Universidad de Chile have one and a half feet in the quarter-final stage of the Copa Sudamericana after one of the great away performances in continental football, travelling to Brazil to face Ronaldinho’s Flamengo and coming away 4-0 victors. A result they fully merited, running amok in the Estadio Olímpico Joao Havelange with a sumptuous and exhilarating performance.
Ex-Real Madrid boss Vanderlei Luxemburgo lined up his side in a 4-2-2-2 system, synonymous with Brazilian football. Full-backs Júnior César and Rafael Galhardo expected to provide width to a front four including ex-Fenerbache striker Deivid and Ronaldinho.
Jorge Sampaoli continued with the set-up and personnel which has served his side so well so far domestically and in the Copa Sudamericana where they have now gone over 400 minutes without conceding a goal, breaking Unión Española’s previous record. Eduardo Vargas returned to the side in the loose 4-3-3/4-1-2-1-2, supported by an intelligent and energetic midfield three and clever trequartista in Gustavo Lorenzetti.
A casual observer could have easily mistaken La U for the home side from their bright start. The Chilean side made the pitch as big as possible immediately settling onto the front foot. Vargas and Francisco Castro stretching the game vertically – Flamengo wary of the former’s blistering pace – and horizontally giving Lorenzetti, ably supported by Charles Aránguiz and Eugenio Mena, acres of space in the middle to work with, outnumbering Flamengo’s midfield pair, Aírton and Willians. Castro fired an early warning shot, Fla’s midfield anchoring duo too high, leaving an abundance of space in front of the defence.