The qualifying round for the 2011 Copa Libertadores begins this week with twelve teams hoping to gain the final six places in the group stages of South America’s élite club competition. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews each of the two-legged contests:
ALIANZA LIMA (Peru) v JAGUARES de CHIAPAS (Mexico)
Peru’s biggest club Alianza have never got beyond the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores despite making 21 appearances in the competition. Even though they must play in the first round this time out Alianza Lima will hope that they can get one over the upstarts from Mexico. Jaguares, from the town of Chiapa, have never won a major honour and nobody would expect them to break their duck in this year’s Copa. However all teams have to start somewhere in their quest to find success and, after finishing third in the 2010 Torneo Apertura, the Jaguars might spring a surprise here. Group 6 and the trio of Emelec FC, Jorge Wilstermann FC and defending Libertadores champions Internacional FC await the winners of this first round clash.
BOLIVAR (Bolivia) v UNION ESPAñOLA (Chile)
It has been 36 years now since Chilean outfit Union Española reached their only final of this tournament, losing to record champions Independiente in the latter’s heyday. Should they succeed in their quest to participate with the likes of Vélez Sársfield, Universidad Católica and Caracas FC in Group 4 it would be unlikely that they would trouble the history books in making a second final appearance. Bolivar, Bolivian runners-up in 2010, have never reached the final of the tournament and will have to make the most of home advantage in the first leg if they are to progress.
CERRO PORTEñO (Paraguay) v DEPORTIVO PETARE (Venezuela)
Cerro Porteño are one of the biggest clubs in South America never to get their hands on the coveted title. Having been Paraguayan champions 28 times they have only reached the Libertadores semi-finals on five occasions, never being able to go one step further. They will, at the very least, hope to reach the group stages this year facing off against five-times Venezuelan champions Deportivo Petare. If you haven’t heard of them that’s probably because they were called Deportivo Italia until late last year. Their expectations will be to match last year’s accomplishment of reaching the group stage. The winners will face Santos FC, Deportivo Tachira and Colo Colo in Group 5.
CORINTHIANS (Brazil) v DEPORTES TOLIMA IBAQUE (Colombia)
The Brazilian giants should, in theory, be too strong for their Colombian opponents but it will still be difficult to negotiate their way through to the group stages as they must play the first leg away from home. Nonetheless the 2010 Copa Brasil winners will fancy their chances of reaching Group 7 – along with Cruzeiro, Estudiantes de La Plata and Guarani – whilst Colombians Tolima will need to do the business in the home leg if they are to deny Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos et al from progressing.
INDEPENDIENTE (Argentina) v CS DEPORTIVO QUITO (Ecuador)
Independiente, known to many as El Rey de Copas, will hope to be back in the competition they still remain record champions of despite not winning it since their seventh triumph in 1985. Although they suffered a terrible domestic campaign in the latter half of 2010, Independiente reached the qualifiers by virtue of winning the Copa Sudamericana in December. Their reward is to face off against Deportivo Quito who have it all to do in the second leg of this first round match. That’s because the Argentinians won the first leg 2-0 last night. 2008 Libertadores winners LDU Quito, CA Peñarol and Godoy Cruz are future Group 8 opponents for the winners of this tie.
LIVERPOOL FC (Uruguay) v GRêMIO PORTE ALEGRE (Brazil)
Grêmio have a good record in this competition winning it on two occasions but the latter of those triumphs came in 1995. The Porto Alegre side made it to this stage due to their finishing 4th place in last season’s Brasileiro and will rest their players in the domestic State Championship in order to focus on qualification for the big one. This should be a straightforward qualification for the Brazilians against a Liverpool FC team which is widely recognized as the biggest club never to win a championship in Uruguay. They reached the Libertadores due to having the highest aggregate total of points outside of the Apertura and Clausura champion teams Peñarol and Nacional. Whoever wins will face Atlético Junior, Oriente Petrolero and Léon in Group 2.
