By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN
Brazil's Cruzeiro grabbed the top seed into the knockout stages after romping to another win this past week, Ecuador's Liga de Quito took first in its group following an emphatic home victory and supporters for Uruguay's Penarol unfurled what should be the soccer world's largest banner as the Copa Libertadores reaches its final week of group-stage play.
The Brazilians confirmed their position following its 3-0 win in Argentina over an Estudiantes de la Plata side that fielded mostly reserves, given that both sides were already qualified from Group 7. Young attacking Brazilian winger Wallyson continued his in-form exploits and tallied his sixth goal of the competition while Thiago Ribeiro netted his fourth for Cruzeiro.
Meanwhile, Liga de Quito striker Argentine Hernan Barcos produced a spectacular individual goal to give his side a 2-0 victory over Argentina's Godoy Cruz, and more importantly, qualified them as Group 8 winners. In the other group match, Penarol, whose supporters unveiled a giant "bandera" that needed the assistance of more than 300 supporters and cost $30,000 to make, fell to Argentina's Independiente 1-0 at home but it didn't matter as the Manya were already on to the next round.
In Venezuela, all Caracas needed was a draw at home to move on from Group 4 but instead suffered an epic collapse, surrendering three goals to Velez Sarsfield with a brace by Uruguayan forward Santiago Silva, helping the Argentine side to move on and leave Caracas shocked at their exit from the tournament. That's because Chile's Universidad Catolica took the group after topping their countrymen Union Espanola 2-1, dooming the Venezuelans to elimination.
In Group 5, Brazil's Santos were missing several key members, including teen hotshot Neymar, through suspensions but grinded out a 2-0 win in Paraguay over Cerro Porteno to keep their hopes alive of advancing as the group's final matchday comes next week. In the other group match, Chile's Colo Colo eliminated Venezuela's Deportivo Tachira 2-1 to give them top of the group for the moment. The Chileans lead with nine points while Cerro and Santos sit on eight, with Cerro having the goal-difference edge. Next week, Santos host Tachira and Colo Colo welcome Cerro in the group's final matches.
Surprised at this week's results? Who will make noise in the next round? Who looks championship-material? Share your thoughts below.