Copa América 2011

This is the overview page for the 2011 Copa América in Argentina.


The 2011 Copa América is the 43rd edition of the oldest continental championship in world football. Argentina host the event for the first time since 1987 and for the ninth time overall.

Brazil will qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup as hosts so whichever of the remaining CONMEBOL associations finishes the highest in Copa América 2011 will also qualify for the tournament.

Aside from the ten CONMEBOL representatives there are two invited teams. Mexico will compete in their 8th consecutive Copa América as invitees and Japan were picked as the other invitee replacing the United States who sent an embarassingly understrength team to the 2007 event. Japan formally withdrew from the tournament in May 2011, they were soon replaced by Costa Rica, who have played three times previosly in the event (1997, 2001, 2004).


Group stages

Group A - Full details

 Costa Rica310224-23

Group B - Full details

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Brazil 3 1 2 0 6 4 +2 5
 Venezuela 3 1 2 0 4 3 +1 5
 Paraguay 3 0 3 0 5 5 0 3
 Ecuador 3 0 1 2 2 5 -3 1

Group C - Full details

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Chile 3 2 1 0 4 2 +2 7
 Uruguay 3 1 2 0 3 2 +1 5
 Peru 3 1 1 1 2 2 0 4
 Mexico 3 0 0 3 1 4 -3 0


Colombia vs Peru 0-2 (after extra-time)
Argentina vs Uruguay 1-1 (Uruguay win on penalties)
Brazil vs Paraguay 0-0 (Paraguay win on penalties)
Chile vs Venezuela 1-2


Peru vs Uruguay 0-2
Paraguay vs Venezuela 0-0 (Paraguay win on penalties)

3rd place playoff

Peru vs Venezuela 4-1


Paraguay vs Uruguay 0-3

Group A Copa América 2011

Match reports and highlights from Group A of the 2011 Copa América tournament.


 Costa Rica310224-23


Argentina 1-1 Bolivia
Colombia 1-0 Costa Rica
Argentina 0-0 Colombia
Bolivia 0-2 Costa Rica
Colombia 2-0 Bolivia
Argentina 3-0 Costa Rica

Match reports

Copa América 2011 kicked off with great fanfare on 1 July 2011 in La Plata. After the completion of the opening ceremony the first game featured the hosts Argentina against a Bolivia side thet had not won in 9 games and had not experienced victory outside their own borders for 19 games.

The game was a real disappointment for the star studded Argentine team, they failed to score in the first half and then went a goal behind after Edvaldo Rojas put the visitors ahead in the early minutes of the second half when his flick managed to dribble slowly past Ever Banega and goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Argentina huffed and puffed but couldn't find an equaliser until five minutes after the introduction of substitute Sergio Agüero, who scored with a thumping volley on 76'. Argentina didn't really come close to scoring a winner in the remaining minutes. A 1-1 draw against such humble opponents could only be seen as a disastrous start to the tournament for the hosts. As for Bolivia their Argentine manager Gustavo Quinteros can be rightly proud of his players, their hard work and tactical discipline earned them a share of the points in a game against the host nation and favourites.

In the next game Colombia recorded a narrow 1-0 victory against an inexperienced Costa Rica side. In my predictions for the tournament I expressed concerns that Costa Rica would take a mauling in this game, however they looked robust for most of the first half, even after Randall Brenes got himself sent off after 28 minutes. Adrian Ramos scored Colombia's goal seconds before half-time after a defence splitting pass from Fredy Guarín, one of the few times that Colombia managed to show up the inexperience of the Costa Rica back line.

Argentina's status as tournament favourites was further diminished after they could only manage a tepid 0-0 draw with Colombia. The second highly disappointing result for the home side has got Sergio Batista's many critics riled up and it is no surprise given the incoherent and inept display his team put on. Argentina looked out of ideas up front and relied on goalkeeper Sergio Romero to make a number of vital saves at the back. This criticism of Argentina shouldn't detract from Colombia's achievements so far, they were in far from scintilating form in their opening two games and this draw hardly compares to Colombia's finest ever result on Argentine soil back in 1993 but they have secured a couple of good results and put themselves on the brink of qualifying for the knockout stages of a senior international tournament for the first time since they reached the Copa América semi-finals in 2004 as defending champions.

