All eyes on Recopa and Independiente’s wonderkid Kendry Paez


Some would see South America’s Recopa Sudamericana, or Super Cup, primarily as a festive event; a two-legged extravaganza with the primary objective of elevating the curtain on the brand new season of worldwide membership competitors.

It’s an comprehensible perspective. After all, there isn’t a equivalence between the 2 contestants. Brazilian giants Flamengo received the Copa Libertadores, the continent’s equal of the UEFA Champions League, giving them the precise to symbolize South America within the Club World Cup. And Independiente del Valle of Ecuador received the Copa Sudamericana, which trails the Libertadores by a long way by way of status. These, then, are the holders of the continent’s two cup competitions. But nothing Independiente del Valle do over these two Recopa video games can wipe away the indisputable fact that 2022 was Flamengo’s yr.

But there’s a title at stake — and that’s all the time an enormous deal in South America. And, on the grave threat of stating the plain, it’s now not 2022. A brand new yr, a brand new season, and these two matches will probably be judged within the context of the build-up to the challenges of 2023.

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This applies particularly to Flamengo, the undoubted Goliath on this dispute. Just a number of weeks into the season they, and new Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira, are already beneath strain. They misplaced the Brazilian Super Cup 4-3 to Palmeiras. Then got here the immense disappointment of the Club World Cup in Morocco, the place they misplaced their semifinal 3-2 to Saudi Arabian facet Al Hilal, and have been considerably lucky to complete in third place after a 4-2 win over Egypt’s Al Ahly.

Then, in final Tuesday’s first leg of the Recopa within the altitude of Quito, Ecuador’s mountain capital, Pereira’s facet turned in one other sub-standard show. The Brazilians fell 1-0, however in fact might have misplaced by a far better margin.

Coach Pereira is being compelled to take care of an issue that has been hovering over the crew for some time. His compatriot Jorge Jesus led the crew via a magical 2019 — nonetheless the gold normal for many Flamengo followers — with a line-up that was boldly entrance loaded, that includes two strikers and two attacking midfielders. It was by no means a simple activity to stability attacking firepower with defensive consistency, and two developments have made life tougher.

First, Spanish centre-back Pablo Mari moved to Arsenal in 2020. He was nicely educated in attacking the midway line moderately than working again to defend the penalty space, permitting the crew to remain compact and win again possession quickly after dropping the ball. He has by no means been changed. And there was a change within the entrance 4, with the injured Bruno Henrique giving strategy to World Cup centre-forward Pedro — a high finisher and a participant with nice technical items, however a distinct type of striker. Bruno Henrique was three in a single: a winger with penalty space presence who may work again and assist out with the marking. In his absence and that of Pablo Mari, Flamengo have change into rather more defensively weak, therefore the alarming numbers within the objectives towards column.

But their attacking risk is unmatched on the continent, and with a packed Maracana crowd behind them, Flamengo are nonetheless clear favourites to overturn their one aim deficit and declare the title in entrance of their very own followers. The strain is actually all on them.

For Independiente del Valle, profitable the Recopa would most likely not even be a very powerful factor to occur to them within the interval over which these two video games are being performed. That is as a result of on Sunday they gave a debut to perhaps essentially the most talked about 15-year-old in world soccer, help striker Kendry Paez, who celebrated the event with an excellent aim towards Mushuc Runa, a sumptuously struck lobbed volley that dropped contained in the far nook.

Paez is already on the wishlist of main European golf equipment, and he seems to be like essentially the most promising product but of a youth improvement system which is quickly changing into a world reference.

A tiny membership from the Quito suburbs, Independiente del Valle have been taken over some 15 years in the past by a gaggle of businessmen (and soccer followers) who noticed the prime intention of the endeavour as producing gamers to promote. They make investments closely in youth construction, convey over high class youth coaches from Europe and have loved a tie in with the Aspire Academy in Qatar. Brighton’s Moises Caicedo is their most profitable export thus far — astonishingly, he was certainly one of almost half of Ecuador’s current World Cup squad to have a reference to the membership.

The intention, then, is to provide to promote. It has come as a shock even to these working the membership that whereas they’re doing this, Independiente del Valle may compete for titles. They made all of it the way in which to the ultimate of the Libertadores in 2016. At the tip of 2021 they received their first Ecuadorian league title, and final yr’s 2-0 conquer Sao Paulo gave them the Sudamericana for the second time. In an age of Brazilian domination, this outstanding membership are baulking the pattern.

Over current years they’ve developed a watch for the market, bringing in gamers who can be certain that the crew stays aggressive. Currently they’re in one thing of a transitionary part; the final crop of children have been offered — extra of them and earlier because the membership attains a status for excellence — and the following era, like Paez, are nonetheless arising via the ranks. So the primary crew now’s a lot older and extra international, particularly Argentine, than has often been the case. And on Tuesday within the Maracana this crew will face the problem that confronts all of the non-Brazilian sides on this yr’s Libertadores — the right way to defend towards the attacking expertise that the likes of Flamengo, Palmeiras and Atletico Mineiro can convey to bear.

The whole continent will probably be watching, in search of clues. There is lots at stake, then, when Flamengo take on Independiente del Valle to contest the future of the Recopa.


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