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Libertadores 2023 Final: Boca Juniors vs Fluminense

The Copa Libertadores unquestionably represents the pinnacle of football in South America. The battle for ‘Eternal Glory’ this year sees Argentine giants Boca Juniors face Brazilian side Fluminense in the final at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Boca have a proud history in the competition having won it six times, but Los Xeneizes haven’t raised the trophy aloft since 2007 when they overcame Gremio.

Fluminense, meanwhile, are preparing to appear in just their second final and are searching for a maiden title having lost to Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito in 2008.

Not only will the winners get their hands on the prestigious trophy, they will also earn the right to play in the 2024 Recopa Sudamericana and gain a place in the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup.

Since the start of the calendar year, 32 of the best clubs in South America have been vying to be crowned king of the continent, and now it all comes down to this.

Where is the Libertadores 2023 Final?

The iconic Maracanã Stadium – which is also Fluminense’s home ground – will host this year’s final.

The venue in Rio de Janeiro is regarded as sacred ground, playing host to some of the great moments in the history of the sport.

Now with a seating capacity of over 78,000 spectators, the stadium was the stage for the 1950 World Cup when Uruguay stunned Brazil in the final in front of almost 200,000 fans. It also hosted the 2014 World Cup final when Germany lifted the cup after victory over Argentina.

Maracanã Stadium has seen some of the all-time greats step onto the pitch; on November 4, Boca and Fluminense players will strive to leave their mark in history.

 Road to Glory Overview

Having negotiated their way through 12 games, it has been a long and arduous journey to the final of the Copa Libertadores for both clubs.

Bizarrely, Boca haven’t won any of their matches in normal time since the last-16, progressing through to the showpiece final by virtue of a penalty shootout in the last three rounds.

Fluminense, meanwhile, have been involved in many high-scoring, thrilling matches throughout their journey to the grand finale.

Boca Juniors’ Journey to the Final

Following a goalless draw with Ecuadorian side Monagas in their opening Group F match, a dramatic 2-1 win over Colombia’s Deportivo Pereira would set the tone for what would be a breathtaking, nail-biting journey to the final. 

Trailing to Jimer Fory’s goal, Boca turned the game around with two goals at the death. Luis Advíncula’s 89th-minute strike levelled the scores before the visitors had Maicol Medina sent off. In the ninth minute of stoppage-time, Alan Varela won it for Boca for Jorge Almirón first win as manager.

A comfortable 2-0 away victory over the 10-men of Colo-Colo from Chile put Boca in control of the group but their unbeaten streak in the competition was ended with a 1-0 loss to Deportivo Pereira.

The Argentine giants got back on track with a 1-0 triumph over Colo-Colo, and they wrapped up the group stage with a 4-0 win over Monagos in a game where both teams had a player sent off. 

In the last-16, they faced Uruguayan side Nacional. A goalless away draw was followed by a 2-2 draw and they would eventually progress after a 4-2 penalty shootout victory.

It was a sign of things to come as back-to-back goalless draws with compatriots Racing Club in the quarter-final forced another shootout. Again, they held their nerve to emerge 4-1 winners on penalties.

Remarkably, Boca’s fate in the semi-final was decided on penalties as well. The first leg with Brazilian giants Palmeiras ended in a goalless draw and the second leg ended 1-1. 

Sergio Romero proved the hero once again, with the goalkeeper saving two spot-kicks. Across the knockout stages, the 36-year-old has saved six of the 11 penalties he has faced.

• Monagos 0-0 Boca Juniors – Group stage

• Boca Juniors 2-1 Deportivo Pereira – Group stage

• Colo-Colo 0-2 Boca Juniors – Group stage

• Deportivo Pereira 1-0 Boca Juniors – Group stage

• Boca Juniors 1-0 Colo-Colo – Group stage

• Boca Juniors 4-0 Monagos – Group stage

• Nacional 0-0 Boca Juniors – First leg, round of 16

• Boca Juniors 2-2 Nacional (4-2 win on penalties) – Second leg, round of 16

• Boca Juniors 0-0 Racing Club – First leg, quarter-final

• Racing Club 0-0 Boca Juniors (4-1 win on penalties) – Second leg, quarter-final  

• Boca Juniors 0-0 Palmeiras – First leg, semi-final

• Palmeiras 1-1 Boca Juniors (4-2 win on penalties) – Second leg, semi-final

Fluminense’s Journey to the Final

Germán Cano was instrumental as Fluminense topped Group D, but having failed to win any of their final three games in the pool, it was far from plain sailing for the Brazilian side.

