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 By Tim Vickery

Copa Libertadores offers rising talent a stage for World Cup spots and star turns

Franco Armani's performance for River Plate is garnering calls for the goalkeeper to net a spot for Argentina in this summer's World Cup.
Franco Armani's performance for River Plate is garnering calls for the goalkeeper to net a spot for Argentina in this summer's World Cup.

The Copa Libertadores is exactly halfway through the group phase.  A total of 32 teams are divided into eight groups, and all of them have now played three matches.  So what conclusions can be drawn at this early, but strategic stage?

Customary balance prevails

The price that Europe's Champions League pays for quality is predictability. The same clubs are back in contention for the title year after year, often making their way to the knockout stages with a series of easy wins. These days...

 By Tim Vickery

Boca Juniors, Palmeiras provide rare Copa Libertadores group stage treat

Getting Carlos Tevez back healthy will be a boost to Boca Juniors.

In the last decade six teams have won Europe's Champions League. And from a pool of 40, 15 clubs have made it through to the semifinals. This astonishing pattern would seem likely to be repeated this season, as Roma and Sevilla are the only ones who could add their name to the list of semifinalists, which seems unlikely after last week's action.

The Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona, are well placed to reach yet another semifinal -- they have appeared in seven in the last 10 years. Bayern...

 By Tim Vickery

Santos-Estudiantes in the Copa Libertadores brings to mind what might've been

Time was the whole world of football held great interest in the Copa Libertadores.

Estudiantes of Argentina and Santos of Brazil fought out an entertaining clash on Thursday night in the Copa Libertadores. The Argentines pressed for most of the match, but were caught on the break in the first half and conceded the only goal of the match -- a clear case of offside that nonetheless sent the visitors home 1-0 winners.

It was unfortunate the outcome should have been decided by an officiating error. But the real case of misfortune is that it took so long for these two clubs to meet...

 By Tim Vickery

Real Madrid-bound Vinicius Junior saves Flamengo in Copa Libertadores debut

Vinicius Junior scored two brilliant goals to give Flamengo a 2-1 win at Emelec.

Fans of Brazilian club Flamengo can celebrate, but supporters of Real Madrid can also open the champagne: 17-year-old Vinicius Junior enjoyed a magnificent debut in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday night. His first half-hour in South America's premier club competition showed why the Spanish giants paid an astonishing €45 million for him a year ago, before he had even played a senior game. The size of the fee raised eyebrows all over the world.

And on Wednesday, Vinicius -- who will officially...

 By Tim Vickery

Copa Libertadores group stage opens with surprises, struggles and star turns

Palmeiras players celebrate after scoring a goal against Atletico Junior in the Copa Libertadores.
Bruno Henrique scored twice as Palmeiras earned Brazil clubs their only win of the opening week, seeing off Atletico Junior.

Tim Vickery checks in with three thoughts from the first week of group-stage matches in the Copa Libertadores.

1. A curious week for Brazil

These days the Brazilian clubs have a significant financial advantage over their continental competitors. This has rarely made itself felt on the pitch in the last few years -- and it was hard to spot in the opening week's action. Until Palmeiras took the field on Thursday night, five Brazilian clubs had played without registering a single victory.

True, there...