The latest episode in the long-running football rivalry between Argentina and Brazil will unfold this week when Boca Juniors and Corinthians run out for the first leg of the 53rd Copa Libertadores decider. Finalists for the ninth time in their history, Los Xeneizes know exactly what to expect against a side who are making their first appearance at this stage of the competition.FIFA.com sets the scene for Wednesday’s first leg at the Bombonera.
Boca Juniors (ARG) - Corinthians (BRA)
Wednesday 27 June, 21:50 (local time), Buenos Aires
With a place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012 also at stake, the two sides will not be lacking in incentives when the whistle finally sounds. Having already identified the Libertadores as his priority this season, Julio Cesar Falcioni gave his first-teamers a rest on the final day of the Clausura campaign. Along with Rolando Schiavi, Pablo Ledesma and Clemente Rodriguez, Juan Roman Riquelme is one of four players to have won the tournament with Boca before. The veteran playmaker, now 34, will once again be the fulcrum of a side well versed in the ways of winning finals and which has lost just once at home in the competition this season, to Fluminense in the group phase.
The Brazilian champions go into the final with their morale high after ousting holders Santos in a tight semi-final. Coach Tite, who welcomes Emerson back to the line-up, will be banking once again on his side’s team play and defensive strengths, which have been central to their unbeaten record in the Libertadores this year. Should O Timão manage to thwart Boca in their own backyard, they will go a long way to fulfilling a long-cherished dream of their army of fans, namely to become continental champions against a club with a habit of dashing the hopes of Brazilian sides.
Santiago Silva v Cassio Ramos
The Uruguayan striker, who had a brief spell at Corinthians, has been Boca’s main strike threat in the competition so far, scoring decisive goals against Union Espanola, Fluminense and Universidad de Chile. A losing semi-finalist with Velez Sarsfield last year, Silva is now within two games of lifting the trophy. One man hoping to prevent that outcome is the Corinthians keeper, who has conceded just three goals in the competition so far. The 25-year-old former Gremio and PSV custodian will have a vital role to play at a stadium where no visiting side has been able to keep a clean sheet in the tournament to date. The victor in this head-to-head could well hold the key to the outcome.
Did you know?
Whereas the away-goals rule applied in the Round of 16, last eight and semi-finals, that will not be the case in the final. Should the aggregate score be level at the end of the second leg, 30 minutes of extra time will be played, followed by a penalty shoot-out if the scores are still tied.
13 - The number of times Argentinian and Brazilian sides have faced each other in a Libertadores decider. The former hold sway with nine wins so far, while Boca Juniors have won four of their five finals against Brazilian teams, beating Cruzeiro in 1977, Palmeiras in 2000, Santos in 2003 and Gremio in 2007, with their only defeat coming against Santos in 1963.
What they said
Juan Roman Riquelme, Boca Juniors captain: “Before the semi-final I asked my team-mates to help me get to one more final, because I’m getting on now and I don’t think I’m going to get another chance. I think the team who plays the best football will win. We're going to do what we always do and I guess they will too. It might seem very easy from the outside looking in, but it’s a miracle to be playing another final. I just hope we can win the title."
Tite, Corinthians coach: “The Bombonera exists and it’s real, but you have to be mature when you go and play there, like at the Pacaembu, Morumbi or Olimpico. Mental strength is the key. I’ve played against 93,000 fans a few times and it didn’t matter whether you could hear your team-mate from three metres away or not. What mattered was knowing what he wanted. That’s called concentration."