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.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Deserved triumph - Atlético Nacional wins Copa Libertadores

Atlético Nacional have won the Copa Libertadores for the second time in club history. After their first triumph back in 1989, a 1-0 win over Independiente del Valle on the night was enough to beat the Ecuadorian surprise team 2-1 on aggregate. 

Copa Libertadores final night in Medellín. (Photo: Getty Images)
Following a football-wise pretty disappointing first leg a week ago in Quito, the tie shifted to Colombia. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere was outstanding and appropriate for the occasion. A stadium-wide chroreography in the club colours green and white was paired with a lot of confetti, lighters in the dark night and the usual fireworks. If you imagined standing on the pitch ahead of this game and listening to the national anthems, it had to be very hard to keep your concentration onto the actual game and you could see just that in many players' faces.

Could you want anything more as a football fan? (Photo: Getty Images)


Going into tonight's game, Atlético Nacional's coach Reinaldo Rueda made two changes. Alejandro Guerra and and Alexander Mejia replaced Diego Arias and the suspended Sebastián Pérez.

Pablo Repetto on the other hand left his visiting team unchanged, despite the not fully fit José Angulo and Emiliano Tellechea. Obviously, they would not miss a Copa Libertadores final. It could be the only one in their careers.

First half

After their tactical mistake to do nothing and only sit back ever since taking the lead in the first leg, Atlético seemed determined to not make the same errors again today. Right from kickoff, the Colombians attacked their opponents early and got their first large chance inside a minute. Miguel Borja was sent through with a long ball, but blasted it far over the crossbar.

The always dangerous right-back Daniel Bocanegra followed it up with a thunderous shot from distance and missed just wide. As Atlético kept pushing their opponents back into their own half, it was only a matter of time until we saw an opening goal. Nine minutes in, a freekick from Macnelly Torres went by everyone and hit the left goalpost. From there, Arturo Mina tried to clear but could not make sufficient contact with the ball. Borja was wide open in the centre of the area and made no mistake this time, scoring into the bottom left corner. 1:0.

Miguel Borja, the goalscorer. (Photo: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)
Miguel Borja's story is a fantastic one. Transferred over from Cortuluá to their league rivals Atlético Nacional only a month ago, the striker made a name for himself in almost no time. In just four Copa Libertadores games, he now scored five times. After two in each leg against São Paulo, he quickly proved to be his new team's decisive factor.

Torres in the middle of the pitch had one of his best games for his club in quite a while and kept surprising the Ecuadorian defense with passes and set pieces that were tremendously hard to defend. Independiente del Valle did not play bad, with a high line of defense, but was simply overwhelmed by Nacional's offensive tornado during the opening stages. Marlos Moreno and Orlando Berrio on the wings were the ones profiting.

After 30 minutes, it led to a penalty shout when Torres sent through Berrio. He was brought down by goalkeeper Librado Azcona, but it was likely not enough to be given. Just shortly after, it was Borja again who could have made it 2-0, but he was stopped short by a magnificent tackle from Independiente's best defender Mina. Him and Azcona were the reasons it was still just a one-goal deficit when Repetto's team had their first opportunity. A sharp pass from Junior Sornoza had found his teammate Julio Angulo, who could have equalized, but instead saw his shot go over the crossbar as well.

The rest of the first half was a pretty even affair and even though the hosts dominated for large parts and had the lion's share of the possession, they could not stop some quick counter attacks. However, they led to nothing due to offside positions or lack of precision.

Second half

To start the second 45 minutes, Independiente del Valle made a substitution and brought on Jonny Uchuari for Junior Sornoza. It was a change that made limited sense to me, but Sornoza had seen the yellow card already and was probably protected by his coach.

Uchuari brought confusion to the Colombian backline right after coming on, when he danced by several defenders and was suddenly on the ground with his teammates shouting for a penalty the other way this time. Judging by the replays, it was none and the Argentine referee Néstor Pitana made another good decision.

