Friday, 23 December 2011

Ex-Pat of the Week #5

Domestic cups and the final round of games before the winter break (for all bar one notable exception) took the headlines this week, and a certain jamboree in Japan also falls within the remit for this edition of ex-pat of the week. The nominations:

Bruno Cazarine. Erstwhile CONMEBalls favourite Cazarine is in Australia at the moment, plying his trade with Sydney FC. They had their big derby with Newcastle Jets at the weekend and won to go third, Cazarine bagging the equaliser after the Jets had gone one up.

Crístian Rodríguez. The Uruguayan fell out with Vitor Pereira a couple of weeks ago, seemingly ending his Porto career, but he's back in the fold now and came off the bench at the weekend to nab a late goal to send Porto towards their third win on the spin.

Jonas. Last seasons top scorer in the Brasilieirao, he's now providing the perfect foil for the prolific Roberto Soldado at Valencia. The two combined for Soldado to get Valencia's first against big-spending Málaga to consolidate 'best-of-the-rest' (i.e. third place) in Spain.

Ricky Alvarez. By his own admission, it's taken him time to settle at Internazionale, but he's finally looking the part as Inter overcome their early-season woes. He capped his recent run of form with the fourth as Inter beat Lecce 4-1 to go 5th in Serie A.

Edinson Cavani. Napoli are still up there despite a little wobble these last few weeks. They bounced back from a dispiriting loss to Roma by walloping Genoa 6-1 with Cavani bagging two early on as the wounded Neapolitans responded brilliantly.

Lionel Messi. At his sublime best as Barcelona won yet another trophy, this time the Club World Cup in Yokohama. The chip for the first goal, the pass for the third... all brilliant, all the time.

Esteban Alvarado. OK, so he's not technically South American, but AZ's Costa Rican goalkeeper deserves recognition on these pages for lumping seven bells out of a pitch invader, as highlighted by our cousins at Euroballs. Unfortunately, the incident led to Esteban's dismissal, the abandonment of the game and a massive mess for the KNVB to sort out. While we're here on Costa Rica, wasn't Bryan Ruiz's goal last weekend fabulous? Let me answer that for you: yes it was.

And the winner is...

Lionel Messi. We couldn't not award him the gong this week - he was just too good to ignore. So were his team as they blasted Santos apart with something to spare.

We take a break now as most of football shuts down for the winter. We'll be back in January, but in the meantime, keep them peeled and let us know if you see anything worthy of nomination by hitting us up on our Twitter feed.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

That Was The Year That Was

As 2011 draws to a close the CONMEBalls team would like to thank in no particular order

Premier Sports TV – For their support and continued coverage of South American Football in the UK

Will Downing – For the late nights covering the games

Jon Cotterill – For his help during the year and having what would be my dream job

Bira Brasil – For the continuous mentions after we’ve tweeted in during the live games

All our colleagues and friends who also have great websites that pretty much cover what we do and a little bit more as well (see the links section) and if we've missed you off please don't be offended. We love you all.

And most importantly you, the people who take the time to read what we write. We thank you for your continued support.

After this weeks Ex-Pat of the Week we will be taking a short break until the State League action gets underway in Brazil in mid-January and the Copa Libertadores qualifying round towards the end of the month. We look forward to bringing you all the action again in 2012. Our sister site, Euroballs will continue to operate while we hit the beach for some well deserved rest and relaxation.

If you have an interest in a particular area of South American football and would like to share your passion for the Peruvian/Chilean/whichever league, we’d be very happy to accommodate you.

Finally, from all the team at CONMEBalls, we would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2012.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Barcelona dominate in Yokohama

Barcelona dominated the Club World Cup final from first to last and handed Santos a lesson into the bargain as they added yet another trophy to the frankly ridiculous collection they're building up in what will no doubt become known as the Guardiola era.

The Catalans dominated from the off and it proved something of a surprise that it took a full quarter of an hour before they took the lead. They did with a quite outstanding goal; Xavi with a sublime touch and Lionel Messi with a delightful, cheeky, impish, just plain sexy chip over the stranded Cabral. Xavi turned finisher a few moments later as the Blaugrana carved open their South American rivals, Dani Alves prominent on the right. There was so much space on the flanks, the ball came in from the right and Xavi was on the edge of the box to sweep it home.

