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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Santos Defeats Penarol 2-1 in Copa Libertadores Final; Neymar and Pele in tears

Santos defeated Penarol 2-1 in Sao Paulo to win the Copa Libertadores championship for the first time since 1963 in a match that indelibly marked the arrival of Neymar and Ganso as major players in world football. Santos pressed the attack in the first half, with Elano, in particular, threatening the Penarol goal with his trademark curling free kicks. But it was Neymar and Ganso who stole the show in the first half with Ganso finding Neymar in an almost telepathic partnership that conjured up shades of Bebeto and Romario from the mid-1990s.

Neymar fittingly found the back of the net to open the scoring in the 47th minute after Ganso flicked a pass to Arouca, who subsequently found the spiky haired teenager lurking in his favorite position on the left flank near the mouth of the goal. Neymar dispatched the ball past the keeper's right with clinical precision to give Santos a precious lead after the home team had attacked in waves, largely on the basis of the creative vision of Ganso and Elano, playing behind Neymar and Ze Eduardo.

In the 69th minute, Danilo virtually put the match away after collecting a pass from Ganso while surging up the right flank. In a move that recalled Paulo Falcao's famous goal against Italy in the 1982 World Cup, the right back Danilo cut inside, took the ball on his left foot, and sent a lawnmower of a shot into the far left corner of the net. Durval netted an own goal in the 80th minute to make it 2-1, but the home team held on for a well deserved victory.

Neymar broke into tears after the final whistle and noted, soon after, "It's the happiest day of my life. I made history. We deserved this title, it's time to celebrate." Similarly, Santos's most famous player, Pele, celebrated with tears of joy after seeing his club team hoist the Copa Libertadores title for the first time in 48 years. The match broke into a brawl after the final whistle, but no players were seriously injured.

The 2011 Copa Libertadores final heralded an important shift in the geopolitics of world soccer because Neymar and Ganso have now made their mark on the footballing world by plying their trade in Brazil as opposed to Europe. Santos's victory sets new standards for excellence in Brazilian football and formally heralds the birth of a new generation of Brazilian players that are eager to take over the mantle of the Selecao from the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Kaka. Now the question on everyone's mind is whether Neymar, Ganso and Elano can fire Brazil to victory at the Copa America given stiff competition from Argentina, the home team.

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