Fortaleza EC set for a historic night at the Castelão

Rogerio Ceni.
Rogerio Ceni.
Louis Smith

No matter what happens on Thursday night, Fortaleza will be making history at the Castello as they take on Independiente in the Copa Sudamericana second leg.

This will be the first time Fortaleza have played a home tie in the continental football in their entire 101-year history.

It will also be the first time the Castelão has played host to the competition since being renovated for the 2014 World Cup. A beautiful city which has stunning views and beaches will rightfully be hosting continental football.

The story of Fortaleza's rise under manager Rogério Ceni has been remarkable; just three years ago fans could only dream of playing continental football. Fortaleza was playing their football in Serie C, the third tier of Brazilian football where they managed to gain promotion from in the same year.

Then a year later in 2018, they were at it again as not only did they earn promotion from Serie B, they won the league by nine points.

In 2019 things got off to a flyer for Leão as they won the Copa Do Nordeste and the Ceara State Championship; however, a slow start in Serie A which left the club flitting around the relegation places made Fortaleza ruthlessly sacked Rogério Ceni.

Just over a month later, Ceni was brought back by Fortaleza and their fortunes changed dramatically. In the last seven matches of the season they went unbeaten, picking up 17 points which not only kept them clear of relegation, they were up for a potential Copa Libertadores place but in the end up had to settle for a Copa Sudamericana place as they finished in 9th place only three points off a Libertadores spot.

Their greatest season in their history inspired fans to thank players and coaches staff at the end of their last game by producing a mosaic to celebrating their achievement.

Now their attention turns to overturning the one-goal lead the Argentina side hold from the first leg, where Fortaleza will be eager to overturn the result and continue to create history.

One major blow for Leão is that Colombian defender Juan Quintero will miss the game after picking up a red card in the first leg - How costly could that prove to be?

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Edited by S Chowdhury


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