without their star Cuauhtémoc Blanco -- by an impressive 4-1 score. The second leg was in the Azteca Stadium, where América won 3-1, but were eliminated on aggregate. Boca Juniors ended up champions that year.
Emotions came back in 2001 with the best performance ever by a Mexican club in the Libertadores. That year Cruz Azul was the only Mexican League representative in the competition and they took giant steps to reach the Final. There they found defending champions Boca Juniors. The first leg was played in the Azteca, were the Argentineans won thanks to a goal by ex-Cruz Azul player Marcelo "Chelo" Delgado. Everything indicated that the Argentineans would destroy the Mexicans in the second leg, but Cruz Azul's great soccer and a Juan Francisco "Paco" Palencia goal tied the series that would be decided in the PKs. The penalties 'lottery' favored Boca this time, but Cruz Azul made history and established a precedent.
In 2002, América came back to the competition and Morelia made its debut. Both teams went through the first stage without a problem. In the Round of 16, the Michoacán team left behind Ecuadorian club Olmedo, while América did the same with Peruvians Cienciano de Cuzco. Fortune had the two Mexican teams face each other in the quarterfinals. América went through and reached the semifinals where Sao Caetano knocked them out.
Cruz Azul came back the following year, this time with Pumas de la UNAM. Both teams reached the Round of 16 where Pumas couldn't overcome the conditions in the Atacama Desert and lost against Cobreloa from Chile. Meanwhile, Cruz Azul defeated Colombian Deportivo Cali in a game that was decided from the penalty spot. In the quarterfinals, the "cementeros" lost to Santos de San Pablo, which had Diego and Robinho in its roster.
In the 2004 edition, it was Santos Laguna and América who qualify thanks to the first edition of InterLiga. América once again saw its run end by the hands of Sao Caetano in the Round of 16. Santos Laguna lost in the same round against River Plate.
An increase in the number of teams and the tournament format opened the doors for the participation of three Mexican teams. Pachuca qualified directly after fighting for the first spot against Monterrey. Tigres and Guadalajara were victorious in InterLiga 2005 and were rewarded with the other two spots. Tigres qualified directly to the group stages while "Chivas" had to fight with Cienciano in the pre-group stage where they won 8-2 on aggregate.
Guadalajara and Tigres qualified as first in their respective groups, while Pachuca qualified as second. In the next round, Tigres won against defending champions from Colombia, Once Caldas, and Guadalajara defeated Pachuca after a 1-1 tie in Hidalgo and a 3-1 victory in Jalisco. With two teams in the quarterfinals, the Mexicans were the center of attention. Tigres' dreams were over after losing against Sao Paulo who would go through to become champion. "Chivas" reached the semifinals after a unforgettable quarterfinal series against Boca Juniors. Guadalajara were implacable in Jalisco and defeated the Argentineans with a series that included a 4-0 victory in what was arguably the best game by a Mexican squad in the Libertadores. In the semis, the "rebaño" faced Atlético Paranaense, but the suspension of Adolfo Bautista in addition of the call of its international players to the Confederaciones Cup decimated the team and was too much to overcome.
During InterLiga 2006 in January Mexican clubs will fight for a chance to become continental champions in the Libertadores. Cruz Azul, Pachuca, Morelia, Monterrey, Guadalajara and Tigres will try return to the Libertadores while Veracruz, Toluca and Necaxa look forward to their respective debuts.
Juan Mesa is a contributor to InterLiga.com. This story was not subject to the approval of clubs participating in the competition or of its organizers.
