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And so to Ecuador.
With three stages, bonus points and a two-leg final, Ecuador’s championship is a brave attempt to keep as many teams in with a chance of winning the title for as long as possible. In fact, getting knocked out takes some doing.
In the first stage, the 12 teams play each other twice and the top four qualify for the third (repeat third) stage. They also carry through bonus points — three for the winners, two for the second-placed side and one for the third-placed side.
If a team happens to finish bottom of the first stage, there’s no need to fret because there’s still the second stage to come.
For the last year, Brazilian club Flamengo have led an almost obsessive campaign for a ban on matches at high altitude. Following a match away to Bolivian side Real Potosi at 4,000 metres above sea level in the Libertadores Cup, club president Marcio Braga has gone on the warpath describing high altitude games as “inhumane” and comparing them to a form of doping for the home team.
Braga has taken his case to FIFA, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and even the United Nations human rights commission — all without success. Although FIFA has effectively banned World Cup qualifiers above 2,750 metres, the South American Football Confederation has refused to follow suit for the Libertadores.