Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thu July 3: Liga Wins Historic Title

There's actually a lot of global sports news going on so let's get you updated as we prepare for what should be a very eventful Fourth of July weekend in sports.

Liga Gives Ecuador First Copa Title
LDU Quito defeated Fluminense 3-1 in penalty kicks after Fluminense was able to level the tie at five goals a piece on aggregate, giving the nation of Ecuador its first Copa Libertadores championship, the most coveted trophy in South American club football.

Fluminense dominated the possession for most of the game, including the 30-minute extra time period, but the extraordinary goalkeeping by Liga's Jose Francisco Cevallos saved three goals in the penalty shootout. After Cevallos saved Washington's kick, the pro-Brazilian club crowd hushed into silence and Cevallos celebrated with the rest of the Ecuadorian club teammates.

The 90,000 fans at Maracana, as well as the millions of fans in South America, went through a rollercoaster of emotions as they witnessed Fluminense fall to a three goal deficit when Luis Bolanos scored in the 6th minute. But Thiago Neves scored three times to give Fluminense a shot at winning the title. His placement of the ball from the direct free kick in the 57th minute electrified the crowd and effectively sent the game to extra time.

There were missed opportunities from each side, particularly from LDU Quito when they had duplicate chances to score off of free kicks and corner kicks before the end of regulation. Both Cevallos and Fluminense goalkeeper Fernando Henrique made important saves but the final came down to the performance of both keepers during the penalty kicks.

For more on yesterday's final, check out these articles:

Copa Libertadores ANALYSIS
Although LDU Quito had a two-goal lead coming into this game, they were still considered underdogs. Many expected that the crowd would lift the Fluminense football club to another Brazilian title. Unfortunately for Fluminense, Thiago Neves's hat trick was not enough to give them the title.

The final placed emphasis on the importance of goal-keeping, an aspect of the game that is not primarily looked at. Even in penalty kicks, the responsibility is usually placed on the striker and any save is looked at as the failure of a kicker. But even when Fluminense tried their best to place the ball into the net, it was the quick reactions of Cevallos that won the title for LDU Quito.

For Ecuador, this should be a proud moment. Ecuador has sent a team (Barcelona SC) to the final twice before (in 1990 and 1998) and has also sent its national team to the World Cup in the past two tournaments. With this continental victory, LDU Quito can not only celebrate but also look ahead to playing in the FIFA Club World Championship in December, setting up a possible showdown with UEFA Champions League Winner, Manchester United.

The final itself brought a great ending to the soccer season, highlighted by Euro 2008 and the UEFA Champions League season. Many like to compare Copa Libertadores to the Champions League. In my view, one isn't necessarily better than the other (although UCL is easier to watch). Rather, I'd like to think that each has its own unique characteristics. The atmosphere in a Copa game appears to be more passionate than those in the European game (though I don't question the passion Euro fans have). But in terms of level of play, UCL seems to provide athletes who have more experience while those participating in Copa are younger and fresher.

Nonetheless, both bring a great amount of prestige to the respective regions and both are very entertaining to watch. Can't wait for next year's club football season to begin...

Murry Eliminated, Federer Eases Through to Semifinals
Andy Murray, Great Britain's last hope for a Wimbledon title, lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets while Roger Federer and Marat Safin advanced to tomorrow's semifinal round. Today, the women play the semifinals, including both Williams sisters who hope to play an all-Williams final on Saturday.

For more on the Championships, Wimbledon:

Sonics To Move To Oklahoma City, Makes Agreement with Seattle
Seattle will be without a basketball team next year as the Sonics agreed to a $45 million settlement with the city, leaving behind the Sonics' name and history. The former Seattle-based NBA team will move to Oklahoma City in time for the 2008-2009 season.

Honestly, I'm not too familiar with the situation in Seattle, so I'll leave it up to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to give you the details and fan reaction. I can tell you this much though: Seattle basketball fans are not too happy.

We'll take a look at the ladies' semifinals and preview the ladies' final to be played on Saturday. Also tomorrow is Independence Day, that means we'll talk about America's favorite pasttime: BASEBALL! One particular subject we'll tackle is the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry which will be played out this weekend. And we'll take a look at the continuing action going on in the Olympic trials as we learn more about who will be on Team USA.

Thanks for reading, hope you'll comeback tomorrow.

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