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A look ahead to the Copa Libertadores

Libertadores (Reuters Pictures)


After years of playing in Europe, veteran left-back Roberto Carlos probably forgot how intense Copa Libertadores competition can get on the field as well as off of it.

Two weeks ago, his Corinthians side was booted from the tournament by Colombia's Deportes Tolima in the preliminary stage, prompting death threats against him and his family, forcing him to leave his homeland once again to reportedly sign with Russia's Anzhi.

While the UEFA Champions League has its fair share of craze and emotion, South America's premiere championship checks in with a passion unmatched anywhere in the world, as rabid supporters, feverish press coverage and the subsequent adrenaline and pace on the field results in some of the most appetizing and tempermental contests that fans can enjoy.

Sure, there may be a snoozer or two, but the fact of the matter is that many of the teams are not only fighting to advance; they're also searching for an identity and respect among its peers.

The Copa Libertadores' 52nd edition moves on without the likes of Boca Juniors, River Plate, Brazil's Sao Paulo or Paraguay's Olimpia (14 titles among them). Six teams have already had their hearts broken by being eliminated in the preliminaries, including Peru's Alianza Lima, Ecuador's Deportivo Quito and Brazil's Corinthians. Meanwhile, teams like Tolima, Mexico's Jaguares and Brazil's Gremio are among those that are celebrating their entries to the 32-team tournament.

Below is SBI's brief intro to every team and expected order of finish (the majority of matches will be broadcast on Fox Sports en Espanol, with a marathon slate this week):


LIBERTAD (Paraguay) – World Cup veteran Victor Caceres is a rock in the middle of the park, is being tracked by several high-profile European teams and is only 25-years-old. The signing of Argentine striker Nicolas Pavlovich should only enhance this team further, despite it losing some key players.

ONCE CALDAS (Colombia) – Everyone's favorite indecisive scribbler Juan Carlos Osorio made the right decision to rebuff offers to manage Chivas USA and the Honduras national team. His Blancos, although losers of major players during the off-season, can still make some noise and are a few signings away from repeating as Colombian champs as well.

SAN MARTIN (Peru) – The team is only seven years old, but has won three national titles, including last year's, and has had a knack for signing good, cheap players before selling them off for decent profit. MLS fans may remember former Toronto FC member Pablo Vitti, who had a remarkable campaign for the Saints last year and was sold to Peruvian giants Universitario de Deportes.

SAN LUIS (Mexico) – Although being picked to finish last, the Gladiators are a tricky side that could surprise detractors with its relatively short experience in South American competitions. Peruvian striker Wilmer Aguirre is quickly becoming a darling with fans, as his exploits in front of the net gives the Mexicans a weapon up top. They'll have to fix their defensive tactics, though — they've leaked in eight goals in four domestic league matches.


GREMIO (Brazil) – Ronaldinho was reportedly in talks to join his boyhood club, spurned them and went with Flamengo instead. The Tricolo lost striker Jonas to Valencia but have 28-year-old playmaker Douglas to command proceedings as attacking midfielder as well as versatile captain Fabio Rochemback.

ATLETICO JUNIOR (Colombia) – Experienced midfielder and captain Giovanni Hernandez & Co. have a manageable group to — along with Once Caldas and Tolima — give Colombia a decent showing. Their recent investments, including veteran midfielder John Viafara, give the Sharks hope to make a mark for the first time since 1994, when they reached the semis.

LEON DE HUANUCO (Peru) – Manager Franco Navarro took the soccer world by storm last year when he left out Argentine Gustavo Rodas, his best player, in the second leg of the national championship. Authorities have given Rodas an inexplicable reprieve after he was involved in a mass brawl in the first leg that led to several red cards; Rodas was the only one forgiven. Navarro, perhaps sick of the "politics" of Peruvian soccer, decided ethics and morale would triumph and didn't even include Rodas on the bench. Will Leon have the soccer gods on their side?

