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The associations of Argentina and Brazil recently sent an unequivocal message that they were going to Beijing in search of gold at the Olympic Football Tournament. Argentina, who are out to recapture the title they won in Athens 2004, named an all-star set-up of U-23s, including Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, and three proven older players in the shape of Juan Roman Riquelme (Boca Juniors), Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich) and Javier Mascherano (Liverpool). Argentina appointed former 1986 world champion Sergio Batista as their coach. Brazil, for their part, will be hunting the only title that has so far escaped them, in view of which senior team coach Dunga decided to take on the challenge personally. He also chose a star-studded squad alongside three formidable stalwarts over the age of 23: defender Juan, Kaka and Robinho. It feels like a South American final is already on the cards.
The Colombian football association announced that it would launch the Copa Colombia this year, along the lines of the European equivalents, in which 36 teams – 18 each from the first and second divisions – would compete against one another. The tournament will be played from March to November and the prize will be a place in the Copa Sudamericana.
Colombia’s U-17 women’s team received an exuberant welcome home after winning the South American championship in Chile on 30 January. Crowds of fans, relatives and friends swarmed into Bogota’s El Dorado airport to cheer their young heroines, who had won a place in this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. “This reception, this joy reflect the passionate way we play because Colombian people are just warm¬hearted, likeable and very welcoming,” declared coach Pedro Ignacio Rodriguez, obviously moved.
The Peruvian football association has decided to increase the number of teams in the first division to 14. Ecuador has also increased the number to 14 (from 12). And in Paraguay, two champions a year will be crowned – the winners of the Apertura and Clausura.