Minnows rock the trend
It is perhaps a little too soon to say that the smaller
clubs' revolution is here to stay in South America.
Nevertheless, a wind of change is blowing through the region.
While the lesser lights enjoyed success in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia, even in the countries where the bigger clubs prevailed, such as Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela, the smaller clubs set people talking. FIFA.com now takes a detailed look at this trend.
Bottom teams at the top
The example of Lanus in Argentina has possibly been spoken about the most, so it is worthwhile leaving it to one side and focusing on Bolivia, for example, where San Jose de Oruro were crowned champions for only the second time in their history by winning the Clausura tournament.
The outfit managed by Marcos Ferrufino, whose last title was back in 1995, overcame another unfashionable club, La Paz FC in the final. The team from La Paz were promoted in 2004, and now, just like the title winners, have made it through to the Copa Libertadores 2008, having eliminated Bolivar, no strangers to international competition themselves, in a two-legged qualification play-off.
This situation was mirrored in Peru, where Bolognesi won the
Clausura, which brought them their first-ever trophy. On the back
of Paul Cominges' nine goals, the success of the Tacna-based
team has also resulted in Universidad San Martin being crowned
Los Santos, (The Saints) who also came up in 2004, accumulated the highest points total over both the Apertura, which they won, and the Clausura competitions. As a result, none of the usual participants like Alianza Lima, Universitario or Sporting Cristal will feature in the Copa Libertadores this season.
In Paraguay, Libertad ended 2007 in celebration. With the
Uruguayan coach Ruben Israel at the helm and the talismanic
Colombian Vladimir Marin leading from the front, the team they call
Gumarelo won the Clausura and just days later were crowned
absolute champions, beating Apertura winners Sportivo Luqueno in
Of course it would be unfair to class Libertad as a small club, given that they are third in the all-time honours list, and in addition have just won their fourth title in six years, although it must be stated that they did go 25 years without a trophy.
Finally, in Uruguay, Defensor Sporting won the Apertura. Jorge Polilla Da Silva's charges, who reached the quarter-final stage in last season's Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana tournaments, secured the title with one game to spare but will have to wait until June 2008 to see if they win the overall Uruguayan championship for the fourth time in their history, something they last achieved in 1991. Once again it was a poor performance from the bigger names, Nacional and Penarol, who were 11 and 18 points behind in fifth and 15th places respectively.
The giants fight back
While Sao Paulo are threatening to establish total domination in Brazil following their title victory in 2007, their second title in two years, Colo Colo have already achieved this in Chile, beating one of the lesser lights, Universidad de Concepcion in the final of the Clausura to make it an unparalleled three Chilean First Division titles in succession.
The Argentinian Claudio Borghi has once again succeeded in reinventing the Cacique, the Chilean club with most honours, who drove home their superiority with the influence of the Colombian playmaker Giovanni Hernandez and the goals of striker Gonzalo Fierro. Special mention should also go to Audax Italiano, who qualified for the Copa Libertadores.
In Colombia, Atletico Nacional once again took the plaudits,
winning the title for the second successive season after defeating
Equidad in the decisive play-off stage. Oscar Quintabini, another
Argentinian, was once again the architect of victory for the
Paisas, whose ten titles make them the third-most
successful side in Colombian football.
Their success was once again down to the highly efficient strike force of eight-goal Carmelo Valencia and Sergio Galvan Rey, who is just one away from 200 career goals. The Verdolagas, will be joined in the Copa Libertadores by two of the smaller clubs, Cucuta Deportivo and Chico FC.
A similar event took place in Ecuador, where Liga de Quito became the most successful club of the last decade as they celebrated their fifth league title since 1998, the ninth in their history. Nevertheless, Ecuador's other two representatives in this year's Libertadores will be the unfashionable Deportivo Cuenca and Olmedo, who, with only two trophies between them, have taken the place of clubs like Nacional and Barcelona, the most successful in terms of trophies in their country. Edgardo Bauza, another Argentinian manager, was in charge of the Albo, and he could count on the youngster Christian Lara as one of his key performers.
Finally, Caracas FC confirmed their status as the team in Venezuela after winning the Apertura in December. The Rojos Avila could seal a historic third title this year if they manage to win either the Clausura or the eventual final against those who do. The man behind this success is Noel Sanvicente, who has now chalked up more than 100 victories since his arrival in 2002.