Monday, June 25, 2007

Baubles for Boca; and Becks

With a late brace, Juan Roman Riquelme sealed Boca's Copa Libertadores triumph, in doing so making sure that their season didn't finish trophyless. After being pipped to the domestic post by San Lorenzo (whose fans were driving through the streets after closing out the title), Boca - and in particular Riquelme, who is set to finish his Juniors career - needed to dispatch Brazil's Gremio in the two-legged intercontinental final to avoid disappointment.

With a resounding three goal triumph cushioning the Buenos Airen team from the first-leg, a cagey second match-up ensued; but Gremio lacked the wit to break down the Boca back line, and despite cracking one effort against the bar while the tie was theoretically still alive, it was incisive counter-attacking by Riquelme and co. which brought the first goal. Fed inside from the right by Palacio, the man Juan Roman himself finally nailed the Brazilians in the 68th minute, with a dipping drive, whipped from right to left into the far corner of the Gremio goal. Irish bar, Wilkenny, in Andean Bariloche, went mad, and it wasn't long before the hundreds-and-thousands were sprinkled over the icing as Riquelme applied the decisive touch from close range to turn home a second, after Palacio' initial effort had been blocked.

So, the Argentine who perhaps suffered most after his country's poor showing at World Cup 2006, achieved some form of redemption, as pictures of him in the press the next day, held aloft by his team mates, demonstrated. Another cathartic moment for followers of footballing drama was provided a few days prior, with Real Madrid's snatching of the La Liga title from arch-rivals Barcelona: a win in his first season back in Spain for Fabio Capello; and a trophy at last for the resurrected Golden Balls of English football, Mr. D. Beckham.

I noted on this cloud some months ago that I expected Becks to make it back into the England fold - and it seems now that he's about breathing a little vim into his country's Euro 2008 qualification campaign, the Spanish sun is shining on his final hours too. After being exiled in a fit of pique by Capello and the Madrid board following the announcement of his summer transfer to LA Galaxy, his recall and subsequent contribution to Los Galacticos' title run was immensely satisfying - particularly as someone who has rarely seen cause to doubt the player's ability. He may have a grin made for a billboard, but if he's smiling that widely come end of summer '08, we'll know a little more of the pain has eased; and Stevie Mac may just have picked up a first trophy for England in fourty years...

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