Independiente v Peñarol
The stories about the good old days when men were men, phones were stuck to walls and Madonna was in charge of Argentina will be flying when Independiente host Penarol in the Copa Libertadores. The game brings together two of the most successful sides in the history of the competition and for no other reason than to provide a non-sporting reference point, it’s like Ireland taking on Luxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest. Neither country has managed it in a long while, but such was the their remarkable success in the early days, they are constantly recalled as one of the giants.
Independiente lead the way with 7 continental titles whilst Penoral can lay claim to being both one of the most successful and also least successful teams in the tournament’s history. They’ve won it on 5 separate occasions, placing them third on the all time list but they’ve also contrived to lose 4 finals – putting them at the very top of the ‘close but no cigar’ table. The last triumph for either team came way back in 1987 which means we’ve had one whole Lil Bow Wow since either of them got their hands on la Copa.
The Argentine club owe their creation to a bizarre source. Back in the day, a group of employees of a Buenos Aires department store decided to form a football club. And yes, right now it is only natural to try and remember if this was this was the plot of an episode of Are You Being Served? It was a worthwhile endeavour, but there was one hitch – they wouldn’t allow the younger members of staff take part. Since happy-slapping and being disrespectful to your elders hadn’t been invented yet, they channelled their energies into more useful avenues and set up a club ‘independent’ of the original club. Independiente went on to become one of the biggest clubs in South American football whilst the greatest triumph the department store all-stars had was a very successful January sale in 1958. For the last decade however, the club’s best chance of silverware has mainly been going to a department store, but they did buck the trend to claim South America’s version of the unloved Europa League, the Copa Sudamericana last year.
“I’ll never understand the need for two holding midfielders”
Kind of like football’s equivalent of Bon Jovi, the 80s and 90s were periods of great success for Penarol, but successes have been more occasional in the new millennium. They’ve still managed the odd Livin On A Prayer here and there, but for a club with 47 league titles, it’s been slim pickings for most of the last decade. However the club won the 2010 Uruguayan Clausura title with a carefree romp in which they dropped just 2 points out of a possible 45 and went on to claim the overall title by beating Apertura winners, Nacional in a play-off. All in all it means that although they haven’t had success on the continental stages for many a year, they still go into this edition with expectations of winning.
To add a bit of spice, this is about as local as international club competition can be. Geography fans will no doubt be aware that Buenos Aires and Montevideo sit on opposite sides of the River Plate estuary. Although they’re in different countries, the capital cities are a virtual stone’s throw away from each other. Well, a stone’s throw is a little exaggeration, but certainly they’re well within range of scud missiles should either side take a sudden dislike to the other. But rest assured, spending the club’s money on armament as opposed to let’s say youth development would be controversial, even in South America.
No, the fighting is likely to be confined to the pitch as both sides kick off their Copa Libertadores campaign. Its early days, but both of these giants are just about big enough and egotistical enough to already have one eye on the final.
The meeting of South American giants Independiente and Peñarol takes place at 10.15pm tonight and you can watch live streaming of it (for free!) on paddypower.com. All you need is a PaddyPower.com account and the will to live after a night of Europa League action.