A goalmouth scramble - Barca can even make those look amazing - saw the third goal come on the stroke of half time. A wonderful back-heel from Messi played in Alves down the right and the ball found it's way, via half a dozen other feet, to Cesc Fabregas, unmarked on the back stick, and he passed it across goal and inside the far post. Santos trudged off the field, heads on chests, already a beaten side.

The second half started as the first ended with Fabregas starting the move and the eventual shot grazing the outside of the post via Cabral's fingertips. Andres Iniesta was almost a peripheral figure in the first half, but he too went close after a stereotypical passage of intricate passing, but aside from that, Barcelona were content to keep the ball away from Santos and preserve the lead they'd built. The third goal had killed the game.

A fourth eventually arrived with eight minutes to go, Alves playing Messi in whose initial control was poor, but it served a purpose in drawing Cabral out of his goal allowing the little Argentine to take the ball round him and pass it into the net.

This was as comprehensive a win as it's possible to see. Barca, with a staggering 72% of possession, starved Santos. They were clinical in the first half, pragmatic in the second. Xavi's control and pass for the opener was pure porn and Santos were a beaten side from there on in. It's difficult to be too critical of the Brazilians: they were just beaten by a far superior side.

Earlier in the day, Asian champions Al Sadd won the third-place play-off against Kashiwa Reysol on penalties after a dismal 0-0 draw.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Ex-Pat of the Week #4

This week, our focus on the South Americans around the globe was on the final round of Europa League group games and the World Club jamboree over in Japan. Here are this week's nominations.

Leandro Domingues. The Brazilian played a major role in steering Kashiwa Reysol to the semi-finals of the Club World Cup with the opener in their quarter-final against Monterrey and a penalty in the shoot-out which followed the 1-1 draw with the Mexican side.

Lionel Messi. Yeah, yeah, yeah. He's a bit good and was a game-chamger in El Clásico and his usual excellent self in Barcelona's Club World Cup semi-final against an admittedly limited Al Sadd. The through ball for Seydou Keita's goal was pure sex.

Nelson Valdez. Rubin Kazan needed a point away to PAOK to ensure Europa League qualification and it looked grim after Sergei Ryzhikov was sent off and Vieirinha converted the penalty. But the Paraguayan striker struck early in the second half to ensure the Russian side progressed with a little to spare.

Fernando Canesin. Which club has the only 100% record in the Europa League? Go on, guess. No, wrong. It's Anderlecht. They completed their group with a 5-3 demolition job on second placed Lokomotiv Moskva with Brazilian midfielder Canesin a key element and scorer of the goal that put them in front in the game for the first time, just before half time.

Leonardo (de Vitor Santiago). Red Bull Salzburg had to win to make sure PSG's result against what was always going to be an Athletic reserve side irrelevant. While the cashed-up Frenchies were cruising to a 4-2 win, Leonardo was instrumental in Salzburg's come-from-behind win over Slovan Bratislava to dump the Parisians out. 2-0 down after six minutes, it didn't look good, but with Leonardo's equaliser they overhauled the Slovakians and take their place in the knockout stages. It's the second time now that Leonardo has made the shortlist for our Ex-Pat of the week.

And the winner is...

Leandro Domingues. Wins over Auckland City and Monterrey and no lack of effort in defeat to Santos, Reysol may yet end up third (should do given how bad Al Sadd looked the other day) in the world. That's no mean feat and Domingues is a major part of what they've achieved.

As ever, keep 'em peeled and let us know who you think we should consider for this next week. Leave us a comment or hit us up on that there twitter.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Copa Sudamericana Final 2nd Leg

Universidad de Chile 3-0 LQU Quito
Universidad de Chile wins 6-0 on points

Universidad de Chile created history last night when they won their first continental competition with a 3-0 victory over Ecuador's LDU Quito in the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana final at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago

La U were in the lead inside three minutes after a right-wing cross was cleared by a defender into the path of Eduardo Vargas, who beat the goalkeeper with a left-footed shot from ten years out to get his tenth goal of the competition. It was all one way traffic as the visitors couldn't get any foothold in the game with La U controlling most of the posession. Somehow, LDU held on and their first serious shot on goal came just before half time when a Ezequiel González free kick finally forced Jhonny Herrera into action but they still needed two goals to take the tie into extra time.

