Monday 22 October 2018, 10:00

Argentina-versus-Brazil semi sizzlers

  • Libertadores 2018 semis: River Plate-Gremio, Boca Juniors-Palmeiras

  • We recall past semi-final thrillers between Argentinian and Brazilian clubs

  • Juninho Pernambucano, Riquelme and Ronaldinho feature

Who doesn’t relish a good old Argentina-versus-Brazil slugfest? We’ve witnessed two this month from Buenos Aires and Jeddah.

Now we have another two to savour as, for the first time in Copa Libertadores history, both semi-finals pit futbol Argentino against futebol Brasileiro. recalls four last-four thrillers between Argentinians and Brazilians in the competition.

Santos v Independiente in 1964

Santos 2-3 Independiente Independiente 2-1 Santos Independiente won 5-3 on aggregate

‘The Fish’ were aiming to catch a third consecutive Libertadores crown and, even without the injured Pele, raced into a 2-0 lead in Rio de Janeiro. Raul Savoy, Raul Bernao, Luis Suarez and Mario Rodriguez nevertheless rallied to win 3-2 in Rio de Janeiro – “the Maracana was silenced like it was in 1950,” said Santos goalkeeper Gilmar – and triumphed 2-1 in Avellaneda.

Upshot: Rookie goalkeeper Miguel Angel Santoro was the hero as Manuel Giudice’s team drew 0-0 at Nacional in part one of the final, and Rodriguez got the only goal in the return as Independiente won the first of what is now a record seven Libertadores trophies.

The great Independiente side of the mid-1960s

Vasco v River Plate in 1998

Vasco 1-0 River Plate River Plate 1-1 Vasco Vasco win 2-1 on aggregate

The tie may have been evenly poised at 1-1, but Juan Pablo Sorin, Marcelo Gallardo, Santiago Solari, Juan Pizzi and Juan Pablo Angel were relentlessly threatening a winner when, from way out, substitute Juninho Pernambucano whipped home one of the greatest free-kicks in Libertadores history. Years later the Vasco fans created what is now a popular terrace chant about the goal. “I love it,” gushed Juninho. “I sing it all the time.”

Upshot: Vasco defeated Barcelona 4-1 in the final to qualify for the maiden FIFA Club World Cup in January 2000. There, Edmundo and Romario left Gary Neville and Mikael Silvestre redder than their Manchester United shirts en route to winning Group B, before Vasco lost on penalties to Corinthians in the decider.

Palmeiras v Boca in 2001

Boca Juniors 2-2 Palmeiras Palmeiras 2-2 Boca Juniors Boca won 3-2 on penalties

The tie swung one way then the other. It included two goals in sixty seconds, ferocious challenges, penalties, wonderful saves from Marcos and Oscar Cordoba, red cards and breathtaking skills from Alex and particularly Juan Roman Riquelme. The Colombian goalkeeper, who’d been the shoot-out star when Boca beat Palmeiras in the previous year’s final, repeated his penalty-saving heroics to determine the outcome.

Upshot: Boca survived an almighty scare to beat Cruz Azul for the trophy. The hero? Cordoba, in the shoot-out.

Boca Juniors line up before their Copa Libertadores 2001 semi-final versus Palmeiras

Newell’s Old Boys v Atletico Mineiro in 2013

Newell’s 2-0 Atletico Atletico 2-0 Newell’s Atletico won 3-2 on penalties

Ronaldinho, Bernard and team-mates came from behind to win in the Round of 16 and the quarter-finals, but few fancied them to reverse a 2-0 loss to Gabriel Heinze, Maxi Rodriguez, Ignacio Scocco and Co with the away-goals rule in operation. Bernard gave them a flying start in Belo Horizonte, following a defence-decrypting through-ball from Ronaldinho, but entering the sixth minute of second-half injury time for the Argentinians appeared to have left and right there. After Guilherme’s magnificent strike took it to penalties, however, and Newell’s had missed two cracks at taking the lead in the shoot-out, goalkeeper Victor denied Rodriguez to send O Galo through.

Upshot: Atletico outlasted Olimpia in the final – naturally, after losing the first leg 2-0, scoring a last-gasp leveller and triumphing on penalties – to book a voyage to the FIFA Club World Cup, where, despite two breathtaking Ronaldinho free-kicks, they could only finish third.