Monday, July 22, 2024

SPORTS | 25-05-2022 21:34

Season ends in familiar fashion as Boca see off Tigre to take title

This year’s league campaign is over and another will soon be upon us. But first there’s the matter of the 'Finalissima' clash between Argentina and Italy.

Just like that, the Copa de la Liga Profesional came to a close, and it did so in familiar fashion: with thousands of Boca Juniors fans in Córdoba and at Buenos Aires' famous Obelisk landmark celebrating victory. 

Three of the previous last five league campaigns have finished in Xeneize hands, as well as the 2020 Copa Maradona and last year's Copa Argentina, and Sunday's victory over Tigre takes their total historical trophy tally up to a formidable 72 – though it appears, after some confusion, that this one will ultimately not go down as another league triumph, as despite talk of converting the competition, the necessary adjustments to the regulations were never made in order to make that conversion official.

Over the past year Boca have made efficiency, even in lean times, their great virtue. They were thus, as mentioned in last week's column, able to take down River in the Copa Argentina on penalties without recording a single shot on target and repeated that same feat in this year's semis at the expense of Racing, not to mention getting the better of the Millonario in the Superclásico earlier this year by virtue of a single effort on goal.

In the Estadio Mario Kempes, however, Sebastián Battaglia's charges pulled out all the stops to put on a show for the travelling support and breezed past Tigre 3-0, making them worthy champions at the end, if not for much of the season. The good news for fans of all clubs is that they will not have to wait long for the chance to knock the new champions off their perch: Thursday marked the draw of the upcoming Liga Profesional, which kicks off next weekend and will keep us all occupied right up to the point where World Cup fever sets in towards the end of October.


Champions v champions

But it gets even better. The week that separates the end of one tournament and the start of another includes a gem of a match at London's Wembley Stadium, with Argentina's Scaloneta travelling to meet Italy in a June 1 meeting between the champions of Europe and South America. The build-up to the clash has been rather subdued with most heads firmly turned towards the club game, but it did treat us to a most unusual scene. Marcos Senesi, Feyenoord's highly rated former San Lorenzo defender, was called up for the Finalissima not just by Argentina but also their opponents, finally opting to play for his nation of birth.

“The Italy [call] was real,” Senesi, who holds an Italian passport, confirmed to Olé prior to Feyenoord's UEFA Conference League final defeat to Roma on Wednesday, I was in contact with [Italy coach] Roberto Mancini who told me about his project; also with Argentina's coaching team and I told them how much I wanted to play for my country. The decision is as clear as day.”

That entertaining sub-plot aside, and amid the usual fervour to see Lionel Messi and his comrades in action – in Spain, Athletic were selling tickets to Argentina's open training session in Lezama at a meaty 12 euros a head – the Albiceleste face a rare challenge at Wembley. As a result of the pandemic and changes to UEFA's fixture structures one must go back to October 2019 to find the last time the national team took on one of its European counterparts, a 2-2 friendly draw against Germany.

Whether or not you agree with France ace Kylian Mbappé – who claimed this week that Brazil and Argentina are at a disadvantage for the World Cup due to facing inferior opposition to their rivals across the Atlantic – there is no doubt that Scaloni's men have everything to gain from the upcoming clash. 

Italy, the reigning European champions, may have missed out on Qatar but they remain a first-rate side and thus a perfect gauge of where the team is right now compared to the sides they may be facing in the latter stages of the finals at the end of the year. In any case, Mbappé's comments might just give that added dose of extra motivation, if any were necessary, should Argentina lock horns with France in six months' time, with the World Cup on the line.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards


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