Once again, Colombian professional soccer crashed in continental competitions. This week, Millonarios and Atlético Nacional, the two teams with the highest accumulated titles in the country’s history, were eliminated from the preliminary phase of the Copa Libertadores without even winning a game. Its situation, with particular flats, is the portrait of a gloomy panorama that has been brewing for several years in the local rent. That which, for example, in 2021, led to the four teams installed in the group stage of the largest continental tournament failing to advance to the second round. And now, again, it does not bode well.
The reasons for failure abroad
The overestimation of the local product
Ever since the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) once published that the Colombian league was among the top five in the world, national pride has overflowed. In general terms, media analysis has revolved around ideas such as the local tournament having nothing to envy to leagues of a higher level, tradition and economic weight, such as Brazil and Argentina. A nonsense that has also made a dent in the perspective with which the Colombian National Team is seen.
In the specific case of this year, the excessive valuation took its toll again. Millonarios, a team that has been competing with determination in local football (it is not in vain that it is the current leader), was overconfident that it has a clear style of play, promoted by Alberto Gamero, and left aside that the names also add up .
From the beginning, the Bogota team was not the favorite in its series. It wasn’t even going to be if he had retained Fernando Uribe, Daniel Giraldo and Emerson Rivaldo Rodríguez, his three great departures for this year. Against Brazil, the five-time world champion at national team level and the great leader of club football on the American continent, you should always row against the tide. And Fluminense, which was one of the teams that was strengthened the most for this year in the Brasileirao, thus confirmed it.
On the National side, the overestimation was due to the power of its payroll. Since 2017, when Reinaldo Rueda left the team, no coach has been able to shine the great figures that the Antioquia club hires each tournament. It was useless to bring this year weighty men like Giovanni Moreno or Alexander Mejía himself to succeed in the Libertadores.
In what differs from the case of Millonarios is that Nacional, on paper, was the favorite of his series. Although his rival was Olimpia, the dean of Paraguayan soccer, the economic difference in their payrolls and their latest results gave him a certain advantage. However, the experienced men of the Guarani made the difference.
Mentality, office and hierarchy
In the psychological test that professional sport represents, it seems that the Colombian teams have cracked. The focus and attitude required to play international-class matches has been missing for some time. Last year it was Santa Fe that, to give an example, lost the Cup match against River Plate, in Argentina, even though the team with the crossed band had a field player in goal. And this 2022, Millionaires and Nacional sinned due to the same lack of character.
In the case of the ambassadors, during the first game, the childhood expulsion of Eduardo Sosa synthesized the beginning of the avalanche. The penalty missed by Mackallister Silva, the team leader, was his continuation. And the chair of ‘cancherismo’ given by Felipe Melo, a master of tricks, to the entire team, both in Bogotá and in Rio de Janeiro, was his end. Everything, with a list of young players who have plenty of desire, but lack hierarchy.
On the Nacional side, the annotation he allowed in the first seven minutes of the series was the first sign of the collapse. Later, the goals that he missed in Asunción, during the first leg, showed the coldness that is required in important appointments. Then, his lack of concentration in the closing minutes of that first game facilitated the third goal which, as was seen in the second leg, made the difference. This Thursday, his lack of ambition in the first half, and goalkeeper Kevin Mier’s mistake in the second, certified his elimination.
Roadmaps (Planning and contracting)
Something is failing in the design of the objectives of the Colombian clubs and the construction of tools to achieve them. In Millonarios, to tell the truth, the plan seems to be to leave all the responsibility to the boys from the quarry. His goal, as has been seen, and coach Gamero has implied with his statements, is to qualify and, if you can advance, wonderful, and if not, at least it was tried. That logic is far from reconciling with the history of the club.
As for the hiring of players, the albiazules were right with Montero. That is not denied. The issue is that with a goalkeeper of stature and several willing players is not enough to succeed abroad. The lack of a scorer has been suffered by the team so far this year. And, although today he is the leader, the fact that he is the one who has scored the least of the first eight of the BetPlay League does not inspire tranquility.
With Nacional, the idea that the checkbook does not guarantee success is verified. Despite achieving great signings, the Antioquia club suffered in the previous round of Libertadores due to the absence of a man who gives them confidence in the goal. Quintana’s bad timing and Mier’s inexperience were highlighted in the elimination.
In the green awnings, expectations have always been high. It is the most winning team in Colombia and intends to continue being so. However, the gear to get them seems to be what is failing. The instability with which the team faced the series with Olimpia, with an outgoing DT involved, demonstrated this.
In Nacional, in addition, against Olimpia, the figures did not shine. Jarlan Barrera was not lucid, Jefferson Duque was not accurate and Dorlan Pabón was not regular. The ‘Rifle’ Andrade was the only one who showed some of the weight of his shirt. But it was not enough.
In football, as in life, there is no formula that guarantees that there will be no mistakes. What you can do is work on your capabilities to reduce your margin. And that is where the Colombian clubs could be failing. Both in the elimination of Nacional and Millonarios, individual failures were fundamental. Although the easiest thing will always be to point out who is left in the photo, the best thing to do is to look at the entire landscape in detail.
In Millionaires they know: the elimination began at home. Those led by Gamero came out with a frenetic pace and made Fluminense tremble during the first minutes of the game in Bogotá. Later, at minute 18, Sosa erased with his left hand what he did with his right. And his statistics for the day, 1 goal and two yellow cards, predicted what was to come: Montero’s mistake and Silva’s penalty. Already in Brazil, the will was not enough. The series was doomed.
In Nacional, the lack of aim of their forwards in the first game was evident. In addition, the limitations in defense made him concede an early goal. Not to mention how lethal it was to receive a goal in the last breath of the game in Asunción. This Thursday it was Kevin Mier who, with a bad start on a corner kick, ended the momentum that Nacional brought for the second half with the entry of Andrade. After that, there wasn’t much to do.
Dead ball and unforced error (Wed). Olimpia takes its toll and ties the second leg (2-4 overall) after Atlético Nacional’s best moment in the match. pic.twitter.com/fCeUmMin0L
—Colombia Analytics (@Colanalytics) March 4, 2022
The championship system
In the midst of the failure that Colombian teams have suffered in the international arena, the internal championship system seems to have a lot to do with it. For a long time it has been said that the structure of the tournament of all against all and the home runs is far from the line that governs the best leagues in the world. In Europe, tournaments are made up of long competitions in which the one who has the greatest regularity wins. In Colombia, the champion may simply be the best finisher in the final phase. Ironically what is missing in international presentations: auction.
This year, after the elimination of Nacional and Millonarios, they are Deportes Tolima and Deportivo Cali, in the Libertadores group stage, and Medellín, América, Junior and Equidad, in Sudamericana, are called to check it out.
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