ORIENTE PETROLERO (Bolivia) – Former MLS and veteran midfielder Joselito Vaca keeps on ticking and will look to lead the Refineros to glory, or at least out of the group. The Bolivians have a tough task of going on the road in their first two matches of the campaign.


FLUMINENSE (Brazil) – The Tricolor Carioca rallied to notch its opening match at two goals last week against Argentina's Argentino Juniors. Dario Conca, the Argentine playmaking wizard who was voted Brazil's top player the past two seasons, should help Flu top the group along with Fredy and former Barcelona player Deco at their disposal. Defensively, they're a bit vulnerable as evidenced last week.

NACIONAL (Uruguay) – The Bolso are a traditionally strong tough-as-nails side that most Uruguayan teams are known for and have the talent to punch their ticket into the deep trenches of Libertadores as veteran defender Alejandro Lemo calls the shots in the back. Roberto Flores, its 24-year-old midfielder has potential and the backing of his manager but can't seem to find his form, resulting in a loan to this team from Villareal.

ARGENTINOS JUNIORS (Argentina) – Domestic champs for the first time in 25 years last season, Argentinos hope to take advantage of the absence of the two giants of Argentine soccer. Its debut at Flu gave them great optimism as former DC United player Franco Neill notched two headers to seal an important point on the road.

AMERICA (Mexico) – The Aguilas started off their national tournament winless in three matches, resulting in manager Manuel LaPuente's dismissal but have righted their ship with three wins. Will that momentum translate into Libertadores? The Mexicans have the players to pull off a stunner or two in the Group of Death.


VELEZ SARSFIELD (Argentina) – El Fortin's prolific Uruguayan forward, Santiago Silva, will miss his debut due to a suspension stemming from last year's Copa Sudamericana participation. But Velez has enough ammunition given its other striker, Juan Manuel Martinez, as well as midfield wizard Maxi Moralez and new signing Guillermo Franco.

UNIVERSIDAD CATOLICA (Chile) – The Chilean champs have Jose Luis Villanueva as their man upfront and now as its leader after the departure of highly-rated Milovan Mirosevic, who left to join Al Ain in the UAE. But a clerical errior may sway Mirosevic back to UC, which would give them a boost to possibly fight for the group.

CARACAS (Venezuela) – Los Rojos' No. 10 general, Angelo Pena, is only 21 years old and has an array of talent that MLS fans should look out for. With Venezuela's recent upswing in South American competition, this player will assure his country remains competitive in the near-term.

UNION ESPANOLA (Chile) – Union's Uruguayan midfielder, Martin Liguera, is the man to lead his team's offensive scheme.


CERRO PORTENO (Paraguay) – The Azulgrana is a team that will be able to shake off a manager firing and lackluster results in its domestic championship because it's an experienced side and because they have 29-year-old Argentine forward Roberto Nanni, who manuveurs well in the box and is deadly in the air.

SANTOS (Brazil) – We've all heard of 19-year-old sensation Neymar and his exploits with his country, but the young striker will also have some heavy-hitting support in Paulo Henrique Ganso, 21, and on-loan midfielder Keirrison, who was with Palmeiras previously before signing with Barcelona a couple of years ago.

COLO COLO (Chile) – The Chileans also lost their manager this past week after a drubbing in its local tournament forced owners to panic. But midfielder Rodrigo Miller and forward Esteban Paredes are both veterans that will be able to guide the Snow Whites into contention.

DEPORTIVO TACHIRA (Venezuela) – Colombian journeyman Sergio Herrera, who played one league minute with the Columbus Crew last year, is the man to lead Tachira's attack.


INTERNACIONAL (Brazil) – The defending champions are strong favorites to head back to the final and quite possibly to win it all again after holding on to a majority of its players from last year, even adding Mario Bolatti from Fiorentina into the mix. How did they do so terrible at the FIFA Club World Cup?

