The talent, the gossip, the inside track
Celso de Campos Jr
After another dismal performance previewing the Copa Libertadores quarter-finals – with three misses out of four – I humbly excused myself from trying to forecast the tournament's semi-finals.I’m sure you, faithful reader, noticed it and even though this silence spared you a good crack at my expense I’m confident you understood and supported my decision. Thank you.The good news is that during this break I saved enough energy for one last oracular blog before the final. So don’t forget to return here on June 25 on the eve of the first leg when I’ll announce the upcoming Libertadores champ. Just don’t let your bookie know.Anyway, back to business.LDU have sealed their ticket to the final. The Ecuatorians advanced on away goals after a goalless draw in the second-leg – after tieing the first game 1-1 – against America in Quito.
Not that they didn’t have opportunities to score, mind. The Mexican defense kept inviting them in but it seems forwards Salas and Bieler were saving their best for the final – pretty much like me and my predictions.
Cevallos and Delgado celebrate LDU's place in final
Their opponents will be known after tonight following the big clash between Brazil and Argentinia, which is – for most people – the final before the final. Fluminense and Boca Juniors drew 2-2 in Buenos Aires last week, giving the Rio de Janeiro side the advantage on away goals.I’m not going to predict anything, but it’s worth noting that Boca drew 2-2 with Atlas in the first leg of the quarter-finals, also in Argentina. The Mexicans got all excited at the prospect of making the last four, but the Xeneizes then slaughtered them in their own back yard with an easy 3-0 victory. Fluminense, of course, isn’t Atlas. Renato Gaúcho’s boys are talented and fired up after eliminating powerhouse São Paulo in a thrilling match in the quarters. And drawing at Boca was also an excellent result. But they should be aware it means nothing against their formidable opponents. The truth is Boca Juniors don't care about advantages or away goals. They play to win, and they’re always confident they can pull it off. And they usually do. That’s how they've won four of the last eight Libertadores Cups.And there’s more. If you’re playing Boca, it’s not a good thing to be Brazilian. Their record against samba teams in Copa Libertadores playoffs is unbelievable. 13 matches, 12 wins. The only loss? Against Pelé’s Santos... in the 1960s. Given the Argentina national team's poor record against the Seleção, why haven’t they considered handing over the Albiceleste shirts only to Boca players? It's a good for us Brazilians that their directors are not that bright!
Nevertheless, the excitement in Rio de Janeiro for the second semi-final is in the air. Fluminense played this weekend in the National Championship, putting out a reserve side who lost 1-0 to Flamengo. Coach Renato Gaúcho said the defeat didn’t matter because they are within touching distance of winning the Libertadores. More than 70,000 tickets have been sold for the clash at the Maracanã. It’s going to be a beautiful party. Unless...
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