After their solid and disciplined display to earn apoint against Argentina Bolivia crashed to a 0-2 defeat against a highly inexperienced Costa Rica side. This was Bolivia's 20th successive game without a win on foreign soil and leaves them needing nothing short of a win against Colombia in their final group game if they intend to reach the second round. The first half was fairly evenly matched with 19 year old striker Joel Campbell standing out with his pace and ball control he was involved in the best of Costa Rica's play for the remainder of the match. Costa Rica's Argentine coach Ricardo Lavolpe must have been glowing with pride as his young team took control of the game in the second half, especially given the fact that only two of his players were over the age of 22, (27 year old defenders Heiner Mora & Johnny Acosta). Josue Martínez opened the scoring in the 59th minute after fine work from Joel Campbell in the buildup. Campbell then hit the crossbar with a cracking free kick before Bolivia were reduced to 10 men in the 71st minute as Ronald Rivero was sent off for blocking a goalbound shot with his arm. Substitute Allen Guevara missed the penalty but Bolivia's indiscipline cost them again on 76' when Walter Flores was sent off for kicking out at Joel Campbell. In the 79th minute Campbell scored the goal that his performance so richly deserved. The result leaves hosts Argentina in third place and dependent on beating Costa Rica in their final match to ensure qualification.

Colombia secured their progression to the quarter-finals with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Bolivia, Radamel Falcao scored both of their goals in the first half. The result ensured that Colombia topped the group and completed a group stage without conceding a single goal, the only other time they achieved this was in 2001 when they won the tournament.

Argentina went into their final group game with Costa Rica knowing that anything other than a win would lead to almost certain elimination. The hosts won the game 3-0, Sergio Agüero established a one goal lead just before half-time tapping in after a goalkeeper error.  Agüero scored his second early in the second half after a perfectly weighted assist from Lionel Messi. Then in the 63rd minute Messi set up Ángel Di María for the third with an even better pass. The result meant that Argentina qualified automatically as group runner-up and that Costa Rica would have to wait to find out if they would qualify as one of the two best third placed teams, however with only three points and a goal difference of minus three, they were dependent on an unlikely sequence of results.

Group B Copa América 2011

Match reports and highlights from Group B of the 2011 Copa América tournament.



Brazil, Venezuela and Paraguay progress to the quarter-final.


Brazil 0-0 Venezuela
Paraguay 0-0 Ecuador
Brazil 2-2 Paraguay
Venezuela 1-0 Ecuador
Paraguay 3-3 Venezuela
Brazil 4-2 Ecuador

Match reports

Venezuela held out for a 0-0 draw against Brazil in the opening game of group B, the first time they have ever avoided defeat against Brazil in the history of Copa América. Brazil put on a disappointing display and in the end Venezuela deserved their point.

The goaldrought at the beginning of the tournament continued in the next game with Paraguay and Ecuador settling for a 0-0 draw. Both sides looked good in patches but neither of them could find a goal, Ecuador looked short on composure every time they came close and Paraguay were thwarted by solid goalkeeping from Marcelo Elizaga on the few occasions that they managed shots on target. The result blew Group B wide open with a four way stalemate after the first round of games.

In the second round of games Brazil scored a late equaliser to pick up a 2-2 draw with Paraguay that their performance didn't really deserve bringing back memories of the Copa América final in 2004.  Jadson gave Brazil a first half lead with one of the goals of the tournament so far but Paraguay fought back in the second half to earn the advantage that they deserved with goals from Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Valdéz but Brazil's second half substitute Fred bagged the equaliser in the dying moments of the game.

Venezuela bagged on of the shock results of the tournament with a 1-0 win against Ecuador to go to the top of the group and put themselves on the brink of qualification for the second round. Venezuela finally seem to be shedding their role as the traditional whipping boys of South American football, they completely dominated the game and Cesár González bagged the winner with a wonderful long range strike in the 62nd minute.

Following Costa Rica's defeat to Argentina, Venezuela knew that they had already qualified to the knock out stages of Copa América for the first time ever on foreign soil however they still put on an entertaining display in their final group game against Paraguay, who needed at last a draw to progress to the next round. José Salomón Rincon put Venezuela ahead after only five minutes but Paraguay worked their way back into the game, scoring three goals to establish a two goal lead with only minutes remaining, however Venezuela fought back with two injury time goals to tie the game 3-3 and keep their unbeaten record.

Brazil secured to spot in the group with a 4-2 win against Ecuador who were eliminated. Brazil twice established the lead through Alexandre Pato and then Neymar only to see Felipe Caicedo equalised both goals. Pato and Neymar scored another goal apiece to secure the two goal victory they needed in order to win the group and ensure that the game finished with six goals neatly divided between three forwards.

Group C Copa América 2011

Match reports and highlights from Group A of the 2011 Copa América tournament.



Chile, Uruguay and Peru progress to the quarter finals.


Uruguay 1-1 Peru
Chile 2-1 Mexico
Uruguay 1-1 Chile
Peru 1-0 Mexico
Chile 1-0 Peru
Uruguay 1-0 Mexico

Match reports

On the fourth day of the event Peru continued the run of surprise results with a 1-1 draw against group C favourites Uruguay. Paolo Guerrero left the Uruguay defence in his wake as he opened the scoring for Peru with an individual effort on the break. Luis Suárez equalised for Uruguay just before half time but neither side could find a second half winner meaning that the tournament had kicked off with 4 draws in the opening five games.

An under-strength and inexperience Mexico side looked like stretching the run of surprise results even further after Néstor Araujo headed them into a first half lead against Chile, however the Chileans mounted an impressive second half fightback to win the game 2-1 and become the first team to bag more than a single goal in the Copa América 2011 tournament. Esteban Paredes tapped in the equaliser at the midpoint of the second half after the Mexico goalkeeper Luis Michel could only deflect a shot from Pablo Contreras directly into his path. Six minutes later Arturo Vidal scored the winner with a thumping header from a Matías Fernández corner kick.

Uruguay and Chile drew their game 1-1, after a goalless first half in which both sides hit the crossbar, Uruguay took the lead in the 54th minute with a nice control and finish from Álvaro Pereira. Alexis Sánchez equalised for Chile in the 65th minute with an impressive strike. The encounter finished 1-1 and was one of the games of the tournament so far, setting up an intreguing final round of group C fixtures.

Peru clambered above Uruguay into second place with a 1-0 win over Mexico but they left it very late to secure the points. It took them until the 83rd minute to find the vital winning goal which was finished by Paolo Guerrero after Mexico failed to clear their lines following a corner kick. The result means that the group favourites in both group A & group C (Argentina & Uruguay) have drawn both of their opening games and need wins in their final fixtures to secure qualification.

In the final group games Chile beat Peru 1-0 with a desperate 92nd minute own goal from Andre Carrillo to win the group and Uruguay found their first win of the tournament with a 1-0 victory against Mexico to leapfrog Peru into second place, as a result Uruguay will face Argentina in the quarter-finals while Peru get a tie against surprise group A winners Colombia.

Brasileirão Série A 2011 - round 6

Highlights from round 6 of the 2011 Brasileirão Série A championship.

Match reports

Corinthians bagged the result of the weekend with a 5-0 demolition of leaders São Paulo, to destroy the only 100% record in the division and close the gap at the top to two points with a game in hand.

Flamengo hannered Atlétco Mineiro 4-1 to maintain their unbeaten start to the season and Internacional also enjoyed a convincing 4-1 victory against Figueirense.

Cruzeiro clambered away from the relegation places after recording their first win of the campaign with a 2-1 home win against Coritiba

Avaí and Atlético Paranaense both lost again and look as if they would soon be cut adrift at the bottom of the table. Santos also slipped down into the relegation places having missed their game after their Copa Libertadores win meaning that they have two games in hand to get themselves out of trouble.


