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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Hernan Crespo: Copa Libertadores final must be played in Argentina

Former Argentina striker believes Boca Juniors and River Plate should be given another chance to play the second leg of their tie on home soil

Former Argentina players Hernan Crespo, left, and Nicolas Burdisso, want the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final second leg to be played in their home country despite fan trouble causing a postponement last weekend. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Former Argentina players Hernan Crespo, left, and Nicolas Burdisso, want the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final second leg to be played in their home country despite fan trouble causing a postponement last weekend. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Former Argentina striker Hernan Crespo has appealed for the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final to be played in Argentina and nowhere else.

The second leg of the Copa final between Boca Juniors and River Plate was twice postponed after the Boca Juniors bus came under attack by rival fans as they arrived for the game last Saturday.

South America's football governing body Conmebol announced earlier in the week that the game will now be played outside of Argentina, but Crespo, the former River Plate forward, who made 64 appearances for his country, has urged a re-think.

“We have to wait for the final decision but the right decision will be to play in Argentina because both the country and the fans deserves it,” Crespo said on Thursday in Abu Dhabi.

“It is a great opportunity to show our best in terms of organisation, in terms of fans because we lost a chance, and now we deserve to try again to reorganise and show our best.”

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Crespo acknowledged the atmosphere of the clash, and what was at stake with the Copa Libertadores title on the line, was always going to make things intense, but that it was important to give the game another chance to be played in front of home supporters.

“The atmosphere isn’t easy and we all know that,” added Crespo who won the Copa with River Plate in 1996.

“It is more than a football match. Our image as a country is at stake. We have a great history as a footballing nation in the world.

“I have repeatedly said how sad it was for me and Argentina football. The situation is a big disappointment and that’s the very reason we need to rally around and reorganise the match in Argentina, and at the Monumental Stadium.”

Crespo's former Argentine teammate Nicolas Burdisso supported that view.

Burdisso, who played with Boca from 1999-2004, said the two camps need to compromise and come to a conclusion that they rearrange the game as it was originally scheduled.

“The majority of the football aficionados can’t be held responsible for the act of a few rebellious fans,” he said.

“This could have been worst because fortunately, there were no fatalities. But having said that, this type of ugly behaviour is not something we don’t want to see again.”

The winner of the tie will play in the UAE next month at the Fifa Club World Cup, joining defending champions Real Madrid, Al Ain, Wellington, Esperance, Kashima Antlers and Guadalajara, with the action starting on December 12.

Crespo believes both Boca Juniors and River Plate, whoever qualifies for the Club World Cup can challenge for the title.

“At the moment there is a bit of gap between the European and the South American teams, but it’s still possible,” said Crespo, who represented Parma, Lazio and both Milan clubs in a distinguished playing career.