Nacional vs Cruz Azul
Estadio Nicolas Leoz
(1-2) 1-2 – Ariel Bogado ’21; Javier Orozco 6′ & ’29
Things started well for Paraguay Football when they were given a free ticket for the game by a fan who had received sponsor tickets and didn’t want to sell them on. The good start didn’t extend to the home side though, Cruz Azul had brought a full strength team from the Mexican capital and they started the game at a high tempo and in complete control. It was no surprise that after just six minutes the visitor’s were ahead, Orozco ended the move but the orchestrator was Argentinian Cristian Gimenez who had a superb game. The ’10’ played a one two to get into the box before a nifty touch found young Orozco who tapped in.
Part of the problem for Nacional was the new formation three at the back, which didn’t survive into the second although it was still in place when the game’s two other goals were scored. First it was Nacional striker Ariel Bogado, the striker seems to have lost some weight over the summer and this extra touch of pace with his excellent ability to hold up the ball made him the stand out player for the home side. His goal, cutting in onto his left to fire low into the goal, was a culmination of pressure from the Albo who had already gone close from Mazzacotte’s fizzing shot and a long range Silvio Torales effort.
It was game on, Nacional looked revived and had the belief they could get something out of this game – in the home stand hopes rose and faith was restored. That confidence and expectation lasted just eight minutes. Nacional’s problem all game was the amount of space they allowed Cruz Azul in midfield, rarely wanting to press they seemed more content to sit back and let the Mexicans come onto them. It meant players like Gimenez were able to operate freely and this had lethal consequences. Just before the half hour mark Gimenez worked his way into the channel cut into the box and was denied by an excellent save by new goalkeeper German Caffa, but seconds later Caffa was picking the ball out of his net again. This time Gimenez was 25 yards away but with no midfielder closing him down he unleashed a thunderbolt which Caffa could only palm out weakly to the feet of Orozco, the 24 year old helping himself to his third goal in two games.
That was that. The rest of the first half was played at a painfully slow pace, the boys from the Northern Hemisphere in total control. Nacional came out in a 4-4-2 for the second half but for all the excellent work by Cristian Bogado (who ran his socks off) Nacional were never able to impose their rythym without the ball. Fouls were creeping in as they found themselves tiring, while the Mexicans plodded along in first gear, the humidity and long journey forcing them to conserve energy. When Nacional did have possession they were direct and got balls into the box, unfortunately to no avail. The substitution of young Mexican winger Javier Aquino for Alejandro Vela (Carlos Vela’s older brother) kept Nacional honest, his pace was the best outlet for the away team and pegged back Raul Piris on the left side. The introduction of ex-Lanús striker German Cano for Nacional injected a bit of pace and energy but the only real chance in the latter stages of the game was David Mendoza’s powerful drive that went over the bar.
The game ended in defeat and to chants of ‘Fuera Torrente’ (Torrente Out) – a slight exagerration after just two games in charge – it is now going to be an uphill battle to progress from this group with a trip to São Paulo to face Corinthians next on the agenda.
Nacional XI – 3-5-2
G.Caffa; D.Caniza, H.Miranda, D.Mendoza; R.Mazacotte, J.Villareal, D.Orué, S.Torales, R.Piris; C.Bogado, R.Teixeira
Subs: J.Gonzalez for D.Orué ’46. R.Caceres for J.Villareal ’64, G.Cano for R.Teixeira ’70
Goals: Ariel Bogado
Yellow Cards: J.Gonzalez ’54, D.Caniza ’84
- 15 minutes into the game the preferencia (posh seats section) was invaded by about two dozen fans chanting and yielding two huge banners. They certainly weren’t Mexican nor Paraguayan, they were crazy Chaqueños from Argentina who had crossed the border to get a glimpse of their hero Cristian Gimenez who was born in Resistencia in Northern Argentina.
- After the game Cerro Porteño coach Mario Grana, who had come to watch, was leaving and a Nacional fan screeched “We’re returning Villarreal to you!” – the defensive midfielder had a poor game and was subbed off
- You’ve seen the Anfield Cat now here is the ‘Gato de Nicolas Leoz’ – this little chappy got in and amongst the riot police without any fear!
By Ralph Hannah