Copa Libertadores. The same formula as ever: 5 groups of 4 teams each at first and their winners going to the second round, where they were joined by the current holder of cup – River Plate, on this occasion. The draw was ‘right’ – stronger countries were paired with weak ones this time and nothing exceptional was expected. But it did – first of all, a great Brazilian fiasco. That was the real sensation. The other big event was unusually strong run of Venezuelan team – Union Atletico Tachira did not qualified, but came close to it and caused big sensation beating Independiente (Avellaneda) 3-2. A home win, but still absolutely unexpected, a victory which even the winners did now dream of. And it came from a goal scored by their Uruguayan goalkeeper Daniel Francovig. A spectacular goal-to-goal kick and the ball ended in the Argentine net, which was instantly televised and covered in the press everywhere, thus practically putting Venezuelan football on the map.
Francovig said that the goal was absolutely accidental – he just wanted to kick the ball as far away as possible so the give his team a little break from Argentina pressure, and even did not think that the goal will be allowed. But that goal eventually brought him a contract with good pay in Argentina. Tachira ended 3rd in the group at the end.
1. Independiente (Argentina) 4 1 1 13-4 9
2. Rosario Central (Argentina) 3 2 1 12-7 8
3. UA Tachira (Venezuela) 3 1 2 11-12 7
4. Estudiantes Merida (Venezuela) 0 0 4 4-17 0
1. America (Colombia) 3 2 1 13-5 8
2. Deportivo Cali (Colombia) 4 0 2 13-5 8
3. The Strongest (Bolivia) 2 1 3 7-16 5
4. Oriente Petrolero (Bolivia) 1 1 4 7-14 3
Since America and Deportivo finished with equal records, a play-off was scheduled – it ended 0-0 and America won the penalty shoot-out 4-2 to clinch first place.
1. Cobreloa (Chile) 3 2 1 8-4 8
2. Colo Colo (Chile) 2 3 1 6-4 7
3. Guarani (Brazil) 1 3 2 6-8 5
4. Sao Paulo (Brazil) 1 2 3 9-13 4
1. Barcelona (Ecuador) 4 0 2 8-7 8
2. Olimpia (Paraguay) 3 1 2 9-10 7
3. El Nacional (Ecuador) 3 0 3 12-7 6
4. Sol de America (Paraguay) 1 1 4 7-12 3
1. Penarol (Uruguay) 4 2 0 10-4 10
2. Alianza Lima (Peru) 2 2 2 4-4 6
3. Progreso (Uruguay) 1 3 2 7-7 5
4. Colegio San Agustin (Peru) 1 1 4 5-11 3
Semifinal stage – the 5 winners from the opening stage plus River Plate, as current Copa Libertadores holders.
1. America (Colombia) 2 2 0 9-3 6
2. Cobreloa (Chile) 2 2 0 8-3 6
3. Barcelona (Ecuador) 0 0 4 0-11 0
1. Penarol (Uruguay) 4 1 1 11-3 7
2. River Plate (Argentina) 1 2 1 2-2 4
3. Independiente (Argentina) 1 1 2 4-8 3
So, the two-leg final was going to be between Penarol (Montevideo) and America (Cali). The stakes were high, of course. Penarol was going to play its 8th final – 3 times they won Libertadores, but the last victory was 20 years ago, in 1966. America never won the continental cup, coming to its 3rd consecutive final – not a small achievement, but it was high time to win the cup at last. The team was strong and that was arguably the most successful period in the history of the club – America depended on top-class players: the Argentine Ricardo Gareca and the Paraguayan Roberto Cabanas. Julio Uribe (Peru) was also in the team, but he failed to shine. There were three more foreigners – Julio Falcioni and Juan Battaglia (Argentina) and Sergio Santin (Uruguay), plus a plethora of Colombian stars – Willington Ortiz, Victor Luna, Gerardo Aquino, and others. Gabriel Ochoa Uribe coached the team – much loved and respected coach, who was great motivator and players loved playing for him. Penarol had no imports, but featured 5 men who won Copa America this year. Not all were regulars in the national team, but still winners – Eduardo Pereira, Obdulio Trasante, Jose Perdomo, Eduardo da Silva, and Gustavo Matosas. They were coached by one Oscar Washington Tabarez, still in his early years of his career and coaching Penarol for the first time too. He was noticed largely by his work with youth teams so far, a coach with big potential at least.
Both teams had big ambitions, much to prove and were ready to fight to the end, so no surprise that the South American tradition was honoured: two leags were not enough. America won 2-0 at home, Penarol won 2-1 in Montevideo. The third match was scheduled in Santiago de Chile and regular time ended scoreless – 0-0. And it looked like the extra time will not break the tie either – in the last minute the result was still 0-0.
