The Libertadores Cup very almost got here to an early finish for one of many pre-tournament favourites.
Reigning champions of Argentina – and really near retaining their home title – Boca Juniors would have been knocked out on the group stage had they misplaced away to Junior of Colombia final Wednesday.
It appeared like a tricky recreation. Junior are a facet with appreciable virtues. Boca needed to make an extended journey as much as Barranquilla close to Colombia’s Caribbean coast. And the match was performed in fierce late afternoon warmth – very totally different situations from Boca’s earlier recreation, a league conflict away to Gimnasia which was halted because of extreme Autumn rain.
Boca went a objective down – and wanted an personal objective to attract stage. The purpose retains them alive within the Libertadores. However going into the ultimate spherical of group video games, they aren’t masters of their very own destiny. Successful at house to Peru’s Alianza Lima ought to be easy sufficient. Nevertheless it is not going to be ample if Junior win away to Palmeiras of Brazil, who’ve already booked their place within the knock out part and may be inclined to take their foot off the pedal.
Boca are anxiously wanting over their shoulder after chalking up only one win and scoring solely three targets from 5 group video games. It’s an very disappointing return – particularly taking into account the hopes engendered by the return in the beginning of the yr of the prodigal hero, Carlos Tevez, for his third spell with the membership.
It may effectively be, although that Tevez is a part of the issue.
South American membership soccer has grown sadly accustomed to saying farewell to its greatest gamers at an ever youthful age. There’s a demise of real idols. So when a star title comes again, it’s a massive deal. He could also be effectively previous his greatest. However for the followers, he’s one among their very own, coming house sprinkled with international star mud. This provides him actual energy.
Within the case of Tevez, that is amplified nonetheless additional by the context; he’s greater than only a participant. Along with his “born on the flawed facet of the tracks” background, and a bodily construct and private biography that bears comparability with the nice Diego Maradona, Tevez is a residing image of what Boca Juniors are supposed to face for.
And so Tevez is given privileged standing. However it isn’t clear that he’s nonetheless worthy of the privileges he receives. Actually, the workforce functioned higher final yr, earlier than the harm suffered by centre ahead Dario Benedetto. Tevez was by no means gifted with specific velocity. However at 34 he not seems fast sufficient to shine constantly at centre-forward. And when he wanders deeper he can tread on the toes of the workforce’s Colombian playmaker Edwin Cardona.
On Sunday Boca coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto substituted Tevez – the primary time it has occurred to him on this present spell – with half an hour of the house recreation towards Union Santa Fe nonetheless to go. The sport was goalless on the time. Boca went on to win 2-Zero to maneuver inside some extent of the league title – and proved to themselves that there isn’t a must rely on their idol. The hyperlink up of winger Cristian Pavon and Ramon Abila – a real centre ahead – provides them different choices.
Schelotto will hope to have time to come across the correct mix within the Libertadores. Assuming they make it out of the group they are going to have some two and a half months to plan for a knock out part, which doesn’t kick off till August.
Earlier than that, after all, they need to depend on Palmeiras not being overwhelmed by Junior. For Boca’s sake, it’s simply as effectively that Junior have idol issues of their very own. Within the case of the Colombians, the returning hero is striker Teo Gutierrez, who made his title with Junior a decade in the past and moved again to the Barranquilla membership final yr. His expertise has all the time come along with controversy. He turns 33 subsequent week and is displaying indicators of decline. His standing makes him arduous to drop, however his presence can unbalance the facet, who can look prime heavy and lack fluidity once they play with two strikers in addition to a pair of broad attacking midfielders.
He did rating an early objective on Sunday that helped guarantee Junior’s qualification for the play off levels of the Colombian championship. Within the Libertadores, although, he has not discovered the goal in 5 group video games.
Certainly, in Wednesday’s disappointing 1-1 draw between Junior and Boca, it was potential to return to the conclusion that each side had been affected by an analogous syndrome – that of giving extreme significance to a returning hero.