The 2019 Copa Libertadores group stage is almost halfway done. And thus far, there have been several surprising teams that have turned heads in the CONMEBOL region. Libertad (Paraguay), Palestino (Chile) and Cruzeiro (Brazil) have been among the most interesting teams – for different reasons – but there’s one side that has gained praise all over the continent.
That’s Cerro Porteño. Considered the second-biggest team in Paraguay, El Ciclon Del Barrio have won their three group-stage matches thus far. With three games left on the calendar, they shouldn’t have problems to reach the Round of 16. In fact, they could easily accomplish that goal in their upcoming match next Wednesday. They will meet against Atletico Mineiro at home.
How their campaign has fared thus far?
Cerro are not the only side with a perfect score through the first three games though; Cruzeiro have also accomplished that feat. However, the most surprising thing is how Cerro Porteño have done this. First, we must analyse which sides they have faced. They got squared in a tough group with Atletico Mineiro (Brazil), Nacional (Uruguay) and Zamora (Venezuela). Many experts thought Cerro were going to, at best, compete with Nacional for the second spot in the group. However, they’ve accomplished much more thanks to a gritty style of play that has been extremely effective so far. Let’s make a quick recap of their games so far.
They travelled to Brazil in the opener and secured a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Diego Churin. Later, they defeated Zamora by a 2-1 score but make no mistake here – Cerro should have won that game by a larger differential, but they only needed a brace from Nelson Haedo Valdez. And this Tuesday, they secured a huge 1-0 home win over Nacional thanks to a goal from Victor Cáceres.
Who are their most important players?
One would think that a successful CONMEBOL side should feature a mixture between young, up-and-coming talents with experienced players. But there’s no question Cerro rely on the latter to gain success on the continental arena. Names such as Juan Pablo Carrizo (34 years old), Fernando Amorebieta (34), Salustiano Candia (32), Victor Cáceres (34), Marcelo Palau (33), Hernan Novick (30), Julio dos Santos (34) and Nelson Haedo Valdez (35) stand out.
Among the regulars, Diego Churin, Oscar Ruiz and Federico Carrizo are the only under 30 players that could be classified as important. But they also have some interesting youngsters such as Marcel Ñamandu, Julio Cesar Baez and 15-year-old striker Fernando Ovelar, who rose to fame after scoring in the derby against Olimpia last year.
There’s not a lot of clarity on whether Cerro can go all the way or not, but one thing is certain. They will be an extremely opponent to play against, especially on the latter stages of the competition. And don’t be surprised if they suddenly become a darkhrose contender to lift the title. Their experienced core and solid play on both sides of the ball should carry them quite far in the Copa Libertadores.
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