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Sambafoot Sunday: Brazilian Clubs' Libertadores Numbers Game

Botafogo's Libertadores joy was short-lived.
Reuters
A disappointing performance from Brazilian teams in the Copa Libertadores group stage will be forgotten if Brazil takes home a fifth consecutive title.

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

Three Brazilian clubs will progress to the knockout stages of this year’s Copa Libertadores, but despite this, the group stages were widely considered to be a disappointment for Brazilian sides who should do better.

 

 

Argentine clubs Indipendiente and Boca juniors are the most successful sides in the competition’s history, with six and seven wins respectively, but for the last four years the competition has been won by a club from Brazil.

The Brazilian teams are also catching up in terms of total wins, as they are now only five behind Argentina’s total of 22. However, the performance of some in the group stage this year means they now have a much lower chance of making up the ground on their neighbours.

Current Brazilian league champions and two time Libertadores winners Cruzeiro, stumbled into second place in group 5. They finished level on points with Universidad de Chile, but qualified for the knock-out stage thanks to a superior goal difference.

Grêmio and Atlético Mineiro were the most impressive of the Brazilian contingent, finishing their group four points ahead of their nearest rivals. They also finished their groups unbeaten, which is no mean feat in a tough continental competition.

The accusations of failure lie at the doors of Atlético Paranaense, Flamengo, and Botafogo who limped out of the competition. Atlético PR’s disappointing home defeat to Vélez Sarsfield, coupled with a final game defeat to The Strongest in the Bolivian altitude of La Paz saw them exit the tournament with three wins and three losses.

Flamengo were also undone by the altitude at La Paz’s Estadio Hernando Siles, as they went down to Bolivar, making it Bolivia 2, Brazil 0 at this particular venue. However, it was an inability to win their home game against Bolivar, and a late winner from Carlos Alberto Peña in their final home game against the Mexican side León, which was ultimately their undoing.

Botafogo were perhaps the most disappointing of the three departing Brazilian sides. Other than the first game in which they beat San Lorenzo at home in the Maracanã, they were far from convincing, scoring only five goals and winning only one more game after their initial triumph. A lack of firepower up front and absence of backbone in defence was summed up in the final game, when they fell to a 3-0 defeat away to the San Lorenzo side they beaten so well in the first game.

Whilst diversity is good for any competition, and there are some underrated teams in the smaller South American countries, the failure of Brazilian clubs in group stage shouldn’t be hidden.

The amount of teams in the final stages of a competition like this can be a good judge of a league’s depth, and Argentina’s four qualifiers trumps Brazil’s three. That said, the Brazilian trio are still favourites to take home their nation’s fifth consecutive title, and any earlier disappointement is likely to be forgotten if they do.

 
 

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