With the Group Stages over, it’s on to the Knockouts.
Internacional secured top spot of Group 6 with a 2-0 win at home against Emelec. Rafael Sobis with the first, a player who could have been in a much different position in his career had he made some better moves. His opener was followed by Leandro Damiao, scoring after his recent call up to the Brazil squad for the friendly against Scotland. This made the Jaguares result irrelevant as it meant they took the second qualifying spot. After taking the lead, they ended up losing 2-1 to Jorge Wilstermann in Bolivia thanks to two late goals. One of them being a beautiful volley by Nicolas Torres.
In Group 1 Once Caldas won away in Peru against Universidad San Martin. Wason Renteria opened the scoring and Matias Mirabaje won it late on with a fantastic free kick that had the Goalie rooted to the spot, to make it 2-0. This meant that San Luis needed to win at Libertad, the group winners. The game was over after 17 minutes. Jorge Gonzalez opened with a powerful free kick that caught the ‘keeper flapping, only managing to slap it on its path into the net. Nicolas Pavlovich got his fouth goal of the tournament with an amazing drive at goal after turning away from a defender.
Qualification from Group 5 was up for graps up until the last minute. Santos secured their path to the Knockouts by winning, as expected, at home to Venezuelan side Deportivo Tachira. Neymar and Jonathan put Santos 2-0 up within 14 minutes, but it got nervy after Tachira got one back thanks to a pearler of a free kick from Gerzon Chacon. However, Danilo got his second goal in two games to put it beyond the Venezuelans. This meant the other qualification spot was to be fought for in the match between Colo Colo and Cerro Porteno, who could both still win the group. After Colo Colo went 2-0 ahead Cerro staged a fantastic come back, culminating in a fantastic free kick in the 88th minute by Jonathan Fabbro, getting his second of the game and putting the Paraguayans through top on goal difference. It is the goal of the week. Skip the video to 1:45 to see it.
The most anticipated couple of games came in Group 3. Argentinos hosted Fluminense in a fiery tie. The game was in the balance, swinging to Fluminense then back to a draw until it reached 2-2. Rafael Moura put the Brazilians ahead and Fred finished the game off with a highly controversial penalty in the last few minutes. This result was only enough to put them through in Nacional failed to win at home to Club America. The game was a bore draw that ensured the Mexicans won the group, with Fluminense following them into the knockouts despite being bottom of the table at the start of the night.
For the Knockouts the first placed teams are seeded one to eight based on their results in the group stage. The second placed teams are seeded 9-16. Seed 1 plays seed 16, 2 plays 15, 3 plays 14 and so on. This is how the Round of 16 looks:
Cruzeiro vs Once Caldas, Club America vs Santos, Atletico Junior vs Jaguares, Cerro Porteno vs Estudiantes, Libertad vs Fluminense, LDU Quito vs Velez, Internacional vs Penarol, and Universidad Catolica vs Gremio.
Libertad are unfortunate to be drawn against such tough opposition in Fluminense, having performed relatively well in their Group. It will provide a tough test for them. The first legs are to be play on the 26/27/28th of April with the second legs the following week. There will be some fascinating games with the Internacional vs Penarol tie one that particularly stands out as the reigning Champions face a club with a few Libertadores titles to their name in their not so recent history. You can expect to see a lot more from Once Caldas against the number 1 seed Cruzeiro in these high pressure games. Velez have a point to prove after their stuttering performances so far, but have LDU Quito standing in between them and progression
The competition really heats up here so you can expect some more of that South American passion, pace and excitement. There is plenty to entertain in the coming weeks.