In the latter part of the 1960s, an unheralded Estudiantes de La Plata side upset the old order in Argentina and South America by winning three consecutive Copa Libertadores titles to put themselves firmly on the world footballing map. That legendary team, which included talismanic figures like Carlos Bilardo and Juan Ramon Veron, had their finest achievement in 1968, when they secured the Intercontinental Cup at the expense of a Manchester United side containing Bobby Charlton and George Best at their Old Trafford fortress. El Pincha would twice more reach the final of the competition now known as the FIFA Club World Cup but would lose both times: in 1969 to AC Milan and in 1970 to Feyenoord.
Thirty-nine years after last tasting continental glory, Estudiantes would claim their fourth Libertadores crown due in no small part to the magic of Juan Sebastian Veron, son of La Bruja, Juan Ramon. After a shaky start to the competition that included three defeats in their first six games, El León were transformed by the arrival of new coach Alejandro Sabella, under whose tutelage the side would remain unbeaten for the rest of the campaign. The La Plata outfit overcame Peru's Sporting Cristal in the qualifying round, before finishing second in their group behind the team they would beat in the decider, Cruzeiro of Brazil. Knockout-stage wins over Paraguay's Libertad, and Defensor Sporting and Nacional from Uruguay, earned them a final berth where, after a 0-0 draw at home, they would lift the trophy with a 2-1 win in Belo Horizonte.
"It's fantastic what we've achieved. I'm enjoying it immensely and I'm going to continue celebrating. That said, you always aspire to win more major titles. This club and its players have a winning mentality; we never rest on our laurels and we're not going to start now. The Club World Cup will be far from easy, but we're already committed to it and will prepare in order to do as well as we can there," said Veron.
Facts and figures
Manuel Pellegrina, Carlos Bilardo, Juan Ramon Veron, Oscar Malbernat, Carlos Pachame, Ruben Madero, Alberto Poletti, Abel Ernesto Herrera, Jose Luis Brown, Miguel Angel Russo, Alejandro Sabella, Edgardo Pratola, Mariano Pavone, Mariano Andujar
Leandro Desabato (defender), Cristian Cellay (defender), Rodrigo Brana (midfielder), Juan Sebastian Veron (midfielder), Mauro Boselli (forward), Jose Luis Calderon (forward)
Estudiantes contested 16 games, winning ten, drawing three and losing three, while scoring 21 goals and conceding just 8. Their striker Boselli was this edition's top scorer with eight goals, while keeper Mariano Andujar broke the tournament record for the longest spell without conceding (800 minutes).
The numbers game
16 - The number of games Estudiantes played en route to their 2009 Libertadores title. In so doing, El Pincha became the first team since the tournament's current format was introduced in 2000 to win the competition after coming through the qualifying round.
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