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Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 08:14 UK

Tim Vickery column

Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

LDU players celebrate their historic Copa Libertadores win
Luis Balanos (number seven) scored for LDU

Last Wednesday Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito became the first club from Ecuador to win the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, in the 49-year history of the competition.

Theirs was a curious campaign - winning the final and quarter-final on penalties and the semis on away goals, registering just one victory in their last seven games.

The cold facts and figures might make it seem that they are a cautious, defensive side who sneaked their way to the title. The reality is completely different.

During the course of the 2008 Libertadores, LDU were consistently better going forward than staying back.

They attacked with pace and width, with the key figures the wide midfielders Joffre Guerron storming down the right and Luis Bolanos cutting in from the left.

In this respect their 4-5-1 resembled some of the football played during Euro 2008.

Brazil 1970 World Cup winner Tostao, who is now his country's most authoritative football writer, observed during the tournament that "it is increasingly common to see the clubs and national teams in Europe with two wide players who drop back to mark and then advance as wingers and/or get close to the centre forward.

"You can say that these teams play with one striker or three. There's no difference."

This is essentially what LDU did in the Libertadores.

Guerron - who now joins Getafe in Spain - was more the old fashioned winger. Aided by the advances of left-footed left back Paul Ambrossi, Bolanos sought to cut in on to his right foot and get close to striker Bieler.

In both legs of the final against LDU, Fluminense acted as if they had never seen anything like a wide midfielder in their lives

Guerron undressed the defence and made the chances, while Bolanos was the club's top scorer in the campaign.

Not that LDU were imitating Europe.

Argentine coach Edgardo Bauza worked out his strategy based on two things - the prevailing conditions and the resources of the players at his disposal.

For 'the conditions', read 'altitude.'

LDU's home city of Quito is 2,800 metres above sea level. Unacclimatised visitors lose some of their athletic capacity at such heights, so it is clearly in LDU's interests to stretch the make their opponents run as much as possible - hence the option for two wide men.

It worked so well that LDU retained the aggressive 4-5-1 system for away games as well. Then there were the playing resources.

Both Guerron and Bolanos were converted to their present roles.

Guerron was an out-and-out striker. Explosive and strong and a former 60m sprinter, moving him wide right gave him more space in which to power past his marker.

LDU coach Edgardo Bauza played to his team's strengths
Bauza guided his team to a surprise victory

Bolanos was a conventional attacking midfielder. He suffered more with the need to get up and down the touchline, and frequently had to be substituted, but he too showed the thrust, pace and skill to operate from wide positions.

Tostao was drawing the attention of his readers to the role of the two wide men in Euro 2008 because it is a formation that is almost never seen in contemporary Brazilian football, even though Brazil can claim to have invented the role of the dual purpose winger as long ago as the 1950s, with Mario Zagallo and Tele Santana.

What has happened since then is that the Brazilian midfield has become narrower, with corridors left down the flanks for the attacking full backs or wing-backs to exploit.

Certainly in both legs of the final against LDU, Fluminense acted as if they had never seen anything like a wide midfielder in their lives.

From the second minute of the first leg - when Guerron set up the opening goal - to the last minute of extra time in the second leg - when he was hauled down on the edge of the area - they never came to terms with LDU's rampaging number 19.

After eliminating the likes of Sao Paulo and Boca Juniors, perhaps Fluminense were deceived into believing that there was little need to think about countering LDU's strong points. If so, it proved an important mistake.

Instead of becoming the ninth Brazilian team to win the Libertadores, they had to watch LDU celebrate a debut victory for Ecuador.

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.


Can you offer any insight into the strengths of Jonas Gutierrez? I think a few Newcastle fans are wondering what they've got? Keegan is enthusiastic but then he could be enthusiastic about anything! Many reports say he is a right-sided midfielder but he seems to play more on the left and cut in. What's he like?
Chris Falconer

He was showcased in the recent 0-0 draw between Brazil and Argentina, who brought him in specifically for this game.

In recent matches between the two Brazil have got at Argentina left back Gabriel Heinze - so Gutierrez came in to play in front of him, work up and down the flank and take care of Brazil right back Maicon.

His presence was one of the reasons the game was something of a stalemate.

He's not a tricky winger, the type who can beat three men in five metres, because his stride is too long for that. He's tall, powerful, has terrific engine and is naturally right-footed, but more often he plays on the left.

Only just 25, with three good seasons at Mallorca behind him, he's the type of player whose physical dynamism is more suited to the game in Europe rather than in Argentina, where he played for Velez Sarsfield. Unlikely to be a star, likely to put in solid service.

I've heard of a young player called Diego Buonanotte who's just been named in Argentina's Olympic squad. What's he like? Is he a Riquelme-type player or more dynamic? Is he any good? Benjamin Groom

He's a lovely little player, though you could probably stand three of him on top of one another and the result would still be smaller than Riquelme, hence his none-too-flattering nickname 'the dwarf'.

He's a left-footed attacking midfielder who had an excellent season for River Plate and can be a playmaker but has usually played wide left, with more space to work in.

Is he too frail for Europe or senior international football? Time will tell - the Olympics might give us a hint.

Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

see also
Tim Vickery column
30 Jun 08 |  Football
Tim Vickery column
23 Jun 08 |  Football
Tim Vickery column
16 Jun 08 |  Football

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