South America

Giants re-emerge, fledglings flourish

Colombian Millonarios players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Colombian League final

The second half of 2012 has reached its climax across South America, with renewed league success for several traditional heavyweights and a rare taste of glory for some of the younger clubs. Join as we take a closer look. 

*Argentina: Velez cruise to title win *Velez Sarsfield strengthened their status as one of the best teams in Argentinian football by winning the Torneo Inicial with a game to spare. The title is their third under coach Ricardo Gareca and the ninth in their history, making them the fifth most successful team in Argentina. *El Fortinero *also have one of the league’s most lethal strikers in the shape of youngster Facundo Ferreyra, whose 13 goals came from the last 12 games of the campaign. “At one point we were five points behind the leaders, but we managed to recover. I’m now dreaming of the Copa Libertadores,” said Gareca.

Brazil: Joy for Fluminense, pain for PalmeirasFluminense underlined their dominance of the Brazilian championship by securing the title with three games remaining. It is Flu’s second league title in three years and their fourth in total, putting them one behind local rivals Flamengo in the all-time list. Key to their success was forward Fred, who topped the scoring charts with 20 goals, outgunning Sao Paulo’s Luis Fabiano (17) and Neymar of Santos (14). The season also saw giants Palmeiras relegated for the second time in their history, ten years after suffering their first relegation.

Bolivia: The Strongest make historyThe Strongest won the Apertura to secure a third consecutive title – an unprecedented feat in Bolivian football. Paraguayan-born Bolivia forward Pablo Escobar was their star man, scoring 21 of the team’s 52 goals. “We don’t have the best players and I’m not the most valuable player either, but we’re the best team,” said Escobar, who is also the club’s captain. The *Aurinegro *now have nine league titles - a total bettered only by 17-time champions Bolivar.

Chile: Huachipato snare surprise titleClub Deportivo Huachipato pulled off a major surprise in the Chilean Clausura, beating favourites Union Espanola in the final to be crowned champions. Huachipato, which means “bird trap” in the Mapuche language, lost the first leg 3-1 but won the return fixture by the same scoreline, before winning the penalty shootout to seal the second title in their 65-year history.

Colombia: Millonarios paint the league blueMillonarios de Bogota ended their 24-year wait for a 14th league title, beating Independiente Medellin on penalties in the final to become the most successful club in Colombia. It was a double celebration for El Azul, whose league success ensures they return to the Copa Libertadores in 2013 after a 15-year absence. “We toiled and sweated, but in the end we took this well-deserved success,” said forward Walter Cosme. “I dedicate it to my family, to God and to the fans who have waited for it all these years.”

Ecuador: El Torero return to the topBarcelona SC, for their part, celebrated their first league title in 15 years, winning both stages of the Ecuadorian season to be crowned automatic champions. “That [trophyless] spell was what tempted me to come here, but I could never have imagined the impact of the success,” said the club’s Argentinian coach, Gustavo Costas. The title, the 14th in the club’s history, sees El Torero regain their status as the most successful team in the country. Striker Narciso Mina was the driving force this season, scoring 40 per cent of the club’s goals. Rivals Emelec, meanwhile, finished runners-up for the third year in a row.

Paraguay: Libertad crowned champions againLibertad won the 2012 Clausura tournament to take their eighth title in ten years, and their fourth under Uruguayan coach Ruben Israel. El Gumarelo, with 16 titles, are now the third most successful club in Paraguay, behind Olimpia (39) and Cerro Porteno (29) – neither of whom made the top three this season. Libertad forward Jose Nunez, meanwhile, scored 13 goals to finish joint-top scorer with Guarani’s Diego Centurion.

Peru: Sporting Cristal end trophy droughtHeavyweights Sporting Cristal were crowned champions of Peru after winning both stages of the 2012 season. The triumph ends a seven-year wait for silverware – the joint-longest barren spell in the club’s history. The mastermind behind this 16th title was former club hero Roberto Mosquera, who took the reins at the start of the year. “When I arrived, I said we were going to win the title because we needed commitment. Now they’re going to want me to retain the title, but I can’t promise it!” said the 55-year-old head coach.

Uruguay: Penarol remain on courseUruguayan giants Penarol won the Apertura tournament to edge closer to only their second national title in ten years. It represents Los Carboneros’ first Apertura success in 16 years, and earns Jorge Da Silva’s side a final championship showdown with the winners of the Clausura in mid-2013. “We should celebrate but not too much, because our goal is the championship,” said veteran striker Marcelo Zalayeta.

Venezuela: Anzoategui claim historic first titleAfter just over 10 years of existence, Deportivo Anzaotegui secured their very first league title. With Uruguayan coach Daniel Farias at the helm, Los Aurirrojos clinched the title on the penultimate matchday, edging out the mighty Caracas FC by a single point. All in all it was a historic season for Anzaotegui, who also became the first team to win both the Copa de Venezuela and the championship since the introduction of short-format tournaments.

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