Hello fans! It’s do or die time for Nacional in the Libertadores Cup this week, and El Bolso is here to tell you about it. Let’s get to it!
If you’re visiting a sports blog named Jobu’s Rum, I probably don’t need to tell you that Major League is a tremendous film. I’ll blame backroom politics for the fact that it didn’t earn a spot in the AFI top 100 films of all time, because there clearly can’t be another reason. The Godfather? Citizen Kane? Pfffft. Give me Taylor, Vaughn and Rachel Phelps any day of the week.
As amazing as Major League was, though, as soon as I found out they were planning a sequel I knew we were in trouble, and I was not mistaken. Major League II is a horrible, terrible, no good movie. I mean, the original tells the story of a once in a lifetime upset by a rag-tag band of misfits; you can’t then ask me to believe that pretty much the same thing happened to the very same team, the very next season; that kind of thing never happens unless Eli Manning and the Patriots are involved. And let’s not forget that they tried to pass off Omar Epps as Wesley Snipes. Come on now. Try to imagine Omar hustling Woody Harrelson on the b-ball court. Pitiful.
Anyway, the movie was very, very, very, VERY bad, but it did have that one shining moment, that sliver of pure diamond in a huge bowl of warmed up turds, courtesy of Takaaki Ishibashi, better known to us all as outfielder Isuro Tanaka: Marbles.
Marbles, fans. Sometimes, when it seems as if the whole world is against you and you need to find a little something extra to make it through a challenge, you need marbles to see you through. When talent and luck aren’t enough, when only the toughest of the tough can even hope to survive, that’s when you need to find your marbles.
So what does this have to do with Nacional? Well, the Tricolores found their marbles last night. Coming off blatant back-to-back thefts in their first two Libertadores Cup games, having failed for two consecutive weeks to take advantage of Peñarol’s stumbles in the local league, on the road in Sao Paulo against Palmeiras, the group leader and one of the most powerful clubs in the continent, Nacional reached deep within themselves and slayed the Brazilian giants. They did it despite playing without either of their starting center backs (Diego Polenta and Erick Cabaco); in fact, a last-minute case of mumps suffered by regular backup Sebastián Gorga (what is he, 10 years old?) meant coach Gustavo Munúa had to improvise back there, pairing Mauricio Victorino with midfielder Sebastián Eguren. Had Eguren ever played center back before, let alone in a win-or-go-home game?
Didn’t matter. Marbles.
The Tricolores started off strong, stifling the Palmeiras attack and managing to keep the ball away from their makeshift defense. For about half an hour, Nacional was the better team. Then, in the 38th minute, Nicolás López (can I get an “MVP! MVP! MVP!” chant up in this piece?) gathered a rebound off a Jorge Fucile cross into the box, calmly carried it across the entire goalmouth, sat the Brazilian keeper down with a majestic fake, and put the ball past the last defender and into the net to give Nacional a 1-0 lead. Three minutes later, a perfectly timed run by Leandro Barcia left him one on one with the goalie, and he finished as if ice water ran through his veins. Four minutes from halftime, the good guys led by 2 goals in front of 40,000 stunned fans.
But what would a Nacional Libertadores Cup match be without a crooked referee trying to do our boys in? BORING, that’s what. This week’s heel… er… referee Enrique Osses comes to us all the way from Chile, a soccer nation best known for on-pitch violence, blatant sexual harassment, and players who blade their own foreheads to try to get other teams suspended from World Cup Qualifying tournaments. Well, this guy made his countrymen proud, fans. He allowed the Brazilians to kick the ever-loving crap out of López all game long, then pulled out a laughable second yellow card on Fucile (as if Nacional’s defense needed any more problems) immediately following Barcia’s goal. Palmeiras also received the benefit of 5+ minutes of injury time in the first half, and used that to pull themselves closer with a score in the 50th minute. Up only a single goal and down a man at the start of the second half, it looked as if Nacional would do well to come away from Allianz Parque with 1 point.
The Tricolores spent the rest of the game battling like demons, and there was nothing Palmeiras, their fans, the referee, or Sepp Blatter himself could do to take this win away from them. It didn’t matter that Palmeiras owned 75% of the possession time. It didn’t matter that Osses sent Nacional’s latest signing, Brazilian forward Léo Gamalho, to the showers just 5 minutes after he came in as a late sub, leaving just 9 Tricolores to defend their goal against 11 opponents (12 if you count Osses). It didn’t matter that once again there were more than 5 minutes of injury time. None of it mattered, because this team was sick of having wins stolen from them, and they would not give this one up. In the end, Nacional hung on for a 2-1 win. Because of marbles.
So where does this leave us? Halfway through the group stage, Nacional is now all alone in first place (where they should have been all along) with 5 points. Palmeiras and Rosario Central are tied for second with 4 points, and River Plate (no, not that one) is last with 1 point. Dare I say it, fans, it’s looking pretty good for the Tricolores, considering that all 3 of their remaining games will be played in Montevideo (home games against Palmeiras and Rosario and an away match against River). There’s still a lot of road to travel, and none of it will be easy, but this week’s result gives the Tricolores a huge leg up, and they should move on to the next stage as long as their next match doesn’t involve a special guest referee whose name rhymes with “Bripple Faych.” Here’s hoping they keep a firm grip on their marbles.
That’s all for me this week, fans. And now let’s get to what you’ve been waiting for Here’s last night’s win as seen through the eyes of Javier Moreira and 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