The happy memories stop here for the Brazilians, for the trophy lifted in the following tournament was the last. Peñarol at least can boast five South American titles, even though the Uruguayans have never got close to the last four since winning the Libertadores in 1987. Local rivals National’s conquest in 1988, as a matter of fact, was the last by a club from a nation that historically punched above its weight by winning two World Cups, including the 1950 tournament, played in Brazil.
But not only the pastmakes this final interesting. Peñarol and Santos will also bring to the table a clash of philosophies. The Uruguayans play with the typical fighting spirit (‘’garra’’) that many a time proves to be as efficient as having tricksters on the pitch. Santos, on the other hand, has experienced a media and public hype thanks to the appearance of midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso and, above all, striker Neymar.
For the Uruguayans, there is a lucky charm: Diego Aguirre, who scored the winner in the 1987 decider against America de Cali, manages the team. On the pitch, however, they will have to sort out a back four that has conceded more goals than any of the 32 teams that started the tournament (17, five more than Santos). Upfront, however, they rely on striker Juan Oliveira’s nose for goals – so far he has netted five, the same number registered by Neymar.
Tough one to call. Especially in the Libertadores, where heart counts.