With the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ fast approaching, the champions of a host of domestic leagues the world over were crowned over the past few days. FIFA.com brings you its customary look at the best of the weekend’s action from the leading leagues outside European shores.
Argentinian Clausura: Long wait over for Argentinos
Claiming the trophy on the final day were Argentinos Juniors, coach Claudio Borghi’s charges finishing a point clear of Estudiantes to clinch the club’s first league title for 25 years. Quite a turnaround for a team which just a year ago finished bottom of the Clausura 2009 after picking up just 15 points, compared to 41 this campaign. Goals from Juan Ignacio Mercier and Facundo Coria secured the all-important 2-1 away win over Huracan, which meant that the last eight editions of the Argentinian championship have been won by eight different sides. El Bicho’s success also proved a fitting end to the career of 39-year-old forward Jose Luis Calderon, for whom the Huracan game was his final professional match. “It was the perfect way to bow out,” said the former Argentina international.
Big game: Despite having to divide their energies between the domestic league and defending their Copa Libertadores crown, Estudiantes gamely kept up their title push. El Pincha finished their campaign on a positive note thanks to a 4-1 away victory over Colon, which featured a Mauro Boselli hat-trick.
Headline-grabber: Failing to bow out in the same style as Calderon was another ex-Albiceleste star, River Plate’s Marcelo Gallardo, who was an unused substitute in his final game for Los Millonarios. Rubbing salt into the wounds was the fact that opponents Tigre, a team that had never previously won at River’s Estadio Monumental, ran riot in a 5-1 success.
Mexican Bicentenario: Next step the final
On the back of this weekend’s semi-final, second legs, the final will be between Santos Laguna and Toluca, who edged out Monarcas Morelia and Pachuca respectively. The title decider will be played over two legs, Santos Laguna hosting the first on 20 May and Toluca the return three days later thanks to the latter’s superior regular-season record.
Big game: Santos Laguna, under Argentinian coach Ruben Romano, could barely have clinched their final berth in more emphatic fashion. Dominant from start to finish, having opened the scoring via Fernando Arce in the first minute, Los Guerreros romped to a 7-1 success (10-4 on aggregate) also featuring a hat-trick from Oriber Peralta and further goals from Darwin Quintero, Ivan Estrada and Matias Vuoso.
Headline-grabber: Antonio Rios was the hero for Toluca, grabbing the only goal of the second leg on 41 minutes to clinch a 3-2 aggregate success and send Los Diablos Rojos into the final.
Brasileirao: O Timão start fast
In recent years, the battle to claim the Brasileirao throne has been ever more fiercely contested, and the 2010 edition is showing signs of continuing that trend. Indeed, after a 2-1 away win over Gremio, Corinthians are the only team with six points from their opening two games, with the fact that eight of the country’s 20 top-flight clubs also have gruelling Libertadores or Copa do Brasil commitments going some way to explaining this phenomenon. Six teams on four points form the chasing pack behind O Timão, a group which includes dark horses Botafogo, whose visit to Sao Paulo ended in an impressive 2-1 comeback win.
Big game: Of the eight teams with decisive cup commitments ahead in midweek, the only winners in league action this weekend were Internacional. Two goals down at the break away to Goias, an Inter side without several first-team regulars stormed back to a 3-2 victory thanks to a brace from Walter and a Giuliano penalty eight minutes from time.
Headline-grabber: Intriguingly, the early pacesetters in the race to become top scorer are both central defenders. On three goals so far are Avai’s Emerson, a hat-trick hero in his team’s 6-1 thrashing of Gremio Prudente on Matchday 1, and Antonio Carlos of Botafogo, who scored twice in last week’s 3-3 draw with Santos and hit his side’s opener against Sao Paulo on Sunday.
American Major League Soccer: Galaxy frustrated
After three consecutive wins, runaway Western Conference leaders Los Angeles Galaxy will be disappointed not to have gone further than a goalless draw at home to a Toronto FC side missing key player Julian De Guzman through injury. What is more, already without long-term injury victim David Beckham, the Galaxy have now lost talismanic forward Landon Donovan and top scorer Edson Buddle to USA's FIFA World Cup squad.
Big game: Trailing 2-1 at home against Chicago Fire with a minute remaining, Kansas City Wizards were once again grateful to the finishing skills of Kei Kamara, the Sierra Leone forward's second of the game and fifth of the season salvaging a valuable point.
Headline-grabber: Columbus Crew were made to sweat for their 1-0 win over Chivas USA, the clincher coming via a last-gasp Guillermo Barros Schelotto penalty, but they remain, along with the Galaxy, the only unbeaten sides in the MLS. The triumph took them to within a point of Eastern Conference leaders New York Red Bulls, though the Crew have played two games fewer.
A point clear going into the final matchday of the season in Morocco, Raja Casablanca went down 1-0 away to FAR Rabat, a slip-up which allowed fierce city rivals WAC Casablanca to leapfrog them to the trophy thanks to a 1-0 success over FUS Rabat.
Over in Uruguay, Clausura 2010 winners Penarol beat Apertura 2009 champions Nacional 1-0 in the first leg of the teams’ two-legged 2009/10 national championship decider. The goal came via the head of prolific forward Antonio Pacheco after 23 minutes, but there is still plenty to play for in Tuesday’s all-important return match.
Kashima Antlers, winners in Japan for the last three years, moved ominously close to the summit after a comprehensive 4-1 away win over second-placed Nagoya Grampus. Following leaders Shimizu S-Pulse’s 2-2 draw at FC Tokyo, Brazilian coach Oswaldo de Oliveira’s Kashima are now just a point behind Nagoya and four behind Shimizu and have a game in hand on both.