The Copa Sudamericana, CONMEBOL’s equivalent of the Europa League, will decide its last four contestants this week.
With the winner gaining automatic qualification to the 2017 Copa Libertadores, this is a competition that is given top priority across South America.
Here is a look at the quarterfinal second-leg match-ups:
Cerro Porteno v. Independiente Medellin:
Paraguayan giants Cerro Porteno became the first team to book its spot in the last four with a 2-0 win over Independiente Medellin. Following the 0-0 draw in Colombia, El Ciclon always fancied its chances in Asuncion.
Cerro Portano took a 1-0 lead through a Cecilio Dominguez header in the 34th minute.
Independiente’s task became exponentially harder when Juan Fernando Caicedo was shown a straight red card for a foul on Alvaro Pereira.
Dominguez completed his brace from the spot in the 76th minute and wiped out any hopes Colombians had of taking three spots in the semifinals.
— OptaJavier (@OptaJavier) October 26, 2016
Cerro Porteno is known as one of the best clubs in South America to never win a major international honor despite 38 appearances in the Copa Libertadores and nine in the Copa Sudamericana.
With the club back in the semifinals of the Copa Sud for the first time since 2009, its fans will be cautiously optimistic.
Chapecoense v. Junior:
Atletico Junior will look to be one of two Colombian teams to to make its way to the semi-finals.
Leiner Escalante gave Junior its slim 1-0 lead with a 37th minute strike in last week’s first leg in Barranquilla.
Chapecoense is the tournament’s surprise package. In just it’s third season back in Seria A since the 1970s and just its second ever continental tournament, the side from Santa Catarina shocked Argentine giants Independiente 5-4 on PKs after a 0-0 draw.
The Pressure will be on the visitors. Junior is in 18th place in the Colombia’s Liga Aguila. Only cup success can mask the pain of a horrendous domestic campaign and put the sharks back onto South America’s biggest stage.
Atletico Nacional v. Coritiba:
The other Colombia v. Brazil matchup sees Atletico Nacional and Coritiba square off in Medellin.
The first leg ended 1-1, but the Colombian side has the advantage via the away goals rule. Miguel Borja (who represented Colombia at this summer’s olympics in Brazil) gave Atletico Nacional the lead with a 13th minute strike, but Iago spared the home side’s blushes and handed them a lifeline five minutes from the final whistle.
Atletico Nacional is looking to become the first team ever to win the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana in the same year. Los Verdolagas are also first in the Colombian league, tied on 29 points with three other teams, but have a game in hand. Head coach Reinaldo Rueda Rivera was also named on the 30-man short list for coach of the year.
Coritiba is just three spots above the drop zone in Seria A of the Brasileirao. The club from Parana snuck by fellow Brazilians Vitoria on away goals in the second stage before needing a penalty shootout to get past Argentina’s Belgrano in the Round of 16.
Palestino v. San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo takes the biggest advantage of any quarterfinalist into its second leg match at Palestino.
The Buenos Aires side, two years removed from winning the Copa Libertadores, brings a 2-0 advantage to Chile. The second goal of Leg 1 was scored by Nicolas Blandi who now leads the competition with five.
Palestino (named as such because it was founded by a group of Palestinian immigrants in 1920) has been on the rise in Chile. The Santiago based club qualified for the tournament by having the best aggregate record throughout the Apertura and Clausura without qualifying for the Copa Libertadores due to their fourth place finish in each of the tournaments (you still with me?).
Tino (as the club is affectionally called) claimed a huge scalp in the Round of 16, defeating Brazilian giants Flamengo on away goals with a famous 2-1 win in Brazil. It will need an upset of similar proportions this time around to defeat one of Argentina’s most in form clubs.
Atletico Nacional’s victory over Independiente Del Valle marked the first Copa Libertadores final without a representative from Argentina and Brazil since 1991.
Should San Lorenzo fall, the Copa Sudamericana would see its first final without the two continental giants in five years.
With Junior and Atletico Nacional still in the mix, both major South American trophies may reside in Colombia when all is said and done.