The world might be more interested in the UEFA Champions League, but back in Latin America, Copa Libertadores draws more attention in that region and the excitement regarding the event surpasses the hype and festive-mood of the Champions League.

Back in Latin America, they firmly believe that this competition creates big stars and still today is the toughest competition in world football.

This is an annual international club football competition organized by CONMEBOL since 1960. It is the highest level of competition in American club football.

The competition has had several formats over its lifetime. Initially, only the champions of the South American leagues participated.

In 1966, the runners-up of the South American leagues began to join. In 1998, Mexican teams were invited to compete and contested regularly from 2000 until 2016.

In 2000 the tournament was expanded from 20 to 32 teams.

Today at least four clubs per country compete in the tournament, with Argentina (6) and Brazil (7) having the most representatives.

A group stage has always been used but the number of teams per group has varied.

In the present format, the tournament consists of eight stages, with the first stage taking place in late January. The four surviving teams from the first three stages join 28 teams in the group stage, which consists of eight groups of four teams each. The eight group winners and eight runners-up enter the knockout stages, which end with the final in November.

The winner of the Copa Libertadores becomes eligible to play in the FIFA Club World Cup and the Recopa Sudamericana.

Independiente of Argentina is the most successful club in the cup’s history, having won the tournament seven times. Argentine clubs have accumulated the most victories with 25 wins, while Brazil has the largest number of winning teams, with 10 clubs having won the title. The cup has been won by 24 clubs, 13 of them more than once, and six clubs have won two years in a row.

This year, it was two clubs from Brazil – Santos, and Palmeras who contested for the ultimate accolade at the Maracana.

Santos boast a great history in the competition, but Palmeiras are almost like outsiders in this competition.

The last time they won the competition was way back in 1999 defeating Deportivo Cali in a penalty shootout.

Back in Brazil, it was obvious that Santos would garner more support, but in the end, Palmeiras painted Brazil green.

Although COVID-19 restrictions dictated lockdown at weekends and evenings in the Sao Paulo state, those rules failed to tame the passion for football and hundreds of more fans gathered at the club’s training ground and the airport, where their plane touched down in the early hours of the morning.

The final was originally scheduled to be held in November but the tournament was halted for six months by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The match was played on a roasting hot afternoon in Rio de Janeiro and chances were few and far between. It failed to live up to the expectations of TV viewers in 191 countries or the 5,000 specially invited guests who watched the match live at the Maracana.

Both the teams seemed defensive – caught by the tension of the mega event and produced lackluster efforts, which only killed the joy of Latin American style.

The match was heading towards the extra-time and it seemed like 1999 Palmeiras were heading for another penalty-shootout.

Even though Santos started took a bit sharp in the second half, but it was not to be their day.

Ten minutes of stoppage time was announced and the substitute Breno Lopes scored in the ninth minute of injury time as Palmeiras won their second Copa Libertadores with a 1-0 victory.

Little-known Lopes joined Palmeiras in November, coming from second division team Juventude and was brought on in the 84th minute as an intended target man for crosses.

The plan worked perfectly nine minutes into stoppage time when Rony crossed from the right and found Lopes, who headed the ball to the left of Santos goalkeeper John to decide the contest with the first effort on target of the game.

The result at Rio’s Maracana stadium was greeted with delirious celebrations back in Palmeiras’ home city of Sao Paulo.

Thousands partied on the streets around the club’s stadium the Allianz Parque, even after police closed some streets to try to prevent large gatherings.

The victory means a lot for Palmeiras who has been brilliant this season.

Since the appointment of the 42-year-old coach, the Portuguese Abel Ferreira the fortunes of the club started to change.

The club won the Paulista state championship in August and they play Gremio in the Copa do Brasil final in February.

This is the third time in four years that a Brazilian team has won South America’s biggest club competition.

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