Hello fans! It’s Libertadores Cup time again! Nacional is facing a tough schedule over the next week: hosting Argentinian powerhouse Boca Juniors, defending a 2 year unbeaten clásico streak against Peñarol on Sunday, then traveling to Buenos Aires for the return match next week. How are they doing so far? Let’s get right to it!
They’re the Best… Around!
Look, if you need me to explain who Boca Juniors is to you, perhaps you would be more comfortable reading one of our less soccer-focused columnists. Jobu, perhaps? Or maybe Jerry? Just go on over to their archives, I promise I won’t be mad. Those of you who are still here know that Nacional is facing arguably the most successful South American club team of the 21st Century. Since 2000, Boca has won 4 Libertadores Cups, 2 Copa Sudamericanas, and 2 Intercontinental Cups. Yeah… they’ve been around the block once or twice. The team features several players who have been mainstays on the Argentinian national team, like Carlos Tevez and Fernando Gago, as well as highly touted forward Sebastián Palacios. Also on the roster are a few guys from Nacional’s side of the pond: Celeste youth divisions prospect Rodrigo Bentancur and a couple of guys who are quite familiar to Tricolores fans: defender Alexis Rolín and midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro.
As powerful as Boca is, though, they’ve never managed to eliminate the Tricolores in a continental tournament playoff (they faced off in the 1991 Supercopa and the 2006 Sudamericana), so the Bolsos had history on their side. Nacional came into this game at almost full potential, the only concern being a knee injury suffered by Nicolás López. That’s a pretty big concern, admittedly, but the forward practiced was able to join regular practices on the last day of preparation and was in the starting lineup at game time.
Rough and Tumble
The first half was pretty ugly. Boca made liberal use of fouls to interrupt the flow of Nacional’s ball movement (final foul count: Boca 26, Nacional 14). Neither keeper had much to do in the opening 45 minutes, with the ball primarily moving back and forth around the midfield area. Nacional was unable to execute on their offensive ideas, and Boca didn’t really seem to have any. The key event happened in the 37th minute, when López felt a twinge in his recovering knee and asked to be substituted. With their star and top scorer sidelined, the Tricolores figured to have a tough time getting the ball in the net and concentrated on keeping Boca away from theirs (hey, a scoreless tie at home isn’t the worst thing in the world, right?) They almost managed it; Boca had one clear chance on goal, a shot from the left side of the box in the 70th minute by Colombian Frank Fabra (wait, wasn’t he the guy who directed It’s a Wonderful Life?). Naturally, the ball sneaked by keeper Esteban Conde for a 1-0 lead. Hachi machi!
This is Gustavo Munúa‘s Nacional we’re talking about here, fans, so they weren’t just going to roll over and die. No López? No problem! Nico is clearly the Tricolores’ best forward, but it’s not just him and 10 other schmucks out on the field. Boca’s lead lasted all of 6 minutes, or as long as it took for former Celeste World Cup and Copa América standout Sebastián “Papelito” Fernández to find a loose ball in the penalty box and volley the crap out of it. After that Nacional tried to score the game winner but could not come up with clear chances. The resulting 1-1 tie is not the worst result, but it’s not good. The Tricolores will travel to Buenos Aires knowing that a scoreless tie means elimination, and that they have to score at least one goal in the mythical Bombonera. It’s a tall order, especially if López isn’t around to help out. Even worse, they have a huge local league game on Sunday, so they can’t just concentrate on Boca.
It’s very possible that by this time next week Nacional will be out of the Libertadores and all but eliminated from Uruguayan League contention. Still, I’m not counting them out. This team has the talent and the intestinal fortitude to overcome any obstacle. Let’s just see how this hand plays out.
It would be downright irresponsible of me to just end this week’s post without mentioning what Luis Suárez has been up to. TBGDPITWW, which as you should know by now stands for THE BEST GOD DAMN PLAYER IN THE WHOLE WORLD, helped Barcelona to their 24th La Liga title by scoring all 3 goals in a 3-0 away win at Granada on the last day of the season. The win allowed the Blaugrana to hold off Real Madrid, who beat Deportivo 2-0 thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo double (two goals? Awwww, how cute!)
TBGDPITWW finished the La Liga season with 40 goals in 38 games (5 more than second place Ronaldo), winning his first ever Pichichi title and all by sealing his second European Golden Shoe in 3 years. He joins Diego Forlán as the only Uruguayans to win the award (each has now done it twice). Still, that doesn’t really do justice to what the Celeste forward has done in the last month. On April 17th, Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia to cap a horrendous stretch in which they were dumped out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals and watched a 10 point La Liga lead disappear. The Blaugrana were tied with Atletico Madrid and just one point ahead of Real, and no one gave them much of a chance to repeat as champions. Since that day, Barcelona has played 5 games and won them all, scoring 24 goals and conceding none. Yes, that’s right, zero, zip, zilch, nada, the big goose egg. Out of their 24 goals, TBGDPITWW 14. You heard right: in the last 450+minutes of La Liga action, Luis Suárez outscored everyone else on the pitch (his own teammates included) 14. That’s why he is (all together now) THE BEST GOD DAMN PLAYER IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Congratulations, Luis! Save some of that firepower for the Celeste, OK?
That’s all for me this week, fans. Let’s get warmed up for the clásico with a little Pasión Tricolor:
- The Charrúa Report: On the Right Foot - March 14, 2017
- The Charrúa Report: Campeones! - February 14, 2017
- The Charrúa Report: 48 Is Enough - January 11, 2017
- The Charrúa Report: Nico and the Sounders - December 14, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: King of the Single Rounders - December 12, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Senseless - December 6, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: The Bum’s Rush - November 28, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: A Bump in the Road - November 16, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Is It Priceline Time? - November 12, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Closer to Fine - October 13, 2016