2012 Copa Libertadores kick-off

Paulinho battles for the ball against Deportivo Táchira (AP from Globo)

The 2012 Copa Libertadores group stages are underway with no fewer than six Brazilian teams taking part. Internacional and Flamengo got through the qualifying rounds by beating Once Caldas and Real Potosí respectively. Corinthians, Vasco and Fluminense all went directly into the group stages after finishing in the top three of the Brazilian Serie A last year. Santos qualified as last year’s Champions.

It was a mixed opening round for the Brazilians: Inter and Fluminense both won but Vasco lost at home. Santos lost in Bolivia after dominating the match but conceded a last minute goal from a corner. Typical Santos: play well, create loads of chances and concede a sloppy late goal from a set play. Santos take on Inter in their next match in group A.

Corinthians needed a last minute goal from Ralf to take a point off Deportivo Táchira in Venezuela. Typical Corinthians: struggle for attacking momentum but dig deep and grind out a very important result.

Flamengo could only manage a draw after conceding a late goal themselves. Joel Santana is now sitting on the bench for Flamengo after Vanderlei Luxemburgo was sacked. Joel Santana did what he does best by fielding a very defensive line-up against Lanús in Argentina, playing with four defensive midfielders: Airton, Willians, Maldonado and Renato Abreu. It seemed to be working after Leo Moura gave them the lead but they were pegged back with 15 minutes to go.

Vasco played badly in front of their own fans and lost 2-1 at home to the experienced Nacional from Uruguay. Some people say it could have been nerves. But I’m not sure. The club has won the Copa Libertadores before (in 1998) and played good football on big occasions last year, winning the Brazilian Cup, getting to the final of the Copa Sulamericana and finishing runners-up in the Serie A. Ex Inter-Milan striker Álvaro Recoba plays for Nacional and came on for them in that match.

Internacional’s win over the little known Juan Aurich from Peru was fairly straightforward although Fluminense gave themselves all sorts of troubles in their win over Arsenal (from greater Buenos Aires, not North London). Flu won 1-0 with a Fred goal in the second minute but played badly for the rest of the match and Leandro Euzébio and Wagner were both sent off meaning they’ll miss the next match against Boca Juniors.

Results:

Fluminense 1 x 0 Arsenal (7 Feb)

Vasco 1 x Nacional 2 (8 Feb)

Internacional 2 x 0 Juan Aurich (9 Feb)

The Strongest 2 x 1 Santos (15 Feb)

Lanús 1 x 1 Flamengo (15 Feb)

Deportivo Táchira 1 x 1 Corinthians (15 Feb)

Next fixtures:

Vasco vs. Alianza Lima (6 Mar)

Corinthians vs. Nacional-PAR (7 Mar)

Boca Juniors vs. Fluminense (7 Mar)

Flamengo vs. Emelec (8 Mar)

Santos vs. Internacional (8 Mar)

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