Australia have reached the 2011 AFC Asian Cup final in Qatar this weekend after crushing Uzbekistan by six goals to nil in yesterday’s semi-final. Japan also went through but did it the hard way as Alberto Zaccherroni’s men needed a penalty shoot out to get the better of arch-rivals South Korea.
There were six different scorers for the Socceroos as they put Uzbekistan to the sword in a game which was expected to be a lot closer than it was. Harry Kewell opened the scoring after just five minutes for the Aussies who then had Sasa Ognenovski to thank for doubling the advatage ten minutes before half-time. David Carney extended the lead on 66 minutes and when Ulugbek Bakaev was shown the red card just sixty seconds later for a rash challenge then the game was over as a contest. Three more strikes in the closing fifteen minutes from Brett Emerton, Carl Valeri and Robbie Kruse sealed the deal for Australia who reach their first Asian Cup final in only their second tournament since coming over from the Oceania Football Federation five years ago.
Japan are still in the hunt for a fourth Asian Cup title following a dramatic encounter with Asian heavyweights South Korea. Ki Sung Yong and Ryoichi Maeda exchanged goals for the Koreans and Japanese respectively in the first half and those goals remained the only strikes of a tantalising 90 minutes play. Extra-time proved even more action-packed when Hajimi Hosogai gave Japan the lead after 97 minutes only to see Jae Won Hwang equalised with a last-gasp 120th minute strike to take the game into a penalty shoot out. The Koreans, having forced the game into a spot kick lottery, then lost their nerve in the shoot out losing 3-0.
Uzbekistan and South Korea must now contend themselves with a 3rd/4th play-off match on Friday whilst Japan and Australia will face-off for the trophy on Saturday at the Al Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
The Copa Centroamericana has been decided in favour of Honduras who defeated record champions Costa Rica in the final by two goals to one. Walter and Emil Martinez scored the goals as Honduras secured their first title win since 1995 and both finalists secured qualification for the CONCACAF Gold Cup along with El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala.
The 5th/6th place play-off took place on Friday with Guatemala edging it 2-1 against Nicaragua with Gregory Ruiz and Manuel Leon getting on the score sheet for the victors. The semi-finals, played on the same day, saw Honduras leave it late to secure a 2-0 win over El Salvador thanks to Johnny Leveron and Marvin Chavez’s goals in the last thirteen minutes of the match. Tournament hosts and defending champions Panama were hopeful of a second consecutive appearance in the final but came unstuck against Costa Rica who, with the game finishing 1-1 after 120 minutes, prevailed via a penalty shoot-out with a 4-2 win.
This set up a final between Costa Rica and Honduras, who were previously successful in this competition sixteen years ago after consecutive wins in the tournament. After the final had begun it took only eight minutes for Honduras to take the lead when Walter Martinez guided the ball home. Emil Martinez doubled Honduras’ advantage in the 53rd minute but Costa Rica pulled one back through Marco Urena with seventeen minutes to go but the game would see no further goals. Honduras finally got their hands on a third title triumph whilst Costa Rica will have to wait at least another two years before attempting to increase their record number of tournament wins.
The list of qualifiers for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, to be played from June 5-25 in the United States, is now complete:
Azerbaijani champions Inter Baku have won the 19th Commonwealth of Independent States Cup in St Petersburg having beaten Belarussian representatives Shakhstyor Soligorsk in Sunday’s final on penalties. It is the third time in five years that a team from Azerbaijan has won the trophy.
Inter got to the final by virtue of finishing top of Group A with a 100% record against Istiqlol Dushanbe, FC Iskra-Stal and Neftchi Khorkor-Ata before disposing of Mika Yerevan and local side Zenit Saint Petersburg in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively. Inter’s opponents Shakhstyor Soligorsk finished top of Group C containing Zenit, Flora Tallinn and FC Balkan before dumping out record winners Dynamo Kyiv and three-time finalists Skonto Riga in the knockout rounds.
