Saturday, 23 May 2009

Montevideo 2 - 0 Buenos Aires

Photo: AFP
The game in Uruguay is widely acknowledged to be in irreversible decline with falling gates and violence in the stands. Great clubs such as Penarol, 5 Libertadores Cup wins and Nacional, 3 Libertadores Cup wins have been unable to capture past glories on the continental stage and the days when the national team ruled the world will never return. Results in this seasons Copa Libertadores demonstrate that this tiny nation can still give it's more illustrious neighbours a bloody nose.

Both River Plate and now Boca Juniors have fallen victim to teams from the other side of the Rio de la Plata. In River's case Nacional contributed to their failure to reach the knockout stages (Los Millionarios beat the Uruguayan's at home but lost 3-0 in Montevideo) although they sealed their own fate by losing in spectacular fashion to already eliminated Nacional of Paraguay. Boca's exit from the competition can be attributed soley to champions Defensor Sporting and their own inability to hold on to a lead. After conceding twice in Uruguay but still having the cushion of 2 away goals the Xeneizes were one decent performance away from meeting Estudiantes in the Quarter Finals. That decent performance was sadly lacking on Thursday, after going 1-0 down to an neat and excellently crafted Diego de Souza goal in the 27th minute ( the home side didn't exactly lay siege to Defensor's goal. When they did get through they were up against 'keeper Marin Silva in fine form. To put Defensor's victory into perspective it was Boca's first home defeat in this competition since 2003. Uruguayan daily El Pais hailed the 'History Makers' and eulogised about the performance of Martin Silva. Not bad for a club who didn't even exist in their current guise until 1989.

Questions now inevitably turn towards the future of coach Carlos Ischia who is contracted until December and has Carlos Bianchi's excellent Copa Libertadores achievements as a constant reminder - he returned to the club as Technical Director in December. Unfortunately he doesn't even have the clubs league form to fall back on as four wins out of fourteen see them flailing in seventeenth place. Maradona has commented that 'ever since Bianchi returned Ischia has been at the doors of the cemetary'.

Away from the navel gazing at La Bombonera alarm bells should be sounding in the country as a whole, of the five representatives for Argentina in the Libertadores this season only one now remains - Estudiantes. Three of the teams failed to make even the knockout stages, including league leaders Lanús. Contrast this with Brazil's five teams in the last 16. It's now down to Estudiantes and Verón to fly the flag against Defensor.

Hasta Luego!