When LDU were reduced to 10 men when Jorge Guagua was dismissed for an elbow half way through the second half what little chance they had of getting back into the game disappeared with him up the tunnel. Finally ten minutes from time La U settled their supporters nerves when neat passing again opened up the LDU defence giving substitue Gustavo Lorenzetti a tap in to send the home fans into ecstacy. La U were reduced to 10 men six minutes from time when Matias Rodríguez got a second yellow card for a late tackle, but Eduardo Vargas put the icing on the cake three minutes from time when he evaded two defenders and lofted the ball over Alexander Domínguez to give him the record of most goals in a Copa Sudamericana campaign with eleven.

Quotes -

Diego Rivarola of La U - "Vargas is an extraordinary player and he deserves what he is living. He's got a great future and I hope he does well but after this he'll surely leave."

La U trainer Jorge Luis Sampaoli - "The sensation is unforgettable and in time it's going to have an even bigger impact. To be part of history does not have a price,'

Gustavo Canales - "We never said it, but we knew we were playing good football, distinct from the others because we never went back on our priority of attacking or looking for goals. We were cautious during the whole tournament, but now we can say that we were the best and that's why we're lifting the cup."

It caps a remarkable year for Universidad de Chile, unbeaten in all competitions they will now concentrate on wrapping up the Clausura title.

We say that this is a triumph for the Bielsian football philosophy. While the master continues to apply his approach to the beautiful, and it is beautiful under Bielsa, game – first with Chile, now with Athletic Club de Bilbao – his disciples, of whom Sampaoli is one, are also beginning to see that philosophy succeed. It’s exciting, it’s unpredictable and it’s bloody effective with the right pegs in the right holes.

U de Chile: Herrera; M González, M Rodríguez, O González, Rojas; Diaz, Mena, Aránguiz; Vargas, Canales (Rivarola 86'), Castro (Lorenzetti 54')
LDU Quito: Domínguez; Ambrosi, Guagua, Reasco (Gámez 54'), Araujo; Calderón, Acosta, González, Hidalgo, Barcos, Bolaños (Calderon 67')
Referee: Wilson Luiz Seneme (Brazil)

Premier Sports TV is the home of live South American football in the UK
You can subscribe at or calling 0871 663 9000

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Colombia get trigger-happy

He'd only been in the job for four months, taking over from the controversial Hernán Darío Gómez, but Colombia have already offed Leonel Alvarez after just three World Cup qualifiers.

Results weren't that bad as they went to La Paz and won, but this was followed up by two home games in Baranquilla where they were held 1-1 by new CONMEBalls favourites Venezuela and beaten by Argentina despite having much of the game. The key thing about those home games was that they were played without Colombia's undoubted star, Radamel Falcao, who was injured. If teams are going to be judged by what they do in games under enforced stunt conditions, then pretty much every football manager will be taking a long, hard look over their shoulder today after this.

Fundamentally, however, Alvarez's card was marked from the outset. After Gómez was dismissed - and he had to be, let's face facts here - Alvarez was anything but first choice. They wanted Gerardo Martino but were turned down. They had a look around and there was Alvarez, smiling gently and cupping his magnificent curly mullet. Martino will undoubtedly be first pick now.

What this episode does not mean is that Alvarez is incapable. Maybe he - like Carlos Quieroz, to pick a random example - will always be an understudy, destined never to make the top grade, but while there were grumblings about not going for the jugular against Argentina, in a few short games, there's been enough to suggest Alvarez has enough about him to go on and make something of himself.

FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals

Santos booked their place in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup with a comfortable victory over Kashiwa Reysol at Toyota Stadium this morning. The Libertadores champions were ahead 19 minutes into the contest thanks to a wonderful strike from the much-coveted Neymar who had earlier struck the post. Fed by Ganso down the inside right channel, he checked back inside onto his left and curled a beauty past Takanori Sugeno who was left with his feet seemingly in clay. Approaching the half hour, Santos struck for a second time to all but seal the game. Again, Ganso was the provider, playing it in from the left to the feet of Borges who turned and rifled a powerful shot high into the roof of the net. 2-0 it remained to half time, but nine minutes after the resumption, Reysol found a way back into the game as some slack marking at a corner allowed Hiroki Sakai to pull one back.
If anything, that spurred Santos on and they restored the two-goal advantage shortly afterwards with Danilo's heavily deflected free-kick following a foul on star man Ganso. Reysol could and should have got one back late on when Masakatsu Sawa put the ball over the bar from close range when scoring looked easier. Santos move on to Sunday's final where the winners of tomorrow's semi-final between Qatar's Al Sadd and the tiki-taka masters of Barcelona (so Barcelona then, yeah?).

