On 12 December in Yokohama, the last-ever edition of the Toyota Cup allowed the drawing of a line under forty-four years of rivalry between the representatives of Europe and the clubs of Latin America, six of whose ten FIFA association members have had at least one representative in the final.
The surprise team of this year's Copa Libertadores, Once Caldas are the second Colombian club to reach the final, fifteen years after Nacional Medellin lost out to AC Milan AC (1-0). Porto, meanwhile, are comparatively old hands at this level, having won the world title in 1987 against Peñarol Montevideo (2-1), courtesy of the goalscorer Gomes and the mercurial Madjer, who had already entered the history books with an impudent backheeled winner in the final of the European Cup in May of the same year.
If the first 20 editions of the Intercontinental Cup between 1960 and 1980 are counted together with the 24 Toyota Cups held since 1980, South America cannot be caught by Europe. In 42 confrontations, the Latinos have clocked up 22 victories to the Europeans' 20, while the competition was cancelled in 1978 and Europe withdrew in 1975.
But since the launch of the Toyota Cup, contested over a single match on a neutral continent, Europe and South America are level on 12 victories apiece, so the responsibility for the symbolic tipping of the scales falls to the Portuguese and Colombians.
The lucky 13
South America's successes have been secured by thirteen different clubs, compared with twelve European outfits. The honours for diversity go hands-down to Argentina, who have won the trophy with six different clubs (Racing Buenos Aires, Independiente, Boca Juniors, River Plate, Estudiantes and Velez Sarsfield). It is also worthy of note that the city of Buenos Aires has notched up no less than eight victories with five clubs, just outstripping Montevideo, with six wins evenly split between its two big rivals, Nacional and Peñarol. Europe's leading city in world title terms is predictably Milan, where the trophy has been brought five times by two clubs (three for AC Milan and two for Inter), closely followed by Madrid (three victories for Real and one for Atletico).
Five clubs (three South American and two European) share top spot with three victories each, a record which cannot now be beaten. These are first-ever winners Real Madrid (1960, 1998, 2002), Peñarol (1961, 1966, 1982), Nacional Montevideo (1971, 1980, 1988), AC Milan (1969, 1989, 1990) and titleholders Boca Juniors (1977, 2000 and 2003).
Paradoxically, it is AC Milan who have contested the most finals (7), but with patchy results (3 wins and 4 defeats). The Lombardians are one ahead of the Argentines of Independiente (2 wins and 4 defeats) and 2 in front of Real Madrid and Peñarol (3 wins and 2 defeats).
Argentina is assured pride of place as the most successful country with 9 victories, followed by Italy on 7 and both Uruguay and Brazil with 6. It is also somewhat surprising to note that Brazil, so dominant in FIFA competitions at national team level, has not tasted Toyota Cup triumph since 1993 when Sao Paolo claimed a spectacular victory over Milan (3-2). But the Brazilian clubs have had their hour of glory, most notably in the era of the Santos club, who chalked up a trifling fifteen goals in two triumphant finals (1962, 1963) against Benfica (3-2, 5-2) then AC Milan (2-4, 4-2, 1-0). Only Sao Paolo have matched this performance by capturing two consecutive titles (1989, 1990) against Barcelona (2-1) then the redoubtable AC Milan (3-2), who were standing in for Marseilles, then champions of Europe but who were banned from all international competition after a corruption scandal.
Goals, scorers and play-offs
A total of 13 South American clubs have therefore won this prestigious trophy, compared with twelve European representatives. Among the latter, the hierarchy is once again firmly dominated by the formidable Italians with seven titles, followed by Spain (4), Germany and the Netherlands (3). And if Porto get Portugal's second win this month, they will usurp England and the former Yugoslavia, both with a single victory, to sneak their country into 5th position.
Where the secondary statistics are concerned, South America top the tally of goals scored in finals (76 compared to 73), the number of victories in play-off games (3 against 1) and also hold the record for the widest margin of victory (5-0 by Nacional Montevideo over Benfica in their 1961 home leg).
Ajax, on the other hand, are the only side to have won the trophy without actually scoring a goal, having defeated Porto Alegre's Gremio (0-0 and 4-3 on pens.). Finally, amidst the ranks of the scorers, seven players have struck a double in the final, including five South Americans, the most recent being the Argentine Martin Palermo, playing for Boca Juniors in 2000.
And so it befalls two clubs who are scarcely members of the football aristocracy to have the final say in this ding-dong battle for continental supremacy. Then, the FIFA Club World Championship Japan 2005 will offer clubs from the other confederations a chance to overturn the established order. Once Caldas, having slain such behemoths as Santos, Sao Paolo and then Boca Juniors in the final of the Copa Libertadores, have already shown them the way.