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Hello fans! It’s El Bolso once again with another Charrúa Report. Here’s an update on your favorite soccer nation’s happenings:


Lil’ Celestes Stepping Up


Federico Valverde and his Celeste teammates  are clicking on all cylinders right now. (La Republica Ecuador)
Federico Valverde and his Celeste teammates are clicking on all cylinders right now. (La Republica Ecuador)

Uruguay continued its run through Group B of the U17 South American Championships this past week, beating Chile 4-1 and Ecuador 1-0 to finish the first stage with a perfect record. Against Chile, Uruguay opened the scoring just a minute into the game, and doubled their advantage in the 17th minute, but then the game slowed down considerably. 14 minutes from time, an unfortunate challenge led to penalty kick for Chile, making the score 2-1, but the Lil’ Celestes took care of business after that, scoring twice in the last 2 minutes to salvage the win and clinch a spot in the final round. The last game was a formality, as both Uruguay and Ecuador were assured to move on. The game was scoreless until the 80th minute, when the Celestes scored the only goal of the match to finish in first place in the group. Meanwhile, Argentina recovered from a horrible start to win their last two games (4-1 against Bolivia and 1-0 against Chile) to secure third place and a berth into the championship stages. Bolivia and Chile get to go home early.


Group A was a much more contested affair. A surprise run by Venezuela, which came back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to stun Brazil 3-2 and then tied Colombia 1-1, gave them a shot at sending home one of the group favorites. Going into the last round of games, Paraguay was in first place with 7 points, Venezuela (having already played all 4 of their matches) was in second with 5, and Brazil and Colombia had 4 points. All that was needed was a stumble by either Colombia or Brazil for Ozzie Guillén’s homeland to make history. Brazil clobbered last place Peru 3-0, however, and Paraguay and Colombia managed a 1-1 tie that gave the hosts first place and the Cafeteros third place in the group by goal differential (how conveeeeeeeenient!). So it will be the usual suspects again in the final round: Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia and Ecuador.


Federico Valverde managed only one goal in Uruguay’s last two matches and is now in second place in the scorers’ table behind Brazil’s Leandro. The final round begins Tuesday with a barnburner of a game: Brazil and Argentina. After that it will be rematches of the first round’s last set of games: Paraguay-Colombia and Uruguay-Ecuador. Let’s hope the Lil’ Celestes can continue their run of good play and bring home a title!


Back in a Funk


"What the hell happened? Is this because I let Abreu come back?" (Pasion Tricolor)
“What the hell happened? Is this because I let Abreu come back?” (Pasion Tricolor)

Well folks, it’s officially a crisis. Nacional dropped another game at home, this time 2-1 to River Plate, and is in full desperation mode. With Diego Arismendi (5 yellow cards) and Iván Alonso (recovering from injury) both unavailable, Nacional was unrecognizable. Not even the return of Alvaro Recoba, who came in as a sub in the 59th minute, could help the team, which has now lost both of its home games in the Clausura. The game didn’t start badly, as Alonso’s replacement in the starting lineup, young forward Leandro Barcia, managed to get a couple of early shots on goal and make River Plate’s defense very uncomfortable. In the 16th minute, a great feed by Sebastián Fernández to Barcia led to the game’s opening goal, a forceful shot that left River’s keeper as a mere spectator. The lead held up until the last 10 minutes of the first half, when weak defending in the box led to nearly identical goals by Fernando Gorriaran (37th minute) and Leandro Rodríguez (45th), good for a 2-1 halftime deficit. Nacional spent the entire second half pressuring for the tying goal and came close on several occasions, but was unable to put the ball in the net.


The most frustrating part is that the Tricolores have yet to be outplayed in this Clausura tournament, but they keep finding ways to lose points. It’s clear that, without Alonso, anytime the team falls behind it’s a huge problem, so we’ll see if his return helps improve things. Arismendi will be back to solidify the midfield, and Santiago Romero looks to be recovered from the injury that has kept him off the field since Week 1; that should make the wings less hospitable for opposing attackers. The point, though, is that Nacional needs to stop losing points, and next weekend’s visit to defending champions Danubio means the road isn’t getting any easier. at the moment the Tricolores are in 11th place in the Clausura table, 6 points behind leader Peñarol. In the annual table, yet another loss by Racing means Nacional’s lead is still 11 points, but now it’s over both the Cervereros and the Clausura-leading Manyas, who are making a strong push in the season’s second half. Let’s hope Nacional can figure things out before it’s too late.


