Hello fans! It’s El Bolso with another update on Uruguayan soccer. It was business as usual in the local tournament, as you’ll see, and there was plenty of action abroad to talk about. Let’s get to it!
It’s Lonely at the Top
Nacional celebrated last weekend’s title win in the usual manner, by beating yet another bottom-of-the-table opponent and increasing the distance at the top of the standings. Coach Alvaro Gutiérrez was worried that the players would ease up after two emotion-filled weeks, and early on in their game against Juventud it looked like they might, as they went down in the seventeenth minute on some shoddy defending. But this is not last year’s team, and by halftime they had reversed the score, helped by an Iván Alonso brace. Second half goals by Henry Giménez and Gastón Pereiro sealed a 4-1 win for the champions. You can see the HD highlights here.
Meanwhile, Racing was having its own celebration. See, the Escuelita clinched second place with their win last week, so at Sunday’s home game they gave the players a nice big ovation as well as some plaques and medals. That will tell you all you need to know about their season: this is not a team accustomed to First Division success. After all the hullabaloo was finished, Racing went out and promptly lost to third-place River Plate 2-0 to give Nacional a 10 point cushion with one game to go in the Apertura. It also allowed River and Peñarol (2-1 winners against Fénix) to creep to within 4 points of second place. Given that Racing plays Peñarol next weekend, we could end the season with a runaway annual table leader (up to 13 points over second place) and an exciting three-way battle for the runner-up spot, which pretty much guarantees a Libertadores Cup berth.
There will be no games next weekend because of the Presidential election runoff, so the last round will be played on December 6th and 7th.
One more thing: did you know the Pasión Tricolor jingle is an actual song? It is! Do you want to hear it? Of course you do! Here’s grainy footage of a live performance by the song’s author and performer. Bonus points if you can identify what that thing is someone puts right in front of the camera halfway through. A bowl of bread? Some merengue-based dessert? An evil symbiote getting ready to begin the alien takeover of Earth? Who knows!
Been Around the World and I-I-I-I…
… I can always find a Uruguayan. I’ve been slacking on this section of the column lately because of all the Nacional happenings, but this week I’ll give you a taste of all the places where Uruguayan footballers ply their trade:
- France: Neither Edinson Cavani nor Diego Rolán managed to score (I’m just as shocked as you are). Edinson’s PSG won, but the remained in second place because Diego’s Girondins Bordeaux lost to leader Olympique Marseille. A little help, Diego?
- England: Hull City, home of Gastón Ramírez and Abel Hernández, lost to Tottenham 2-1. In fact it was a straight red card (wholly undeserved according to some) shown to Ramírez when his team was up 1-0 that enabled Spurs to come back and steal the three points.
- Spain: Luis Suárez is still looking for his first Barcelona goal. Luis was again active in the offensive end as Lionel Messi broke the career La Liga goals record with a hat trick in a 5-1 win against Sevilla. The accolades keep piling up for the Uruguayan, but the goals haven’t come yet. On the other hand, Diego Godín keeps putting the ball in the net. Starting alongside fellow Celeste José Giménez on the Atlético Madrid back line, Diego scored the third goal in the Colchoneros’ 3-1 win against Málaga.
- Italy: In Serie A, Nicolás López continued his tradition of scoring in Verona losses, this time in a 2-1 game against Fiorentina. Meanwhile, ex-Nacional midfielder Matías Vecino scored one and assisted on another in Empoli’s 2-0 win against Parma, in a game that also featured Diego Laxalt. In Serie B, Pablo Granoche scored twice in Modena’s 2-0 win against Pescara, and César Faletti got the final goal in Ternana’s 2-2 tie against Perugia. Felipe Avenatti also played for Ternana.
- Behind the Iron Curtain: What, you thought a big ass wall and some dudes with AK-47s can stop the Uruguayan wave? Please. There were Celeste goals in both Romania (Juan Albín for Petrolul Ploiesti) and Hungary (Rodrigo Rojo for Ujpest).
- Argentina: Carlos Sánchez came back to River Plate after playing a half in Tuesday’s Uruguay-Chile friendly and was in the starting lineup on Thursday as River faced eternal rival Boca Juniors in the semifinals of the Copa Sudamericana. The scoreless tie leaves the series wide open for next week’s return game. Rodrigo Mora, who is also a regular starter for River, missed the game because he was recovering from an emergency appendectomy. It makes sense given that the biggest complaint about the midfielder during his Defensor and Peñarol days was that he lacked guts (hah?). Get well soon, Rodrigo! Meanwhile, the ageless Sebastián “El Loco” Abreu scored the first goal for Rosario Central in a 5-0 drubbing of Argentinos Juniors, propelling Los Canallas (“The Hoodlums”) to the Copa Argentina final.
- Brazil: Speaking of short rest, Alvaro “Palito” Pereira, known to Celeste fans for his goals in the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa América (and for his recent run of being knocked unconscious during games), was on the field 24 hours after playing in that same Uruguay-Chile match. Sao Paulo, where Palito plays these days, had their own Copa Sudamericana match on Wednesday against Atlético Nacional of Colombia. Palito started the game on the bench, but an injury near the end of the first half made it necessary for him to come in, and so come in he did. Sao Paulo lost 1-0, but can surely turn that around at home. In other news, the celebration was on in Rio de Janeiro this week as one of Brazil’s historic heavyweights, Vasco da Gama, clinched a spot in next year’s First Division tournament, a year after a shocking relegation. Were there Uruguayans involved? Frankly, I’m disappointed you even asked. UMNT backup goalie Martín Silva was on the field, as was Maxi Rodríguez (no, not that Maxi).
I could keep going further down the FIFA country hierarchy, but I think you get the point. We’re everywhere, and we score a lot.
Before moving on, let’s take a moment to congratulate Lewis Hamilton on his second Formula 1 points championship. Hamilton won his 11th race of the season on Sunday in Abu Dhabi to clinch the title over his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. As F1 shows, it’s important that we have sports that rely on financial power and mechanical prowess rather than physical ability, so that the English can be world champions at something.
The other big piece of news this week was the group draw for June’s Copa América. Uruguay was a second seed along with Colombia and Mexico, because since when does being defending champion and all-time tournament wins leader count for a damn thing (it apparently doesn’t even get you a spot on the tournament poster).
Anyway, given how the seeds were set up beforehand, the best Uruguay could hope for was probably a group with Chile (top seed), Peru (third seed), and Jamaica (fourth seed). They got one of those: The Celestes ended up in Group 2 with Argentina, Paraguay (so, everyone who wants to avenge a huge loss from four years ago) and Jamaica. A spot in the knockout rounds is anything but guaranteed (even given the fact that both the top two and the best two third place teams move on), what with Suárez suspended and many other stalwarts from the previous generation on their way off the team. It’s not going to be an easy way for Uruguay to forge a new identity, although I’d rather have them stumble here than in the World Cup qualifiers that start later in the year. The other groups are as follows: Group 1: Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Group 3 is composed of Brazil, Colombia (that should be a nice rematch), Peru and Venezuela. Are you thinking “wait, the host team got paired up with arguably the weakest of each of the seeds,” welcome to CONMEBOL tournament draws.
And that’s all for this week, friends. As always, here’s 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