South American champions Boca Juniors added the Toyota Cup to their collection of trophies on Sunday with a victory over Champions League winner AC Milan after a penalty shootout in Yokohama.
Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Costacurta all missed their spot-kicks to hand Argentina’s Boca Juniors the unofficial title of world club champion (3-1 on penalties) after a numbingly dull game had ended 1-1 after extra time.
“It was a game between the champions of South America and Europe, so logically it turned out to be a battle,” said Boca coach Carlos Bianchi. “Towards the end of extra time I felt the Milan players were hanging on for penalties,” he added. “I’m very proud of the way we kept attacking. We were even more aggressive with our penalties.”
Milan’s notoriously stingy defense was matched by an equally tight Boca defense that made for little excitement as a spectacle.
Italy’s Milan fielded what must surely be the oldest and most experienced defense in the world in Paolo Maldini (35), Costacurta (37), Cafu (33) and Guiseppe Pancaro (32), and to counter this Boca employed some speedy forwards to test the legs of the Milan veterans.
In so doing it played deep, hoping to catch out Milan with quick breaks upfield. While the plan was a good one, it was poorly executed and some sloppy finishing meant that meaningful chances were at a premium.
Despite the quality of its expensively assembled side, Milan failed woefully in igniting the spark that won it the Champions League crown, ironically on penalties.
The exception to this however was the rising star of world soccer Kaka. The young Brazilian midfielder appeared a constant thorn in the Boca side and was denied a spectacular goal when his curling right-foot shot from outside the box hit the woodwork with ‘keeper Roberto Carlos Abbondanzieri well beaten.
Both the game’s goals came in a five-minute spell midway through the first half. Milan struck first when striker Jon Dahl Tomasson finished off a through ball from Pirlo that evaded its primary target in Andriy Shevchenko and landed nicely in Tomasson’s path. The Danish striker kept a cool head to slot the ball home from close range.
Milan’s lead was shortlived and Boca leveled matters five minutes later through Matias Donnet. A cross from the left was met with a toe-poke from Pedro Dantas that was parried by ‘keeper Dida only for Donnet to volley the rebound into an empty net.
Apart from a disallowed goal from the head of Milan substitute Filippo Inzaghi, that was about the extent of the drama for the rest of the game until the penalty shootout as neither team showed the creativity necessary to break the deadlock.
As poor as the game was, so was Milan’s attempt at taking spot kicks. Pirlo set the tone with a tame kick that was easily saved by Abbondanzieri. Seedorf lofted his penalty over the bar, Jonny Wilkinson-style, and Costacurta hit his kick so softly that it barely had the legs to make it to the ‘keeper. Back passes have been hit harder.
The net result of this calamitous exhibition of penalty taking was Boca’s Alfredo Cascini planting his penalty into the back of the net and securing his team the title.
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