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Tim Vickery column

Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Joffre Guerron
Exciting LDU forward Joffre Guerron is set to join Getafe

While Europe has been concentrating on the international game, South America now builds towards the biggest match in its club calendar - Wednesday's second leg of the final of the Copa Libertadores.

The comparison between the Libertadores and Europe's Champions League sheds some light on the effects of globalisation on both the centre and the periphery of the world's football economy.

Unlike the Champions League, the Libertadores decider is always contested over two games. It could hardly be any other way. Distances are vast in South America and salaries are low. The age of mass air travel is still some way off. Playing the final on a home and away basis makes obvious sense. Holding it in a neutral venue would rob the occasion of atmosphere.

There is another interesting difference from Europe. These days it is all but impossible to imagine the Champions League title being contested by two teams who are making their first appearance in the final - as is the case in this year's Libertadores, where Fluminense of Brazil and LDU of Ecuador are the last teams standing.

In Europe the major clubs have a near monopoly on the silverware - they snap up the top players from all over the planet and even the way that the TV money is distributed gives advantages to the established giants.

Prolonged success is much harder to achieve in South America, where even the biggest, most successful clubs are continually selling their best players.

At the end of last year a conference of coaches in Brazil was debating the subject of planning. Mano Menezes, now in charge of Corinthians, made the point that planning is a luxury that the likes of Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger can enjoy. "We're running around patching up necessities," he said.

It is a title of tradition and prestige, which everyone wants on their CV - and the passion of the fans guarantees a memorable occasion

Tim Vickery

With everyone in a permanent state of transition, the Libertadores can be gloriously unpredictable. New forces can suddenly emerge.

At the start of the decade little Brazilian club Sao Caetano came from nowhere to become a national and then continental force. They reached the final of the 2002 Libertadores, which went to penalties. Had they won they would have met Real Madrid in Japan later that year. Instead they slid back and are now playing in front of tiny crowds in the Brazilian second division.

Incidentally, it was Sao Caetano's 2002 campaign that made the name of a hard-working central midfielder with a rocket shot - Marcos Senna, who was quickly whisked across the Atlantic, took out Spanish citizenship and played a much praised part in his adopted country's Euro 2008 triumph.

These days, then, the Libertadores is a breeding ground for European football. One of this year's stars has been LDU's Joffre Guerron, originally a striker, but who has blossomed since being moved to the right flank. With more space to work in, his pace and power have tipped the balance time and time again in LDU's run to the final of the Libertadores. However, even before the campaign is over his bags are packed. He is set to join Getafe in Spain.

In the Fluminense side, classy centre-back Thiago Silva will surely be in Europe before long, as will left-footed attacking midfielder Thiago Neves - providing a buyer is prepared to take a chance on his instability.

Thiago Silva
Fluminense centre back Silva will be out to stop Guerron

But all this does not mean that players in the Libertadores are merely going through the motions in the hope of winning a move to Europe. It is a title of tradition and prestige, which everyone wants on their CV - and the passion of the fans guarantees a memorable occasion.

Last week's first leg in Quito was a cracking game, with LDU running riot in the first half to lead 4-1 but Fluminense rallying to score what could be a highly significant second goal after the break.

In front of a packed crowd in the Maracana stadium, Wednesday's return match promises to be equally special - even if some of the star performers are unlikely to be around to defend their title in next year's Libertadores.


You can put your questions to Tim Vickery every week on the World Football Phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live's Up All Night programme from 0230 to 0400 BST every Saturday. You can also download last week's World Football Phone-in Podcast.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Do the Brazilian public acknowledge the Euros are always way better soccer than the World Cups? I doubt if they will. Brazil is the money ticket for Fifa, quality is the money ticket for Uefa.

Drew Jennings

I think you've gone way, way too far based on one good tournament. Euro 2004 was so awful that Greece were able to win it. European teams have never won the World Cup outside their own continent and in Germany last time eventual champions Italy drew with the United States and needed an iffy penalty to get past Australia. There's a big wide world out there.

Prior to this one, some of the dullest football in major tournaments was coming from European sides. Many of them seemed paralysed with caution, with, sadly, England amongst the worst of the culprits. That's why the 2008 tournament was so heartening.

Without Zidane and Totti, France and Italy had gone backwards, everyone else seemed to have moved forwards - and there were lessons there for Brazil, as 1970 great Tostao was keen to point out. "All of the central midfielders can set up the play," he noted of Euro 2008. "There are no third centre-backs or the mixed defensive midfielder/centre-back that Brazilian coaches like so much." Brazil clearly need a rethink in this area.


Barnsley have just signed Argentine midfield player Hugo Roberto Colace from Newell's. Is it true he captained the Argentine Under-20 World Cup team that included Tevez and Mascherano and is it possible for you to give a little more background and opinion on the impact the player could make in the Championship next season?

Miles McDermott

He did indeed captain Argentina at Under-20 level, with Tevez and Mascherano, back in 2003. When I look back at my notes from the time there are many references to his poor passing.

I thought of him as one of those utility midfielders who is not outstanding at anything - and nothing has happened to change my mind. He's now 24, and hasn't done anything for a while. Diego Simeone - who knows a thing or two about midfielders - didn't seen to want him at Estudiantes and then he moved to Brazil to join Flamengo and could hardly even get on the substitutes' bench.

His agent has been trying to get him to England for some time. Perhaps this is the move he needs to kick-start his career but in the normal way of things a transfer abroad is the consequence of success in South American club football, which is not the case of Colace.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at vickerycolumn@hotmail.com


see also
Tim Vickery column
23 Jun 08 |  Football
Brazil 0-0 Argentina
19 Jun 08 |  Internationals
Tim Vickery column
16 Jun 08 |  Football


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