The best represented nation at the beginning of the knockout stages of Copa Libertadores 2011 are the Brazilians after all five of their teams successfully navigated the group stages. Cruzeiro were the standout Brazilians, romping home in group seven and twice humiliating Argentine group runners up Estudiantes. Internacional and Grêmio made it through without much difficulty. Santos crept through ahead of a highly entertaining Colo-Colo side in group five. Fluminense were incredibly lucky to make it through on goal difference after a highly debatable penalty in the dying minutes of their clash against Argentinos Juniors in group 5.
Four nations provide two teams in the knockout stages. Argentina lost three of their representatives in the group stages the remaining two were undoubtedly the best teams in Argentina at the end of 2010. Estudiantes crept through seven behind Cruzeiro and are trapped in a dismal run of form. Vélez Sársfield have recovered from some early season jitters to take up leadership of the Argentine Primera División and progress to the knockout stages of Copa Libertadores.
Mexico's two representatives are Club América who were winners of the tough group five and Jaguares who finished as runners up behind reigning champions Internacional in group six.
Both of the Colombian representatives in the knockout stages are suffering poor domestic form. Once Caldas had been runaway leaders of the Primera but a run of five games without a win has seen them drop off the pace. Junior have been stuck in the bottom half of Primera A since the beginning of the season and have only recorded four wins in thirteen domestic games in 2011.
Paraguay also have two representatives, Cerro Porteño put aside their poor domestic form with a dramatic 2-3 win against Colo-Colo in group five to secure their place in the last sixteen. Libertad cruized through group one becoming the first team to secure their place in the knockout stages.
Three other nations have a single representative in the last sixteen. Reigning Chilean champions Universidad Cátolica are looking good, they won group four ahead of Vélez Sársfield and also have a decent lead at the top of the Chilean Apertura. The other two sides both came through group eight at the expense of two Argentine sides. 2008 champions Liga de Quito of Ecuador won the group and Peñarol of Uruguay were runners up.
Ganso scored the only goal of the game to give Santos a 1-0 home win against Club América and to secure progression to the quarter-finals after a 0-0 draw in the return fixture in Mexico leaving Santos as the only Brazilian representatives left in the competition after the other four Brazilian sides were all knocked out the following day
|Winner: Once Caldas|
Cruzeiro continued their impresive Copa Libertadores form with a good 1-2 away win against Colombian champions Once Caldas. The result seems better than it was though because Once had been stuck in a terrible run of form, their only win in their seven previous games was their 0-2 win against USM, their only win to date in Copa Libertadores 2011. Wallyson and Juan Ortigoza put Cruzeiro two goals ahead before Luis Núñez pulled one back for the hosts in the last minute to give them the faintest of hopes in the return match, however Cruzeiro have scored an incredible 15 goals in their three home games so far in Copa Libertadores 2011.
The Colombians pulled off the biggest shock of the Copa Libertadores so far with an unlikely 2-0 win in Brazil to earn their place in the quarter finals at the expense of the team with the best attacking record in the competition. Two goals within four second half minutes were enough to give Once the victory, Diego Amaya headed the scoring on 67 minutes from a corner kick and club legend Dayro Moreno hit the decisive goal four minutes later.
Matías Corujo scored the opening goal for Peñarol against holders Internacional with a spectacular shot however Leandro Damião equalised for the Brazilians in the second half with a long range shot.
Peñarol pulled off a major shock in the return leg knocking the defending champions out with a shock 1-2 win. Things seemed to be going to plan for Internacional after Oscar put them one goal ahead after only a minute of play but Peñarol took control of the game with two early goals in the sacond half. Alejandro Martinuccio equalised after only 15 seconds of second half play and Juan Manuel Olivera headed the winning goal four minutes later.
|Winner: Universidad Cátolica|
In the first game of the knockout stages Chilean side Universidad Cátolica recorded a shock 1-2 away win against Grêmio of Brazil. Lucas Pratto scored both of the goals for the visitors either side of a cracking long range strike from Douglas.
Universidad Cátolica secured their place in the quarter finals with a 1-0 win in the second leg, Milovan Mirosevic scored the only goal of the game in the 87th minute to give them an emphatic aggregate win.
Considering the ease with which Libertad qualified and Fluminense's reliance on a desperate last minute penalty decision to make it through to the knockout stages it is a bit of a surprise that Flu established a healthy two goal advantage in the first leg, establishing a 3-1 lead against their Paraguayan visitors. Rafael Moura and Rodolfo Gamarra scored a header each to make the score 1-1 before Fluminense scored a couple of blistering long range goals through Marquinho and Darío Conca late in the game.
Libertad secured one of the great Libertadores comebacks in the second leg, with only a few minutes remaining they had only scored once and looked down and out but Miguel Angel Samudio scored in the 86th minute with a cracking half volley to give the Paragauyans the advantage on away goals. José Núñez bagged a third goal for the hosts in injury time to bury the Brazilians and finish off one of the blackest days in the history of Brazilian club football in whick four of their teams were eliminated at the hands of teams from "lesser" south American nations.
|Vélez Sársfield||3-0||Liga de Quito|
|Liga de Quito||0-2||Vélez Sársfield|
|Winner: Vélez Sársfield|
At first glance a 3-0 win for Vélez Sársfield against Liga de Quito looks like a brilliant result however, the fact that they failed to score a few more goals to completely finish off the tie in the last 20 minutes when they were playing against only nine men means that Liga are not completely dead and buried given their formidable home form in international competitions. Augusto Fernández scored two early goals for the Argentinians and Sebastián Domínguez headed the third goal one minute after Luis Bolaños was sent off for the visitors. Neicer Reasco was also sent off for the Ecuadorians after 69 minutes but Vélez could not makle use of their twenty minute two man advantage.
Junior scored themselves a vital away goal passing their way through the Jaguares defence for Luis Paéz to score after only seven minutes but Jaguares got themselves back into the game with an unmarked header from their Colombian forward Jackson Martínez in the second half to secure a 1-1 draw.
|Winner: Cerro Porteño (5-3 on penalties)|
Cerro Porteño will be well pleased to have secured a 0-0 draw with Estudiantes in Argentina, but wary that an away goal in the return leg could prove vital. Estudiantes are stuck in a miserable rut having failed to win any of their last seven games .