COPA TOYOTA LIBERTADORES DE AMÉRICA
AÑO CAMPEÓN SUBCAMPEÓN RESULTADOS 1960 PEÑAROL (URU) Olimpia (PAR) 1-0 y 1-1 1961 PEÑAROL (URU) Palmeiras (BRA) 1-0 y 1-1 1962 SANTOS FC (BRA) Peñarol (URU) 2-1; 2-3 y 3-0 1963 SANTOS FC (BRA) Boca Juniors (ARG) 3-2 y 2-1 1964 INDEPENDIENTE (ARG) Nacional (URU) 0-0 y 1-0 1965 INDEPENDIENTE (ARG) Peñarol (URU) 1-0; 1-3 y 4-1 1966 PEÑAROL (URU) River Plate (ARG) 2-0; 2-3 y 4-2 1967 RACING CLUB (ARG) Nacional (URU) 0-0; 0-0 y 2-1 1968 ESTUDIANTES DE LP (ARG) Palmeiras (BRA) 2-1; 1-3 y 2-0 1969 ESTUDIANTES DE LP (ARG) Nacional (URU) 1-0 y 2-0 1970 ESTUDIANTES DE LP (ARG) Peñarol (URU) 1-0 y 0-0 1971 NACIONAL (URU) Estudiantes de LP (ARG) 0-1; 1-0 y 2-0 1972 INDEPENDIENTE (ARG) Universitario (PER) 0-0 y 2-1 1973 INDEPENDIENTE (ARG) Colo Colo (CHI) 1-1; 0-0 y 2-1 1974 INDEPENDIENTE (ARG) São Paulo FC (BRA) 1-2; 2-0 y 1-0 1975 INDEPENDIENTE (ARG) Unión Española (CHI) 0-1; 3-1 y 2-0 1976 CRUZEIRO (BRA) River Plate (ARG) 4-1; 1-2 y 3-2 1977 BOCA JUNIORS (ARG) Cruzeiro (BRA) 1-0; 0-1 y 0-0 (5-4) 1978 BOCA JUNIORS (ARG) Deportivo Cali (COL) 0-0 y 4-0 1979 OLIMPIA (PAR) Boca Juniors (ARG) 2-0 y 0-0 1980 NACIONAL (URU) Internacional (BRA) 0-0 y 1-0 1981 FLAMENGO (BRA) Cobreloa (CHI) 2-1; 0-1 y 2-0 1982 PEÑAROL (URU) Cobreloa (CHI) 0-0 y 1-0 1983 GRÊMIO (BRA) Peñarol (URU) 1-1 y 2-1 1984 INDEPENDIENTE (ARG) Grêmio (BRA) 1-0 y 0-0 1985 ARGENTINOS JUNIORS (ARG) América (COL) 1-0; 0-1 y 1-1 (5-4) 1986 RIVER PLATE (ARG) América (COL) 2-1 y 1-0 1987 PEÑAROL (URU) América (COL) 0-2; 2-1 y 1-0 1988 NACIONAL (URU) Newell's Old Boys (ARG) 0-1 y 3-0 1989 ATLÉTICO NACIONAL (COL) Olimpia (PAR) 0-2 y 2-0 (5-4) 1990 OLIMPIA (PAR) Barcelona SC (ECU) 2-0 y 1-1 1991 COLO COLO (CHI) Olimpia (PAR) 0-0 y 3-0 1992 SÃO PAULO FC (BRA) Newell's Old Boys (ARG) 0-1 y 1-0 (3-2) 1993 SÃO PAULO FC (BRA) Univ. Católica (CHI) 5-1 y 0-2 1994 VÉLEZ SARSFIELD (ARG) São Paulo FC (BRA) 1-0 y 0-1 (5-3) 1995 GRÊMIO (BRA) Atlético Nacional (COL) 3-1 y 1-1 1996 RIVER PLATE (ARG) América (COL) 0-1 y 2-0 1997 CRUZEIRO (BRA) Sporting Cristal (PER) 0-0 y 1-0 1998 VASCO DA GAMA (BRA) Barcelona SC (ECU) 2-0 y 2-1 1999 PALMEIRAS (BRA) Deportivo Cali (COL) 0-1 y 2-1 (4-3) 2000 BOCA JUNIORS (ARG) Palmeiras (BRA) 2-2 y 0-0 (4-2) 2001 BOCA JUNIORS (ARG) Cruz Azul (México) 1-0 y 0-1 (3-1) 2002 OLIMPIA (PAR) São Caetano (BRA) 0-1 y 2-1 (4-2) 2003 BOCA JUNIORS (ARG) Santos FC (BRA) 2-0 y 3-1 2004 ONCE CALDAS (COL) Boca Juniors (ARG) 0-0 y 1-1 (2-0) 2005 SÃO PAULO FC (BRA) Atl. Paranaense (BRA) 1-1 y 4-0