There is something special about Cerro Porteño. Santos 1 – Cerro Porteño 0.
There are only four teams left in the Copa Libertadores. The extremely unheralded Cerro Porteño is now rubbing elbows with the elites of South American football. The likes of Peñarol, Santos, and Velez hold a total of 8 Copa Libertadores and 6 Intercontinental Cups. They have all won both. Cerro? None. Out of the Paraguay teams in the Libertadores, Libertad probably had the most credit. So what is Cerro doing there? There must be something special about Cerro this year.
Juan Lucero said it best last week, “Four weeks ago nobody gave us credit, things are different now”. Four weeks ago my wife and I wagered some kitchen duties on who would get further in the Libertadores, Cerro or Guaraní? As usual, I bet on Guarani with my heart and pride, thinking surely Cerro might not even make it out of its group, like in the Sudamericana last year! What a mistake!
Cerro didn’t have a brilliant group stage, but their 2-3 victory over Colocolo in Chile sparked something in Cerristas I doubt they have felt in years. A feeling that maybe, just maybe, they could get close to their eternal dream of a Copa Libertadores title.
So what is special about Cerro? A couple of things. First, it is very difficult to score against them. They defend in numbers and in synchrony, somewhat like our Albirroja does. I’ve seen this against Estudiantes, Jaguares, and now Santos. Second, they can actually play! Cerro doesn’t just have one or two very talented players, they have more. Some of them don’t even come off the bench sometimes! Jonathan Fabro leads this group, but they also have Julio Dos Santos, Juan Iturbe, and maybe even Luis Caceres, Freddy Bareiro, and Juan Lucero might be considered as such. They never play all together so the bench is loaded with talent. In Mexico, Iturbe and Bareiro came from the bench to link up for Cerro’s goal. The same thing happened in Asunción with Bareiro intelligently participating in Cerro’s goal.
Thank God Roberto Nanni didn’t start against Santos yesterday. I couldn’t bear to see him destroy more plays and lose more balls as he did against Jaguares. How he ever managed to score as many goals as he has in this Libertadores is incredible. He came on yesterday and did more of the same, horrible!
Cerro’s coach finally had the sense to start with Bareiro rather than Nanni. Now, why on earth wonder kid Juan Iturbe has missed two games in a row is a complete mystery. I cannot understand what Jorge Nuñez brought to the game yesterday that Iturbe couldn’t have done better, maybe long distance shots, but I doubt that’s why Nuñez came on. Something smells.
Cerro lost 1-0 to Santos yesterday, and they will have a very difficult 2nd leg in Asunción. But there is something special about Cerro because yesterday they lost and the players celebrated! Only a team so confident in their ability that they are absolutely convinced they will win celebrates. That’s who celebrates a defeat.
They will be in the final of the great Copa Libertadores.
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