BUENOS AIRES - Brazil's Libertadores Cup
hopes hang this year on a trio of Argentines making waves in the
Brazilian championship and across the continent.
Argentina midfielder Andres D'Alessandro's influence in
Internacional's second victory last year in the region's elite
club competition earned him the vote as South America's Player
of the Year.
Fluminense, finalists in 2008, won the Brazilian
championship in December with Dario Conca dictating their game
and earning Brazil's Player of the Year award.
The third of this trio of slightly-built, in a Lionel Messi
mould, but hugely talented playmakers, Walter Montillo helped
twice winners Cruzeiro qualify among six Brazilian teams.
Brazil's number was reduced by one last week when Ronaldo's
Corinthians were upset by Colombia's Deportes Tolima in the
preliminary round but one of the other five are favourites to
win the trophy.
This could be down to having an Argentine playmaker, a
remarkable fact in Brazil, although leading TV and radio
commentator Luis Mendes has a logical explanation.
"We Brazilians have a tendency to copy the Europeans. The
Argentines stick more strongly to their (footballing) culture,
so they don't pass over those skilled players like Conca,
D'Alessandro and Montillo," Mendes said.
"Brazilian clubs are not concerned about producing number
10s because they lean towards supplying the European market," he
"And there (in Europe) that number 10 type (of player) is
not appreciated. In Europe you have the fast attacker out wide
and a target man in the middle and midfielders who are strong,
run all over the pitch, know how to mark and can join the
"So, Brazilian teams are getting their number 10s in
neighbouring countries, but Brazil will come around to producing
our own again," he said.
"We already have some. (Paulo Henrique) Ganso of Santos is
that type of player. He mixes a good feeling for building moves
with a good pass."
The 21-year-old Ganso won his first Brazil cap in August but
has since had surgery on damaged knee ligaments.
Santos, South American champions twice in the early 1960s in
Pele's heyday, will be hoping to have Ganso fit some time in
their Group Five campaign which begins on February 15 with a visit
to Deportivo Tachira in Venezuela.
Fluminense are the first Brazilian team in action on
Wednesday when they are at home in Rio de Janeiro to 1985
winners Argentinos Juniors of Argentina in Group Three.
Inter open their defence of the trophy in Group Six away to
Ecuador's Emelec at the George Capwell stadium in the Pacific
port city of Guayaquil a week later on February 16.
Cruzeiro's opener the same night is one of the stand-out
matches of the group phase. They entertain Estudiantes in Group
Seven in Belo Horizonte where the Argentine side beat them 2-1
in the 2009 final to lift their fourth crown.
Gremio, bitter city rivals to Inter in the southern
Brazilian city of Porto Alegre and also looking for a third
title, make their bow at home to Bolivia's Oriente Petrolero in
Group Two on February 17.
Record seven-times winners Independiente and Velez
Sarsfield, champions in 1994, also represent Argentina. But the
absence of Boca Juniors, who won four of their six titles
between 2000 and 2007, and twice-winners River Plate stands out
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