Boca Juniors Podcast Libertadores Analysis
Artwork by @chapulana

La Boca awoke on 23 September quite different than any other day of the year. La Bombonera was hosting the Superclasico once again. The day began with the smell of classic Argentine barbecues, beer, and chants prior to the game. Some fans were also scrambling last minute to get their hands on a ticket to be part of a once in a lifetime experience. Some were fortunate, most were not.

As soon as the referee gave the go to initiate the match, it started to go downhill for Boca. River started off the match pressing up high and nullifying any receptor Boca had. Carlos Izquierdoz and Lisandro Magallan had no option but to punt the ball in hopes of Benedetto and Pavon possessing it, which nearly failed every time. Boca’s midfield was basically suffocated by River’s high tempo which caused Pavon to lose the ball in midfield and initiate a counter attack for River’s first of the night. The 1st half was one of the worst performances from Boca this season. Even Wilmar Barrios who always plays well was having a night to forget. Boca didn’t have a player in midfield with the characteristics of pausing and create scoring chances. Carlos Tevez was the player designated to take on that role and he was nearly swallowed by River’s midfield. Both Mauro Zarate, and Edwin Cardona (both more than capable of playing in that role) were on the bench.

The 2nd half started out much more promising for Boca. River’s tempo wasn’t as intense as in the 1st half due to it having a high burnout rate and Boca were looking better. The passing was sharper, and movement from players like Cardona (came on as Leandro Jara exited the match injured) and Nandez (who took on the RB role after Leandro Jara exited the match) was beginning to take an effect on the match. But after twenty minutes of dominating the game and nearly levelling the game, river found themselves up 2-0 after a mix-up with the defense and a wonderfully struck ball by Ignacio Scocco. In addition, throughout the match River did a great job of projecting their LB and RB forward. Boca could not find a way to tame Gonzalo Montiel and Milton Casco respectively. Soon after River’s 2nd, Boca seemed to have given up despite almost scoring in stoppage time from two headers from Carlos Izquierdoz and Emmanuel Mas.

In my many years of following Boca, I have never seen this many consecutive Superclasico’s played nearly identical. As of the last 5 years or so, the first team to strike first ends up winning the match. Marcelo Gallardo (River’s coach) has planned out these matches the very same way. Intense pressure and nullifying any receptor in midfield. Combine those tactics with Boca not being able to overcome adversity being down 1-0 and it will almost always result in a victory for Gallardo’s River.

As a Boca fanatic, its worrying that Guillermo Schelotto keeps losing out to Gallardo’s tactics the very same way and still hasn’t found a way to outsmart Gallardo’s game plan. What’s almost certain, as if nothing out of the ordinary occurs, Boca Juniors will once again meet with River Plate in the semifinals of the Copa Argentina. Once again Schelotto will have the task of lining up a starting eleven that will counteract the tactics of Gallardo, and allow Boca Juniors to take home a victory that will once and for all allow Schelotto to pass this exam that’s been such a difficult task for him.