The group stage of the Copa Libertadores da América, which will start this Tuesday (5), has eight teams from Brazil. The number equals the record set in 2017 and reinforces the possibility of the country extending the hegemony it has been enjoying in South American club football.
The winners of the last three editions of Libertadores, Flamengo (2019) and Palmeiras (2020 and 2021) are Brazilians. In the two most recent decisions – and also in the 2021 Copa Sudamericana –, there was a monopoly of Brazil, with disputes for the cup between compatriot teams.
In 2022, once again, the country’s clubs appear among the favorites in bookmakers. In addition to the last champions, Atlético Mineiro is highly rated, which last year won the Campeonato Mineiro, the Campeonato Brasileiro and the Copa do Brasil – this year, it has already won the Supercopa do Brasil and led Mineiro again.
Fortaleza, Corinthians, Red Bull Bragantino, Athletico Paranaense and América-MG are also in the running. The latter obtained his place in the group stage in a dramatic way, surviving the stage known as the pre-Libertadores in a penalty shootout with Barcelona de Guayaquil. Fluminense, also on penalties, fell against Paraguayan Olimpia.
Despite the tricolor defeat, Brazilians are 25% of the teams in the competition. The first to enter the field will be Athletico, who will visit Caracas, at 19:15 (Brasília time) this Tuesday, in Venezuela, broadcast by ESPN.
Then, at 9:30 pm, Flamengo will face Sporting Cristal, in Lima, Peru — SBT (minus SP and PR) and ESPN will air the confrontation. At the same time, with SBT (SP and PR) and Conmebol TV, Corinthians will play against Bolivia’s Always Ready, in La Paz.
The alvinegra team started the season with high expectations, with the squad reinforced by renowned and experienced players, such as Paulinho, 33, Renato Augusto, 34, and Willian, 33. The experience, however, is accompanied by a limited physical condition, which was clear in the failure recorded in the Campeonato Paulista.
After the fall in the state tournament, with defeat in apathetic performance against rival São Paulo in the semifinals, the Portuguese coach Vítor Pereira promoted several changes in the lineup. Young people like Adson, 21, and newcomer Maycon, 24, on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk – a team from Ukraine prevented from playing due to the ongoing war in the country – gained space.
Vitality will be especially needed in the more than 3,600 m of La Paz. To minimize the effects of altitude on the athletes’ bodies, the delegation will arrive in the city a few hours before the game – in general, the body takes some time to present the most adverse reactions to what is called “mountain sickness”.
“It’s a different competition, which poses different difficulties, different styles of football, altitudes, different climates, good lawns, others not”, said Ferreira, who will participate for the first time in a Libertadores clash. “It was one of the challenges that led me to accept coming to Corinthians. We have to adapt and give a good response. I’m confident of a good response.”