Marc Serberreminds us that while the UEFA Champions League is in full swing, there's another tournament well worth watching: South America's Libertadores Cup (broadcast by Fox Deportes in the USA). No longer can the Latin game be dismissed as a step slower. Teams that still like to play at their leisure are left in the dust.
The increased pace along with the stylish movement of the ball along the ground create an aesthetically pleasing brand of futbol. No kickball stuff in these matches. Meanwhile, the flare, cheeky moves, and endless step-overs are still on display for everyone's enjoyment. And the Copa Libertadores is the best opportunity to watch South America's stars before they're snapped up by European clubs, eg: Santos' brilliant 19-year-old Neymar, who has a price tag upward of $40 million on him.
(Accomplished veterans are also on display -- over half of Brazil’s 2006 World Cup players were plying their trade on home soil last season -- and last year's Libertadores Player of the Year was Argentine Andres D’Alessandro, who led Internacional to the title.)
In 2010, Libertad, Paraguay’s most successful club in the last five years, often fielded as many as five of its academy graduates and reached the quarterfinals before falling to eventual runner-up, Chivas Guadalajara. Bolivia’s Oriente Petrolero of Santa Cruz -- home city of the famous Tahuichi youth soccer academy -- plays a fluid passing game that is easy on the eyes. Striker Alcides Pena and former MLS star Joselito Vaca are both Tahuichi graduates and are propelling Petrolero to new heights.