Reysol, the host nation champions, got to this point by beating Oceania champions Auckland City 2-0 in a play-off and then beating CONCACAF champions Monterrey of Mexico on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Monterrey beat ES Tunis (African champions) for 5th place in a play-off after the Tunisians lost their quarter-final to Al Sadd by two goals to one. Reysol have one more game, the third-place match, against the losers of the Al Sadd/Barcelona clash (so Al Sadd then, yeah?), also on Sunday.

Follow Barcelona's progress on our sister site, Euroballs.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Ex-pat of the week #3

The Champions League dominated the week's stories from Europe, albeit the main stories were more about who didn't get through as opposed to those who did. That's where our nominees spring from this week. And so to business.

Gonzalo Higuaín. A strong game in the league against Sporting Gijon for the Argentinian was followed up by an equally strong showing in the Champions League against Ajax, capped with the second of El Real's three goals. On the quiet, the lad's having a decent year.
Kaká. With Real Madrid having already qualified, a number of their regular starters were rested with this weekend's el clasico in mind, so it was a chance for one of the forgotten men to remind us of what he can do. Kaká pulled the strings as El Real saw off a limp challenge from Ajax to maintain the only 100% record in the competition, eliminating the Amsterdammers into the bargain.
Ezequiel Lavezzi. Napoli needed a win in order to make Manchester City's result irrelevant to their qualification prospects. With FC Bayern putting a reserve side out in Manchester, the cashed-up English side were quickly ahead, throwing pressure back onto the Italians. But they kept their composure in Spain and Lavezzi was superb as they engineered a win which secured their progress from a tough group.

Luiz Adriano. An eventful excursion in the Champions League for Shakhtar's Brazilian striker as the Donetsk outfit - already out of the competition - registered their first win of the group stage while also inflicting a first defeat on group winners APOEL. Having seen an early penalty saved, he kept his head when played in for the opener.
Robinho. AC Milan were already through as well, but still sent out a strong side in Plzen. Robinho was the star as Milan cruised into a two-goal lead early in the second half - scoring one and setting up countryman Alexandre Pato for the other - and it's no coincidence that Viktoria only got back on terms after he was subbed off.

The name inside the golden envelope is...

Ezequiel Lavezzi. Context is everything in judging this and with City strolling past a weakened Bayern, Napoli really needed that win. While other nominees had either already qualified or been eliminated, Lavezzi's performance went a long way to securing progression for his club and that's what pushes him over the top this week.

As ever, your contributions are welcome as we aim to keep this enterprise going each week. Leave us a comment on here or hit us up on twitter and let us know who you think should be in the running for this next week.

Copa Sudamericana Final 1st leg

Universidad de Chile overcame the altitude of Quito as they took a decisive step towards their first continental title with a first leg victory over LDU in the first leg of the 2011 Copa Bridgestone Sudamericana final and now have one hand on what would be Chile's first continental trophy for 20 years.

After the smoke from the fireworks had subsided both teams set off at a frenetic pace but it was La U who began take control of proceedings with Marcelo Diaz having the first meaningful effort but it was off target. Neicer Reasco was making hay down the right for La U and he should have put them ahead on the half on hour but Jhonny Herrera in the LDU goal came to the rescue. LDU wasted a golden opportunity five minutes before the break, Ezequiel González setting up Hernan Barcos and the LDU star striker somehow put the ball over the bar. La U made the home side pay just before the break, in demand Eduardo Vargas latching onto a beautifully weighted Marcelo Diaz through ball, slicing between two LDU defenders before rounding Alexander Domínguez to claim his ninth goal of the competition.

Gustavo Canales went agonisingly close to extending the lead for La U five mintues after the break but his header went the wrong side of the post. Half way through the half LDU spurned a great opportunity to level the tie after Herrera flapped at a corner and Barcos again wasted the opportunity by firing over the bar. The second half didn't quite have the drama of the first but LDU went close again when Fernando Hidalgo's header was cleared by Jose Rojas before defender Matias Rodríguez wasted a chance for La U to put the tie beyond doubt. When Hernan Barcos headed wide with moments left it was not to be LDU's night and they now face an uphill task in the National Stadium in Santiago next Wednesday night.

