In some circles the Copa Sudamericana is viewed with a certain amount of disdain when compared to it's more illustrious continental partner - the Copa Libertadores. Try telling the fans of Estudiantes de la Plata that their passage into this week's final against Internacional of Brazil is nothing more than a pre-Christmas irrelevance. Thirty thousand fervent Pinchas celebrated wildly at he end of tight, tetchy 1-0 semi-final 2nd leg victory against compatriots Argentinos Juniors. For me the victory was made even more impressive after the 5-0 humiliation suffered by Estudiantes at Argentinos in the Apertura only last Sunday.
For fans of English football there will be a familiar face in the final: Juan Sebastian Veron. The 33 year old midfielder returned to his spiritual home in 2006 and quickly helped his side take that year's Apertura. The classy midfielder will no doubt be forever tainted by his relative ineffectiveness when playing in England. According to many pundits in the UK his lack of success on these shores brands him a failure, full stop and we are subjected to the usual embarrassing array of cliches - 'it's too cold for him over here', 'he can't play in January', 'the Premier League is too physical, too fast'. I acknowledge that Veron never fulfilled his huge potential (and price tag) but lets not forget the long list of British stars who have tried and failed overseas; Paul Gascoigne and Ian Rush to name two.
Veron will be an integral part of Estudiantes first international final appearance since 1971. The defeat to Uruguay's Nacional in the Copa Libertadores marked the end of the most successful period in the club's history. The famous or infamous Los Pincharattas collected 3 Copa Libertadores during the preceding 3 seasons and were crowned Intercontinental Champions after beating Manchester United over two bad-tempered legs in 1968. The goalscorer in England: Veron, Juan Ramon Veron father of Sebastian.
The all important goal that has taken Estudiantes to the final: