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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Brazil versus the rest
By Tim Vickery

It is Brazil versus the rest of South America as the continent's version of the Champions League enters the knock-out phase.

The four Brazilian teams waltzed their way through the group stage of the Copa Libertadores.

All four hardly had to break sweat in order to finish on top of their group.

The way the draw has worked out means that if the quartet keep winning then Brazil will supply all the semi-finalists in this year's competition.

First, though, they will have to negotiate their way through an electrifying second round.

Corinthians fans are sure to give their side a lift
Corinthians fans are sure to give their side a lift
For Santos, Corinthians, Grêmio and Paysandu, their excellent performances in the group phase are now part of the past.

In their immediate future lie four former winners of the Libertadores who seek to bar the way to the quarter-finals.

All of the Brazilian teams are away from home in the first leg, and will face hostile crowds in packed stadiums.

The most mouthwatering tie doesn't get under way until next week.

Corinthians, the biggest team from the sprawling metropolis of São Paulo, are up against River Plate, the swaggering aristocrats of Buenos Aires.

The Argentine giants pride themselves on churning out a production line of footballing talent, and boast a current generation spearheaded by playmaker Andres D'Alessandro and striker Fernando Cavenaghi.

The clash between these teams would be a fitting final of the Libertadores, and their two games will bring the continent to a standstill.
Carlos Bianchi can get the best out of Boca Juniors
Carlos Bianchi can get the best out of Boca Juniors

Brazil's three other teams have their away leg this week. Paysandu face the other Buenos Aires giant, Boca Juniors.

From the northern city of Belem, on the edge of the Amazon, Paysandu have so far exceeded all expectations in this, their first Libertadores campaign.

But the trip to Boca's famous "La Bonbonera" stadium takes them beyond anything they have experienced up until now.

Boca may lack some of the individual talent of the team that won the Libertadores in 2000 and 2001. But coach Carlos Bianchi is a master at getting a team to perform to its collective potential.

Santos have made hugely entertaining progress so far in their bid to win their first Libertadores for 40 years.

Wonderkids Diego and Robinho lead an exciting young side, organised by coach Emerson Leão to put the emphasis on attack.

Grêmio hope to have two reasons to pop the champagne corks
Their positive approach makes them a delight to watch, but can leave them light at the back.

Uruguayan champions Nacional will seek to take advantage. And in winger Marcelo Guerrero, they have a wonderkid of their own to give plenty of headaches to the Santos defenders.

Grêmio from the south of Brazil make the short trip to Paraguay to face the ever-resilient Olímpia.

Talk of revenge is in the air. The sides met in last year's semi-final when, after two closely fought matches, Olímpia emerged triumphant from a penalty shoot-out.

The Paraguayans went on to win the title, and celebrations were especially intense because it was the club's centenary year.

This year it is Grêmio's turn to celebrate their centenary, and they hope to have two reasons to pop the champagne corks.

The Olimpia-Grêmio tie gets the knock-out phase of the Libertadores underway.

The games in this second round are scheduled for the next four weeks.

In a month's time we should have a clearer idea of the strength of the challenge to take the Copa Libertadores to Brazil for the first time in the new century.

A chance to shine
31 Mar 03  |  Football

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