Hello fans! This week Nacional traveled to São Paulo looking to take down yet another one of the city’s most powerful teams. Would the celebrated Timão (That’s Corinthians‘ nickname, which basically translates to “great team”) suffer the same fate as Palmeiras? Let’s take a look!
Hey, remember last week when I said a scoreless tie at home was a fairly good result, unless shenanigans took place in the return match? Well, I have to give Corinthians credit, fans, because the shenanigans started waaaaaaaay before the game. Immediately following last week’s scoreless tie, Nacional staff found out that Timão defender Yago had tested positive for banned substances in a local Paulista league game the week before. Did Corinthians notify CONMEBOL, as they are required to do? You must be new to South American fútbol. They told no one, and Yago started the game in Montevideo. Nacional sent strongly worded letters to both CONMEBOL and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) asking about the player’s status for the return match hoping that hell would freeze over and someone would step in and do the right thing.
Those letters were largely ignored, then CONMEBOL said they could not take any action until the second sample was opened (which, fair enough, due process and all that). Second samples are routinely opened immediately following a positive result, except in this case, when the opening date was set for the following Thursday. What’s so special about that day? Is it perhaps that it’s the day AFTER the return game against the Tricolores? Why, surely that could not be, fans! Anyway, the sample is being opened today, so Yago got to play last night. Which turned out to be great, because it means his roided, cheating ass got a front row seat for what went down!
The House is Rockin’
The fireworks started early in this folks. Actually, the fireworks literally started early, as the start of the game was delayed several minutes because of local fans shooting off rockets. Oh, are those banned in CONMEBOL tournaments, and do teams from smaller countries routinely get fined for this sort of thing? Gee, then I guess Corinthians will have to pony up some serious dough right? They will, right after you purchase this beautiful Las Vegas beachfront property I gave for sale. Anyway, one the game actually got started, Nacional wasted no time: 4 minutes in Nicolás “el Diente” López got a hold of a rebound off a Sebastián “Papelito” Fernández tip in the Timão penalty area and put the ball in the net. The kid had another great game last night, and this was the cherry on top. Right off the bat, Nacional led 1-0, and Corinthians now needed 2 goals to avoid elimination.
Corinthians didn’t get this far by being a pushover, however, and they’re tough to beat at home (in fact, López’s goal was the first one they conceded at home in the tournament). The Timão pushed forward and was able to tie the game 10 minutes later on a shot by Lucca. That’s how the first half ended, although Nacional had a great chance near halftime on a header by Santiago “Colorado” Romero that was barely saved by the Brazilian keeper. The popular Colorado (no stranger to huge goals) would have his revenge: in the 56th minute, he grabbed a rebound off another Papelito shot (this one from outside the box) and scored the go ahead goal. Corinthians once again needed to score twice.
And they would have done it, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling Conde! Nacional’s keeper was an absolute BAWSS last night, turning back Timão shots left and right, so much so that the referee (Argentinian Néstor Pitana, for the record) had to step in and lend a hand. In the 83rd minute captain Diego Polenta tried to stop a Corinthians run down the right side of the box, and the attacker went down like a sack of potatoes. Watching the replay, there may have been some contact (all kidding aside, I’m not really mad at this call), but Pitana signaled to the PK spot so enthusiastically that he slipped and fell on his ass (I couldn’t find isolated video of it, but look at around the 3:40 mark here). Center forward André had a giant opportunity here (hah?), but it was a little more responsibility than he could handle. He ran up to the ball, then stopped cold, hoping Conde would dive early. Conde read him like a grade school primer and stood his ground; André did some awkward lambada dance moves around the ball and then kicked it right at the Uruguayan keeper.
Corinthians kept on trying, though, and finally got the tying goal in the 4th minute of added time on another Polenta PK. I’m not even going to pretend to be mad at the ref on this one, as Polenta clearly batted the ball down with his hand and received a well-deserved yellow card on the play. The Brazilians did the smart thing and didn’t let André anywhere near the penalty area on this one; midfielder Marquinhos chose to actually take a shot on goal this time and the game was tied once again. Alas, there wasn’t enough time for a Timão miracle, and the 2-2 final score landed Nacional in the Libertadores quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.
Pride and Joy
So here we are, fans: Nacional is one of the 8 best teams in South America, and deservedly so. They have now played 7 tournament games in which they used their best talent (remember, they benched a bunch of people in the last game of the group stage), and they were the best team on the field in each of those games, regardless of the final score. They are undefeated on the road (1 win and 3 ties, although those numbers could easily be flipped around if not for a couple of last minute PKs). They have a true difference maker in el Diente, as well as a solid-as-a-rock midfield and an outstanding keeper. This team could go far, fans. They could.
Of course, there are no easy rivals here. Nacional will now face a South American legend: either Argentina’s Boca Juniors or Paraguay’s Cerro Porteño. The Argentinians won the first game on the road 2-1, so they are heavy favorites to advance tonight, but either way it will be a touch match-up for the Tricolores. Still, they’ve gotten this far after taking on some pretty stiff competition, and we should celebrate that accomplishment. There are plenty of other teams that are reduced to watching the action on TV.
That’s all for me this week, fans. I’m not going to leave you with Pasión Tricolor this week (you can watch that here if you want). Instead, let’s take a look at the Nacional players celebrating by singing one of the Tricolor supporters’ standard chants as they work their way back to the locker room. It’s goose bump time!
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- 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