Then Aguirre kicked the ball and it ended in the America’s net.
Penarol burst with joy
And America was devastated.
Instant hero – later Aguirre said that he tried the last chance, for he saw the clock before kicking the ball. A magical moment, which changed his life – thanks to this goal, he had a very good career, he said, and fans remember it to this very day – although he scored goals for Penarol, including one in the second leg of the final, this was became eternal. Of course it was – victory was achieved 2 seconds before the time run out! Aguirre was also sorry for America, the way they suffered the loss, the sheer devastating injustice to lose a third final.
1st Leg. Pascual Guerrero, Cali, 21-10-1987
América – Peñarol 2-0 8′ Battaglia 1-0 20′ Cabañas 2-0
América: Falcioni, H. Valencia, V. Espinosa, Aponte, Porras, Luna, Santín, R. Cabañas, H.D. Herrera (A. Escobar), Gareca (O. Maturana), Battaglia.
Peñarol: E. Pereira, J. Herrera, Rotti, Trasante, A. Domínguez (Villar), J. Perdomo, G. Matosas (E. Da Silva), D. Vidal, R. Viera, J. Cabrera, D. Aguirre.
Referee: Wright (Brazil) Attendance: 65,000
2nd Leg. Centenario, Montevideo, 28-10-1987
Peñarol – América 2-1 19′ Cabañas 0-1 68′ Aguirre 1-1 87′ Villar 2-1
Peñarol: E. Pereira, J. Herrera, Rotti (J. Gonçálvez), Trasante, A. Domínguez, J. Perdomo, E. Da Silva, D. Vidal, R. Viera, J. Cabrera (Villar), D. Aguirre.
América: Falcioni, H. Valencia, V. Espinosa, Aponte, Porras, Luna, Santín, R. Cabañas, W. Ortiz (H.D. Herrera), Gareca, Battaglia.
Referee: Calabria (Argentina) Attendance: 60,000
Playoff. Estadio Nacional, Santiago (Chile), 31-10-1987
Peñarol – América 1-0 aet 120′ Aguirre 1-0
Peñarol: E. Pereira, J. Herrera, Rotti, Trasante, A. Domínguez, J. Perdomo (J. Gonçálvez), E. Da Silva, D. Vidal (Villar), R. Viera, J. Cabrera, D. Aguirre.
América: Falcioni, H. Valencia, V. Espinosa, Aponte, Ampudia, Luna, Santín, R. Cabañas, W. Ortiz, Gareca (Esterilla), Battaglia.
Referee: Silva (Chile) Attendance: 25,000
But Penarol got Copa Libertadores and happiness was endless.
The winner can be only one and after 20 years of waiting Penarol won their 4th Copa Libertdares – thanks to hero Aguirre.
America (Cali) was most unfortunate, losing third consecutive final. Standing from left: J. Ampudia, A. Aponte, V. Luna, J. Falcioni, S. Santín, V. Espinoza.
Crouching: W. Ortiz, R. Cabañas, R. Gareca, J. Battaglia.
Surely unlucky, losing in the last minute of overtime, but if one looks back – perhaps it was not that much bad luck, but something little missing. They lost minimally the previous year and in 1985 again lost the third match. Always losing by little, by only a goal, but losing. In fact, the biggest victory in the 8 finals games they played was theirs – 2-0 vs Penarol – and it was not enough, they still failed to win the Cup. Great team, great coach, but most likely it was the general state of Colombian football preventing them to succeed: it was ascending, but still developing, not first class yet, and that was the little something missing. They were close to the top, but not there yet. Still, too bad America was on the losing end.
Lucky winners and a look at the squad makes one questioning the class of the team – not particularly famous players. Even their national teams players – they won Copa America this year, but almost all of them were recently included in the team. Their captain Eduardo Periera had long career already, playing in Spain and other countries, but he was just made national team starter. Penarol, however, had something very rare for South American successful team – the squad was very young, the average age was 22. Not great old stars, but bright young talent, coached by the perfect man for such team:
Oscar Washington Tabarez, in yellow jersey on the right, was just hired to coach Penarol (as it turned out, only for this one season) and it was the perfect choice. Tabarez was already known for his work with yougsters – Penarol was such young team, players and coach were just right for each other. As a coach, he was still young and trying to make a name for himself – again, both players and coach shared motivation for success. This was the first trophy Tabarez won. His methods and ideas apparently worked – and for that he was hired again to coach the Under-20 national team of Uruguay, where he developed his great youth program, which produced a string of stars in the next 30 years. But nobody knew at the time that thanks to Tabarez players like Forlan and Cavani will pop up – at the moment it was perfect match of young team and young coach, which produced may be not very spectacular results, but success. Enough said: Penarol won Copa Libertadores after 20 years of painful waiting.