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Sambafoot Sunday: Brazilian sides struggle to reach Copa Libertadores heights

The two Brazilian teams get off to losing starts in the Copa Libertadores preliminaries.

Sambafoot Sunday by James Nalton. The beat goes on...

Brazilian sides Atlético Paranaense and Botafogo kicked off their continental campaigns in the Copa Libertadores this week, as they played the away legs of their qualifying matches. The winners of these two legged ties will qualify for the group stages of the tournament, but both Brazilian sides struggled to make an impact.

Atlético Paranaense managed to score what could be a vital away goal in the shape of an Éderson penalty, but still fell to a 2-1 defeat to Sporting Cristal in Lima, Peru.

South American football expert Nick Dorrington gave a succinct summary of Atlético’s performance.

The team who finished third in last season’s Brasileirão will hope to overturn this deficit in this week’s return leg in Curitiba on Wednesday night.

For Botafogo, the opening round of the competition was even more disappointing. A tepid performance resulted in a 1-0 defeat to Deportivo Quito in the heights of the Ecuadorian capital, and the home side could have had more. The altitude in Quito often excuses poor performances from visiting teams, but Botafogo were so poor that questions need to be asked beyond this.

Sambfoot’s Chris Westwood commented

The Rio side were helped to the fourth place Libertadores qualification spot in the league by the experienced Clarence Seedorf, and his departure to Milan seems to be affecting them already. Despite the Dutchman’s slight dip in form last season, you can now see what he brought to the team collective, even if his individual performance wasn’t always outstanding.

A lack of patience, composure and confidence in the final third was typified by new signing Juan Ferreyra early on in the game. Through on goal it seemed that all the striker needed to do was pull the trigger to give Botafogo the lead, but instead he waited for the chasing defender to foul him in order to win a penalty. The defender executed a good tackle and the chance was gone.

This only added to Botafogo’s poor start to 2014, as they’ve also struggled in their state championship fixtures. After four games in the Carioca against supposed lower quality opposition, they’ve only managed one win. Their games this week will give them a chance to turn this form around, as they play local rivals Vasco da Gama today (Sunday), and the Libertadores return leg against Deportivo Quito in the Maracanã on Wednesday night.

The Brazilian sides enter the preliminary round of the Copa Libertadores having played only a handful of low-tempo games in their respective state championships, but this can’t really be used as an excuse for below par performances. The Peruvian season is yet to start, and the campaign in Ecuador is only a few games in, so this is a rusty period for many teams on the continent.

Turning around these deficits won’t be easy for the Brazilian teams if the first legs are anything to go by, even though they are expected to do just that. The games on Wednesday night could be an early season wake-up call for both, as they go into 2014 with higher expectations given last season’s heroics.


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