It may be that Brazilian clubs do not have much to celebrate in the group stage of the Copa Libertadores da América 2014. After all, although Atlético-MG, Cruzeiro and Grêmio are qualified for the round of 16, Flamengo, Botafogo and Atlético-PR gave goodbye at this point in the competition, leaving Brazil in an uncomfortable situation.
But if Brazilian football does not live up to its expectations at this moment of Libertadores, do you know who is laughing for nothing? Bolivian football. With two teams qualified for the round of 16 (The Strongest and Bolívar), the country breaks some taboos in the Libertadores.
Important detail: as The Strongest was second in Group 1 and Bolívar finished as leader of Group 7, there is still a chance that the two teams will cross in the round of 16, placing a Bolivian in the quarterfinals.
The feat would equal the best campaign in the history of Bolivian football, won three times by Bolívar himself: 1997, 1998 and 2000. At the time, the celestials had a respected team in South America, which had athletes like Antônio Vidal González (deputy top scorer) of the 1997 Libertadores with nine goals), Sérgio João (Brazilian national Bolivian, top scorer of the tournament in 1998 with 10 goals) and Julio César Baldivieso.
In 1997 , Bolívar qualified in a complicated group, ahead of Oriente Petrolero (Bolivia), Guaraní (Paraguay) and Cerro Porteño (Paraguay), dispatching Minervén (Venezuela) in the second round with a score by 8 to 1 on the scoreboard aggregate and falling in the quarterfinals for Sporting Crista (Peru), who would be the runner-up of the competition won by Cruzeiro.
Also ranked, Oriente Petrolero was less fortunate and fell right into the round of 16, taking a ball from Universidad Católica. There were two defeats: 4-0 and 5-1. It was also the last time that two Bolivian teams went into the second phase of the tournament, equivalent to the round of 16.
The following year , Bolívar led a group that had Peñarol (Uruguay), Nacional (Uruguay) and Oriente Petrolero, dispatching Atlético Bucaramanga (Colombia) in the second phase. In the quarterfinals, he lost to Barcelona de Guayaquil (Ecuador), who would be the runner-up in the competition won by Vasco.
In 2000 , Bolívar finished the key ahead of Atlético-MG (classified), Bella Vista (Uruguay) and Cobreloa (Chile). In the round of 16, they had a tough match against Nacional (Uruguay), who had a 3-0 victory for each side – the Bolivian classification only came on penalties. In the next phase, the team fell to América (Mexico), eliminated in the semifinals by Boca Juniors (Argentina).
Beforehand, it is difficult to bet that the classifications of 2014 could become unprecedented places in the semifinals – alongside Venezuela, Bolivia is the only country with representatives in the Copa Libertadores de América that has never placed a team among the top four in the tournament. However, the good moment of Bolivian football, used to a secondary role among South Americans in the 21st century, cannot be ignored. It is the alert for those who only warn against altitude.
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