The final promised much but, sadly, didn’t deliver in terms of goalscoring action. With both of the finalists scoring a combined total of 29 goals in their ten matches and containing each of the tournament’s two leading scorers, Ģirts Karlsons (Inter) and Aleksandr Alumona (Shakhstyor), much more was expected of a final which ultimately ended goalless after extra-time. Therefore penalties were needed to decide the winner of the tournament and it would be Inter Baku who would be celebrating after winning the shoot-out 6-5 becoming the third team from Azerbaijan to win the tournament after Neftchi Baku (2006) and Khazar Lankaran (2008).
There’s been plenty more action in European domestic cup competitions this week including the French League Cup semi-finals, Coppa Italia, English and Scottish FA Cup replays as well as the completion of the German Cup 3rd round following the postponement of two games in December due to bad weather. With further played in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey Stoppage Time reviews the best of the action.
Montpellier HSC and Olympique Marseille will contest the 17th Coupe de la Ligue final in April after chalking up respective victories over Paris Saint Germain and AJ Auxerre in the semi-finals. An Olivier Giroud goal in second half extra-time proved the difference as Montpellier reached the tournament showpiece. Marseille, the defending champions, reached consecutive finals having put AJ Auxerre to the sword with a 2-0 win with goals from Brandao and Gignac.
The Derby della Capitale took centre stage in the Coppa Italia as AS Roma and SS Lazio faced off in another typically feisty derby match. A goal from Simplicio in the 77th minute gave AS Roma the win after both teams had scored from the penalty spot early in the second half. Napoli sealed their place on Tuesday with a 2-1 home win against Bologna whilst Wednesday saw Sampdoria go through via a penalty shoot out at home to Udinese. The one game on Thursday night witnessed an easy win for AC Milan over AS Bari with the San Siro side going through 3-0 thanks to goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexander Merkel and Robinho.
Copa del Rey holders Sevilla FC became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals on Tuesday defeating Villarreal 3-0 in the second leg of their quarter-final tie, going through 6-3 on aggregate. Goals from Renato, Freddie Kanoute and Alexis gave the Andalucians a semi-final tie against Real Madrid who recorded a 1-0 victory on Thursday over local rivals Atletico Madrid. Second division Real Betis made a brave attempt to claw back a five goal deficit against record holders FC Barcelona but, in the end, the Catalans went through 6-3 on aggregate despite losing the second leg 3-1. Barcelona look forward to a meeting with Almeria who disposed of Deportivo 4-2 on aggregate.
There were replays in England’s FA Cup with Premier League teams getting the better of lower league opponents. The biggest game saw eleven times winners Arsenal FC defeat Leeds United 3-1 at the latter’s Elland Road stadium on Wednesday thanks to Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie. On Tuesday there were wins for Manchester City (4-2 v Leicester City), Wolverhampton Wanderers (5-0 v Doncaster Rovers) and Stoke City (2-0 v Cardiff City) giving the top-flight plenty of representation in the oncoming 5th round.
In the Scottish Cup there was a big shock on Tuesday as third tier Ayr United got the better of SPL side Hibernian FC by a Mark Roberts goal to nil piling the pressure on the Easter Road side who have not enjoyed a good season. Dundee United ultimately got the better of second tier Ross County winning 4-3 in a penalty shoot out in a repeat of the 2010 Scottish Cup final. There were also wins for Dunfermline Athletic (5-3 v Montrose), St Mirren (6-1 v Peterhead) and Partick Thistle (1-0 v Falkirk FC) whilst drawn matches involving Stenhousemuir/Stranraer (0-0) and Greenock Morton/Airdrie United (2-2) will have to be replayed at a later date.
Tuesday saw the completion of the Round of 16 in the KNVB Beker with wins for Eredivisie sides Groningen FC, RKC Waalwijk, NAC Breda and VV Noordwijk. They saw off determined opponents in the form of SC Genemuden, Achilles 29 Groesbeek, Telstar Velsen and Sparta Nijkerk respectively.