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


Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 São Paulo 6 5 0 1 9 6 +3 15
2 Corinthians 5 4 1 0 12 3 +9 13
3 Palmeiras 6 3 2 1 10 5 +5 11
4 Botafogo 6 3 2 1 8 5 +3 11
5 Vasco da Gama 6 3 2 1 10 8 +2 11
6 Flamengo 6 2 4 0 13 6 +7 10
7 Figueirense 6 3 1 2 7 6 +1 10
8 Internacional 6 2 3 1 12 8 +4 9
9 Fluminense 6 3 0 3 5 7 −2 9
10 Atlético Mineiro 6 2 2 2 10 9 +1 8
11 Bahia 6 2 2 2 8 8 0 8
12 Atlético Goianiense 6 2 1 3 7 7 0 7
13 Grêmio 6 2 1 3 7 8 −1 7
14 Ceará 6 2 1 3 7 11 −4 7
15 Cruzeiro 6 1 3 2 6 7 −1 6
16 Santos 4 1 2 1 5 4 +1 5
17 América Mineiro 5 1 2 2 7 11 −4 5
18 Coritiba 6 1 1 4 9 10 −1 4
19 Atlético Paranaense 6 0 1 5 1 10 −9 1
20 Avaí 6 0 1 5 4 18 −14 1

For more South American football highlights, including the Argentine league, the pick of the rest and international tournaments:

Glaydson goal, Internacional vs Coritiba

On 19 June 2011 Glaydson scored this bombaso for Internacional against Coritiba in the 5th round of the Brasileirão 2011 championship.

Part of the Golazo series.

Emerson dos caños contra São Paulo

On Sunday 26 June 2011 Corinthians hosted São Paulo in the 6th round of the Brasileirão 2011 tournament. On paper it should have been a tough game for Corinthians given that São Paulo were the league leaders and the only side to win all of their opening five games however Corinthians won the game 5-0 and 2nd late substitute Emerson took the opportunity to do some real showboating pulling off two nutmegs in the space of 30 seconds.

River Plate relegated

River Plate goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo crying at the end of the match.
Sunday 26 June 2011 was an unforgettable day for all fans of Argentine football. A 1-1 home draw against Belgrano de Córdoba at "El Monumental" stadium sealed a 1-3 aggregate defeat for River Plate and condemned them to the first relegation of their entire 110 year history.

With 33 Primera División titles, River Plate are by far the most successful side in Argentine domestic football and are the second most popular team in Argentina after their bitter Superclásico rivals Boca Juniors. Even after River lost the first leg of their promotion/relegation play-off 2-0 in Córdoba the majority of Argentine football supporters still seemed certain that AFA (the Argentine Football Association) would prevent River's relegation through dodgy refereeing, pressure on their opponents or a hasty rewriting of the relegation rules.

As it turned out even a debatably awarded penalty couldn't save River Plate from their fate meaning that next season they will be playing second tier football for the first time since they won promotion to the Argentine top flight in 1908. Their descent leaves only three teams never to have experience relegation, River's eternal rivals Boca Juniors, Club Atlético Independiente and minnows Arsenal de Sarandí who have survived the last eight seasons without relegation.

Under the play-off rules River Plate needed to finish level on aggregate with Belgrano in order to remain in the Primera División and having lost the first leg 2-0 River needed a two goal margain of victory in order to survive. This may have seemed fairly achievable objective for one of the giants of Argentine football in their own stadium, however 8 games without a win, a haul of only 15 goals in 19 league games and a run of 13 consecutive matches without scoring more than a single goal put the scale of the task into perspective.

The game

Both sides managed to find the net within the first few minutes of the game, Belgrano's goal was correctly disallowed for offside then Mariano Pavone hit a cracking goal for the hosts after only five minutes of play. The goal was greeted with wild celebrations and a renewed sense of optimism around "El Monumental". River Plate played the better football for the remainder of the first half without managing to find their vital second goal.

In the second half Belgrano began to make more headway with their counter-attacking game, their striker Cesár Pereyra took advantage of a gaping hole in the River defence but fluffed his chance chipping the ball over River goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo but wide of the goal. River didn't heed the warning and conceded the equaliser after another catastrophic bit of defending, which resulted in the ball breaking to the completely unmarked Belgrano midfielder Guillermo Farré who volleyed the ball home to restore their two goal advantage.

Minutes later the referee awarded River a lifeline with a very soft penalty call but Pavone chose power instead of accuracy allowing Belgrano goalkeeper Juan Olave to make an easy save. From that point onwards River looked drained of confidence and seemed to be drifting towards relegation until some of their fans began rioting with a few minutes remaining leaving referee Sergio Pezotta no choice but to abandon the game to seal River's relegation.

