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Copa Libertadores Shocker: Santos Left to Fly the Flag for Brazil

The Round of 16 had its fair share of shock results.

The Round of 16 is over and my word there were some fascinating results. Just a reminder; in the knockouts ties are decided by points, if points are equal then goal difference over the two ties is used as a tie-breaker, if this is level it moves to away goals to try to split the teams, and finally if all is level then the penalty shootout will settle it. The competition progresses in a tree format so potential opponents are known straight away, similar to that of the World Cup.

Santos were the first team to advance to the 1/4 finals on points after a 1-0 win at home versus Club America followed by a goalless draw away. Indeed the home advantage was not quite the same for America as the fixture was played at alternative venue as U2 had adopted the Azteca that night. It was a very tight tie with Ganso’s goal in the first leg proving to be the distance. Santos have been one of the weaker teams throughout the competition seeming to be just doing enough to scrape through. They will need to step it up for the 1/4 finals if they wish to carry on their journey.

Santos would face the winner of Cruzeiro, the top seeded team from the Group Stages, against Once Caldas of Colombia. Cruzeiro took control in Colombia with a 2-1 win after a flurry of late goals. Cruzeiro were 2 goals to the good before Wason Renteria crossed the ball in the 87th minute and Luis Nunez got his header on target which scrambled in as Vitor could not do enough to keep the ball out. This goal would end up being crucial in deciding the tie. The teams met in Brazil for the second leg with Once running out 2-0 winners thanks to Diego Amaya opening the scoring, followed by Dayro Moreno 6 minutes later as he slammed the ball home. By this point both teams had 10 men and the end of the game was marred by some despicable playacting from Renteria. This was likely to simply waste some of the last few minutes and break the Brazilians flow, however it is a shame as Renteria has been one of the players of the tournament for me so far.

Elsewhere reigning champions Internacional were deposed by Penarol. The Uruguayans missed out on the win in Montevideo as Leandro Damiao equalised for the Brazilians to end the game 1-1. Oscar opened the scoring early on in the return leg only to have his effort cancelled out just after the break by Alejandro Martinuccio as he burst through the defence. Penarol then took the lead 5 minutes later after Luis Aguiar burnt pass two defenders on the wing allowing Olivera to finish the move off. The Uruguayans held on as Inter then pummeled the goal to try and get the two more goals they needed to survive. Damiao hit the post but it wasn’t enough and the Brazilians bowed out.

Universidad Catolica pulled off another shock with a 2-1 victory over Brazilian side Gremio in the first leg, who were reduced to 10 men with around 55 minutes remaining. Lucas Pratto got both the goals for the Chileans with what was an excellent first leg win. They secured passage to the next round with a 1-0 victory at home with a very self assured display. Milovan Mirosevic headed the winner late on to knock yet another Brazilian team out of the competition. They have a good chance of making the Semi’s as they will face Penarol, however they will need Pratto, Eluchans and Canete to be on top form.

The Cerro Porteno and Estudiantes tie was the first and only tie of this Copa to be decided by a penalty shootout. Both games finished 0-0 so the shootout was to take place in Paraguay. Juan Iturbe came on as a substitute, the 17 year old was promising but couldn’t unlock the Argentine’s defence. Ivan Torres also had a good solid game in the centre of the park for Cerro. He is also another one to watch. The Paraguayans won the shootout 5-3 by scoring all their penalties, sending another favourite out of the competition.

This meant that Cerro would face either Atletico Junior or Jaguares de Chiapas in the 1/4 finals. Despite the Colombians taking an early lead in the first leg in Mexico, Jaguares were not deterred and levelled the score, giving them a better chance to qualify. The return match in Colombia was definitely one for the neutrals. The game was in the balance continually shifting back and forth from Atletico to Jaguares. Both teams were reduced to 10 men late on with the score standing at 3-2 to the Colombians, this meant a goal would still send the Mexicans through. That is precisely what they got as Edgar Andrade scored a goal worthy of winning any game to give Jaguares a date with Cerro Porteno in the 1/4 finals.

Velez Sarsfield never looked like losing in either leg against LDU Quito. They won the first leg 3-0 but this did not put the tie beyond doubt as they had to travel to Quito for the second leg at close to 10000 feet above sea level. The game was halted for roughly 15 minutes due to issues with the floodlights at the Casa Blanca stadium. When the game resumed Ricardo Alvarez put the Argentines into the lead deep into the 17 minutes of stoppage time! This effectively ended the tie as Liga would need 5 to qualify and Ivan Bella made it a 5-0 aggregate rout for Velez in the 81st minute.

Their opponents would come from the Libertad Fluminense tie. The first leg was played in Brazil as Libertad where the higher seeded team. Fluminense won 3-1 with youngster Rodolfo Gamarra getting the away goal for the Paraguayans with an unlikely header. However, Marquinho and Conca scored goals of the highest quality to put Nense in command of the tie. It was a different story in Paraguay. Rojas opened the scoring in the 58th minute, giving Libertad the lead and offering a glimmer of hope for progression. Then Samudio scored the goal of the week in the 86th minute with a fantastic, cool and calm volley given the circumstances to put Libertad in charge as this scoreline would enable the to advance on the away goals rule. The tie was put beyond doubt by another youngster Jose Nunez in the dying moments of the game and ensure the Paraguayans ran out 3-0 winners and secure them a spot in the 1/4s against Velez.

Some shocking results have knocked out many of the big guns, including 4 of the 5 Brazilian teams, with Santos who were arguably one of the worst performers in the group stage left to carry the Brazilian torch. In the 8 ties, 5 of the teams that were knocked out were higher seeds than their opponents from the group stage. We may well have a Copa that could go anywhere now, with it becoming more likely that it will find a new home outside of Brazil or Argentina as only one side remain representing each of these countries. The upcoming games will certainly be even more intriguing as it seems impossible to predict the outcome of any of these games. The 1/4 finals shape up like this:

Santos vs Once Caldas
Cerro Porteno vs Jaguares
Libertad vs Velez
Universidad Catolica vs Penarol

The first legs will take place on May 10th with the return one week later on the 17th. Also please note that if both Cerro and Libertad qualify for the Semi’s the tree will be altered and they will face each other in that round. If the 1/4s are anything to go by then the next round of games should be great with the potential for some shock results!

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