There were just two matches to play in the Round of 16 in Germany’s DFB Pokal with top flight sides securing wins over lower league opposition in games postponed from before Christmas due to bad weather. Srdjan Lakic was the hero for 1.FC Kaiserslautern scoring a hat-trick in his club’s 4-1 win over TuS Koblenz whilst a brace for Timmy Simons sealed progress for 2007 cup winners 1.FC Nurnberg in their 2-0 victory against 3. Liga side Kickers Offenbach.
Two matches were played in the group stage of the Turkiye Kupasi, one of which saw Galatasaray secure their passage to the quarter-final stages following a goalless draw away at Antalyaspor in their roup A encounter. In Group C capital club Ankaragucu still have a chance of progressing to the last eight following a Monday night 1-1 draw at home to Bucaspor. The visitors have now completed their group campaign and currently lie in second place but a win for Ankaragucu in their final match against Yeni Malatyaspor will see them take Bucaspor’s spot.
The Kypello Elladas saw the quarter-final first legs played out, amongst the four ties were two of the Greek games classic fixtures. Defending cup holders Panathinaikos fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of capital rivals AEK Athens whilst record cup winners Olympiakos Piraeus could only draw a north/south grudge match 1-1 against PAOK Thessaloniki. Olympiakos Volou have one foot in the semi-final draw having won 2-0 away at AO Kerkyra whilst on Thursday Atromitos got the better of Diagoras Rhodes FC by a similar scoreline.
In Portugal’s Taça da Liga the group stages are in full swing with two rounds of games completed in each of the four third-round groups which will determine who this year’s semi-finalists will be. Group A is led by Nacional who hold a three point advantage over FC Porto after beating Gil Vicente 4-1 on Wednesday. Two-time winners SL Benfica, Paços de Ferreira and Sporting top groups B, C and D respectively.
The Kypello Kyprou on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus saw the conclusion of three of the eight Round of 16 ties this week with the stand-out fixture between Apollon Limassol and APOEL Nicosia with the former winning 3-1 on aggregate following a 2-0 home success on Wednesday. There were also wins for Ethnikos Achnas and AEK Larnaca with respective wins over Ermis Aradippou and Doxa Katakopias.
Defending champions Iraq qualified for the quarter-final stages of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup along with Group D winners Iran as the full line-up for the next round is known.
Iraq got through a tough tie against North Korea on Wednesday with a slender 1-0 win thanks to a 22nd minute Karrar Jassim goal. Iran were being held in their final group match by the United Arab Emirates before Arash Afshin’s 70th minute opener opened the floodgates for the group leaders. Iran, who had only needed a point in any case to win the group, finished the job with a strike from Mohammed Morui and a Walid Abbas own goal giving them a 3-0 win.
Uzbekistan v Jordan
Japan v Qatar
Australia v Iraq
Iran v South Korea
Ties to be played on January 21-22
The group stage in the Copa Centroamericana has concluded with the top six countries now doing battle either for the title or for the chance to gain a place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup which takes place later this year.
Tournament hosts and defending champions Panama ended the group stage with a 100% record following three wins against opponents El Salvador, Nicaragua and Belize. This sets up a semi-final against record champions Costa Rica who finished second in Group B due to having scored one fewer goal than group leaders Honduras who, in turn, will face off against Group A runners-up El Salvador in the final four.
The four semi-finalists are now guaranteed their places in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and one of Nicaragua or Guatemala will join them. Those two countries must feature in a 5th/6th place play-off having finished third in their respective groups whilst Belize, who finished bottom of Group A due to an inferior goal difference, are eliminated from the competition.
Honduras v El Salvador
Panama v Costa Rica
The semi-final matches will be played on Friday, January 21st with the 3rd/4th play-off and final to follow two days later.
The OFC Under-17 Championship final has been won by tournament hosts New Zealand for the fourth time in the nation’s history following their 2-0 win against Tahiti. A 2-0 scoreline was also sufficient for the Solomon Islands to claim third place in their play-off against Vanuatu.
