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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ello fans! It’s El Bolso once again with all the latest on Uruguayan soccer. Today we have a lot of different topics to hit, so let’s get right to it!


The End of the Innocence


Carlos Valdés in action for Colombia in the 2014 World Cup. (BeIn Sports)
Carlos Valdés in action for Colombia in the 2014 World Cup. (BeIn Sports)


Well fans, it had to happen sooner or later, and it happened this week. Alvaro Gutiérrez’s Nacional team finally lost a game, 2-1 to Sport Recife of Brazil. This was originally supposed to be part of a two game friendly road swing ending up with a game in the Argentinian city of Rosario against local powerhouse Central (a game that was part of the negotiation for Sebastián “El Loco” Abreu‘s loan to the Argentinians. However, the second game fell through, allegedly because the promoter wanted to send Nacional home in a bus, so Gutiérrez left some players home from the trip. The game showed a toothless, timid Nacional, which does not bode well for the upcoming Libertadores playoff, but then again, no Alvaro Recoba (on of the players that stayed) and no Gastón Pereiro (still playing for Uruguay), so who knows.


As far as the offseason moves go, Nacional is pretty much set for the upcoming semester. The new faces include Cristián Tabó, Ribair Rodríguez and Gonzalo Bueno (plus Abreu if they will let him), as well as Hugo Dorrego and Nicolás Olivera (returning from loans). Gone are Renzo López (on loan to Racing in exchange for Tabó), Juan Cruz Mascia (loaned to Wanderers), Maximiliano Calzada (to Astra Giurgiu of Romania), Gonzalo Ramos (damn!) Rafael García (to Monarcas Morelia of México), and Pablo Álvarez and peruvian Rinaldo Cruzado, who didn’t play  at all in the Apertura anyway. The only meaningful losses are Calzada in the midfield and García in defense. The former will be replaced by Rodríguez, and the replacement for the latter is in the works; it might be Colombian National Team stalwart Carlos Valdés, who is supposed to sign this week. Henry Giménez, meanwhile, is still trying to work out a contract extension. Everyone else is back, so the team is looking good for the second semester.


Up next: the Boys from Brazil


Uruguay pretty much wiped Chile off the bottom of its shoe. (Trome)
Uruguay pretty much wiped Chile off the bottom of its shoe. (Trome)


Uruguay looked good in the second week of the U20 SOuth American Championship; too bad I can’t say the same for Bolivian referee Alejandro Mancilla, who was absolutely embarrassing in the Lil’ Celestes’ last initial group  stage game against Venezuela.


But first, the good news: Uruguay qualified for the final round at  the top of Group B, thanks to a magnificent 6-1 shellacking of Chile (speaking of embarrassing). Chile’s coach, Argentinian Hugo Tocalli, has won this tournament in Uruguay before (2003, with Argentina), but this time around he just didn’t have the horses. Uruguay thoroughly outclassed the Trasandinos (“people from beyond the Andes”) and sent them home early. Let’s just say it could have been worse than the actual score. Chile’s dream of reaching the FIFA Youth World Cup are over, as are Venezuela’s. The Vinotintos (“Red wines,” an allusion to their jersey color) lost to Colombia 1-0 as the opening act to Uruguay’s show and were eliminated early.


With only honor to play for, Venezuela gave their all in the final match against the hosts, and were leading 1-0 going into added time. Yes, they took full advantage of yet another referee who doesn’t know what yellow cards are for, and yes, Uruguay played with just one starter (they were guaranteed first place unless they lost by like 8 goals), but still they were up. That’s when Mancilla decided to make the game all about himself, and not in a good way. In the 92nd minute, a ball was crossed into the Venezuelan penalty box. Agustín Ale jumped up and headed the ball in as the keeper fell down around him. The Venezuelan team immediately rushed the ref, demanding a foul on Ale, and Mancilla responded by running away to the side of the field. After more than five minutes of discussion (and verbal and physical abuse from the Vinotinto players), he apparently conceded the goal, only to take it back in the face of further Bolivarian unrest. Apparently CONMEBOL has dropped the “no backsies” rule from their manual. The entire thing took about ten minutes, and in the end Uruguay had lost their first game of the tournament. Fortunately, the Uruguayan players realized that (a) the result had absolutely no impact on future games, and (b) Mancilla is a cowardly sack of crap, so they left for the locker rooms before anyone ended up suspended. Good job, boys. Here’s hoping Mr. Mancilla gets his next assignment in some local neighborhood league in La Paz.


Meanwhile, in Group A, four teams reached the final day tied in first place with 6 points: Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Peru. With Argentina beating already-eliminated Bolivia 3-0 in the first game and Ecuador having already completed all their games, a tie between the other two would see them both through, and guess what happened? The teams traded first half goals, 6 minutes apart, and the spent the rest of the game trading BBQ recipes or some such nonsense. So the final round robin is all set: the first round of matches will feature Argentina-Peru (here’s hoping the Peruvians figure out which goal to shoot at), Paraguay-Colombia (dime si son latinosssss!), and Uruguay-Brazil. Fuerza la Celeste!


European Notes


Cavani and Rolan may score goals at will, but that's the worst version of Y-M-C-A ever.  (El Espectador)
Cavani and Rolan may score goals at will, but that’s the worst version of Y-M-C-A ever. (El Espectador)


I think it’s time to see what Uruguayans are up to in the Old World, don’t you? First up is the French Cup, where Paris St. Germain beat Bordeaux 2-1 to earn a spot in the last sixteen. Back from suspension, Edinson Cavani opened the scoring in the 13th minute; Diego Rolan came on at the half with his team down two and promptly made it a game again, finding the net a minute into the last 45. Meanwhile, in Spain, Cristhian Stuani continues to make waves, scoring a brace Espanyol’s 3-0 win against Almería. Stuani continues to have the hot hand, and is making sure he stays relevant as Uruguay begins preparations to defend their Copa America title.


Finally, even though no Uruguayans were involved (as far as we know), here’s an interesting story from Belgium: Steven Defour, who played one game for the red Devils in last year’s World Cup, was a player and team captain for Standard Liège several years ago. He moved to Portuguese powerhouse Porto in 2011, and returned to Belgium to play for Anderlecht. This weekend was his first game in Liège as a rival player, and the home fans were kind enough to let him know he was still remembered. Yikes.


That’s all for today, fans. I’ll be back next time with more Uruguayan happenings!

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.