The riots

River Plate refused to go down with dignity, several players including goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo began crying like children on the pitch, having to be consoled against a background of rioting home fans and deliriously celebrating visitors from Córdoba. The riots soon spread into the streets around the stadium with several hundred disgruntled supporters attacking their own stadium, the police, parked vehicles and local shops. Several dozen people were seriously injured in the riots including one police officer that had to be airlifted to hospital. Many River Plate followers had to return to the stadium in order to avoid the violence while the Belgrano supporters found themselves locked into El Monumental in freezing conditions for their own safety. After several hours the trouble died down and the Belgrano players were allowed out onto the pitch to celebrate with their fans.

Given AFA's often lax attitude towards violence in football and River Plate's complete unfamiliarity with relegation, the post match riots were hardly a surprise however a few things should be considered. In footballing terms getting the game abandoned in the dying minutes was idiotic, especially given what 9 man Gimnasia managed to achieve in the dying minutes of their relegation playoff against Atlético Rafaela two years ago. The violent reaction could also have serious implications for next season's promotion campaign, when Nueva Chicago fans rioted after their playoff defeat to Tigre in 2006-07 they were hit with a massive 18 point deduction for the next season, resulting in a further relegation into the regional divisions where they remain to this day. It is unlikely that River will suffer any points deductions as AFA have never been even handed when handing out punishments when the big clubs are involved. We only need to look at AFA's non-response to the 20 minute River Plate pitch invasion in the play-off first leg, when several smaller Primera División teams have been forced to play subsequent home games without supporters as punishment for similar incidents earlier in the season.

The relegation system

Several commentators have come out with the trite and predictable judgement that this is the worst River Plate team ever, however they quite clearly are not. Over the course of the 2010-11 season they finished with 57 points, the 6th highest points tally in the league which would have qualified them to play in Copa Sudamericana had they not been involved in the relegation play-offs. The reason they got relegated despite this reasonably decent season is that Argentine uses the "promedios" (points averaging) system meaning that a team's relegation status is determined by working out their points per game average over the last three seasons.

The root cause of their relegation was their dismal form in the two previous seasons where they only accumulated 41 and 43 points dragging their points average down to 1.238 points per game. To put this in perspective they are only the 3rd team ever to be relegated from the Primera División with an average of more than 1.2 points per game and only just shy of the Lanús' record 1.245 points average that saw them relegated in 2001-02.

The much criticised Argentine relegation system has led to the relegation of a team that avoided finishing in the bottom five in any of the past three seasons, however the system was put in place to allow the time needed to recover for successful teams that have inevitably been stripped of their best players by European clubs. River Plate were undoubtedly victims of the system but they had three years and plenty of resources to take action to overcome it, so only have themselves to blame.

The blame

Every River Plate fan has their own ideas of where to point the finger of blame, including the club's president, players and former and current managers, here are some of the most common complaints.

Daniel Passarella (former manager & president): Argentina's 1978 World Cup winning captain and former River Plate manager became the first River president ever to preside over a relegation. Passarella was a legendary player for the club and led the team to a number of titles during his first stint as manager between 1990 & 1994. His second spell was far less successful and ended after the club were embarrassingly eliminated in the Copa Sudamericana 2007 semi-finals by Argentine minnows Arsenal de Sarandí. He came back as the club's president in 2009 but oversaw a couple of strategically unintelligible managerial appointments from Angel Cappa who favoured a swaggering attacking style of play to the uber-defensive style of his replacement J.J. López. After the relegation Passarella stated that the only way he would be removed from River Plate would be feet first, i.e. dead.

José María Aguilar (former president): When passarella took over in 2009 he was quick to point out the huge debts accumulated under his predecessor. Between 2001 and 2009 Aguilar had overseen the sale of many highly talented players (D'Allesandro, Cavenaghi, Mascherano, Higuaín, Falcao) and their replacement with loanees and players wholly or largely owned by third party companies and agents. It is rumoured that huge chunks of these transfer fees are unaccounted for and that the club are still around £30 million in debt.

Diego Simeone (former manager): Is the last manager to lead River to a championship title in Clausura 2008 but was largely responsible for the embarrassment of the club's first and only bottom of the table finish in Apertura 2008 and since then threats have been made against him and his family including his son who plays in the River Plate academy.