Libertadores Update


Wanderers is taking care of business at home in the Libertadores. (24 Horas Colombia)
Wanderers is taking care of business at home in the Libertadores. (24 Horas Colombia)

Wanderers was the only Uruguayan team in action last week in the Libertadores Cup, and the Bohemios took a big step towards the knockout rounds by beating Palestino 1-0. Playing in Nacional’s Parque Central, Wanderers took the lead in the 23rd minute through Matias Santos and never let it go, moving into sole possession of second place in Group 5 (Boca Juniors, who thrashed Zamora FC 5-0 a day later, are in first with 3 wins in 3 games). This was a game Wanderers had to win, and they did. There’s still a lot of road to travel to earn a berth in the next round, but the Bohemios gave themselves a strong chance of success, plus it’s good to see the home team celebrating at the Parque Central for once.


Next week is a huge one for Wanderers, as they travel to Chile for the return match against Palestino. A tie would do wonders to improve their chances, as they would mantain their 3 point lead on the Chileans with only two games remaining. Palestino seems to have the easier road, as they have already played (and beat) Zamora on the road, but Wanderers has shown they can play with anyone, in any venue. Meanwhile, Group 3 will be back in action with Danubio at home for a match against Brazil’s Corinthians. The last place Danubianos are all but condemned to go home early, but they can salvage some measure of pride by putting on a good show.


Around the World


It's going to be awkward when Rolan and Cavani meet up at the next Uruguay National Team training session... (Made In Foot)
It’s going to be awkward when Rolan and Cavani meet up at the next Uruguay National Team training session… (Made In Foot)

Stop the presses! Luis Suárez actually failed to score this weekend. His team is still going strong, however, as both Barcelona and Real Madrid warmed up for the deciding Clásico with 2-0 wins (Barca on the road against Eibar, Real at home against Levante). With a single point separating the two teams and 10 more games on the schedule, this game won’t be decisive, but a win here would be a huge help to either team. It’s going to be a big week for the Blaugrana, who will also host Manchester City in the return leg of their Champions League clash. We’ll see if the Culés have enough left in the tank to defend their 2-1 advantage against the Mancunians (courtesy of Suárez’s brace) AND hold off Real’s La Liga charge. It’s a lot to do in five days, but you can bet on the fact that the Uruguayan striker will be heavily involved.


Sometimes it’s the one closest to you that drives the knife into your back: just ask Abel, or Julius Caesar. Edinson Cavani and PSG missed yet another chance to take over first place in France’s Ligue 1 this weekend, and this time they have another Uruguayan to blame for it. Diego Rolan scored with two minutes left to give Bordeaux a 3-2 win over the Parisians and keep Olympique Lyon atop the standings. Still, it was a pretty good week for PSG, as they marched into London and kicked The Special One and his Chelsea squad right out of the Champions League. The Parisian side survived two one goal deficits (including one in extra time) and a 30th minute red card to Zlatan Ibrahimovic to salvage a 2-2 tie and move on thanks to the away goals rule. Cavani didn’t figure in the scoring but played all 120 minutes (take a cue from Edinson, Zlatan) and his effort was one of the keys to PSG’s success. Besides, anytime you can make Mourinho sad is a good day, amirite?


Things aren’t so rosy for Gus Poyet and Sunderland. The Black Cats are sitting one point clear of relegation after a 4-0 embarrassment at the hands of Aston Villa (also fighting to stay in the Premier League), and fans have had enough. Police had to physically restrain the home crowd from going after the Uruguayan as the match ended, as he is seen as the main culprit in a very disappointing season, even though it was him in charge last season when Sunderland miraculously rose from the dead to avoid relegation. Sports fans have short memories, I guess. In any case, after collecting one win in the last 12 league matches, Poyet was fired on Monday. At least now he can dedicate himself to getting West Ham to let his son play for Uruguay in the U20 World Cup.


And that’s all for this week, friends. There’s no Pasión tricolor to share this week, probably because they can’t bring themselves up to posting it. See you next week!

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.