EMELEC (Ecuador) – Guayaquil is a tough venue to play in, and the Electrics' upfront Argentine tandem of Christian Menendez and Eial Strahman will also be one of the toughest to mark.

JAGUARES (Mexico) – The team is less than a decade old but made a statement in the preliminaries by ripping apart Alianza Lima, including a 2-0 away win. With some good young talent mixed in with some vets, Jaguares will continue to give Mexico a good name in South America. It's too bad Colombian striker Jackson Martinez is still out injured.

JORGE WILSTERMANN (Bolivia) – Striker Gianakis Suarez is fast, only 19 and could be the future of Bolivian soccer. This year's tournament is the perfect outing for him to shine.


CRUZEIRO (Brazil) – The Foxes haven't been the same since losing in the 2009 final. For the most part, they still have some of the players from that year but will they break out now? Goalkeeper and captain Fabio is the rock in the between the pipes.

ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA (Argentina) – Sure, mastermind tactician Alejandro Sabella quit as manager, but the Pincharrates have the experience to fend off the likes of Tolima and Guarani, depending on the adjustment to their new manager's system. Juan Sebastian Veron will make sure his team adapts.

DEPORTES TOLIMA (Colombia) – The Colombians are still riding high after disposing of a Corinthians side that was picked to go deep in the tournament. Tolima controls its own destiny and its near-term future lies in the hands of Wilder Medina, who has been a revelation in the Colombian league in the past several seasons.

GUARANI (Paraguay) – Fabio Escobar, 28, returns back home to take the Paraguayan champions' No. 9 shirt from the departed Argentine forward Jonathan Fabbro.


PENAROL (Uruguay) – With the showing that Uruguay displayed at the World Cup this year, it's only fitting that one of the giants of Uruguay and South America is back with a vengeance in the 2011 edition. The five-time Libertadores champs boast some fine individuals in 23-year-old defensive midfielder Nicolas Freitas and veteran playmaker Antonio Pacheco.

LDU QUITO (Ecuador) – You can't go wrong with a side that's won Libertadores, Sudamericana and two Recopas in recent years. Luis Bolanos is the perfect No. 10 that should help LDU push deep into the tournament with attacking fluidity that it's shown against the top teams of the continent.

INDEPENDIENTE (Argentina) – The Rojo fell flat on its face in the domestic league but still managed to take the Sudamericana last year. However, its president decided to make its stadium a priority instead of revamping his squad after losing many top players.

GODOY CRUZ (Argentina) – The team is coming off of a classy 4-1 whipping of Boca Juniors at the famed Bombonera Stadium in the Argentine league. It's sold off some key members but this working-class side has given fans hope for a decent year in the league and quite possibly Libertadores.


Who do you see winning the 2011 Copa Libertadores? Can you see Internacional repeating?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. lmao dude…think about what you said…”MLS has the fastest style of play on the American continent” lmao go tell that to a Brazilian …or an Argy…or an Ecuadorian…or an Uruguayan. lol

  2. The Brazilizn, argentine, and Mexiacan leagues are Much faster than MLS. They do have technical skills but they also play with plenty of speed and good quick passing. MLS is more Physical but compared to these leagues, MLS is slow. The passing is not very good either.

  3. The best Mexican teams are not in this competition any more. They are forced into the ConcaChampions. These are the 3rd and fourth place finishers.

  4. Maybe be so. I just saw my team lose to a Mexican team. it was America vs nacional and the speed was fast. What I see when teams play other teams from other countries is diffrent style and the speed is more faster. Vamos Nacional!!!!!

  5. I dont know if you have seen the teams in SA, but the speed of play is a bit slower then MLS. The Aspect the South American game is technique compared to MLS, which is more athletic and a quicker style of play. Clever passes and technical dribbles. IE Neymar is slow but technical or Riquelme slow but can pass a ball. I think its safe to say MLS has the fastest style of play on the American continent.