After giving away the control for the first five minutes of the second half, Atlético Nacional regained it in strong fashion and failed to score from a clear cut chance yet again. Marlos Moreno made the whole defense look like youth players with his dribbles and laid the ball back to Berrio. He needed some time to control the ball, but then shot it wide across the face of goal.

While Uchuari did quite well on the other side, the precise passing of Sornoza was missed in a lot of Independiente's few offensive scenes. Instead, Macnelly Torres continued to be the main man in midfield, setting Borja and the wingers in scene multiple times. Borja could have made it 2-0 once more when shooting too far left, afterwards it was Moreno's turn to head it past the goalkeeper Azcona, but also wide.

Even though time was ticking down quickly now, the Colombians kept dominating and therefore avoiding to repeat their aforementioned mistakes. Instead of bolstering the defense for the final minutes, Rueda made it clear to his players what we wanted to see by bringing on striker for striker twice. Goalscorer Borja and Moreno left the pitch under the thunderous applause from their home support.

Not once in the final ten minutes could Independiente del Valle really threaten the in-form backline of Atlético Nacional which had thoroughly impressed during the group stages by not giving up a single goal. Despite its most recent shakyness, they regained their form when it mattered most. When Pitana blew the whistle for fulltime, the night reached its beautiful conclusion with the Colombians winning their first Copa Libertadores title in 27 years.

Trophy time in Colombia.


Deserved? A big YES. Both the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana are now being held by Colombian teams. Atlético Nacional was by far the best team in this year's competition and finally justified their favourite status with equally good performances. Their defense was particularly good early on, towards the end it was new signing Miguel Borja that carried them over the finish line.

31-year old midfielder Macnelly Torres pulled off a Man of the Match performance in the biggest game of his career. Lovely passing, always in position to receive balls from his teammates, offensive mastermind of Reinaldo Rueda's XI.

While their team might be ripped apart from European or Mexican clubs (especially young players like Moreno that already has standout status), their triumph will remain in the history books forever.

The same goes for their opponent. Despite not bringing their best performance onto the pitch last night, they played a wonderful campaign. Nobody in the world would have expected Independiente del Valle to make it to the Copa Libertadores final, yet there they were. Their brave performances gave a lot of hope and distraction to Ecuador's people after what they had to deal with outside of football pitches.


Here are some videos for you: Team entry + anthems, match highlights and celebration.

Thank you!

Lastly, I want to say thank you to everyone that followed this season's Copa Libertadores here on Germancopa. I will be back covering next season's edition for sure. Until then, we will have a lot of Copa Sudamericana and league football from Uruguay and Argentina. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All tied up after first leg of Copa Libertadores final

For the first time since 1991, no team from Argentina or Brazil made it to the final of the Copa Libertadores. Instead, surprise team Independiente del Valle from Ecuador hosted Colombia's Atlético Nacional, who had marched through the competition with impressive performances thus far. 

The atmosphere before the game in Ecuador (Photo: tdn_twit on Twitter).
The night was started off by the usual atmospheric highlights in Quito. Independiente moved to the national stadium for this big game, considering their small home ground. Fireworks were shooting into the sky, while more fans had their lighters and phones out to bring some goosebumps across the TV screens at home. A large Ecuadorian flag was rolled out across the far side stand, presenting the colours of a country that had been hit by a huge natural disaster only months ago. 

A true Cinderella story is exactly what Independiente del Valle is all about. Back when their semifinal opponent Boca Juniors last won the Copa Libertadores in 2007, they were still playing third division football in their home country. Slowly but surely, they moved their way up and show that often you just need a good strategy and smart minds to be successful, especially on a continent like South America, which is still more even than Europe's crazy football world. 

Atlético Nacional on the other hand won the competition before, all the way back in 1989. With players such as René Hiquita or Andrés Escobar, the Colombians beat Paraguay's Club Olimpia on penalties after nullifying a 0-2 decifit from the first away leg. Currently, you can pretty surely call them the best team in South America. They dominated throughout the group stages without conceding a single goal and were seeded #1 for the knockout rounds. After beating Huracán, Rosario Central and Sao Paulo FC, they found themselves in the final deservedly. 

