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
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
First, though, they will have to negotiate their way through an
electrifying second round.
For Santos, Corinthians, Grêmio and Paysandu,
their excellent performances in the group phase are now part of the past.
Corinthians fans are sure to give their side a lift
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
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.
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
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
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
Their positive approach makes them a delight to watch, but can
leave them light at the back.
Grêmio hope to have two reasons to pop the champagne corks
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
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
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
The games in this second round are scheduled for the next four
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.