LDU Quito: Domínguez; Ambrosi, Guagua, Reasco (Gámez 82'), Araujo; Calderón, Acosta, González, Hidalgo; Barcos, Bieler (Bolaños 46')
Universidad de Chile: Herrera; M González, Rodríguez, O González, Rojas; Diaz, Acevedo, Mena, Aránguiz (Marino '89); Vargas (Margalhaes '90), Canales (Castro '72)
Referee: Diego Abal (Argentina)

Premier Sports TV is the home of South American Football in the UK
You can subscribe at or by calling 0871 663 9000

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Copa Sudamericana Final Preview

After an arduous battle through five rounds, we come to the final of the Copa Sudamericana. Played over two legs, the first is in Quito - at an altitude of 2850m - as LDU take on Universidad de Chile.

2009 winners LDU arrive at this stage in mediocre form. They've not won in five domestic games, the only bright spots puncturing that gloom the home and away wins over Vélez Sarsfield in the semi-final. Hernan Barcos got both in a 2-0 win at home to Vélez and then struck again in Buenos Aires as they completed a reasonably comfortable win. The 27-year old Argentinian is far and away their top scorer this term and will once again be the focal point of their attack. Slightly disappointing in the league this season, they are involved in a third-place play-off with El Nacional while Deportivo Quito and Emelec play off for the title. While league form has been patchy, they've lost twice in their run to the final, away to Independiente in the Round of 16 and at Libertad in the Quarter Final.

La U have no such domestic concerns, unbeaten as they stormed to the top of the Clausura table by a whopping eight-point margin and have a 1-0 lead over Unión Española to take back home in the first round of the finals. Their 39 goals in the Chilean league are a clear nine better than the next best and they conceded just 15 - they are an all-round side. They score from everywhere, but it's 22-year old Eduardo Vargas who leads the line. They haven't lost at all in the Copa Sudamericana either. Indeed, only Fénix in the first round and Vasco da Gama in the semi-final held them to draws. They had too much for Vasco - with Brazilian championship glory on their mind perhaps - over two legs, especially once they'd come from behind to secure a 1-1 in the São Januário. They bossed the return, running out easy 2-0 victors, the aforementioned Vargas sealing the deal after Fágner was sent off for the Brazilians as La U stopped Vasco's run of ridiculous comebacks in this competition.

Everything points to a win for La U, which would be their first Copa Sudamericana in their third appearance in the competition. The potential spanner in the works is the extreme altitude that the first leg will be played at. LDU need to take a lead to Santiago if they're to stand a chance. Even then, the Chileans will probably fancy their chances when taking them back to their place and LDU know this. The Ecuadorians have to go for it in the opener which should make for a fun game for viewers on Premier Sports TV. The game kicks off at 00:15 GMT in the small hours of tomorrow before the return leg six days later at the same time with both games being shown live.

The Road to the Final

First Stage

Yaracuyanos 1-1 LDU Quito
LDU Quito 1-0 Yaracuyanos
LDU Quito advances 4-1 on points

Universidad de Chile 1-0 Fénix
Fénix 0-0 Universidad de Chile
Universidad de Chile advances 4-1 on points

Second Stage

LDU Quito 4-1 Trujillanos
Trujillanos 0-1 LDU Quito
LDU Quito advances 6-0 on points

Universidad de Chile 1-0 Nacional Montevideo
Nacional Montevideo 0-2 Universidad de Chile
Universidad de Chile advances 6-0 on points

Round of Sixteen

LDU Quito 2-0 Independiente
Independiente 1-0 LDU Quito
3-3 on points, LDU Quito advances on goal difference

Flamengo 0-4 Universidad de Chile
Universidad de Chile 1-0 Flamengo
Universidad de Chile advaces 6-0 on points

Quarter Final

LDU Quito 1-0 Libertad
Libertad 1-0 LDU Quito
2-2 on points, LDU Quito advances 5-4

Arsenal 1-2 Universidad de Chile
Universidad de Chile 3-0 Arsenal
Universidad de Chile advances 6-0 on points

Semi Final

LDU Quito 2-0 Vélez Sarsfield
Vélez Sarsfield 0-1 LDU Quito
LDU Quito advances 6-0 on points

Vasco da Gama 1-1 Universidad de Chile
Universidad de Chile 2-0 Vasco da Gama
Universidad de Chile advances 4-1 on points

Premier Sports TV is the home of South American Football in the UK
You can subscribe at or by calling 0871 663 9000

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

2011 Craque do Brasileirão Awards

The annual awards ceremony took place at Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro on Monday to celebrate the achievements of the 2011 Brasileirão season. The ceremony is run in conjunction by the CBF and media outlet Globo.

Here is who won what

Player of the Year: Neymar (Santos).

Leading scorer: Borges (Santos) with 23 goals

Craque da Galera: Dedé (Vasco da Gama)
This award is voted for by a fan vote and Dedé got 46% of that vote

Best Newcomer: Wellington Nem (Figueirense)

Coach of the Year: Ricardo Gomes/Cristóvão Borges (Vasco)

Referee of the Year: Leandro Vuaden

Team of the year 4-4-2 (apparently)

Goalkeeper: Jefferson (Botafogo)
Right Back: Fagner (Vasco da Gama)
Centre Back: Dedé (Vasco da Gama)
Centre Back: Réver (Atlético-MG)
Left Back: Bruno Cortês (Botafogo)
Midfield: Ralf (Corinthians)
Midfield: Paulinho (Corinthians)
Midfield: Diego Souza (Vasco da Gama)
Midfield: Ronaldinho Gáucho (Flamengo)
Forward: Neymar (Santos)
Forward: Fred (Fluminense)

Premier Sports TV is the home of the Brasileirão Petrobras in the UK
You can subscribe at or by calling 0871 663 9000

Monday, 5 December 2011

Brasileirão Petrobras - Week 38

São Paulo 4-1 Santos
Internacional 1-0 Grêmio
Cruzeiro 6-1 Atlético Mineiro
Atlético Goianiense 5-1 América Mineiro
Atlético Paranaense 1-0 Coritiba
Bahia 2-1 Ceará
Avaí 1-1 Figueirense
Botafogo 1-1 Fluminense
Vasco da Gama 1-1 Flamengo
Corinthians 0-0 Palmeiras

Corinthians are the 2011 Brasileirão Petrobras champions after a a spiteful score less draw with arch enemies Palmeiras at the Pacaembu in front of the Premier Sports TV cameras. After the untimely death of Sócrates early in the morning before the game a respectful moment of silence was observed by all in the stadium. When the action started it was Palmeiras who were the more likely to break the deadlock. Deola in the Palmeiras goal was reduced to a mere spectator at times. With the news that Diego Souza had put Vasco da Gama ahead at Engenhão after half an hour filtering through the ground at half time, Corinthians were still in the box seat for the title but going behind would be a complete disaster. The fun and games at the Pacaembu began two minutes after the break when Jorge Valdivia was sent off for a forearm but the news from Rio that Flamengo has equalised through Renato Abreu settled nerves amongst Corinthians supporters. Then the news got better for Corinthians as Vasco had Jumar sent off twenty minutes from time but two minutes later it was ten a side when Wallace was shown a red card. The tension was unbearable at the Pacaembu especially when Palmieras rattled the woodwork but the news came through it was all over at Vasco and the fans began celebrating a fifth title. Then came the good old fashioned South American punch up in injury time, Palmeiras substitue João Vitor was sent off for a nasty challenge on Jorge Henrique. The Palmieras bench thought there had been a severe over reaction and piled into the midfielder. Leandro Castan of Corinthians got a red card for his part in it all but how Luan of Palmeiras stayed on after kicking Jorge Henrique right under the nose of the assistant we will never know. The final whistle went in the Pacaembu and the celebrations started in true style with the fireworks going off left, right and centre. It was a fitting finish for Corinthians and a tribute to the Doctor.

While Flamengo secured their place in the Copa Libertadores next year with that point at Vasco, it was Internacional who sneaked in the at back door to claim the fifth and final spot via league qualification. For most of the night São Paulo were in the box seat as they ripped a reserve Santos side to bits in Mogi Mirim. Luís Fabiano, Cicero and Lucas Silva had São Paulo three up at half time but Elano pulled a goal back on the hour. A second for Fabiano ten minutes from time wrapped things up for São Paulo. Internacional made it into the Libertadores after victory in the 389th Gre-Nal at the Beira-Rio. The only goal came on the hour when Argentinian Andres D'Alessandro converted from the spot to give them the win and send them to Colombia for their Libertadores qualifying tie. Figuerense were denied the chance of qualifying when they were held by already relegation local rivals Avaí at the Recassada. Diogo Orlando put Avaí ahead a minutes before the break but Figueirense levelled two minutes after the restart through Heber. Figueirense then had Julio Cesar sent off shortly afterwards but with Inter winning they were always behind on that count.