Angel Cappa (former manager): Cappa's critics have been quick to point out that the three sides he has managed since 2008; Huracán, River Plate and Gimnasia y Esgrima have all found themselves in the relegation places at the end of Clausura 2011, however in retrospect his stint in charge of River didn't seem all that bad compared to the defensive and goal-shy set-up of his successor JJ López.

JJ López (manager): After replacing Cappa, López instilled plenty of defensive discipline in the River Plate side but at the expense of goals. His style of play was criticised by many as unfitting for such a great club and derided by his critics as a 7-0-3 formation. The club's lack of goals and long winless streak at the end of Clausura resulted in River nosediving into the relegation places when a couple of extra goals in any two of their last 8 games could have prevented them free-falling into trouble.

The players: Many River Plate fans were extremely disappointed by the perceived lack of effort from the players, things came to a head during the first leg of the playoff in Córdoba when a number of River Plate supporters invaded the pitch to berrate their own players after they went 2-0 down. The younger attacking players can perhaps be excused because of their inexperience and the difficulty they found adapting to the rigid defensive style of manager JJ López, more experienced players such as goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo have no excuses for the blunders that cost the team so many points.

Julio Grondona (AFA president): After River president Passarella publicly criticised AFA President Julio Grondona towards the end of the Clausura season, Diego Maradona praised his arch-rival for " having the balls to say what we have all known for years" adding that "you can be certain that this outburst by Passarella will be paid for on the pitch by River". Most Argentine cynics believed that AFA would do anything to keep River in the top flight while some River Plate conspiracy theorists and Grondona critics choose to believe the exact opposite.

Los Borrachos del Tablón: It has been claimed that the River Plate barras (ultras) have far too much control over the club from determining which players are bought and sold (and taking a slice of the transfer fees), intimidating players and coaching staff and generally creating a poisonous atmosphere around the club.

Karma: Some people have claimed that the relegation is the result of "bad karma", if this is the case a lot of it must have come from the disgraceful way they have treated legendary veteran midfielder Ariel Ortega. Not only have they failed to pay his wages for two years they have also denied him the kind of grand send-off that Boca Juniors afforded their own legendary veteran Martín Palermo by shipping him off to Buenos Aires minnows All Boys. It is not like they are unaware of his influence on the team, he was a key player in the Clausura 2008 championship winning side but after a fall out with manager Diego Simeone he was farmed out to 2nd division side Independiente Rivadavia. While he was away River went from champs to chumps finishing bottom of the table for the first time in their history. In Clausura 2011 they packed him off to All Boys and ended up getting relegated. It is not hard to see the parallels however it is down to opinion whether you think it is fate or just pure coincidence.

The prospects

The prospects for River Plate in Primera B Nacional do not look great. The club is lumbered with huge debts (estimated at £30million), facing a massive shortfall in revenue and look set to sell most of their most influential players. Diego Buonanotte has already gone, young talents Erik Lamela, Rogelio Funes Mori and Manuel Lanzini look set to be sold for far less than the club could have demanded in the January transfer window and a number of the club's established stars may also need to be sold.

River are one of a record six former Argentine champions to face playing the 2011-12 season in Primera B Nacional, the others being Rosario Central, Ferro Carril Oeste, Huracán, Quilmes and Chacarita Juniors. The presence of such a gigantic club in the second tier can only be good for Primera B Nacional however things could turn out to be really tough for River with most of the division's players seeing their games against River as once in a lifetime opportunities to give their absolute best for their side in order to be part of a historic win.

Many River Plate fans may be confident that their gigantic status should see them bounce straight back however they need to take a quick look at the plight of Rosario giants Rosario Central's failure to bounce back from relegation last season and the plight of one of the great sides of the 1980s, Ferro Carril Oeste who have been outside the Primera since 2000 and even endured a stint playing in the regionalised 3rd division.

At first my view was that under a new manager River Plate would almost certainly return to the Primera División at the first attempt, largely because Argentine football needs them playing in the top division. The Superclásico derby against Boca Juniors is an iconic fixture in world football and the biggest money-spinning event in Argentine sport. Argentine football will be much poorer next season for the lack of it's show piece fixtures and everything possible will be done to ensure that it returns for the 2012-13 season. However I forgot to factor in Daniel Passarella's penchant for making crazy managerial appointments.

