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River Plate lit up Argentine soccer in 2018

River Plate's Jorge Moreira hoists the Copa Libertadores trophy during a celebration with fans on Dec. 23, 2018, at Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. EPA-EFE FILE/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

River Plate’s Jorge Moreira hoists the Copa Libertadores trophy during a celebration with fans on Dec. 23, 2018, at Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. EPA-EFE FILE/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni

EFE

River Plate was the big winner of 2018, taking the Copa Libertadores title in an epic final last month against arch-rival Boca Juniors at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.

River also beat Boca in the Supercopa Argentina final in March, pulling off the win against a rival that won back-to-back Superliga Argentina titles.

Following Conmebol’s decision to move the final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club soccer tournament, to the Spanish capital due to the violence at Monumental Stadium, River Plate responded with a resounding victory.

After playing to a 2-2 tie at Boca’s La Bombonera Stadium, River beat its crosstown rival 3-1 to secure the fourth Copa Libertadores title in its history, which spans 117 years.

Under Marcelo Gallardo, one of the best managers in the club’s history, River celebrated winning its second title of 2018.

Goalkeeper Franco Armani had an exceptional year and the River Plate defense anchored by Jonatan Maidana, Javier Pinola, Milton Casco and Gonzalo Montiel came through in big matches.

In the middle of the field, team captain Lenardo Ponzio, along with Exequiel Palacios, Ignacio Fernandez and the explosive Gonzalo “Piti” Martinez gave the club a fearsome foursome.

Colombian striker Rafael Santos Borre teamed up perfectly with Lucas Pratto, a striker who returned to the Superliga in January 2018 in the most expensive deal in River’s history.

Gallardo was able to go to the bench and get solid minutes from youngsters Lucas Martinez Quarta and Julian Alvarez; Paraguayan Jorge Moreira; Bruno Zuculini; Colombian Juan Fernando Quintero; Uruguayans Nicolas De la Cruz, Camilo Mayada and Rodrigo Mora; and veterans Enzo Perez and Ignacio Scocco.

Last year was a good one for Argentine soccer despite the country’s failure to win the World Cup.

Argentina had four clubs reach the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals - Boca Juniors, River Plate, Independiente and Atletico Tucuman - and the surprising Defensa y Justicia made the quarters of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s secondary club tournament.

In 2018, moreover, Independiente won the Copa Suruga Bank with a 1-0 victory over Cerezo Osaza, allowing the club to add another international title to its haul in an ongoing competition with Boca to see who can pile up the most international championships.


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