The relegation picture was settled pretty early in the afternoon as Cruzeiro brushed aside uninterested local rivals Atlético-MG in Sete Lagoas. Cruzeiro who needed to win to guarantee their place in the top flight were four up at half time after goals from Roger, Leandro Guerreiro, Anselmo Ramon and Fabrício. Wellington Paulista made it five on the just before the hour before Réver pulled a goal back for Atlético-MG. The game finished ten a side after Wellington Paulista and Werley were sent off after clashing thirteen minutes from time and Everton capped a remarkable day for Cruzeiro with the sixth in injury time. Atlético-PR were relegated for the first time in their history despite denying local rivals Coritiba a spot in the Libertadores with victory at the Arena de Baixada. Ecuadorian striker Joffre Guerrón got the only goal of the game seventeen minutes from time but the home side finished with ten men after Fabrício Carioca was sent off in injury time. Ceará were also relegation after losing at Bahia, who themselved sneaked into the last Copa Sudamericana place for next season. Camacho put Bahia ahead with thirteen minutes gone and Lulinha doubled the lead two minutes before the break. Felipe Azevedo pulled a goal back for Ceará almost instantly but the news from Sete Lagoas at half time saw the game fizzle out into a damp squib.

Fluminense secured third place and spot in the group stage of the Libertadores after they ended up settling for a point in Volta Redonda against Botafogo. The Tricolor were ahead with just five minutes gone when Fred got his 22nd of the season, leaving him one behind Borges of Santos but Felipe Menezes levelled for Botafogo seven minutes later. Fluminense finished with ten men after Erwin Valencia was sent off fourteen minutes from time but after their shocking start to the season Fluminense must be happu with their third palced finish. Finally Atlético-GO secured a place in the Copa Sudamericana when they took already relegated América-MG to the cleaners at the Serra Dourada. Felipe put Atlético-GO ahead with ten minutes gone before Mario doubled the lead from the spot five minutes later. Gilson put Atlético-GO three ahead at the break but Thiago Carleto pulled one back for América-MG on the hour. This spurred Atlético-GO onto greater things as Anailson got a fourth twenty minutes from time before Paulo Henrique wrapped up Atlético-GO's biggest win of the season five minutes from time.

So, this is who got what in Brazil this year

Champions: Corinthians
Copa Libertadores Group Stage: Santos (as holder), Fluminense, Vasco da Gama (via Copa do Brasil)
Copa Libertadores Qualifiers: Flamengo, Internacional
Copa Sudamericana: São Paulo, Figueirense, Coritiba, Botafogo, Palmeiras, Grêmio, Atlético Goianiense, Bahia
Relegated: Atlético Paranaense, Ceará, América Mineiro, Avaí

So that's it for the 2011 Brasileirão Petrobras and it's congratulations once again to Corinthians. That isn't the end of the year here at CONMEBalls, we have both legs of the Copa Sudamericana final plus we will be keeping tabs on Santos at the FIFA World Club Cup. The national competition will return mid-May 2012 but don't forget our coverage of the Campeonato Paulista and Campeonato Carioca begins in the middle of January and the 2012 Copa Libertadores gets underway in the last week of January.

I would like to thank everyone who takes the trouble to read this every week and especially everyone who follows us on twitter. It's been a pleasure bringing you all the action from one of the most exciting leagues in the world.

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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira

Sad news today as the world learned of the passing of Brazilian great Sócrates. Medical doctor, 60-a-day man, drinker, thinker, icon, he was all these things and more. Outspokenly left-wing in his politics at a time when Brazil was under military rule, he was so much more than a footballer. But what a footballer. At 6'4", his gangly frame shouldn't have been able to glide across the turf, but he was a picture of languid grace.
This writer was just a bit too young for the 1978 World Cup - 1982 was the first proper glimpse of the world game and that Brazil side from that tournament still evokes great memories. Falcão, Zico et al were terrific of course, but it was the lanky, bearded captain who pulled all the strings and swanned about the midfield like he owned the sport. He was cool. He was the one everyone wanted to be in the 38-a-side game in the schoolyard the next day.
His was a life very well lived indeed and the world is a sadder place for his passing.

Here he is in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico against France, swaggering his way around the Jalisco in Guadalajara:

Friday, 2 December 2011

Ex-Pat of the Week #2

The second week of our trawl through the leagues outside of South America to find the cream of the crop takes in the Europa League, where progression to the last 32 was up for grabs, the League Cup in England and some surprise results around Europe.

So to the nominations:

Lucas Leiva. Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder took some time to convince he was Xabi Alonso's natural successor, but since the Spaniard departed for Real Madrid, Lucas has slowly grown into the role. This was capped with an outstanding display in front of the back four against Manchester City in a game Liverpool were a touch unfortunate to win. He followed that up with another starring role in the League Cup against Chelsea, but he failed to complete that game as he suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury which has ruled him out for the season.