In typical South American chaos fashion, the Ecuadorian football association asked Independiente to play a league game which had previously been called off on Wednesday morning, the same day of the Copa Libertadores final. The laughable decision was reacted to with a youth team that lost 2-5 to El Nacional. Tonight's opponents also mainly played their reserves in the last league outing at home against Deportes Tolima, drawing 2-2.

The actual game

With the start of the final itself, we received a little rain from above, leaving the players all options to play good football though. The first better opportunity came within the first five minutes for the Ecuadorian home team when the Angulo's broke through Atlético's defense for the first time. Julio found José with a decent pass, but the shot of the striker went just wide. 

A first attempt for the visitors came soon after when striker Miguel Borja, after having scored four times (!) in the semifinal, fired from a far distance and saw his shot saved comfortably by opposing goalkeeper Librado Azcona. 

While 3000 visiting fans produced a nice setting along with the strong home support, the game itself turned into a midfield battle relatively quickly. Even though Atlético Nacional had most of the ball, they could not find a way through a well-organized defensive line of Independiente. The teams neutralized themselves, which is clearly nothing for the neutral viewer. 

20 minutes in, the biggest chance of the game so far for the hosts: A freekick from the right was deflected onwards by a Colombian defender and hit the head of surprised Arturo Mina. He could not direct it any further, which saw the ball fly right into the open arms of Franco Armani. Shortly after, Mina convinced on the other side of the pitch as well, when stopping the ever dangerous Borja with an excellent tackle. 

Orlando Berrio scored the opener (second from left, Photo:
Atlético's #10 MacNelly Torres started to gain a little too much space in midfield for his passes. After 36 minutes, the 31-year old made it count. He found Orlando Berrio on the edge of the area. The striker went some more metres, keeping the upper hand against the defense's desperate clearing attempts before finishing strongly into the bottom right corner. An absolute beauty to make it 0-1 on the night and leave the visiting fans in ecstasy. 

While the lead was not really deserved by any clear means, it gave Atlético the necessary calmness in their decision making and they had the match under control a bit more comfortably now. Top talent Marlos Moreno nearly made it 2-0 before halftime, but his shot that caught Azcona way outside his goal just flew over the bar. 

Second half

Independiente del Valle now had their work cut out for them in the second half, having to attack while also not being too open at the back. Half chances for Bryan Cabezas and Junior Sornoza was all the Ecuadorians could manage before the hour mark. In fairness, Atlético Nacional defended really well now and stopped their opponents from being dangerous at all. 

As time continued to pass and Independiente kept being chanceless, coach Pablo Repetto had to react. He brought on Jonny Uchuari and Jonathan Gonzalez for Cabezas and Julio Angulo. Both of them had been extremely quiet on the night, compared to their previous performances in the competition. 

A game that kept getting worse and worse was about to be over in ten minutes after an extremely poor second half which was not final worthy. Noone really expected anything to happen anymore and they were wrong. The home team actually managed to strike back and make it a game again after 87 minutes. A long freekick near the centre circle by Junior Sornoza went high all the way into the area. Armani, expecting a striker to get a touch of the ball still, could only let the ball bounce forward as it hit him. Arturo Mina tried to score once and was denied by Armani, but on the second attempt the goalkeeper had no chance to keep the centre-back out anymore. 

A late equalizer gives Independiente del Valle a large moral boost and every chance in the second leg. However, Atlético Nacional will not be too unhappy with the result either, as it sees them move back home requiring a win or a 0-0 draw. They surely have the potential to seal it at home.

Video highlights

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Copa Sudamericana Draw 2016

The Copa Libertadores has not even reached its final stage yet, but CONMEBOL does not take a breather. Last night, the first and second round of the Copa Sudamericana were drawn in Chile. Let us take a look at the results.

