International glamour friendlies aside, tonight sees plenty of futebol action in South America. From the U-20 World Cup in Colombia to the Recopa, there are plenty of top-notch encounters to get stuck in to. Let’s start things off in Colombia, as the U-20 World Cup reaches a crucial stage.
Last night saw the first batch of last-16 matches taking place, with the two South American sides in action both progressing. Argentina defeated a tired looking Egypt side 2×1, all of the game’s goals coming from penalty kicks, and the hosts Colombia sneaked through after a tumultuous second half against Costa Rica. This evening, Brazil face Saudi Arabia in Barranquilla, and Ecuador attempt to upset France in Cartagena.
Comfortably brushing aside Austria and Panama after a difficult draw against Egypt, Brazil have certainly looked like one of the most impressive sides in the tournament so far. Without Neymar or Lucas of São Paulo, it was feared that Brazil would be without a lodestar up front to push them over the line, but Internazionale’s Philippe Coutinho has had a wonderful tournament in midfield and is really tipping the balance for the Seleção.
Against the Saudis they face a side with a poor history in youth tournaments and frankly, they were surprise qualifiers for the last 16. When you add this to the fact that the entire Saudi squad are currently fasting – participating in the Islamic month of Ramadan – then you cannot really look past Ney Franco’s Brazil side for the victory. The winner of this match will face the winner of Spain x South Korea in the quarter finals.
A short trip down the Carribean coast in Cartagena, Ecuador take on France for a place in the quarter finals. This is a rather verdant and unspectacular Ecuador side, Gent’s Edson Montaño and defensive midfielder Dennis Quiñonez are good prospects who will be hoping to find their way into the senior side soon, but against the talents that France possess they will find it hard to progress. If they do manage to sneak through, they will face the winner of the Nigeria x England tie.
Over in Brazil, we have some domestic action going on as Santos host Corinthians in the Brasileirão. This game is a traditional clássico paulista and these two São Paulo state clubs will be desperate to get one over eachother. Unfortunately, we will not be seeing these two sides at full strength, as both of them are majorly enervated with international call-ups and lingering injuries.
The home side Santos will be bereft of their prized duo Neymar and Ganso who are with the senior national side in Germany, and they are also without Alex Sandro and Danilo, who are in Colombia with the U-20s. Corinthians, o Timão, are missing their midfield general Ralf who started for the Seleção in Stuttgart, also the injured Liédson, Julio Cesar, and Jorge Henrique who is suspended.
Despite the selection problems, we will definitely have an exciting game here with both sides needing the points. Corinthians have the opportunity to go back to the top of the league after losing top spot to Flamengo, and Santos find themselves just above the relegation zone after a terrible start to the season and they would hate to exacerbate things with a derby defeat.
Staying in Brazil, we take a look at the big second round ties taking place in the Copa Sulamericana tonight, with three all-Brazilian encounters. The Copa Sulamericana is South America’s secondary continental competition behind the prestigious Copa Libertadores. In previous years it has never really been valued highly, but with the recently introduced incentive of a Copa Libertadores qualifying place for the eventual champions, we are certain to see an exciting tournament this year.
Ceará and São Paulo get us started in their evening match in Fortaleza. One of the eminent sides in Brazil, São Paulo will be looking to have a real go at the Copa Sulamericana this year with Libertadores qualification in mind. São Paulo are third in the Brasileirão table at the moment though, and if they keep up their form they will achieve Libertadores qualification that way, but the Sulamericana functions as a safety net for them. Without Lucas (senior national team) and young guns Casemiro, Bruno Uvini, Henrique, and Willian José (U-20 national team) they are somewhat weakened, but they should carry their good league form into this match and come away with the victory.
In the two later games, Atlético-MG host Botafogo and league leaders Flamengo play Atlético-PR. The former should be the more interesting tie, as both Galo and Botafogo will adopt vehement approaches and attempt to win this tournament, with Libertadores qualification through a good league finish rather unlikely. League-leaders Flamengo are likely to treat the Sulamericana as somewhat of a distraction from their Brasileirão title assualt, but a defeat to lowly Atlético Paranaense would be met with outrage from their fanatical following.
The final match of the evening if the first leg of the Recopa Sulamericana – the South American Super Cup – between Independiente and Internacional. The Recopa is played out between last year’s winners of the Copa Libertadores (Internacional) and the Copa Sulamericana (Argentine grande Independiente). This is not the most prestigious of trophies, but with neither team having much to cheer about recently, both will want to win.
The first leg takes place tonight in Avellaneda at Independiente’s home stadium, the rather grandiosely named Estadio Libertadores de América, and the second leg will be in two weeks in Porto Alegre in Brazil’s south. Internacional will go into the game tonight looking to avoid defeat by playing a compact game, and then take the tie home to the Beira-Rio.
Tonight’s fixtures (Times in BRT/UTC-3):
19h30: Ceará x São Paulo
21h50: Santos x Corinthians
21h50: Atlético-MG x Botafogo
21h50: Flamengo x Atlético-PR
21h50: Independiente x Internacional
22h00: Brazil U-20 x Saudi Arabia U-20
22h00: France U-20 x Ecuador U-20
If you’re struggling to find anywhere to watch these games, get in touch with me on Twitter, and I’ll help you out.