1. Colombia sacrificed midfield creativity for wing play – and it paid off
Since taking the Colombia job, Argentine coach José Pékerman has established a basic standard of selecting four defenders, two deep midfielders, and four attackers. Within these parameters, there are a number of variations Pékerman can make, depending on the match situation and the level of opposition.
One of the main variations concerns the deep midfield duo, and is a choice between creativity and solidity. On the one hand, you have Fredy Guarín of Internazionale and Monarcas’ Aldo Leão Ramírez – both strong, competitive midfielders, but with great vision and a wide passing range. On the other, there are players like Deportivo’s Abel Aguilar, Valenciennes’ Carlos Sánchez and Fluminense’s Edwin Valencia. All three are holding midfielders, tasked with breaking up play and covering Colombia’s marauding full-backs. Continue reading Five talking points from Brazil 1×1 Colombia
Flu champions, Palmeiras (almost) relegated
Fluminense clinched a thrilling late victory in the torrid Presidente Prudente sun to seal their fourth national championship trophy. With three rounds still to play in the Campeonato Brasileiro 2012, the Tricolor knew that a win against Palmeiras and a home win or draw in the Vasco x Atlético-MG match (which ended 1-1) would see them create an insurmountable lead over the chasing pack.
Palmeiras, on the other hand, are battling against a seemingly inevitable relegation, and had other results in the round gone against them they could have been condemned to Série B earlier than expected. Fortunately for them, Portuguesa and Bahia lost their respective matches, keeping Palmeiras’ hopes alive (albeit hanging by the tiniest of threads) even after their latest defeat.
Fluminense took a 2-0 lead, but conceded twice through set-pieces in the second half. Just as the title champagne was being put on ice for another day, league top scorer Fred converted his 19th goal of the season to win the match 3-2. Continue reading Palmeiras 2×3 Fluminense
In last week’s Copa Libertadores last 16 second legs, we were treated to a veritable football feast. Each of the eight matches were filled with drama and laced with a dash of tension. We had Lanús and Vasco go all the way to a penalty shoot-out where the Brazilians came out on top, and Vélez versus Atlético Nacional and Fluminense versus Internacional were tight right up until the final whistle, both home sides ultimately being victorious.
In the Brazilian state of São Paulo, Santos grabbed the headlines with their indomitable 8×0 victory against shell-shocked Bolívar, but the prize for the week’s most impressive attacking display – even though they scored two less – certainly goes to Jorge Sampaoli’s Universidad de Chile side as they hit Deportivo Quito for six. Continue reading Universidad de Chile 6×0 Deportivo Quito: La U’s attacking master class
In my opinion, what makes the Copa Libertadores such an intriguing tournament is the constant clash of styles from around this fascinating continent. In Europe, the playing style is, on the whole, rather homogenised. For example in this season’s Champions League group stages, Group F comprised of Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Olympiakos and Olympique Marseille, four teams that play very similar styles in the popular 4-2-3-1 formation.
In the Libertadores though, tactical variation is alive and well. In fact, it is very rare for a Copa Libertadores match to include two teams from different countries playing the same formation. Continue reading Boca Juniors 2×1 Unión Española: Late Silva header saves Boca’s blushes
Brazilian football is certainly not short on rivalries, ranging from the friendly to the somewhat poisonous. In São Paulo state, the most populous of Brazil’s 27 federative units, the biggest clásico is between Corinthians and Palmeiras, two blue-collar clubs with huge fan-bases. The state’s other two grandes – São Paulo and Santos – class Corinthians as their biggest rivals, but while the Timão are more bothered about their green neighbours across town, São Paulo and Santos have resolved to forge a rivalry of their own, the San-São.
While the San-São falls far behind the Dérbi Paulista (Corinthians vs. Palmeiras) in intensity and cultural importance, it often totally outstrips the Dérbi in terms of quality and excitement. On Sunday the two sides faced each other in the semi-finals of this year’s Campeonato Paulista at São Paulo’s Morumbi stadium, adding yet another decisive clash to the history of the San-São rivalry. Continue reading São Paulo 1×3 Santos: Poor Piris positioning sinks sorry São Paulo
Arsenal de Sarandí and Newell’s Old Boys contested an intriguing 1×1 draw in Buenos Aires on Monday evening, a result that could hold real significance in the 2012 Clausura title-race.