Both of the goals came in the first half for New Zealand who have won the last three tournaments all at the expense of today’s opponents Tahiti. Cameron Howieson gave the All Whites the lead after just seven minutes with the lead doubled on 36 minutes through Tim Payne. The third place play-off also saw two first half goals as Solo Kuki (13 minutes) and Harrison Mala (26) ensured that the Solomon Islands finished the tournament on a high against Vanuatu even if they were playing merely for pride.
New Zealand’s reward for winning the tournament is to gain the solitary OFC berth in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup later this year in Mexico.
The 2011 Commonwealth of Independent States Cup, currently being held in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, has completed its group stages and the sixteen teams at the start of the tournament have now been whittled down to eight. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest developments in the competition.
Local representatives Zenit St Petersburg may have sent a team comprising of youth players to the tournament but they managed to make it to the last eight of the competition when finishing second in Group C. Both Zenit and Belarussians Schakhtsyor Saligorsk won two and drew one of their three games with the latter having a superior goal difference thanks mainly to a 6-0 win over Flora Tallinn in their final group match. Zenit weren’t so spectacular in the group phase, only scoring four goals compared to Schakhtsyor’s total of nine, but they did what they had to in order to go through.
Dynamo Kyiv, record winners of this event with four titles, also progressed to the last eight despite not winning a game when finishing third in Group D. This is because the Russian Under-21 side, who won two out of their three games, is unable to progress beyond the group stage due to their participation being an hors concours invitation, therefore allowing Dynamo to join Finnish champions HJK Helsinki out of the group stage meaning Lithuanians FK Ekranas miss out. In Group B Latvian champions Skonto Riga kept up their wonderful early pre-season campaign under new coach Marians Pahars by topping the group with seven points out of nine to reach the quarter-finals along with second place Mika FC. The Armenians scraped past Kazakhstan’s FC Tobol Kostanay thanks to goal difference with both teams having an identical record after three games. Azerbaijan’s Inter Baku won all three games in Group A to accumulate nine points and finish three points ahead of Tajikistan participants Istiqlol Dushanbe who also got through to the quarter-finals in their maiden CIS Cup appearance.
Inter Baku (Azerbaijan) v Mika FC (Armenia)
Skonto Riga (Latvia) v Istiqlol Dushanbe (Tajikistan)
Schakhtsyor Soligorsk (Belarus) v Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)
Zenit St Petersburg (Russia) v HJK Helsinki (Finland)
The four quarter-final matches will be played on Wednesday, January 19th
In the latest round of 2011 AFC Asian Cup matches being played in Qatar there were no shocks to be had as Australia and South Korea confirmed their status as the two top teams in Group C and progressed to the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Australia finished top of the group when defeating Bahrain 1-0 in their final group match which was played today. The match was played in terrible weather conditions, the heavy rain not making it easy for either team to play fluent football, but there were some good moments to be had. The best one came in the 37th minute when Australia’s Mile Jedinak fired home from long range to score the decisive goal which gave the Socceroos all three points. In the other game South Korea were always favourites to dispose of rank outsiders India but the priority was scoring as many as they could in order to leapfrog over the Australians on goal difference. Ji Dong-Won scored the first of his two goals as early as the sixth minute with Koo Ja-Cheol doubling the Koreans’ advantage just three minutes later. Sunil Chhetri managed to pull one back for India in the 12th minute via the penalty spot but when Ji Dong-Won bagged his second goal of the game after 23 minutes many feared that the Koreans’ opponents could be subject to a cricket score but, thankfully for the Indians, only one more followed. Son Heung-Min grabbed his team’s fourth with nine minutes of the match remaining but no further goals meant that South Korea hadn’t done enough to gain top spot.
Australia and South Korea had seven points from three games, the former pipping the latter to first place by virtue of one goal, and they will find out tomorrow upon the completion of Group D who they will face in the next round. Bahrain had three points to show from their efforts in third place whilst India, who qualified for the tournament having won the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, found out the hard way that the AFC Asian Cup contains a level of opponent from removed from that which they faced in order to get to Qatar in the first place.