SAO PAULO (AP) — By sending three teams to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals, Argentina increased its chances of ending Brazil's streak of four straight titles in Latin America's club championship.
Argentine clubs San Lorenzo, Lanus and Arsenal de Sarandi all advanced, while Cruzeiro is the sole contender for Brazil.
Defending champion Atletico Mineiro was one of the two Brazilian teams eliminated in the round of 16, along with Gremio. The only Argentine side to lose was Velez Sarsfield, which was upset by Nacional of Paraguay after finishing top of the group stage.
Atletico Nacional of Colombia eliminated Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro 2-1 on aggregate on Thursday. Defensor of Uruguay and Bolivar of Bolivia complete the quarterfinals lineup.
Argentine clubs haven't won the Copa Libertadores since Estudiantes beat Cruzeiro in the 2009 final. Internacional, Santos, Corinthians and Atletico Mineiro won the competition for Brazil from 2010-2013.
Cruzeiro coach Marcelo Oliveira downplayed the Argentine challenge.
"We have shown that we have a team that can go until the end no matter who we play against," he said.
Brazilian clubs have reached the final nine consecutive times. This year marked the first time in more than 10 years that the country didn't have the most teams in the second round, and the first time since 2006 that it had less clubs than Argentina in the quarterfinals.
This is only the second time since 1994 that Brazil failed to have more than one team in the quarters. The other time was in 2011, when Santos went on to win the title. Six Brazilian teams entered the competition in 2014, while Argentina started with five.
San Lorenzo, the team known for having Pope Francis as a supporter, eliminated two-time champion Gremio 4-2 on penalties on Wednesday after a 1-1 aggregate draw. Lanus got past Santos Laguna of Mexico 4-1 on aggregate, while Arsenal de Sarandi defeated Union Espanola of Chile 1-0 over two legs.
Brazilian champion Cruzeiro, which needed a last-round victory just to advance past the group stage, eliminated Cerro Porteno of Paraguay 3-1 on aggregate following a 2-0 win in Asuncion on Wednesday.
San Lorenzo and Cruzeiro will meet in the quarterfinals, with the first leg next week in Argentina. Arsenal de Sarandi will play Nacional, and Lanus will face Bolivar.
Atletico Nacional, which advanced by scoring late to draw with Atletico Mineiro 1-1 in Belo Horizonte on Thursday, will play Defensor in the quarters.
Liga de Quito of Ecuador was the last non-Brazilian or non-Argentine team to win the Copa Libertadores. It beat Brazil's Fluminense in the 2008 final at Maracana Stadium.
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