RIO DE JANEIRO - Four Brazilian sides crashing out of the Libertadores Cup in one night raised alarm bells across the country on Thursday with the demise blamed chiefly on arrogance.
Present at eight of the last nine finals in South America's elite club competition, Brazilian teams lost in a variety of ways in Wednesday's last-16 second legs - at home, away, ahead or behind after the first legs.
Only Santos, who played on Tuesday, reached the quarter-finals with a meagre 1-0 aggregate victory over Mexico's America.
"Macabre Thursday. It was macabre for everyone," award-winning writer and soccer pundit Luis Fernando Verissimo said in an interview on the Sportv channel.
"The consolation for the Reds, like me, was that it went badly for the others too," added Verissimo, a famous supporter of eliminated title holders Internacional, upset 2-1 at home to go out 3-2 on aggregate to Penarol of Uruguay.
Internacional's bitter Porto Alegre city rivals Gremio also went out 3-1 on aggregate to Chile's Universidad Catolica and Brazilian champions Fluminense squandered a 3-1 home leg lead in a 3-0 defeat by Libertad in Paraguay.
The biggest shocks though were the defeats of Internacional and favourites Cruzeiro, who had cruised through the group phase unbeaten, scoring 20 goals in six matches.
Cruzeiro, twice champions and finalists in 2009, won the first leg 2-1 away to Once Caldas but were upset 2-0 at home by the Colombian underdogs on Wednesday.
Over-confidence may have got the better of Cruzeiro and Inter, who took a 1-0 lead in the opening minute against Penarol, while another theory is a false sense of teams' real form in the state championships in Brazil.
The big teams are only really tested when they meet each other in the Carioca (Rio) and Paulista (Sao Paulo), each with four top sides, or Gaucho (Rio Grande do Sul) with the big two from Porto Alegre.
The season began in late January but the top flight Brazilian championship does not start until later this month.
"It's possible there's a technical crisis in Brazilian football, reinforced by games in never ending qualifying phases of the state championships which hide the true strengths of each team," wrote football critic and TV commentator Paulo Vinicius Coelho.
"Two things can explain last night's fiasco: an excess of matches until April or an excess of arrogance. If you completely dismiss a technical crisis, you have to go for the second hypothesis."comments