Sao Paulo scraped into the Copa Libertadores round of 16 on Wednesday, finishing second in Group 3 thanks to a 2-0 win at home to fellow Brazilian team Atletico Mineiro, the group’s runaway winner. Though the result left the three-time South American champion with just seven points from six games, it still qualified for the next phase thanks to a better goal difference than third-place Arsenal, which beat Bolivian champion The Strongest 2-1 on Wednesday. The Strongest would have qualified ahead of Sao Paulo with a win in Buenos Aires, but instead, the loss left it last in the group with six points.
Incidentally, Sao Paulo will again play Brazilian rival Atletico Mineiro in a home-and-away series in the round of 16, due to the Copa Libertadores system of ranking teams in the second round based on their results in the group stage. Atletico, with 15 points from six games, finished first, while Sao Paulo finished 16th.
Goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, who converted the penalty that made it 1-0 to Sao Paulo, warned Atletico that his team would be stronger the next time the two teams meet. "It will be a different Sao Paulo, even better and with much more will than today," he said, alluding to the absence of forwards Luis Fabiano and Jadson due to suspension. Ceni, who has scored more than 100 goals from free-kicks and penalties during his career, reserved special praise for the performance of former Santos star Ganso. During a TV interview, Ceni turned and said to the center midfielder: "You were the best of the match. Now I understand why you are worth what you are."