The 2011 Copa Sudamericana is underway in South America and here is a short introduction to South America’s secondary club competition.
The Copa Sudamericana, founded in 2002, is a pure knockout arrangement. The tournament is now past the preliminary stages and the final stages are commencing. It has previously been criticised as it coincides with the climax of the domestic Brazilian season, leading to a degradation in its importance. However, there is a twist supplying something to play for. The winner of the Sudamericana earns direct entry into the next edition of the Copa Libertadores.
This will give the big clubs from both Argentina and Brazil a much greater incentive to perform and has ultimately led to an increase in its standing in South America. Provisionally, 8 berths are offered to Brazilian clubs and 6 to Argentinian clubs. The Brasileiro allocates it’s qualification spots to the teams that finished 5th through 14th in the previous league season. In Argentina, simply the top 6 are offered the opportunity to participate. All other South American countries receive 3 berths.
The tournament begins in the first stage whereby 16 teams are paired into a series of two-legged knockout matches. These are all the teams but the best-placed qualifiers from Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. The eight victors pass through to the second stage and are pitted against the teams who went straight in at the second round.
What may seem an excessive amount of berths for two of the continent’s giants is controlled as their teams are drawn against another domestic rival. This therefore reduces the amount of Brazilian and Argentinian in the final stages of the tournament by fifty per cent.
The 15 winners from the second preliminary round ties are then entered into the final stages, along with the reigning champions, which in this edition is Independiente. For this stage, the teams are seeded, depending on their previous ties, to see which part of the draw they fall into.
There are therefore 8 match ups which are played out as two legged affairs. The tournament is also organised in a tree model, so you can attempt to predict your team’s route to the final. This can be altered however, as in the Copa Libertadores, so that two teams from the same nation will meet in the Semi final, in order to preserve diversity in the grand finale.
This year’s match ups are as follows:
Velez (ARG) vs Universidad Catolica (CHI)
Santa Fe (COL) vs Botafogo (BRA)
Independiente (ARG) vs LDU Quito (ECU)
Libertad (PAR) vs Sao Paulo (BRA)
Universidad de Chile (CHI) vs Flamengo (BRA)
Arsenal di Sarandi (ARG) vs Olimpia (PAR)
Universitario (PER) vs Godoy Cruz (ARG)
Vasco da Gama (BRA) vs Aurora (BOL)
The picks of the round coming in the Velez – Universidad Catolica tie and Libertad vs Sao Paulo. The former tie consists of two teams who performed extremely well in the 2011 Copa Libertadores and will look to build on those performances is an intriguing match up. Libertad were another team to perform well in this year’s Libertadores. They may face a second string Sao Paulo side however, as they are rumoured to be intent on mounting a challenge for the league title.
This is the kind of action that leads to the detriment in the stature of the tournament. It is understandable however and is often the case in the UEFA Europa League. If Sao Paulo’s title bid should slip in the coming weeks you can have no doubt that they will go out all guns blazing in an attempt to assure Libertadores qualification.
Argentina is the most successful nation in the tournament, accounting for 5 winners from 4 different clubs with Boca Juniors the most successful club as they achieved consecutive victories in the 2004 and 2005 editions. Brazil has produced but a solo champion, Internacional in 2008.
Though it may be the secondary tournament, the prize of a place in the Copa Libertadores is priceless for many of the clubs involved and they will do their utmost to reach the final and lift the trophy.
Read more from Tom at his excellent blog Purple Patch