Tevez inspired Boca Juniors to the Copa Libertadores title last year
The explosion of teenage talent made 2003 a vintage year for the Copa
Libertadores, South America's Champions League.
In the course of the competition Santos playmaker Diego consolidated his
And Boca Juniors' stocky striker Carlos Tevez inspired his side
as they won the title in magnificent style, winning their last seven
No one of similar quality has come through in the current campaign.
Although there has been plenty of high drama, this has not been such a good
year for the competition.
Instead of exciting young stars, the focus this
year has been on resilient, organised sides who play within their
It helps explain how Boca have been able to make it through to yet another
They have badly lacked the attacking rhythm of last year's side.
Tevez is now a marked man, and finds life much more difficult without the
pace and strength of Marcelo Delgado to open up space in the final third of
Delgado was sold to Cruz Azul of Mexico after last year's win.
Some of the veterans in the Boca team have also slipped below the standards
they set last year.
Centre-back Schiavi is not as dominant in the air. And
striker Schelotto seems a full yard slower.
Boca's opponents in the final are Once Caldas of Colombia.
They too have
based their game on keeping a clean sheet - especially since they sold their
long time marksman Sergio Galvan to the United States' Major League Soccer
during the course of the campaign.
Schelotto is off the pace
Their strategy has been simple; grind out a draw away, and nick a win at
home, their chances boosted by the mild altitude of their home city of
As luck would have it, the Colombians are once more away from home in this
week's first leg.
But it would be no surprise if coach Luis Fernando
Montoya is considering a slight change of strategy.
Playing safe has taken
Once Caldas to the final - but to win the title they may have to be a bit
That is because Boca have three important players suspended for Wednesday's
match - the cost of their hard-fought penalty shoot-out victory over local
rivals River Plate.
Cascini, the veteran in the holding role, picked up a two-game suspension
after being ordered off in the stormy first leg against River.
And two more
players are out for one match after picking up red cards in the dramatic
return game - Fabian Vargas, Boca's most dynamic midfielder and Tevez, who was sent off for celebrating his late goal by taking his shirt
off and imitating a chicken.
All three will be back for the second leg. So what will Once Caldas do?
Will they change their game-plan to take advantage of Boca's weakness, or
stick to the approach that has worked for them so far?
It is a big decision, and one that could decide the destiny of South
America's premier club title.