Boca Juniors and Racing Club will clash in the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals, meaning Argentine football is set to have a representative in the semis. This means AFA is securing a repeat representation in the final four teams in the competition after Vélez Sarsfield reached that stage in 2022.
Boca Juniors needed only a win at its home ground of La Bombonera to secure qualification against Uruguayan side Nacional, but it still required the long way round, going through on penalties. After drawing 0-0 away at the Gran Parque Central stadium, coach Jorge Almirón expected an easier time in the second leg, but the Uruguayans proved more than a match.
The Xeneizes were unable to impose themselves against a rival who didn’t seem to suffer the heated atmosphere provided by the home fans. Almirón’s team got ahead twice thanks to goals from striker Miguel Merentiel and winger Luis Advíncula, but both times failed to keep hold of the advantage, as Nacional hit back with goals by forwards Alfonso Trezza and Juan Ignacio Ramírez.
The highly anticipated debut of Uruguayan international Edinson Cavani for Boca produced a few flashes of brilliance but ultimately wasn’t enough to tilt the series in his new team’s favor.
With the series tied after 180 minutes, a penalty shootout was required to split the two. There, the experience of goalkeeper Sergio Romero paid dividends, saving the shots of Ramírez and then defender Daniel Bocanegra. A miss by midfielder Guillermo Pol Fernández delayed the celebrations, but 19-year-old Boca academy product Valentín Barco did not hesitate and scored the winner.
Racing Club had the hardest task of the four Argentine teams in the round of 16 after their first leg defeat 4-2 against Colombia’s Atlético Nacional in Medellín. However, the team led by Fernando Gago provided a magnificent performance.
La Academia came out swinging, creating good goal scoring chances and taking the game to their rivals. After some early close misses, in the 28th minute fullback Gabriel Rojas moved up the left and sent a cross for striker Roger Martínez, who headed cleanly to beat the rival goalkeeper.
The second half was more of the same. Just four minutes in, winger Martín Ojeda dribbled into the box from the right and shot low to make it 2-0. Five minutes later, Roger Martínez put in a cross from the right that Atlético Nacional defender Juan Aguirre accidentally clipped to beat his own goalkeeper. With the game firmly in Racing’s control, the game ended in 3-0, sending the Argentine team into the next round.
However, it wasn’t all good news for Racing. Roger Martínez had to be subbed off in the 68th minute after feeling some pain in his right hamstring. The Colombian was hopeful, claiming he only came off because he was feeling tired, but Racing are going to have him tested on Monday.Boca Juniors and Racing Club are set to face off for a spot in the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores. The first leg will be played at Racing’s Presidente Perón stadium on Tuesday August 22, while the return fixture will be hosted at Boca’s La Bombonera on August 29. As with local Primera División games, no away fans will be allowed for safety reasons.