Palmeiras and Flamengo set up all-Brazilian final
The defending champions saw off Atletico Mineiro in the semi-finals
O Mengāo knocked out Ecuador’s Barcelona
Montevideo to host the final on 27 November
Reigning champions Palmeiras beat Atletico Mineiro to make it through to the final of the 2021 Copa Libertadores, where they will be joined by compatriots and 2019 winners Flamengo, who defeated Barcelona SC of Ecuador in their semi-final.
The two Brazilian giants, who closed out their ties away from home, have never met in the final, which will be the fifth between teams from the same country since the rules were changed to allow this. It will also be the fourth between clubs from Brazil, the last coming in 2020, when Palmeiras beat Santos.
The winners of the final will go on to contest the FIFA Club World Cup, the venue and date of which will be announced by FIFA in due course.
Champions flex their muscles
Palmeiras drew on their greater big-match experience to edge out Atletico Mineiro in a tie in which both legs ended in draws: 0-0 in Sao Paulo in the first and 1-1 in Belo Horizonte in the return. That solitary away goal was enough to take the Brazilians through to the final and also extended their unbeaten run in knockout matches away from home in the competition to eight.
The winner came about when Abel Ferreira, who now has a chance to become the first European coach to win the Copa Libertadores twice, made a brave substitution. A minute after bringing on Gabriel Veron for Rony – his leading marksman in this year’s competition – Ferreira looked on with satisfaction as the substitute crossed for Dudu to score.
4 - Palmeiras are the fourth team to reach consecutive Copa finals this century, after Boca Juniors, who have done it twice (2000 and 2001, and 2003 and 2004), Sao Paulo (2005 and 2006), and River Plate (2018 and 2019). The only member of that select club to win back-to-back finals so far is Boca, in 2000 and 2001.
15 - The number of away games O Verdao have gone without losing in the Libertadores, the longest such run in the history of the competition. Their last defeat on the road was a 1-0 loss to San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires on 2 April 2019.
7 - The number of goals Dudu has now scored for Palmeiras in the Copa Libertadores. Moreover, the Brazilian side have never lost in the Copa when he finds the back of the net: six wins and a draw.
764 - The number of minutes Mineiro had gone in the tournament without conceding. Unfortunately for O Galo, the goal that ended that sequence also knocked them out of the competition.
“Atletico were fantastic opponents and they’ve got a great coach, but it was the more intelligent and organised team that went through. If you ask me, we totally deserve to be in the final again.” Palmeiras coach Abel Ferreira
Fla show their credentials
Flamengo’s 4-0 aggregate win over Barcelona, achieved courtesy of 2-0 wins in Rio de Janeiro in the first leg and Guayaquil in the second, perhaps flattered them. There can be no question, though, that the Brazilian side deserved to progress to what will be their second final in the last three years.
The Ecuadorian outfit impressed in both matches but could find no way past Diego Alves in the Fla goal and no answer to Bruno Henrique, who scored all four goals.
17 - The number of matches in which Fla have now gone undefeated in the competition (12 wins and five draws), equalling the best unbeaten run in Copa history, put together by Peru’s Sporting Cristal between 1962 and 1969 (eight wins and nine draws). O Mengāo’s last reverse in the Copa was a 5-0 defeat to Independiente del Valle on Matchday 3 of the group phase in 2020.
50 - The number of wins Renato Gaucho has now presided over in the Libertadores, putting him ahead of Colombia’s Gabriel Ochoa Uribe (49 wins) as the most successful coach in the competition’s history. The Brazilian is also the first coach to reach Copa finals with three different teams, Fluminense in 2008 and Gremio in 2017 being the other two.
10 - The number of goals in which Bruno Henrique has had a direct hand in this year’s Copa, out of his side’s total of 32. His six goals and four assists account for 31.25 per cent of their total.
36 - The number of goals Bruno Henrique (15) and Gabriel Gabigol Barbosa (21) have scored between them in the last three Copa Libertadores. The duo have scored 52 per cent of Flamengo’s 69 goals in the competition in that time.
“We were up against a team that hadn’t lost at home and the first leg was tough too. Now we’ve got a big final to look forward to. Either side can win; we’re both big teams.” Flamengo coach Renato Gaucho