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[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ello fans! It’s El Bolso once again with another Charrúa Report. There’s a lot to get to today: Nacional was back in action, the Uruguay U17 team played a couple of games, and Luis Suárez seems bent on taking over Spain. Let’s get to it!

 

Return of the Mack

 

Here's something you never want to see during a Nacional game: Recoba and Alonso in street clothes. (Tenfield)
Here’s something you never want to see during a Nacional game: Recoba and Alonso in street clothes. (Tenfield)

Phew! The long wait for a Nacional win is over, folks. The Tricolores avenged their only loss of the Apertura tournament, beating El Tanque Sisley 1-0. Depleted by injuries, Nacional changed their scheme from the traditional 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3, with Sebastián Fernández moving to the middle to replace missing top scorer Iván Alonso (he should be back next week). Gustavo Munua was finally back in goal and added to his collection of shutouts, but you almost didn’t notice for all El Tanque did in the attacking area. It was all Nacional, and the spotlights were all on Gastón Pereiro. With super sub Alvaro Recoba also unavailable there was no plan B, but Pereiro stepped up and commanded the Tricolor offense just as easily as he handled the Lil’ Celestes last month. In the 56th minute, it was Pereiro who drew the entire El Tanque defense inward with one of his trademark dribbling excursions, then passed it over to the left wing to a wide open Carlos De Pena for the winning goal.

 

The only highlight for El Tanque, which played the last half hour a man down after a red card, was the very last play of the game. A desperation ball from near midfield found its way to the outstretched arms of keeper Munua, but as he was about to bring it down he was bumped by an attacker and lost control of the ball, which trickled into the net. The referee promptly disallowed the goal, and that was that. You won’t see that in the highlights link above because, well, I don’t know why GolTV didn’t think a last minute disallowed tying goal wasn’t reel-worthy. Get it together, GolTV…

 

Nacional now heads into a tough stretch, playing River Plate (no, not that one) and Danubio in the next two weekends. They’ll need positive results to stay within striking distance in the Clausura table, and keep their cushion in the annual standings. The returns of Alonso and Recoba will help, as will the continued presence of Pereiro, who is continues to earn himself a special place in Tricolores hearts (also a boatload of money once he is sold to a European team). for the record, Nacional now has 4 points in the Clausura and is 3 behind leaders Defensor Sporting and Peñarol, and they still lead Racing by 11 points in the annual table.

 

The other significant piece of news came before the game, when the final game roster was announced. Sebastián “El Loco” Abreu, who was rumored to have finally earned a place on the bench for this one, didn’t make the cut; instead, 17 year old Rodrigo Amaral, one of the revelations of the recent U20 South American Championships, got the spot. I think it’s time for El Loco to find himself new digs…

 

To Dream the Impossible Dream?

 

Federico Valverde celebrates one of his two goals against Argentina. (ABC Paraguay)
Federico Valverde celebrates one of his two goals against Argentina. (ABC Paraguay)

The South American U17 Championships kicked off this week, and once again Uruguay got off to a fast start, beating Bolivia 4-1 on Friday and Argentina 2-1 on Sunday. The Celestes dominated the first game but were only up 1-0 at the half (courtesy of Defensor Sporting defender Robert Ergas), but they broke loose in the second half, scoring in the 48th (Peñarol midfielder Federico Valverde), 72nd (Nacional defender Nicolás Rodríguez) and 84th (Rodríguez again). In the second game, Uruguay was again the better team against an Argentinian squad desperate for points after a 2-1 loss to Ecuador in round 1. Valverde opened the scoring just 5 minutes in after a dazzling run through traffic, but Argentina tied it in the 65th thanks to keeper Renzo Rodríguez’s poor handling of a header. When it looked like victory would slip away, Rive Plate forward Nicolás Schiappacasse (seriously, what is with that last name?) drove into the penalty box and was clumsily taken down by Argentinian defender Julián Ferreyra, who was redcarded for his trouble. Valverde stepped up and cooly put the ball in the back of the net with 13 minutes left, and that was it for Argentina, who are now in dire need of wins in their last two matches. As for Uruguay, they are off for the next round of group games (on Tuesday) and will return to action on Thursday against Chile. By the way, Valverde’s 3 goals so far are the most by any player in the competition.