The Argentine ‘short seasons’ system is often criticised and even ridiculed in other parts of the world, but it does have its virtues. For those not completely privy to how things work in Argieball, the league season is split into two half-length seasons known as the Apertura and Clausura (open and close). In some other South American countries that use the short season format, the winners of each short season face one another to determine an overall champion, but in Argentina two champions are crowned per season.
The 19-game season allows for some ‘smaller’ teams to become champion, for example in the 2009-10 season where Banfield and Argentinos Juniors won the Apertura and Clausura respectively. This season, there is the chance of a similar ‘upset’ taking place. Continue reading Arsenal de Sarandí 1×1 Newell’s Old Boys: NOB go joint-top with hard-earned away draw
After a brief pause in operations, Game of the Week returns to run the rule over Tuesday’s Copa Libertadores Group 8 clash between Atlético Nacional and Peñarol in Medellín. After an impressive start to their group campaign, the home side just needed to avoid defeat in order to seal qualification to the knock-out stages, while the underachieving Peñarol were already eliminated going into this match, looking to exorcise the demons of the 0x4 home defeat in the reverse fixture.
This turned out to be yet another admirable performance from Santiago Escobar’s Verdolagas as they secured a comprehensive three-goal victory in front of their home fans, securing their qualification and putting them atop Group 8 with eleven points in five matches. Continue reading Atlético Nacional 3×0 Peñarol: Verdolagas continue to impress
Another Copa Libertadores tie for Game of the Week and from last week’s all-Brazilian clash between Santos and Internacional, we go to an all-Argentine affair as Arsenal de Sarandí hosted giants Boca Juniors in El Viaducto.
Boca, the undisputed champions of the 2011 Apertura, came into the match on the back of two consecutive defeats (the last time that happened was in March 2011) and it appeared that cracks were beginning to appear in Julio César Falcioni’s previously watertight Boca team. Continue reading Game of the Week: Arsenal de Sarandí 1×2 Boca Juniors
Rarely in the world of football are us fans treated to so many wonderful matches in the space of a single week. From Marcelo Bielsa’s superb Athletic Bilbao side and their spectacularly dogged display in Manchester, beating United 3×2 in Old Trafford, to the epic 4×4 draw between Godoy Cruz and Atlético Nacional in the Copa Libertadores, a classic tussle between attacker and counter-attacker.
Even more rewarding however, were two virtuoso performances from two of the world’s best forwards, almost singlehandedly leading their clubs to victory. First of all, the undisputed best player on the planet, Lionel Messi and his record-breaking five goals in Barcelona’s 7×1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League. The world looked on as Messi took apart the Leverkusen defence time and time again, before some of the game’s biggest personalities indulged in panegyrics over the 24 year-old, speculating over whether he really is the best of all time.
That very same evening, across the Atlantic Ocean, South America’s best put on his own show in the continent’s Champions League equivalent, the Copa Libertadores. The tie in question was Santos x Internacional, a crucial all-Brazilian clash in Group 1 between the two previous winners of the trophy. The player in question was none other than Santos’ spiky haired winger Neymar. Continue reading Game of the Week: Santos 3×1 Internacional
Without any Copa Libertadores games this week, this edition sees Game of the Week going back to its roots with a good old fashioned São Paulo derby in the Campeonato Paulista.
The Palmeiras x São Paulo FC clássico (commonly known as the Choque-Rei) is a strong and well-regarded derby, especially considering that both sides regard Corinthians as their biggest rivals. Sunday’s match marked the 300th Choque-Rei in history, and in the scorching Presidente Prudente sun, we were served up an exhilarating 3×3 draw. Continue reading Game of the Week: Palmeiras 3×3 São Paulo