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Copa Libertadores de América

The Copa Libertadores de América is an international football cup competition played annually by the top clubs of South America. In recent years, top clubs from Mexico have also competed.

In its early years, only the national champions of the major nations took part, but the vice-champions were allowed in in the seventies. The competition was later extended to 24, 32 and now 36 teams. The 2004 edition will have the competitors distributed this way:

The competition is organized more or less like a bigger World Cup and run annually, there is a preliminary round and a first round where then the teams are divided into groups of four, the top two teams from each group are then drawn in a two legged second round. The rounds continue with two legs through the quarter-final, semi-final and the final. Between 1960 and 1979 the previous winners did not enter the competition until the semi-final stage, making it much easier to retain the cup.

The first cup was competed for in 1960 and was won by Club Atlético Peñarol of Uruguay. As of 2002, nineteen different teams have won the cup. The most successful club has been the Argentinian side Club Atlético Independiente, winners seven times including four in a row from 1972 to 1975.

Brazilians complain that especially in the early years the referess were often biased against the Brazilian teams and the rules were often obscure or unfair. Argentinians answer to this remarking that the Brazilian teams were often uninsterested in playing abroad. However, it is remarkable that Argentina and Uruguay are so superior to Brazil in this particular competition, while they are equaled in others.

Over the years the competiton has kept alive a healthy sport rivalry between the competing countries, especially between Brazil and Argentina, Argentina and Uruguay, Uruguay and Brazil and Bolivia and Chile. Unfortunately episodes of violence are not rare and the pressure for players on the field is tremendous.