Sergio Agüero. Largely shackled in the league against Liverpool (see Lucas's nomination above), but came off the bench in the League Cup away to Arsenal in the 32nd minute as manager Roberto Mancini removed a defender - Alexander Kolarov - for the Argentine striker. The manager's bold ploy was rewarded when Agüero popped up with a late winner to see Manchester City through to the semi-finals.

Hulk. Missed out last week despite a great performance in Donetsk in the Champions League, but followed that up with a double last Sunday in a 3-2 win over bitter rivals Benfica, a result which saw Porto leapfrog the Lisbon club into pole position in the Liga ZON Sagres.

Elkin Soto. The tough-tackling Colombian was outstanding in the Mainz midfield as they pulled themselves clear of the Bundesliga danger zone and inflicting a second straight loss on the mighty FC Bayern .

Alexandre Pato. Returning from a long injury lay-off, the Brazilian scored one and set one up for Milan in a 4-0 romp against the Flying Donkeys of Chievo as the Rossoneri move within two points of long-time Serie A leaders Juventus.

Leonardo (de Vitor Santiago). The much-travelled forward is at Red Bull Salzburg these days and was their best player as his side beat cashed-up PSG 2-0 in the Europa League on Thursday, a result which gives Salzburg a real chance of progressing and threatening the French side's continued involvement in the competition.

And the winner is...

Lucas Leiva. Maybe we're getting a bit soft in our old age and perhaps, just perhaps, had Lucas not got injured in that cup game we wouldn't have given him the nod. We'd like to think not and that his performances across the two games warranted recognition. This week capped a rise which has seen him become a key player for Liverpool and a regular for the Seleção and the measure of the man is how both will miss him now he's crocked.

And all done without once mentioning Lionel Messi. Until just then. Doh!

Who have we missed? Who will get the nod next week? Comment below or hit us up on the Twitter feed, especially if you see a bit more Asian football than we do.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Copa Sudamericana - Semi Final Second Leg

Vélez Sarsfield 0-1 LDU Quito
LDU Quito advances 6-0 on points
Universidad de Chile 2-0 Vasco da Gama
Universidad de Chile advances 4-1 on points

2009 Champions LDU Quito are back in the final after holding off the challenge of Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires on Tuesday night. Vélez needed an early goal to get them back in the tie and Guillermo Franco blew a great chance to put them ahead when left unmarked at the back post. It was all out attack from the home side and the consequence of that was leaving gaps at the back as Paul Ambrosi and Hernan Barcos went close for the visitors. Vélez came close just before the break but Alex Domínquez in the LDU goal kept his side in the tie with a save from Hector Canteros. The break through came four minutes after the break, Neicer Reasco with the cross before from good control and a powerful shot from Hernan Barcos flew past Marcelo Barovero to silence the home crowd and put LDU in total control of the tie. It knocked the stuffing out of the home side, now needing four goals in forty minutes to reach the final couldn't find a response and we lucky not to go further behind when Enqique Gamez blew an ideal opportunity to put LDU two ahead.

Vasco da Gama were unhappy before a ball was kicked in Santiago as Universidad de Chile moved their game from the National Stadium to their traditional home at the Estadio Santa Laura claiming the venue wasn't up to holding the fixture. The game started in a similar vein to last week's clash in the São Januário as both teams went at each other hammer and tongs looking for that vital first goal. Juninho Pernambucano was a constant threat from dead ball situations but Vasco didn't take their chances. La U went ahead just after the half hour, a shot from Fransico Castro was parried by Fernando Prass in the Vasco goal and Gustavo Canales was first onto the rebound to fire home from a sharp angle and send the home fans wild. Vasco almost levelled just after the break but La U goalkeeper Jhonny Herrera was in top form and Eduardo Vargas should have ended it up chipped over the keeper and wide of the post. Vasco's task became harder twenty minutes from time when Fágner was dismissed for an elbow on Canales and two minutes later Vargas made up for his earlier miss when he finished off a great team move to get his eighth goal in the competition. It was fifth time lucky for La U in continental semi finals as they made the final of a CONMEBOL competition for the first time in their history.

The first leg of the final takes place at the Casa Blanca in Quito next week before the return leg in Santiago the week after. Kick off times have yet to be confirmed.

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