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The Group Of (Football) Death

By Juan Arango




Footballer Juan Roman Riquelme (R), of Argentine team Boca Juniors, scores a penalty against Uruguay's Nacional during a Libertadores Cup match held at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on March 14, 2013
Footballer Juan Roman Riquelme (R), of Argentine team Boca Juniors, scores a penalty against Uruguay's Nacional during a Libertadores Cup match held at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo on March 14, 2013

Last season, Nacional where coming into the semester as reigning champs with coach Gustavo Díaz. As a coach he was the hot commodity in the domestic league having led Defensor Sporting to a semester title and helping the small Montevideo side continue to steal some of the spotlight from the Big Two. The major issue was that coming to a big club, there was going to be a completely different attitude.  "Chavo" Díaz was much maligned by Nacional faithful as he was not a man of the club. The resutls did not come early and they quickly saw their aspirations go up in smoke as Peñarol blew by them and never looked back.  

Díaz was ratified and he took over the Clausura semester and would only last four matches. Nacional was never precise and were looking to depend on a 37-year-old Álvaro Recoba as well as other veteran signings such as former Schalke and Toluca man Vicente Sánchez as well as his teammate in Mexico Iván Alonso. Those two were instrumental in giving Chavo at least a little more credit after they helped defeat their old team 3-2 back in Mexico. That credit lasted very little as the following weekend they would have to suffer in Melo to get a point. That was the end for Chavo and things changed just a little bit under interim coach Juan Carlos Blanco.

"Cacho" Blanco was brought in as a face that the Nacional faithful could relate to in the short term.  A part of the Copa LIbertadores winning sides back in 1971 and 1980, but he along former player Gustavo Bueno (father of forward Gonzalo Bueno), things did look promising.  A debut win against Boca at La Bombonera and a brace by Vicente Sánchez in the 2-1 win against Central Español looked to have gotten El Tricolor out of the schneid. 

So far home is not where the heart is as the visitors have been able to get points from the other's backyard.  The latest example was on Thursday at the Estadio Centenario where a Nacional side with little conviction faced a ten-man Boca side.  Boca played like Boca from a preservation standpoint, not a tectical-technical.  This team is still just a shade closer to resembling Boca Unidos than Boca Juniors teams of old.  

Nacional could have lost at home in the opening round, but referee Enrique Osses as well as Barcelona's inability to kill off the match.