Copa Libertadores 2009: Estudiantes… qualify!

Shockwaves rocked South American football on Wednesday night as, almost unimaginably, an Argentine club actually got through to the knockout stages of this year’s Copa Libertadores (I know what some readers are bound to say, but Boca’s place in the last 16 isn’t 100% secure quite yet). A 0-0 draw with Universitario de Sucre proved enough, thanks to the other result in the group.

Following the eliminations of Lanús and San Lorenzo, and River’s pathetic displays, much criticism has been levelled at Argentina’s representatives in this year’s Copa. After an uninspiring game, though, Seba Verón and his team-mates are in the next round. With Enzo Pérez helping the reigning South American Footballer Of The Year move the ball dangerously in the midfield, Estudiantes were heartened by news from Brazil.

In Belo Horizonte, group leaders Cruzeiro were 2-0 up against Ecuadorian champions Deportivo Quito (the only team who could catch Estudiantes in the standings) after just 26 minutes. Given the altitude Estudiantes were playing at – Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital, isn’t as high as its seat of government in La Paz, but at 2,750 metres it’s high enough – news that even defeat would probably be OK calmed the nerves, and they closed out the game without too many worries.

Estudiantes finish second in Group 5 with ten points – 3 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses – having scored four goals and conceded five.

The next Copa action this week is on Thursday night, when Boca Juniors visit Deportivo Cuenca in Ecuador. The 2007 winners have practically qualified already, but a point from this or their final match at home to Táchira will be enough to ensure it once and for all. A couple of hours later, River Plate visit Nacional de Paraguay. A draw would keep them in with a chance, but really they have to win, and then beat Universidad San Martín of Peru in El Monumental in the last match of the group.

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