The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Brazilian clubs disappoint in Copa Libertadores, fail to reach semis for 1st time in 23 years
SAO PAULO - Brazilians are grumbling about their clubs' worst performance in the Copa Libertadores in more than 20 years, and the end of the country's streak of four straight titles.
Cruzeiro was the only Brazilian club left in Latin America's biggest club tournament until it was eliminated by San Lorenzo of Argentina in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
At least one Brazilian club had made it to the semifinals every year since 1992. Brazilian teams made it to the final nine straight times.
San Lorenzo, known for having Pope Francis as an avid supporter, can give Argentina its first Copa Libertadores title since Estudiantes beat Cruzeiro in the 2009 final.
San Lorenzo advanced past Cruzeiro 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday.
More than 45,000 Cruzeiro fans packed Mineirao Stadium to try to push the team through, but it needed two more goals to stay alive.
"We fought until the end but it just wasn't enough to keep us in the tournament," Cruzeiro goalkeeper Fabio said. "It's a shame. We'll have to try again next time. The Copa Libertadores isn't easy to anybody."
Argentina, the country with the most Copa Libertadores titles overall, also has Lanus with a chance to reach the semifinals. It will play at Bolivar on Thursday to try to advance after a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Argentina. Arsenal of Sarandi from Argentina was eliminated by Nacional of Paraguay on Wednesday.
The other semifinalist will be either Atletico Nacional of Colombia or Defensor of Uruguay. Defensor won the first leg 2-0 in Colombia.
Six Brazilian teams entered this year's competition. Botafogo, Flamengo and Atletico Paranaense were eliminated in the group stage, while Gremio and defending champion Atletico Mineiro couldn't get past the round of 16.
This year marked only the second time since 1994 that Brazil failed to have more than one team in the quarterfinals. The other time was in 2011, when Santos went on to win the title.
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