By Samindra Kunti in Rio de Janeiro
November 3 – South America’s continental club season will culminate with hosts and favourites Fluminense taking on Boca Juniors in the final of the Copa Libertadores. The Argentinians will seek to become the first non-Brazilian winner in five years.
In the semi-finals, Boca Juniors eliminated Palmeiras of Brazil on penalties, progressing to the final at the Maracana on Sunday and preventing a fourth consecutive all-Brazilian final.
Boca Juniors last featured in the Copa Libertadores final in 2018 when they lost the two-legged encounter against arch-rivals River Plate.
At the time, River Plate were arguably the best side of the decade in South America and Boca Juniors were the underdog in the final. They will be happy to take on the same role against Fluminense after failing to win a single of their knockout matches en route to the final. The onus will then be on the Rio club to dictate play and breach the visiting defence.
Fluminense manager Fernando Diniz, who also serves as Brazil’s interim manager after Tite’s exit earlier this year, is renowned for his attacking style, overloading the opponent’s half and not shying away from playing a 3-1-6 formation when required. But that approach leaves his side vulnerable to counter attack.
The Rio club have never won the South America’s most important club competition. In 2008, they lost the final against LDU Quito of Ecuador. A year earlier Boca Juniors won the last of their six Copa Libertadores trophies defeating Gremio 3-2 on aggregate.
Fluminense will enjoy home support, but that home advantage might be limited with up to 100,000 Boca Juniors fans reportedly expected in the Carioca Capital. Both clubs were allocated 22,000 tickets for the final. FIFA president Gianni Infantino will also attend the match.
“Every place we go, it’s always Boca, full of people, they’re very fanatical, they’re crazy,” said Boca Juniors player Valentim Barco. “We really felt this support from people when playing these games.”
The winner of the final will represent South America at the Club World Cup in December in Jeddah.
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