River Plate moved quickly to appoint a new manager after the resignation of JJ López, however plucking Matías Almeyda out of the team and giving him the enormous responsibility for guiding the club back into the top flight looks like a massive gamble given his complete lack of managerial experience. At a time the club should have been looking for an experienced manager to steady the ship and rebuild the team for the forthcoming promotion campaign they have gone for a complete rookie instead.

Relegation Playoffs Argentina 2010-11


Due to the complexities of the Argentine relegation system a number of playoffs were needed to determine which of the teams finishing between 17th and 19th in the 2010-11 relegation table would suffer relegation.

The first game was between Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata and Huracán who finished on identical points averages either side of the automatic relegation line. The losers would be automatically relegated while the winners would face a two legged playoff against San Martín de San Juan who finished 3rd in Primera B Nacional.

The other two legged playoff would feature never previously relegated River Plate who finished 17th in the relegation table against Belgrano de Córdoba who finished 4th in B Nacional.



Gimnasia y Esgrima (LP) 2-0 Huracán
Winner: Gimnasia y Esgrima (LP)

The disempate was played at Boca Juniors Bombonera stadium and as expected Huracán continued their dismal run of form with a 2-0 defeat meaning that they suffered automatic relegation while Gimnasia found themselves facing their 3rd relegation playoff in three seasons. In 2009 and 2010 they survived epic encounters with Atlético Rafaela, who ascended to the Primera as champions of Primera B Nacional in 2011.


Belgrano de Córdoba 2-0 River Plate
River Plate 1-1 Belgrano de Córdoba
Winner: Belgrano de Córdoba (River Plate relegated)

Belgrano left River Plate on the brink of their first ever relegation with a 2-0 home win in the first leg meaning that River would need a two goal margain of victory in the return leg in order to remain in the Primera Division. Cesar Mansanelli put the hosts ahead with a first half penalty and Cesar Pereyra put them a step closer to the Primera División with a goal early in the second half prompting a pitch invasion from the River Plate fans who berrated their own players. Belgrano held on for the two goal win and had AFA handed out a similar punishment to those they had to other teams for pitch invasions and violence from fans this season, River could have ended up playing the return leg behind closed doors. Predictably the Argentine football autorities decided to ignore the pitch invasion and allow the River Plate fans to support their team in the most important league match in their history.

River needed to win the second leg by two clear goals in order to stay in the Primera División and they got off to the perfect start with a goal from Mariano Pavone after only five minutes. Belgrano got the ball into River's net in the first half however it was correctly disallowed for offside. River were the more composed side for the remainder of the first half and created the better goalscoring chances however they couldn't find the vital second goal before half time.

In the second half Belgrano striker Cesár Pereyra misser a one-on-one with River goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo but some shambolic defending from the home team gifted an equaliser to Guillermo Farré. Mariano Pavone had a chance to pull one back from the penalty spot but he chose power instead of accuracy and his shot was easily saved by Belgrano goalkeeper Juan Olave. River never really got close to finding the two goals they needed and with a few minutes to go referee Sergio Pezzota was forced to abandon the game due to rioting amongst the River Plate fans. It seems that the rioting fans were completely unaware of what happened in Gimnasia's playoff two years ago when they were playing 9 vs 11 and found the two goals they needed to survive in the dying minutes.

After the referee abandoned the match a large number of River Plate hooligans set about attacking the police and destroying their own stadium, while innocent River Plate fans and Belgrano supporters found themselves trapped inside the stadium waiting for the situation to calm down.

San Martín (SJ) 1-0 Gimnasia y Esgrima (LP)
Gimnasia y Esgrima (LP) 1-1 San Martín (SJ)
Winner: San Martín SJ (Gimnasia relegated)

San Martín won the first leg 1-0 with after Oliver Paz Benítez deflected a shot from San Martín's Brazilian striker Roberval into his own net. Considering Gimnasia's amazing escape against Atlético Rafaela two years ago few San Martín players could have been fully confident that a one goal advantage would be enough however Sebastian Penco calmed their nerves with a goal in the early minutes of the second leg to open up a two goal advantage.  Things got worse for the home side midway through the second half when Milton Casco got himself sent off but José Vizcarra gave them a lifeline with a goal one minute later. Sebastián Penco was sent off with around a quarter of an hour remaining setting up a tense finale however San Martín held on for a famous aggregate win to return to the Primera División for the first time since 2008.

