Illustrious quartet prepare for semi showdowns

4 Jan 2021
  • Boca, Palmeiras, River and Santos have 14 Libertadores crowns between them

  • Three of the four have reached the semi-finals within the last two seasons

  • The final will take place at the Maracana on 30 January

South American giants Boca Juniors, Santos, River Plate and Palmeiras have made it to the Copa Libertadores 2020 semi-finals, and will doubtless already have one eye on the final, which will be held in the legendary Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the last-four encounters just around the corner, takes a look at how each team advanced from their respective quarter-final.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - DECEMBER 23: Sebastián Villa of Boca Juniors celebrates with teammates after scoring the second goal of his team during a quarter final second leg match of Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2020 between Boca Juniors and Racing Club at Estadio Alberto J. Armando on December 23, 2020 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Agustin Marcarian-Pool/Getty Images)

Boca turn tie around at home

  • First leg: Racing Club 1-0 Boca Juniors

  • Second leg: Boca Juniors 2-0 Racing Club

Boca Juniors played extremely well in the second leg against Racing, overcoming a first-leg deficit in a knockout tie for the first time since 2007 and qualifying for their third consecutive semi-final for the first time in their history.

Although Carlos Tevez stood out, it was Eduardo Salvio who again proved instrumental, opening the scoring for his sixth goal of the tournament, the highest tally by a Boca player in the Libertadores since Martin Palermo netted seven times in 2008.

Did you know?

  • Miguel Russo is in his second spell in charge of Boca. He was at the helm when the club last lifted the trophy in 2007.

  • Among the teams still in the running, Los Xeneizes have conceded the fewest goals: three, one fewer than Palmeiras.

SANTOS, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 16: Jean Mota of Santos celebrates the victory after a quarter final second leg match between Santos and Gremio as part of Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2020 at Urbano Caldeira Stadium (Vila Belmiro) on December 16, 2020 in Santos, Brazil. (Photo by Amanda Perobelli-Pool/Getty Images)

Santos keeping a low profile

  • First leg: Gremio 1-1 Santos

  • Second leg: Santos 4-1 Gremio

With a minimum of fuss, O Peixe defeated one of the most consistent teams of the last few years and moved on to the semi-finals for the first time since 2012. Under the tutelage of Cuca, who steered Atletico Mineiro to the continental title in 2013, Santos have quietly stepped up a gear whenever they have needed to so far during the tournament, but they will no longer be able to fly under the radar in these latter stages.

Against Gremio, Kaio Jorge played a key role, scoring three times over the two legs – his two goals in the return match were his first at home for the club. With five goals in nine games, the precocious youngster is his team’s top scorer in the competition. Santos’s defensive rigour cannot be understated either, however: they saw off the challenge of Gremio despite registering a possession share of just under 31 per cent.

Did you know?

  • It took Kaio Jorge precisely 11 seconds to score the opener in the second leg, making his opportunistic strike the joint-fifth fastest goal in Copa Libertadores history.

  • Kaio Jorge (five) and Marinho (four) have scored 53 per cent of Santos’s goals (nine out of 17).

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 15: Rony of Palmeiras (L) poses for a selfie with teammates after scoring the the second goal of his team during a quarter final second leg match between Palmeiras and Libertad as part of Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2020 at Allianz Parque on December 15, 2020 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Sebastiao Moreira-Pool/Getty Images)

Palmeiras go from strength to strength

  • First leg: Libertad 1-1 Palmeiras

  • Second leg: Palmeiras 3-0 Libertad

Palmeiras, the best team in the group stage and the only side still unbeaten, fully demonstrated their maturity and solidity versus Paraguayan outfit Libertad, who performed better than their status of worst second-placed team suggested, but who paid dearly for every mistake they made. The Brazilians have been attacking with menace lately, scoring an average of three goals in their last four matches.

With Portuguese tactician Abel Ferreira at the helm, O Verdão have gone ten games without defeat in the 2020 Copa Libertadores, equalling their best-ever run in the tournament, except this time they have managed it during a single edition, rather than across two successive competitions. It is no great surprise, therefore, to see them in the semis for the second time in three years.

Did you know?

  • Brazilian forward Rony recorded a goal and an assist – his seventh of the tournament – in the second leg versus Libertad. The latter achievement sent him joint top of the assists table alongside River Plate striker Matias Suarez.

  • Rony, who turned 25 earlier this year, also boasts four goals in the Copa, and has therefore played a part in 11 of his side’s 29 goals (38 per cent).

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY - DECEMBER 17: Jorge Carrascal of River Plate celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal of their team during a quarter final second leg match between Nacional and River Plate as part of Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2020 at Gran Parque Central on December 17, 2020 in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Photo by Ernesto Ryan/Getty Images)

River Plate’s insatiable appetite

  • First leg: River 2-0 Nacional

  • Second leg: Nacional 2-6 River

Last season’s runners-up are the only team of the remaining quartet who have reached the semi-finals for the last four years in a row. In fact, this is the fifth time in six years that Los Millonarios have got to this stage – they eventually held aloft the trophy in 2015 and 2018 – and they now have their sights set on a third consecutive Copa final appearance, a feat last achieved by Sao Paulo almost three decades ago (1992 to 1994).

The man tasked with this taxing assignment is Marcelo Gallardo, who has yet again found a way of revamping his much-admired team. Consequently, despite missing key players such as Enzo Perez and Ignacio Fernandez, River comfortably disposed of Nacional, giving younger stars like Uruguayan Nicolas De La Cruz and Colombian Jorge Carrascal a chance to shine.

Did you know?

  • River are the most prolific team left in the tournament, having racked up 31 goals in ten encounters, three short of the 21st century record (34 in 14) set by Sao Paulo in 2005. Their top scorers thus far are Rafael Santos Borre (six goals), who notched a hat-trick in the quarter-final second leg, and Julian Alvarez (five).

  • Gonzalo Montiel, who plays at right-back for River, provided three assists over the two matches with Nacional. He has six assists in the tournament as a whole, a total that puts him just behind his team-mate, Matias Suarez, and Palmeiras’ Rony, who both lead the field with seven.

Semi-final fixtures (all times local)

River Plate-Palmeiras

  • First leg: 05/01/2021 (9.30 pm)

  • Second leg: 12/01/2021 (9.30 pm)

Boca Juniors-Santos

  • First leg: 06/01/2021 (7.15 pm)

  • Second leg: 13/01/2021 (7.15 pm)