The trophy of the Copa Sudamericana. (Photo:
Eight countries have their teams taking part in round 1, divided into two zones, North and South. North includes Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia. South on the other hand is joined by Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile. The two heavyweights Argentina and Brazil are getting a free pass to the second round, where they will face each other in internal matchups. 

First round draw

The North Zone has several interesting matchups coming up during the first round of the competition. Peru's Universitario de Deportes and their famous U logo are going to host Emelec in one of the biggest of all clashes during this stage. Two other big names are involved when Emelec's Ecuadorian countrymates Barcelona SC face Zamora. Barcelona played really well in recent weeks and will look to keep up their good form against one of the biggest clubs from Venezuela.

Deportivo La Guaira (VEN) are going to host Tolima (COL) in what looks like a pretty even affair on paper as well. The other Venezuelan participants, Deportivo Anzoátegui and Deportivo Lara, are going to face Sport Huancayo (PER) and Atlético Junior (COL) respectively. Especially the latter Colombian team looks like it might have a chance to make some noise in the competition this year. 

Colombia's champion Independiente de Medellín has a trip to Ecuador on their schedule as well. They will be facing Universidad Católica. A surely not easy, but very doable task.

The last two games are Aucas (ECU) vs Real Garcilaso (PER) and Deportivo Municipal (PER) vs Atlético Nacional (COL). The Colombians are about to reach the Copa Libertadores final in the meantime. 

Players of Cerro Porteño. The Paraguayans are facing Fénix. (Photo:
Over in the South Zone, Uruguay's champion Peñarol will attack in the Copa Sudamericana after horribly failing in the Libertadores. Their chances to make the second round could be worse, as they face Sportivo Luqueño from Paraguay. One of my highlights of the first round is another meeting between clubs from those same countries: Fénix (URU) were matched up against Cerro Porteño (PAR). 

Uruguay's Clausura winner Plaza Colonia are going to play in Bolivia, facing Blooming. It is quite difficult to determine a favourite here, but traditionally, playing in Bolivia's height is no fun, so I would give the edge to them. The last participant from the country of the first World Champion, Montevideo Wanderers are playing O'Higgins from Chile. 

Palestino (CHI) are playing against iconic side Libertad (PAR) in what looks like a great tie on paper. The last Paraguayan side Sol de América are battling Jorge Wilstermann (BOL), who can probably count as favourite going into this game. 

Finally, Real Potosí (BOL) are meeting Universidad Católica (CHI, yes we have both of them in the competition again), while Universidad de Concepción (CHI) entertains Bolívar (BOL). 

Second round draw

Not all Brazilian clubs have qualified for the competition yet (only Sport Recife and Cuiabá so far), but Argentina's field of six teams is complete. 

Champions Lanús are meeting Independiente in a great matchup. Will this be the season, when Independiente finally return to glory or will Lanús keep up their fantastic form from the past half year? Banfield and San Lorenzo will meet in the second all Argentine tie. Last but not least, Estudiantes de la Plata are facing Belgrano.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Viudez' farewell to River Plate teammates

Tabaré Viudez is close to rejoining Nacional from Argentina's River Plate. The 26-year old winger played his last game for the Uruguayan record champion in 2012.

Photo of Tabaré Viudez during his last stint with Nacional.
Tabaré Viudez in the Nacional shirt back in 2012. (Photo:
According to a report from Ovación, Tabaré Viudez bid farewell to his River Plate teammates in Orlando, Florida the past afternoon. The Copa Libertadores holders are currently holding their pre-season camp in the United States and will, if everything goes according to plan, tackle the upcoming challenges without Viudez. 

Nacional president José Luis Rodríguez has told media representatives that the player will arrive in Montevideo today and sign his contract after the final talks.

After coming up through the ranks of Defensor Sporting, Viudez joined AC Milan aged 18 for €2.5 million. He could not make it into the first team of the iconic Italian club, which loaned him back to Defensor. From there, it led him to Mexico to play for CF América and Nexaca, before arriving at Nacional for the first time back in 2011. He stayed there until June 2012 and continued his career at Turkish club Kasimpasa for nearly three years. In July 2015, he joined River Plate.

