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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Boca Juniors and River Plate to contest Copa Libertadores final with winner UAE-bound for Fifa Club World Cup

Argentina's two great rivals set up the historic tie after both defeated Brazilian opponents in the semi-finals

Boca Juniors player Dario Benedetto celebrates after reaching the Copa Libertadores final. EPA
Boca Juniors player Dario Benedetto celebrates after reaching the Copa Libertadores final. EPA

Argentina heavyweights Boca Juniors and River Plate will meet in the Copa Libertadores final for the first time in history, with the winner booking a place at next month’s Fifa Club World Cup in the UAE.

The clash between the arch rivals, typically billed the “Superclasico”, was confirmed early Thursday morning, when Boca drew 2-2 with Brazil’s Palmeiras to win their semi-final 4-2 on aggregate.

River had booked their place in the final 24 hours earlier by defeating defending champions Gremio on the away-goals rule. They triumphed 2-1 in the second leg in Brazil after losing the initial encounter 1-0.

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Both legs of the final, scheduled initially for November 7 and 28, will be played in Buenos Aires. The winner will not only seal South America’s premier club trophy, but with it secure a spot in the Club World Cup, taking place in the UAE for the second successive year, from December 12-22. Defending champions Real Madrid return, while the UAE will be represented by domestic champions Al Ain.

Speaking after the semi-final victory against Palmeiras, Boca striker Ramon Abila said: "Now it is 50-50 chance of winning the trophy. There is no favourite. This will be a Superclasico like no other."

Abila opened the scoring against Palmeiras in the 18th minute with a straightforward finish past goalkeeper Weverton, meaning the Brazilians needed to win by three goals to qualify.

Palmeiras, managed by Luiz Felipe Scolari, levelled matters seven minutes into the second half, when Luan smashed home the ball, and looked set to pull off a remarkable turnaround eight minutes later once Gustavo Gomes converted a penalty.

However, Boca substitute Dario Benedetto, who scored both his side’s goals at La Bombonera in the first leg last week, found the net again with 20 minutes remaining.

After the match World Cup winner Scolari said: "I liked Boca's teamwork very much, but it will be an Argentinian derby. Both deserved to be there.

The Copa Libertadores final has been primarily scheduled for November 7 and 28, but could be moved to November 10 and 24 because of a political summit in Buenos Aires. The first leg will be at Boca's La Bombonera and the second at River's Monumental de Nunez.

Boca have won the Copa Libertadores six times, with River capturing the crown three times. It will be only the third time they face one another in a knockout tie in the competition, but first in the showpiece.