• Wednesday Apr 23, 2008

    Last Champions' Cup Final Begins Tonight

    Since its inception in 1962, 47 years of CONCACAF Champions' Cup™ competition has produced a total of 26 different champions from nine different countries. So it's fitting that the last ever final be a contest between two teams with a history of recent success in the premier club competition of the Confederation.

    Pachuca CF of Mexico and Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa have met before in the Champions' Cup; at the quarterfinal stage of the 2004 iteration. The game was tied 2:2 on aggregate score after extra time of the second-leg but the Costa Ricans ran out 3:0 winners after a penalty shootout. With three wins to their credit (1993, 1995 and 2005) and three times as runner up, the most recent of which was in 2004, Saprissa will be looking to make it four Champions' Cup titles. On the all-time list it would put the Costa Rican side in third place behind the Mexican powerhouses of Cruz Azul and Club America, both of whom have five total wins to their credit.

    Pachuca, meanwhile, are the defending Champions having won their second Champions' Cup last year. Their first crown came in 2002 when they defeated Monarcas Morelia, also of Mexico, by a final score of 1:0. Last year, Pachuca qualified as a result of their winning the 2006 Clausura and defeated Deportivo Marquense of Guatemala in the quarterfinal and Houston Dynamo 5:4 after extra time in the second-leg of the semifinal. The final against fellow Mexican team CD Guadalajara was a closely contested affair that went all the way to a sudden death penalty shootout with Pachuca prevailing - winning the Tuzos a second Champions' Cup title.

    In 2008, Pachuca's route to the final started with a 1:0 aggregate defeat of CD Motagua of Honduras. At the semifinal stage the Tuzos met an US team, this time D.C. United, for a second straight year. The first-leg held at the Estadio Hidalgo in Mexico ended in a 2:0 triumph and in the return leg Pachuca weathered a barrage of pressure from the Black-and-Red before Damian Alvarez finished coolly with 15 minutes to go giving Pachuca a 3:0 lead. Despite two late goals from D.C. United Pachuca would hold on to make their third Champions' Cup final.

    Deportivo Saprissa opened their final Champions' Cup campaign with a tricky tie against the 2007 Apertura Champions Atlante CF of Mexico. The Costa Rican team lost the opening leg 2:1 but in front of a home crowd rallied to a 3:0 victory and a place in the final four. Saprissa would also meet USA opposition at the semifinal stage in the shape of back-to-back MLS Cup Champions, Houston Dynamo. The first leg in Houston, Texas ended goalless but as with their quarterfinal tie Saprissa made home advantage tell. Another 3:0 score line delighted the raucous fans who packed the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San José.

    In 2005, in the last of their three Champions' Cup wins, Saprissa beat Mexican team Pumas UNAM. As with this year's competition, home advantage proved crucial with the Monstruo Morado's 2:0 win providing the platform for a 3:2 aggregate victory. With the first leg set of the 2008 final set for the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, the Costa Rican team will be looking to maximize the opportunities in the first leg before a tricky return trip to Pachuca.

    So after more than four decades of history and 43 editions of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup™ just 180 minutes (plus possible extra time) remain. Will it be a fourth crown for Saprissa or a second straight success for Pachuca? Time will tell but one thing is for sure -the fans of both sides will eagerly anticipate the chance for their team to become the final CONCACAF Champions' Cup Champions.

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