This result meant that the Primera División lost 4 teams from Buenos Aires and Buenos Aires Province and all of their replacements came from the interior, welcome diversification of the Argentine top flight. On the down side it meant that the Primera lost three of it's big derby games (Superclásico, San Lorenzo/Hurcán and Clásico Platense) and will only feature two big derby games next year (Clásico Avellaneda & Clásico Santafesino).

After the final whistle there were a few tears amongst the Gimnasia players and fans however they generally conducted themselves with dignity and scenes like the rampage after River's relegation at the weekend were avoided. There were two main factors in this, Gimnasia have been flirting with relegation for three years and in their hearts most Gimnasia fans must recognise that their team simply hasn't been good enough to deserve to survive a 3rd consecutive relegation playoff and the other factor is that they all witnessed what happened at River at the weekend and what a shitstorm of criticism it provoked and wished to avoid dragging the image of their club through the mud too.

Santos vs Peñarol fight after the 2011 Copa Libertadores final

On 22 June 2011 Brazilian side Santos won their first Copa Libertadores title since they won the tournament back-to-back in 1962 and 1963 with a 2-1 win against Peñarol of Uruguay in the second leg of the 2011 final. The Santos team should have been celebrating wildly at the final whistle but instead their players, coaching staff and a number of pitch invading fans got involved in a mass brawl with the Peñarol players.

For more crazy South American football check out the rest of the Cosas locas series.

Gustavo Toledo golazo contra San Lorenzo

Banfield and San Lorenzo had little but pride to play for when they faced each other during the final round of games in the Clausura 2011 tournament. San Lorenzo needed to win to cut their sequence of six games without a victory but Gonzalo Toledo put Banfield ahead with this magnificent strike. San Lorenzo managed to scramble an equaliser for a 1-1 draw but they still finished the season in terrible form and finished bottom amongst the so called "big five".

Part of the Golazo series.

Brasileirão Série A 2011 - round 5

Match reports

leaders São Paulo kept up their 100% record with a 0-2 away win against Ceará while 2nd placed Corinthians had their fixture postponed due to their opponent's Santos commitments in the Copa Libertadores final.

Avaí remained in big trouble at the bottom of the table after a 5-0 demolition at Palmeiras, 2010 champions Fluminense continued their terrible start to the defence of their title with a 0-1 home defeat to Bahia and 2010 runners-up Cruzeiro stayed in the relegation zone after they could only draw 1-1 at América.


Fluminense 0-1 Bahia
América 1-1 Cruzeiro
Figueirense 2-0 Atlético Paranaense
Ceará 0-2São Paulo
Grêmio 1-1 Vasco da Gama
Flamengo 0-0 Botofogo
Palmeiras 5-0 Avaí
Atlético Mineiro 2-2 Atlético Goianense
Coritiba 1-1 Internacional
Santos ?-? Corinthians


Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 São Paulo 5 5 0 0 9 1 +8 15
2 Palmeiras 5 3 2 0 10 3 +7 11
3 Corinthians 4 3 1 0 7 3 +4 10
4 Figueirense 5 3 1 1 6 2 +4 10
5 Atlético Mineiro 5 2 2 1 9 5 +4 8
6 Botafogo 5 2 2 1 6 4 +2 8
7 Vasco da Gama 5 2 2 1 9 8 +1 8
8 Flamengo 5 1 4 0 9 5 +4 7
9 Atlético Goianiense 5 2 1 2 7 6 +1 7
10 Grêmio 5 2 1 2 6 6 0 7
11 Internacional 5 1 3 1 8 7 +1 6
12 Fluminense 5 2 0 3 4 7 −3 6
13 Santos 4 1 2 1 5 4 +1 5
14 Bahia 5 1 2 2 6 8 −2 5
15 América Mineiro 5 1 2 2 7 11 −4 5
16 Coritiba 5 1 1 3 8 8 0 4
17 Ceará 5 1 1 3 5 11 −6 4
18 Cruzeiro 5 0 3 2 4 6 −2 3
19 Atlético Paranaense 5 0 1 4 1 8 −7 1
20 Avaí 5 0 1 4 4 17 −13 1

For more South American football highlights, including the Argentine league, the pick of the rest and international tournaments: