed to have re-aggravated. Coach Gustavo Munúa had to replace the striker with Christian Tabó. Despite the loss of their season's best man, Nacional kept threatening down the wings and produced an opportunity through a Ramírez header shortly before halftime.

Second half

Boca Juniors came out much better for the second 45 minutes than they did when the game started. A lot more possession made them get closer to the final third and push Nacional back a little at the beginning. Halftime substitute Chávez had their best chance as he hit the side netting. On the other side Nacional finally reached the second half with a huge chance after 55 minutes. Following a freekick, they failed to get the ball across the line on multiple occasions through Fernández, Romero and captain Polenta.

A relatively even game developed, with decent looks on both sides, but without the cutting edge chances, Tabó's shot into the side netting was the highlight until minute 70. Right there, the visitors took the lead. After Carlos Tévez held up Fucile in the penalty area, the right-back could not reach the run of Frank Fabra. Fabra's finish was great though and gave Boca the all-important away goal.

Instead of being in shock, Nacional countered not too long after. 76 minutes in, it was Sebastián Fernández using the confusion in Boca's penalty area to his advantage. After a corner from the left side, Ramírez header back could not be cleared and reached Fernández, whose turnaround shot was an absolute bullet and hit the back of the net for the equalizer.

Just two minutes later, Nacional could have won the game as they produced another chance from a corner, but it went just wide of the far post. Chance-wise that was all that happened until the end, where both coaches preferred to take time of the clock with their respective substitutions.


A pretty even game ended with a pretty even result: 1-1 was the fulltime score between Nacional and Boca Juniors. Obviously, the away goal gives an advantage to the Argentines, but Nacional showed they can score goals and get a result away from home in the 2-2 draw with Corinthians that brought them to this stage.

Good tonight: Victorino and Polenta were very convincing throughout the game, making Tévez disappear for the largest part of 90 minutes.

Overall, it was an exciting game to watch, even if there was some chancelessness at times. Definitely worthy of a quarterfinal.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Copa Libertadores - Quarterfinal preview

Back on February 2, the Copa Libertadores season started with the first round. Ever since then, we moved through group stages and the round of 16 to now await the quarterfinals of this year's competition. Here are all the previews.

Rosario Central - Atlético Nacional

Atlético Nacional's atmospheric home ground. (Photo:
The best team of the group stages, Atlético Nacional, had a little scare against Huracán, but went through with a little luck at the end of the day (4-2 on aggregate). Going to Argentina in the first leg, I am not sure you can still call them the favourites. Rosario Central, after struggling back home in the league in recent weeks, dominated Grêmio completely and knocked them out 4-0 on aggregate. 

Particularly striker star Marco Rubén is slowly but surely regaining his top form if he ever lost it. Three of the four goals scored by Central in the round of 16 came from him. Nevertheless, Central needs a strong game at home in the first leg to build a good foundation ahead of the difficult travel to Colombia a week later. Can they do it? That is for certain. 

The first leg will be played at the Gigante de Arroyito on May 13, 2:45am CET. Atlético Nacional's home leg will take place on May 20 at the same unfortunate time. 

Prediction: A narrow win for Rosario Central. Their individual class, especially their offense, will make the difference in the end. 

São Paulo FC - Atlético Mineiro

A special night can be expected in São Paulo's Morumbi stadium. (Photo:
An all Brazilian clash sees the two remaining sides of the country face each other. If you are a positive person, you will be happy that at least one team from the large football nation makes it to the semifinals for sure. Whichever way you look at it, São Paulo could not convince too much in the round of 16 against Toluca. After smashing them 4-0 in the first leg, the Mexicans nearly made things exciting again with a 3-1 return win. 

With Jonathan Calleri back in the lineup and the team slowly but surely improving its form, São Paulo will have a chance to get a win over their opponents. However, Atlético Mineiro have been the best Brazilian team so far and managed to knock out Argentina's Racing Club in the past round (2-1 on aggregate). Robinho and Pratto have been brilliant and will look to get on the scoresheet again against their countrymen. 

São Paulo's home game will be played at the Morumbi stadium on May 12 at 2:45am CET. The return leg in Belo Horizonte is scheduled for May 19 at 2:45am CET. 

Prediction: Atlético Mineiro probably have the best shot at winning the competition since their triumph in 2013. They will make it past São Paulo FC to face the winner of Atlético Nacional - Rosario Central.

Independiente del Valle - Pumas UNAM

The Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa is ready for Independiente del Valle. (Photo:
Mexico's lonely survivor is facing a surprise team in the quarterfinals. Stunning title holders River Plate with a 2-1 (aggregate) victory, Independiente del Valle relied on at times spectacular goalkeeping. Noone expected them in the quarterfinals, even less after the tragedies in Ecuador. They do not care about expectations and are one of the every-year surprises in the competition.

Independiente's games have all been low scoring ones, minus a 3-2 win over Atlético Mineiro. Despite that fact, Ecuador's team has one of the competition's top goalscorers in Junior Sornoza. His five goals rank 4th among all players. Pumas counter with a top scorer themselves. Ismael Sosa even managed to find the back of the net six times, one of them in the all important 2-0 win over Deportivo Táchira which sealed a place among the last 8 in South America (2-1 agg.).

The first leg in Quito will be played on May 18 at 2:45am CET. The decisive second match takes place in Pumas' Estadio Olímpico Universitario on May 25 (2:45am CET).

Prediction: Independiente del Valle theoretically have no business being here, yet they are. I am still going with Pumas, mainly due to their home strength in Mexico. You can never count out the odd outsider in the Copa Libertadores though.

Nacional - Boca Juniors

Nacional can hopefully count of their support at the Gran Parque Central. (Photo:
Uruguay's champion has not reached this round since back in 2009. They have a great matchup on their hands as they face the iconic Boca Juniors. While Nacional have been extremely tough to beat (just one loss when they were in the round of 16 already), they do not win a lot either so far. Two wins in group 2, both against Palmeiras, have been it so far. Two draws were enough to get by Corinthians in the past round (2-2 on aggregate). Once again, the Uruguayans will rely on Nico López up front and Esteban Conde who saved them in Brazil as their last backline.

Boca have not lost a single game yet and come into the quarterfinals on a five-game winning streak. In fairness, their opponents have not been the greatest most recently and Cerro Porteño (5-2 on aggregate) were no real indicator of the team's actual strength. Either way, Carlos Tévez has slowly been finding his form and collected 2 goals and 2 assists in the round of 16. Despite their international success, Boca have tremendous injury trouble, especially in midfield where they lost Nicolás Lodeiro most recently.

It is not sure yet, if the game can be played at the Gran Parque Central due to Boca's away support. If not, the Centenario is ready, but it is clearly not Nacional's home ground. The first leg is being played in Uruguay on May 13 at 0:30am CET. The return leg takes place in Argentina on May 20, 0:15am CET. Yay for somewhat European friendly times!

Prediction: Both teams have played great campaigns for their standards so far and look to make it to the last four. Boca will be favourite, but if Nacional can get a result back home, they know how to defend it. They did not lose any away game yet. One thing that is for certain: it will be close.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Nacional knock out Corinthians to make last 8

Nacional have completed their surprise. Last night they visited Corinthians and a 2-2 draw was enough to make it into the quarterfinals. 

Mission "Corinthians" complete for Nacional.
The first leg a week ago had ended in a draw as well. Back then, the Gran Parque Central crowd saw a 0-0. Now Gustavo Munúa's squad travelled to Brazil to take on the country's champion in the World Cup 2014 stadium that saw the opening match two years ago. The atmosphere was magnificent and we were ready for a great match.


Nacional came out unchanged from the first leg. Before, it was being speculated that Munúa could try to stregthen his midfield with an extra man in place of Barcia or Ramírez. 
Corinthians on the other hand made one swap. Alan Mineiro was replaced in midfield by Giovanni Augusto. 

First half

The game started off the right way for the Uruguayan visitors. Nacional attacked through the right wing with Nico López. He put in a cross to the left where Kevin Ramírez headed the ball down to Leandro Barcia. His attempt was saved to the side by Cássio. The goalkeeper should have done better, because right there was López again and the striker had no trouble finishing into the empty net for an early lead (5'). 

The opening goal from Nico López (in the background).
Especially during those opening stages, Nacional had been the better team, earning most of the possession and control. Further opportunities for López and Porras were the logical consequence. However, it did not hold on for long. Brazil's champion threatened with two big chances from respective corners.

Only ten minutes after the opening goal, Corinthians were level, made possible by a series of defensive errors. First, noone attacked Giovanni Augusto properly, making it possible for him to play a deep pass into the penalty area. Then Mauricio Victorino slipped on the grass, letting André get to the ball and he eventually tapped it to his teammate Lucca. Corinthians' striker stood all alone in front of Conde and equalized. 

In the following stages, the game calmed down a little. While Corinthians gave away a few too many freekicks around their own box, Nacional could not make too much of it. Their best chance came through Ramírez, but the left winger was stopped by Cássio's quick reaction. On the other side, it was Elías' solo run that opened up an opportunity for Rodriguinho, stopped just as well by Conde. Due to another fantastic Cássio save on Barcia in injury time, the game went to halftime tied at 1.

Second half

After 57 minutes, midfield engine Santiago Romero struck with one of his most important goals. Lóepz laid the ball off to Fernández who got by a defender at the edge of the area with his nice fake move. His shot was parried away by Cássio, but only to a Nacional player yet again. Romero laid everything he had into the shot and was rewarded with a goal. 

Corinthians knew they needed two goals now to have any sort of chance of advancing, while not being allowed to concede at the same time. They threw forward what they could and worked out a clear shot advantage in the last half hour. But Nacional, with a lot of cleverness and a little luck, stood strong and held their one-goal lead for the time being. Especially home team substitute Ángel Romero made an impact right away when hitting the crossbar.

Towards the end of the game, things got a little too close for Uruguay's champion. Only during the last 10 minutes of the match, they collected a total of five yellow cards while fighting for their lives. 84 minutes in, Corinthians thought they had the equalizer on their plate. Captain Polenta had fouled Marquinhos Gabriel on the right side of the area. In fairness, the striker took the invitation very easily. André took the responsibilities and produced one of the weakest penalties I ever saw. Conde laid down and held onto the ball comfortably. 

As the nerves had seemingly gotten to the Brazilian side, they went down to 10 men not too long after. Full-back Fágner received a straight red card after 90 minutes.

In added time, Corinthians equalized yet again, but it all came too late. Diego Polenta's arm was pushed against the ball in the air, handball was probably still the right decision by the referee. After countless discussions and the aforementioned yellow cards, substitute Marquinhos Gabriel stepped up and converted into the bottom left corner for a 2-2 score. 

Shortly after, the full-time whistle was blown and the home team could wave goodbye to the competition that sees Nacional in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. Seven years ago, they were eliminated in the semifinals by eventual winners Estudiantes. 


Nacional players celebrate with their away support in Brazil. (All photos:
It was a well deserved draw for Nacional who convinced particularly during the first half. They are playing a fine campaign this year and got rewarded for it. They could rely on their goalkeeper when it mattered most, even if their own captain tried everything to make the last 10 minutes exciting again. 

Another difference maker was - yet again - Nico López. The striker was present up front in all situations and played his teammates through multiple times along with his own opportunities and the all important 1-0. 

In the quarterfinals, Nacional meets the winner of Boca Juniors vs Cerro Porteño (2-1 after the first leg).

Sunday, May 1, 2016

South America's Top Clubs - May 2016

Four wins in the Copa Libertadores have led to Brazilian club Corinthians taking over the top of Germancopa's South American football club ranking. They replaced April's winner Atlético Nacional. The Colombians were extremely successful in the Libertadores as well, but suffered a surprise loss in the league.

Six "new" clubs enter the list this month, the best one of them being Olimpia in 4th. After a weak start to the season, they turned it around in Paraguay's Primera División. Lately, they have collected outstanding results, such as coming back from 0-3 down to win 5-3 against Deportivo Capiatá or the 2-1 Clásico win over Cerro Porteño. 

The rules if you missed them previously:
For this table, we look at the last 15 results from each team in South America’s leagues and Copa Libertadores/Sudamericana. A win in the league gets you 3 points, a draw 1. Internationally those numbers are doubled to 6 and 2. 

1 2 Corinthians Brazil 45
2 1 Atlético Nacional Colombia 45
3 17 FC São Paulo Brazil 44
4 - Olimpia Paraguay 41
5 10 Independiente del Valle Ecuador 40
6 12 CA Lanús Argentina 40
7 - Boca Juniors Argentina 39
8 4 Atlético Mineiro Brazil 38
9 5 Rosario Central Argentina 37
10 7 Deportivo Táchira Venezuela 37
11 - Jorge Wilstermann Bolivia 36
12 - Grêmio Brazil 35
13 - Universitario de Deportes Peru 34
14 9 Club Nacional Uruguay 34
15 19 Colo Colo Chile 33
16 15 Estudiantes Argentina 33
17 8 Racing Club Argentina 32
18 3 Santa Fe Colombia 32
19 - Libertad Paraguay 31
20 18 Zamora FC Venezuela 31

Nacional struggle with Sud América challenge

Nacional finished off week 10 in Uruguay with their visit to Sud América. "Visit" as they played in the Estadio Centenario. The Tricolor had to win to stay on track on their way to another Uruguayan championship. After Plaza Colonia could only manage a draw earlier, three points would take Nacional to the top of the league. 

Estadio Centenario.
Going into the game, Gustavo Munúa made five changes. Erick Cabaco and Christián Tabó replaced captain Diego Polenta (suspended) and Kevin Ramírez. Elsewhere, Nacho González, Matías Cabrera and Leo Gamalho rotated into the lineup for Leandro Barcia, Felipe Carballo and Sebastián Fernández.

Sud América beat Villa Teresa 1-0 in their last outing and change their XI on two positions: Santiago Carrera and Nicolás Royón replace the suspended Julián Perujo and Gonzalo Malán. 

First half

The home team enjoyed a bright start. Sud América were exposing holes throughout the favourite's side quickly with aggressive pressing in the opening stages. Good opportunities, mainly shots from the edge of the area, were the result. Royón shot wide, Rodríguez over the bar and Gallego even further over the top of the goal.

It took Nacional about 20 minutes to shake off the early problems they suffered from early. Finally, 25 minutes in, Nico López fired a first shot towards Javier Irazún's goal, which the goalkeeper had no trouble dealing with. It was a first sense of the speed Nacional is able to bring into any game after an opposition corner. However, Sud América continued to threaten offensively and kept their opponent's backline tied to defensive work. It hurt Nacional on the wings in particular, where Fucile and Espino usually support their offensive colleagues magnificently.

While Nico López had a good chance with a low shot to the far post shortly before halftime, only one team deserved the lead at the break: Sud América. They took it in the 45th minute. A long hopeful ball seemed easy enough to deal with until Facundo Rodríguez sprinted into the frame at full speed. Nacional made a mess of a three-against-one situation. Victorino and Espino were outrun, Conde came out for a non-existent reason and Rodríguez only had to slot the rebound into the empty net. 1-0 IASA at halftime.

Second half

Two substitutions at halftime were supposed to improve the visiting team's play. Seba Fernández and Carballo came on for González and Gamalho, who were both invisible during the first half. When the game continued to be slow through the first ten minutes of the second 45, Munúa pulled his last trump already. Leandro Barcia finally came on as well for Cabrera who had suffered a head injury earlier.

It took Barcia exactly 3 minutes to make his presence count. One of those great runs from Espino across the left wing, which were completely missing in the first half, led to a dangerous cross that Irazún could not deal with. Right-back Fucile went up too and had his shot blocked. The second try was a successful one then from Barcia who banged the ball home.

It was about time that Nacional entered this game too, but now they dominated all of a sudden. Further more or less big chances from Tabó on multiple occasions and López were the result. In addition, one needs to mention that Sud América lost their composure fully at no point.

Slowly but surely, time was running out on the visitors as well. In the closing minutes, Nacional were pouring on the pressure with a series of corners. All of them were dangerous, but none led to THE decisive goal. It ended 1-1.


Nacional played a game of two halves. The first one extremely weak, the second one a lot improved, but not good enough to deserve the victory at the end of the evening. Sud América did well enough to hold on to one point during the second 45 minutes.

Resting a lot of players for the Copa Libertadores yet again did not pay off, as Nacional miss the chance to go top of the league 5 games from the end of the Clausura.