The South American version of the UEFA Champions League is the Copa Libertadores. Unlike the European tournament, which has a Super Bowlish final at a pre-selected glitzy venue, the South Americans prefer a two leg final, where each team gets to host one leg. Why? Because two finals are better than one, that’s why.
Another fun wrinkle is that they drop the away goals rule for the final, so if the score is tied after the second leg, we get to enjoy extra time and penalties. That eliminates some of the “antifútbol” tactics that unscrupulous managers use to win big games like this.
The first leg is on tonight (8:50 p.m., Fox Deportes) in Buenos Aires, when 2011 Argentine champions Boca Juniors host 2011 Brazilian champions Corinthians. This is Boca’s tenth appearance in the Libertadores final. They’ve won six (good for 2nd all time). As for Corinthians, I think this is their first time ever in the final, though they did manage to win a FIFA Club World Cup in 2000 (I think that was an early edition when FIFA was handing out invites instead of limiting it to confederation champions).
To get to this final, Boca defeated Chile’s Unión Española 5-3 agg, Brazil’s Fluminense 2-1 agg, and U de Chile 2-0 agg. Corinthians passed over Ecuador’s Emelec 3-0 agg, Brazil’s Vasco da Gama 1-0, and Sao Paulo derby rivals Santos (the 2011 Libertadores champs) 2-1 agg.
Boca has four players still hanging around from the glory days of previous Libertadores titles under Carlos “the Viceroy” Bianchi (Clemente Rodriguez, Rolando “Skinny” Schiavi, Pablo Ledesma, and Juan Román “Topo Gigio” Riquelme). They’re long in the tooth and very susceptible to injury, but they definitely know how to win games like this. Add to that some key players like Lucas “big nose” Viatri, Santiago “Tank” Silva, and Dario “Cvita” Cvitanich, to round out a pretty potent squad.
Though Corinthians has never been to the Libertadores final, several of its key players have, including Danilo, Alex, and Fabio Santos. All three have won the title in the past with other Brazilian clubs.
Personally, I’m pulling for Corinthians to upset Boca. Not just because I hate Boca, but because if they win, they will equal Independiente’s historic record of 7 Libertadores titles. That record has stood for nearly 30 years. I fear it’s about to be matched.
So, unless you’re worn out from Spain v Portugal, fire up a stream and check out the action at La Bombonera. By the way, did I mention the winner will likely face Chelsea in the Club World Cup final in December?