Viudez, with just 169cm body size, is a speedy winger who is able to fill several positions up front. While the main one is the right wing, he is able to play on the left side as well as secondary striker. His two-footedness allows him to be very flexible and mobile. At Nacional, he will join the battle for a starting position with the likes of Leandro Barcia, Brian Lozano and Kevin Ramírez.

Ein von Tabare Viudez (@tabare_viudez) gepostetes Foto am

As you can tell from the picture above, Viudez is familiar with the club legends. When Álvaro Recoba played his testimonial at Gran Parque Central a while back, he invited the winger to join his side for a fantastic evening.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

São Paulo and Atlético Nacional meet in Copa Libertadores semi-final

After a long international break due to the Copa América, the biggest stage of South American club football returns tonight. In Brazil, São Paulo host Atlético Nacional in the first leg of their semifinal. 

São Paulo's Morumbi stadium is ready for tonight.
Following a relatively average start to the new Brazilian league season (10th place and 18 points), the focus shifted to the ultimate competition pretty quickly. São Paulo are in the hunt to win South America's most famous trophy again, for the first time since 2005. This meant that coach Edgardo Bauza rested most of his first XI during their previous league outing. A little surprisingly, they still managed to come away victorious against Fluminense, 2-1. 

The Copa Libertadores winner of 1989, Colombia's Atlético Nacional, have not won their past four games and were eliminated by Atlético Junior in the playoffs for the Clausura title. However, during this international season, the Colombians have been exceptional. A stunning 0.36 goals against per game shows great defensive abilities. Throughout the group stages, they had not conceded a goal. This changed quickly when Huracán and Rosario Central gave them some scares in the following knockout rounds. So far, Atlético Nacional have prevailed and will have to do so again tonight (2:45am CET), likely without the help of one of their best players so far. Farid Díaz is injured and his attacks down the left flank would be severely missed.

Impressive defensive record for Atlético Nacional. (Taken from
São Paulo on the other hand have a clean bill of health and will look towards Argentine striker Jonathan Calleri, who scored 8 goals in the competition so far and needed 90 minutes per goal. By that same logic, you would be able to expect one from him tonight.

The second leg between the two will be played a week later. São Paulo or Atlético Nacional will face the winner of Independiente del Valle - Boca Juniors in the final (20th and 27th July).

Friday, July 1, 2016

South America's Top Clubs - July 2016

Boca Juniors are on top in July. (Photo:
Boca Juniors are the new leaders of the South American club ranking for the month of July 2016. Despite the Argentine league currently being on break, it was the start of the Serie A which brought the teams from Brazil back down to earth. 

Back in June, three Brazilian clubs made up the best four of the table. This has changed dramatically with the top team from Brazil being Palmeiras in eighth a month later. With the restart of the Copa Libertadores in a few days, Boca have all the options to stay on top for a longer period of time by playing a successful semi-final against third placed Independiente del Valle.

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 3 Boca Juniors Argentina 43
2 5 Olimpia Paraguay 39
3 19 Independiente del Valle Ecuador 35
4 8 CA Lanús Argentina 35
5 9 Colo Colo Chile 33
6 10 Independiente Medellín Colombia 33
7 - Palmeiras Brazil 33
8 4 Corinthians Brazil 32
9 12 Zamora FC Venezuela 32
10 13 Estudiantes Argentina 32
11 14 Libertad Paraguay 32
12 15 Godoy Cruz Argentina 32
13 16 Rosario Central Argentina 32
14 1 Atlético Mineiro Brazil 31
15 17 O’Higgins Chile 31
16 18 Deportivo Táchira Venezuela 31
17 11 Plaza Colonia Uruguay 30
18 - River Plate Argentina 30
19 - Barcelona SC Ecuador 29
20 - Universidad Católica Chile 29