The kinda-sorta Europa League of South America reaches its thrilling conclusion this evening when Universidad de Chile host LDU Quito (aka Liga) in the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana (suck it, Bridgestone). The Chileans have a precious 1-0 lead thanks to a road victory in the first leg last week in Quito. That’s a win and a half when you consider that Liga plays their home games at an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level.
U de Chile are the underdogs in this final, as they’re attempting to win their first ever international trophy, as well as the coveted Copa Libertadores qualification. Liga are veterans of these cups lately, having won the Copa Libertadores in 2008 and the Copa Sudamericana in 2009, as well as two Recopa Sudamericana titles (that’s the cup winner’s cup). Liga was also in last year’s final, where they lost to Argentina’s Independiente.
Liga defeated IFFHS darlings Vélez Sársfield 3-0 on aggregate in the semifinals, including a 1-0 road win in the second leg. U de Chile earned a 3-1 aggregate victory over Brazil’s Vazco da Gama to get to this stage.
Liga’s key scoring threat is the Argentine Hernán “Pirata” Barcos, with 7 tallies in this competition. He spent some time in 2009 at Shanghai Shenhua, so he probably knows what sort of mess Anelka’s got himself into, but that’s neither here nor there.
U de Chile boasts the scoring talents of one young Eduardo “Turbo Man” Vargas, who’s notched 9 goals in this tournament and also leads the Chilean league in scoring. The 22 year old Chilean made his pro debut at 17 and has 41 career goals, most of them this year. He’s also been capped for his country four times in 2011 and is one of South America’s most promising young players. I read somewhere that Arsenal’s looking for a striker in January? Hmm, oh well.
U de Chile’s manager, Jorge “Little Bielsa” Sampaoli isn’t resting on that first leg victory:
“We’ve only won a small lead in a 180 minute match; it’s never a sure thing against a rival that’s won four finals. We will try to impose our style, knowing that the only possibility is to attack.”
You can watch the final live on Fox Deportes at 5 p.m. Eastern (if you get that), or find a stream. They will be plentiful.