Thu, Jun 21, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Boca, Corinthians in pole position to make the final

AP, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

Brazilian champions SC Corinthians Paulista and CA Boca Juniors of Argentina are in pole position to reach the final of the Copa Libertadores, Latin America’s top club competition.

Boca Juniors will face Club Universidad de Chile today after a 2-0 home win in the first leg of the semi-finals last week, while Corinthians will take a 1-0 advantage into the home leg against host Brazilian rivals and defending champions Santos.

Six-time champions Boca will be trying to reach their 10th final, while Corinthians will be looking to play for the title for the first time.

Boca have not lost an away match in this year’s tournament, winning twice and drawing once on the road in the group stage. They then defeated Club Union Espanola SADP 3-1 in the round of 16 and drew 1-1 at Fluminense in the quarter-finals.

The only match Boca Juniors have lost in this year’s Copa Libertadores was a 2-1 defeat to Fluminense at home in the group stage.

Universidad de Chile have won four of their five matches at home so far, two of which were by more than two goals — 5-1 against CD Godoy Cruz Antonio Tomba in the group stage and 6-0 over SD Quito in the round of 16. Universidad de Chile’s only draw at home was against Club Libertad in the quarter-finals, but they still advanced on penalties.

Universidad de Chile have never won the Copa Libertadores and are trying to reach the final for the first time. CSD Colo-Colo are the only Chilean club to have won the competition, in 1991 in a final against Paraguay’s Club Olimpia.

Boca have won four of their six titles in the past 12 years, but haven’t lifted the trophy since 2007. They also won the competition in 2003, 2001 and 2000.

Corinthians, seeking their first Copa Libertadores title, haven’t lost a match at home or away this year.

With a stellar defensive setup, Corinthians have allowed only one goal so far, none at home. When playing at Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo, which was to stage yesterday’s match against Santos, Corinthians have outscored their opponents 13-0. They have a 7-4 overall record.

“This isn’t happening only because of our defenders, the entire team is helping out. It makes it easier for us to do our job,” defender Leandro Castan told Brazilian media. “The whole team has to be praised.”

Corinthians are a popular club in Brazil, but have never had much success internationally. They won the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, when they were invited as the host team.

Coach Tite has been resting some of their regular starters in the Brazilian league and the team are last in the 20-team standings after losing four of their first five matches.

Santos, looking for their fourth Copa Libertadores title, were outplayed during most of the first leg against Corinthians at home. Neymar was ineffective, as was the rest of the team, even after Corinthians striker Emerson was sent off near the end of the match.

Santos have won only one of their five away matches so far in this year’s Copa Libertadores —3-1 against Juan Aurich of Peru in the group stage.

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