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Hello fans! It’s time once again for the Charrúa Report. The Uruguayan League returned after the election weekend, plus the usual suspects broke through on the world scene. Let’s start with Nacional’s march towards a title.

 

All Over but the Shouting?

 

Nacional’s defense is so good,  I had to go back to one of Munúa’s earlier teams to find a picture of him diving.

 

There are only 4 weeks left in the opening championships, and it’s looking ever more likely that Nacional will be lifting the cup and booking a place in the end of year finals, folks. On Saturday, the Tricolores faced a dangerous opponent in Fénix. A year ago, Los Albivioletas (the White and Purple) came into the last week of the season with nothing to play for, fell behind 1-0, then completely overpowered league-leading Nacional and won 2-1, costing the Tricolores the Apertura championship and any chance at reaching the finals. This was also Nacional’s last game before the Clásico, so it would be understandable if they were caught looking past their rivals.

 

No such thing happened. Half a minute into the game, Gastón Pereiro collected a rebound off a cross into the box and slammed it home, giving Nacional a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, the team chose to sit on that lead and let Fénix control the game, although they managed to keep the danger away from Gustavo Munúa‘s goal. The second half was more of the same, with Fénix pushing for the equalizer and Nacional waiting for a lethal counter to seal the game. The defense did their thing, led once again by Diego Polenta, who is in full Beast Mode at this point, and Munúa had a couple of strong saves to keep his shutout streak going (7 and counting!). With three minutes left, a long, looping cross was headed off by Carlos de Pena at the midfield stripe. The speedy winger took off down the left side of the field and passed it towards the middle. Two touches later the ball nestled at the feet of Iván Alonso on the right side of the penalty box, and he ended the game with a low shot to the far post, his 11th goal of the season.

 

Another counterattack in added time led to Sebastián Fernández, back from injury and logging minutes for the second straight week, to  put a great ball past the keeper off an assist from Alonso. While it was good to see the popular “Papelito” (Scrap Paper? I don’t know what to tell you about some of these nicknames) get back on the scoresheet (his first goal since the week 1 beatdown of Defensor), his strike robbed us of history, as we were a minute away from Nacional logging their 6th straight 2-0 win. How’s that for consistency?

 

In any case, Nacional won again, and with the Sunday results going their way (Racing tied Rentistas 1-1, and Peñarol lost 3-2 to Rampla Juniors), the Tricolores have a 7 point lead on the second place team with 12 points left on the schedule. They also have 11 points on third place Peñarol, but at this point they’re far enough away that I’m just going to stop mentioning them altogether. Next Sunday is the Clásico. There’s a  chance that Nacional could clinch the title in front of their biggest rivals if Racing loses on Sunday, but the bigger picture is that they’ll be playing this game strictly for pride. The memories from last season’s  5-0 loss to Peñarol are still fresh, and a defeat here will put a dark mark on an outstanding season, but a historic collapse needs to happen for Nacional to miss  out on the Apertura. Peñarol, meanwhile, will be trying desperately to salvage any shred of positivity from a miserable semester, so the Tricolores will need to stay on their toes to avoid being pulled into the extracurricular shenanigans that Peñarol is well known for. Tune in next week for all the details.

 

Around the World in 80 Goals

 

Here’s Suárez CLEARLY faking a shirt grab against Celta.

 

Well… maybe not 80, but it sure seems like it. Once again, it was a busy week for Uruguayans abroad. We’ll start with everyone’s favorite, Luis Suárez. “El Pistolero” (the Gunslinger) got two games in this week: on Wednesday he started in the Catalonian Cup derby against Espanyol and promptly fired off an absolutely filthy assist to help Barcelona to the win. Over the weekend, Luis was less lucky as Barcelona fell to Celta de Vigo 1-0 and lost the top spot to Real Madrid. Barcelona is a team running on fumes right now (especially Messi, who once again missed an easy chance off a Suárez assist), but Luis is playing surprisingly well for someone who put on 150 pounds during his latest suspension (I’m going by what the Madrid and UK papers are reporting here). We’ll see what happens next week.

 

Meanwhile, in France, Edinson Cavani and Diego Rolán scored yet again in league play. Cavani scored the tying goal in a 2-1 PSG win against Lorient, while New Diego (as opposed to all the old-ass Diegos that are on their way out of the national team) scored the second goal for Bordeaux as they beat Toulouse by the same 2-1 score. Look, at this point I feel as if I should be reporting whenever these two guys DON’T score. In Spain, Christian Stuani also scored in a 2-1 game although this time his Espanyol team was on the losing end of the score. Other Uruguayan goals this weekend included Sebastián Sosa in Albania, Jonathan Urretaviscaya in Portugal, and Pablo Granoche in Italia.

 

And speaking of Diegos, it was Diego Godín once again making news at Atlético Madrid, although for a much different reason. José María Giménez is making a strong case to be Godín’s backline mate on both Atlético’s and Uruguay’s starting 11, but “El Faraón” (yes, Godín’s nickname is The Pharaoh) nearly put a stop to that this week with a nasty ankle tackle. Now, this wasn’t a missed lunge at an attacker during a game, or a challenge in  a practice scrimmage; the near injury was a result of a spirited game of monkey-in-the-middle. Geez, Diego, take it easy on our future defensive stalwart, will ya? Giménez, clearly bothered by the rough play, refused to continue playing (even after Godín chased the ball down and passed it to him in a halfhearted attempt at an apology), but managed to come out with a new personalized shin guard model a couple of days later. Great marketing hustle, Chema!

 

On the youth front, the U17 national team continued preparations for the South American Championship by battering Peru by an aggregate score of 7-1 in two games played this week. I won’t bore you with the details; all you need to know is that three of the goals were scored by River Plate prospect Nicolás Schiappacasse. I guess Harvey Manfredjensenden was out with an injury? Regardless, it looks like the Lil’ Celestes are well on their way to another strong year.

 

And that’s all for this week. As always,I’ll leave you with your weekly Pasion Tricolor fix. See you next time!

 

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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