  6. I think people are misunderstanding my comments

    I don’t want MLS teams in the tournament because the tournament is great and fun. I love the Copa Libertadores especially just watching the atmosphere. I would love to actually be live in person watching it

    The atmosphere at MLS is boring and it cannot compare with watching Copa Libertadores. Also the teams in MLS are definately not ready to even try and go in this tournament.

  7. MLS teams would get trampled in South America…they can’t win CCL even though Mexican teams play with subs most of the time. Imagine if these MLS teams played in Copa Libertadores against speedy,complete, and talented south american or mexican squads…

  8. Group 3 = group of death

    It would be great to see MLS in this tournament, Players want to play in big Tournaments and frankly this is the biggest ClUB tournament this side of the Atlantic. Imagine the big names MLs can attract by playing in this tournament. I pray MLS competes in this tournament in my lifetime.

  9. Sorry but I would hate for MLS teams to enter CL. MLS teams have a looooooong way to go in being consistent. Those pretty little friendlies against Mexican or SA teams aren’t indicative of how MLS squares up against them. The environment is too intense despite what some of the other posters say. Also ironic that an MLS fan calls SA atmosphere boring unless they’re trying to compare it to their favorite ‘Euro'” team. LOL

  10. first of all … MLS teams would get steamrolled …and i love the MLS…but maybe they should try harder in concacaf championsleague first…then come back and reconsider your comment.

  11. How many Libertadores games have you witnessed in person L=snob?

    Any poster who says they don’t want MLS teams in the mighty Libertadores de America cannot and should not call themselves soccer fans!

  12. Nacional is not winning anything at the Azteca! Much less with arguably the greatest foreign player ever to grace the Mexican League and a red blooded Americanista to boot at the helm of his adored Aguilas!!!

  13. Wow so funny I am rolling on the floor. (sarcasm)

    English is my first language, so get your facts straight before you talk.

    The atmosphere is boring and let South America and I guess Mexicans as well, enjoy the tourney, without having to have an MLS team in there.

  14. Concacaf took away copa sudamericana from Mexico because “concacaf champion league is more important”. Pachuca is the only Mexican team to win a south American international trophy witch was the copa sudamericana.

  15. Mexican teams should not be in this…They should focus on the Champions League…especially as American/Canadain teams get better.

  16. Good Lord, why is Roberto Carlos going to play in freaking Dagestan?! Is he nuts? Does he have any idea what that will be like? I’m stupefied. I cannot imagine that this was his best option.

  17. Love watching Libertadores. Last year, Chivas went to the finals and lost. Hopefully CONCACAF teams can do well this year.

    It would be nice if MLS teams could get in to this tourney. Much better than the CONCACAF tourney. Too bad US and MX couldn’t leave CONCACAF tourney altogether. Would be nice to just do a big one with best teams from the Americas.

    What are the chances that MLS teams ever get invited to this? A big reason as to why Mexico is invited is because of the HUGE sponsorship dollars from Mexican companies.

  18. I completely agree hawever, I disagree with BolaƱos being the key because he has been in a rut as of last year and hasn’t even played yet in the domestic league this year! I believe that Hernan ‘El Pirata’ Barcos will be key to Liga making it very far, his goal scoring ability rivals that of ‘El Taca’ Bieler who played for them a few years ago.

  19. I love European Football, but I agree, there’s something about watching the atmosphere of South American football. I watch the Argentine league on tv and occasionally Brazil, it’s great to see. I am excited to watch the Libertadores.

  20. LIGA has a GREAT shot at winning it……trust me if LIGA was from Brazil or Argentina everyone would be riding their co*ks….but even after being the dominant team the last 3 years they get over looked…why? because there from ECUADOR.

  21. Hopefully, MLS teams will get an invite in a year or two. At the rate the league is improving with expanded rosters and academy system in place, I expect them to surpass Mexican league very soon.


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