Unconvincing start from Brazilians in Copa Libertadores

Lautaro Martinez: the real deal (pic: EFE)

I’ve heard about this kid in the gossip columns and seen him in the computer games, but now I’m finally convinced. After scoring a hat-trick last night for Racing against Cruzeiro in the Copa Libertadores, Lautaro Martinez showed South America that he is the real deal.

Racing put four goals past Cruzeiro in their Copa Libertadores group 5 opening match in Avellaneda yesterday. Three of those were scored by 20 year old Lautaro Martinez, one of South America’s hottest prospects. Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, was in the crowd, and will have been impressed. Don’t rule out a call up to Argentina’s World Cup squad.

In a post last night, I asked whether the bookies had overestimated the Brazilian sides and underestimated the non-Brazilian sides in this years Copa Libertadores. On last night’s evidence (Grêmio drew with Defensor, from Uruguay, although played quite well), it seems like a fair question to ask. Racing for example, at 20/1, are 12th favourites for the title. Those are the same odds as Vasco, a team that saw a 4-0 first leg lead overturned in Bolivia recently.

Admittedly, one factor working against Brazilian teams in these early rounds is that they may not be as well prepared as some of their rivals. Argentine clubs, like Racing, are in the middle of their league season and playing high level opposition week in week out. Brazilian clubs, by contrast, are still in a semi pre season phase and playing weaker opposition in their State Championships. Its not really an excuse, but its fair to expect the Brazilian teams to be fitter and better prepared further into this competition than they are now.

Meanwhile, Corinthians get their campaign under way tonight against Millionarios in Bogota, Colombia. The coach Fabio Carille already named his side; its a 4-4-2 with two false number 9s. Beat that Spain, or Barcelona. One of those false 9s will be 19-year old Mateus Vital, recently signed from Vasco, who will start in place of the suspended Rodriguinho.

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