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Boca Juniors vs River Plate: The Libertadores Final CONMEBOL Always Wanted

Saturday 10th November 2018
The biggest, most historic club rivalry in South America, El Superclasico, finally graces a Libertadores final.
The biggest, most historic club rivalry in South America, El Superclasico, finally graces a Libertadores final.

Original photo [1931]: Unknown

This is it. The Grand Finale everybody in CONMEBOL always wanted. River Plate and Boca Juniors will determine which team will win the 2018 Copa Libertadores. It will be the first time in the tournament’s history that these two Argentinian powerhouses will determine who will be the new King of South America.

And frankly, CONMEBOL couldn’t have wished it any other way. It’s not a secret that continental teams get more appeal when two big sides are battling it out for the trophy, and arguably there are no bigger, more popular teams in the continent than Boca and River. Plus, they get to decide the title in the final edition of the tournament having a two-legged final. Starting in 2019, the Copa Libertadores will have a one-leg, neutral-venue-based final and next year it will be held in Santiago, Chile.

But let’s get back to the topic. The “Superclasico” will carry its own spicy content due to the natural rivalry between these two sides, especially considering the stage and the context surrounding this tie. For what is worth, these two sides have met 24 times in the tournament and Boca have the edge, with 10 wins against River’s seven and seven draws. El Xeneize have scored 28 times, and El Millonario have found the back the net on 19 occasions.

As mentioned above, Boca Juniors and River Plate already met in the Copa Libertadores semifinals back in 2004 and that tie finished with a thrilling penalty shoot-out that saw Boca Juniors come out on top, and they ended winning the title after topping Colombian outfit Once Caldas in the decisive round. But the intensity, grit and popularity of that semifinal tie was so much, that there’s a short film about that lasts around 51 minutes and covers the highlight of the second leg, including the shootout.

As you can expect, we got you covered with it:

Both sides had a tough road towards reaching the final. Let’s analyse how each side reached the decisive stage:

Boca Juniors finished second in Group H with nine points (W2, D3, L1), behind Palmeiras but over Junior and Alianza Lima. They didn’t have problems to get past Libertad Asuncion (6-2 aggregate) in the Round of 16, and later topped Cruzeiro (3-1) in the quarter-finals. They met again with Palmeiras in the semi-finals and with a 4-2 aggregate score (2-0 win at home, 2-2 draw on the road) they clinched the spot in the next round.

Meanwhile, River Plate topped Group D with 12 points (W3, D3) over Flamengo, Santa Fe and Emelec. They eliminated Racing Club in the Round of 16 (3-0 aggregate), Independiente in the quarter-finals (3-1) and Gremio in the semifinals. The tie against the Brazilian club was one River fans will never forget. They lost 1-0 in the first leg on Argentinian soil and were down 1-0 at half-time in the second leg in Brazil, but turned things around in the final minutes: a header from Rafael Santos Borre (81’) and a penalty on stoppage-time from Gonzalo Martinez (94’), one of the best players in the competition, sealed River’s progression.

The first leg will be played tomorrow at La Bombonera, after being postponed due to torrential rain, and the second one will be held next Saturday at Estadio Monumental. This will undoubtedly be one of the biggest Copa Libertadores finals in the tournament’s history, and the stakes are at an all-time high for this tie.

And this is exactly what CONMEBOL wanted in the first place.

Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.

Total articles: 190

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