Six times previously, Olimpia of Paraguay have been Copa Libertaodres finalists. On Tuesday night, the club would book their seventh finals appearance as it held off Colombian club Independiente Santa Fe 2-1 on aggregate to advance to the final of the Copa Libertadores.
Olimpia won the first leg at home last week 2-0 and knew that despite holding the edge, the return leg which was played at the “El Campi” in Bogota on Tuesday night would not be easy. Sure enough, Santa Fe put up a fight as they attacked often, but were frustrated as they failed to convert most of their scoring chances despite winning the return leg 1-0.
Olimpia established itself as a contender as it finished first in its respective group during group stage playing with 13 points. They finished atop of second place Newell’s Old Boys, whom they could face in the final and Chilean heavyweight Universidad de Chile.
In the knockout stage, Olimpia showed an ability to do enough to survive and advance in the competition. It beat Argentinean club Tigre in the Round of 16, overcoming a 2-1 first leg defeat and winning the second leg 2-0, beat a favorite in Brazilian club Fluminense in the quarterfinals, defeating them 2-1 on aggregate.
The individuals that have been key in leading Olimpia into the final are Freddy Bariero, Juan Manuel Salguiero and coach Ever Hugo Almeida. Bariero has been the team’s top goal scorer during the competition as he has scored five goals, putting him tied for second with three others as top goal scorers for the 2013 edition of the competition.
In Salguiero, Olimpia have a player in the midfield who knows how to manage and run the midfield as somewhat of a maestro and also brings with him that experience of winning the competition, having been part of the Estudiantes de La Plata team that won the 2009 edition.
In coach Almeida, Olimpia have a man who is recognized as a smart tactician and has shown this off by making timely substitutions in several of the knockout stage games to turn games in Olimpia’s favor. In addition, he knows how it feels to win the competition playing for the club as he was a goalkeeper on the Olimpia teams that won in 1979 and 1990.
Olimpia will await the winner of the other semifinal between Newell’s Old Boys of Argentina and Atlético Mineiro of Brazil. Newell’s go into Wednesday’s second leg game with a 2-0 edge. Whoever Olimpia ends up facing, they stand a good chance of being able to win the Copa Liibertadores for the fourth time in club history.