 

So how are things looking after the first two rounds of matches? In Group B Uruguay is very close to a final round berth, with 6 points in 2 matches. Ecuador and Bolivia follow with 3 points, although Ecuador has only played once. Chile and Argentina are in trouble, having gained no points so far (although Chile has a game in hand). Tuesday’s games will help clear up the group picture, as Argentina plays Bolivia and Ecuador meets Chile. Anything other than a win for Argentina could mean an early ticket home, while an Ecuador win will almost guarantee that they and the Uruguayans make it through. In Group A, Brazil and hosts Paraguay lead with 4 points (they tied one another on Saturday) and are safe bets to move on. After that it’s a jumble; Peru and Venezuela have 1 point each and Colombia has none, although Venezuela is the only one of the three that has played twice, so they’re deeper in the hole. Monday’s games are Colombia-Peru and Brazil-Venezuela.

 

Around the World

 

Luis Suárez gets the party going against Rayo Vallecano. (MGoal)
Luis Suárez gets the party going against Rayo Vallecano. (MGoal)

Barcelona had a pretty good week, advancing to the Copa del Rey final and taking over first place in La Liga, and Luis Suárez was prominently involved. The Uruguayan forward is finally stepping up his game to the point that even US journalists (well, Deadspin) can no longer deny that he’s the engine fueling his team’s stellar campaign. Midweek, Suárez scored the go-ahead goal in a 3-1 win over Villarreal in the Copa del Rey semifinals. I mean, the first leg had ended 4-1 for Barcelona, but still. Sunday, however, was when Luis truly shone. After Real Madrid lost in Bilbao the day before, the Blaugrana needed a win over Rayo Vallecano to take over the top spot; it took Suárez 5 minutes to get that for his team after a smartly-timed run and an absolutely filthy finish. Barcelona ended up winning 6-1 (with yet another hat trick by Messi and yet another dazzling Suárez run-and-shoot), and all of a sudden it’s real Madrid looking up at their biggest rivals, just two weeks before the Clásico.

 

Meanwhile, in France, Edinson Cavani and Diego Rolan are back at it. Cavani scored his team’s second goal in PSG’s 2-0 win against Monaco in the French Cup quarterfinals. The Parisian team moves on to face St. Etienne for a place in the final game. Rolan did him one better, scoring his 8th and 9th Ligue 1 goals in Bordaux’s 2-1 win against Caen. Rolan started the scoring in the 69th minute, but Caen tied the game just three minutes after that. Then, in the 5th minute of stoppage time, Rolan bounced a ball off a defender’s hand and converted the ensuing penalty kick to give his team the win.

 

Former Nacional forward Nicolás López almost didn’t get into Hellas Verona’s game against AC Milan, but he made his few minutes count, scoring a stoppage time goal to give his team a 2-2 tie. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops in Italy though, as Celeste defensive stalwart Martín Cáceres suffered an ankle fracture during a Juventus training session. Cáceres has not been ruled out of this Summer’s Copa América yet, but it will be close. Here’s hoping the popular “Pelado” (the Bald One) is up and back on the pitch soon.

 

And then there’s the saga of Cristian “the Onion” Rodríguez. you heard me talk about his lack of playing time at Atlético Madrid, his decision to move to Parma in search of minutes, and the club’s subsequent near-bankruptcy, which led them to stop showing up to matches. Well, their fellow Serie A clubs decided to help Parma get back on its feet and play the remainder of the season, starting with this weekend’s game against Atalanta. Great news, right? Cebolla started the game for Parma, but was unable to score and ended up with an early shower courtesy of yellow cards in the 78th and 87th minutes. Hey, at least he played, right? It may not matter much, as it’s rumored that Rodríguez is on its way to the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre to join local powerhouse Gremio. That’s right, almost-Peñarol-player Rodríguez and almost-Peñarol-coach Diego Aguirre will be facing off in Porto Alegre’s biggest rivalry (assuming Internacional doesn’t fire Aguirre soon). Sorry, Peñarol fans. close, but no cigar.

 

And that’s all for this week, friends. I’ll leave you with the triumphant return of Pasión Pasión. See you next week!

 

El Bolso

About El Bolso

El Bolso is Uruguay’s foremost soccer-fan-in-exile, a true authority on the Celeste and its favored son, the Club Nacional de Football. He believes in precision passing, tireless marking, and strong finishing, and is not above the occasional slide tackle from behind when the situation calls for it.

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