Cano registered a brace in the opening group game in a 3-1 win over Peruvian side Sporting Cristal. Nino scored the game’s only goal as Fluminense overcame Bolivian side The Strongest 1-0. Then came a famous 5-1 victory over Argentine giants River Plate where Canos scored a hat-trick and Jhon Arias netted a brace.

Despite their perfect start, Fluminense were made to sweat over their place in the knockout stages as they leaned on their superior goal difference to top the group ahead of River Plate. A 1-0 loss to The Strongest was followed by a 2-0 defeat to River Plate, and they required a 1-1 home draw against Sporting Cristal to remain at the summit.

In the last-16, Fluminense were pitted against Argentinos Juniors and after two dramatic games in which three red cards were shown, Fernando Diniz’s side prevailed 3-1 on aggregate. 

Cano was influential in the quarter-final with three goals in a 5-1 aggregate win over Paraguayan club Olimpia, and he scored twice more in a 2-2 first leg draw with Brazilian rivals Internacional in the semi-final. With the second leg locked at 1-1 and seemingly destined for extra-time, Cano inevitably popped up with an 87th-minute winner to seal Fluminense’s place in the final.

• Sporting Cristal 1-3 Fluminense – Group stage

• Fluminense 1-0 The Strongest – Group stage

• Fluminense 5-1 River Plate – Group stage

• The Strongest 1-0 Fluminense – Group stage

• River Plate 2-0 Fluminense – Group stage

• Fluminense 1-1 Sporting Cristal – Group stage

• Argentinos Juniors 1-1 Fluminense – First leg, round of 16

• Fluminense 2-0 Argentinos Juniors – Second leg, round of 16

• Fluminense 2-0 Olimpia – First leg, quarter-final

• Olimpia 1-3 Fluminense – Second leg, quarter-final

• Fluminense 2-2 Internacional – First leg, semi-final

• Internacional 1-2 Fluminense – Second leg, semi-final

Strategic Brilliance: Unveiling Boca Juniors’ and Fluminense’s Playbook

Keeping possession is not a problem for Boca; in fact, their whole system is based around passing the ball. However, goals have been an issue under Jorge Almirón with their struggles of creating chances proving costly in the Primera Division as they slumped to a seventh-place finish in the first phase of their league campaign.

If they are to find a way through Fluminense’s rearguard, they will rely heavily on on-loan striker Miguel Merentiel, who is the club’s top scorer this season with 12 goals.

Should they fail to trouble their opponents in an offensive sense, Boca will be confident in their defence having kept a remarkable eight clean sheets in their 12 Copa Libertadores games so far. 

While on occasion they have proved rather toothless in attack, Boca have already demonstrated their ability to hold their nerve when pressure is at its highest. Having prevailed in three penalty shootouts, their players can clearly keep their composure while veteran goalkeeper Sergio Romero is an excellent man to have between the sticks.

Meanwhile, Fluminense’s outlandish tactics have grabbed headlines across the world. 

Under Fernando Diniz, who is also the interim head coach of Brazil, the team have adopted what has been described as an “anti-positional” style. The dynamic system enables his players to interchange positions on the pitch.

Diniz believes his teams should be dominant in possession, which will create an interesting sub-plot against the ball-hungry Boca, but he also encourages his creative and skilful players to run with the ball when the opportunity allows.

The result is that Fluminense creates an abundance of chances and it quite often leads to high-scoring games, with Germán Cano the focal point of their team. Having scored a stunning 22 goals in their 12 Copa Libertadores games so far, even the best defensive performance from Boca may struggle to contain Cano and Co.

Key Players to Watch: Tactical Influencers in the Final

Boca base their success on a solid platform, and no one epitomises their robustness more than defensive midfielder Alan Varela. The 22-year-old’s ability to read play perfectly complements his close control and vision, and his standout performances have reportedly attracted the attention of Spanish giants Barcelona.

Varela does a fine job of protecting his goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who has proved invaluable throughout the campaign. The 36-year-old has saved six of the 11 penalties he has faced in the competition, and thanks to his presence Boca will have the psychological edge if the game must be decided on another shootout.

Fluminense boast the tournament’s most prolific striker in Germán Cano. The veteran has helped guide his side to the final with an eye watering 12 goals in just 11 games, and his team-mates will look to the 35-year-old to provide the all-important moments in front of goal against Boca.

But Cano is far from Fluminense’s only threat. Rising star John Kennedy has popped up with some important goals this season and the 21-year-old also has the potential to be a match-winner.

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