Another special year for global soccer is coming to an end. That in the second year of the pandemic he sought to get closer to “normality”, but the damn Covid interrupted the European seasons, which inevitably distorted the competitions a bit, and deprived those of South America of the public for long months. It was a different 2021. With a very tight calendar and with tournaments postponed to 2020. And that, despite the rareness of empty stadiums, has left champions around the world worth mentioning: some wrote their own history, others may mark a before and after in the league of a country and a few will remain forever in the memory of ball lovers.
AMERICA CUP: ARGENTINA, MESSI AND THE SCALONETA THAT ENDED THE SUFFERING
The Copa América of 2021 had all the seasonings to become unforgettable for Argentina. First, the tournament was seriously at risk of being suspended. A little more than a month after the start, Colombia resigned to be the headquarters due to the social unrest and Argentina gave up due to the sharp rise in cases of the pandemic. Brazil agreed to host at the last minute. There was speculation about a boycott of several figures, but finally it did not happen and the contest was carried out, but without an audience.
The Albiceleste National Team quickly won the candidate’s badge, with Leo Messi at a high level, despite arriving from a Barcelona in crisis. And around him, Cristian Romero and Rodrigo De Paul exploded, within a team that functioned as such, and despite the occasional injury, began to come out of memory.
He passed the first phase without problems, left no doubts in the second round with Ecuador 3-0 and Draw Martinez became a hero like his virals “I eat you, I eat you” in penalties to eliminate Colombia. And the final, from a movie: Maracana stadium, with an audience of both parties, with reduced capacity, but still public. In front of Brazil, the rival of all life. This time it was not demon and it was Angel for Di Maria, who played, shone and scored the goal with which he changed the murmurs for ovations. And finally, after so many frustrations, Messi was able to lift the Cup dressed in light blue and white. And Argentina, 28 years later, was able to shout champion again. La Scaloneta has already gone down in history and its creator, so questioned by his lack of experience and the way in which he arrived, earned respect and credit to move forward. Better, impossible.
EURO: ITALY, AGAIN TO THE FIRST PLANES OF THE OLD CONTINENT
Like the America’s Cup, the Euro was postponed for a year due to the pandemic, but UEFA ensured that it was held, with audiences in multiple venues, and in that regard, it was a success.
To National, who had just been absent from the 2018 World Cup, was home to the first phase in Rome and Mancini’s team swept away with full victories. With a giant Donnarumma in the arc, the leadership of Chiellini and Bonucci in the rear and good options in the attack like Insigne, Immobile, Chiesa and revulsive performers from the bench. Austria was very close to the hit in the round of 16, but Chiesa forced extra time and Pessina sealed the passage to the quarterfinals. What followed was not much easier: Belgium and Spain, on penalties, to reach the big date at Wembley against homeowners, England. A packed Cathedral savored the title from minute 2 thanks to Luke Shaw’s goal, but Bonucci equaled it and Italy knew how to handle it until they reached penalties, in which Donnarumma sealed the glory for Azzurra, after 50 years in Europe.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: CHELSEA, THE LEAST THOUGHT CHAMPION
Chelsea was the champion of the UEFA Champions League. What was special about the title? First, it was returned to the original format, which had been modified in 2020, forced by the pandemic. In addition, the Blues were in the process of regaining prominence at the hands of Frank Lampard, who initially achieved results, but then lost momentum and Roman Abramovich hit the wheel and on January 25 threw the historic wheel and hired Thomas Tuchel. And with him the team was revolutionized: they started unbeaten in 16 games and beat Atlético Madrid in the round of 16, Porto in the quarterfinals and the big blow in the semifinals, leaving Real Madrid on the road.
Second consecutive final for Tuchel, who could not win the Orejona with PSG, and Guardiola’s Manchester City appeared as great favorites for the duel in Porto. But the German was left with the tactical duel and a goal from Kai Havertz was enough to give Chelsea European glory for the second time in their history.
LIBERTADORES CUP: PALMEIRAS, FROM BRAZIL FOR ALL AMERICA
With the CONMEBOL Libertadores Cup, Palmeiras joined the select group of six teams in history that achieved the double championship of the most important event in South America. The last time a club had managed to win this trophy in consecutive years had been in 1977 and 1978, with the Boca Juniors double. Santos and Peñarol also have the same achievement. But so far no one has been able to match the three-time championship of Estudiantes LP 68/69/70 and much less the record of Independiente with his four-time championship 72/73/74/75 and the bi of 64/65.
Another peculiarity, but increasingly common in this contest, was the marked dominance of the Brazilians. In general, he had been sharing with the Argentines, but four of the last five champions were Verdeamarelos. Palmeiras was the 2nd best in the group stage, only surpassed by another compatriot, Atlético Mineiro. In the quarterfinals, six of the eight were Brazilian. Verdao had to eliminate San Pablo. The only surprise was Barcelona of Ecuador, who beat Fluminense. In the semis, he took the big favorite out of the way: Mineiro, who had surpassed Boca and River. And in the intense and gripping final in Montevideo, Abel Ferreira’s team crowned Flamengo 2-1 in overtime.
CONMEBOL Sudamericana had a similar tonic to that of its “older sister”, where the final was also 100 percent Brazilian, although Athletico Paranaense’s title with 1-0 over Bragantino will probably be remembered only by his fans.
ARGENTINA: COLÓN AND RIVER, THERE IS ALWAYS A FIRST TIME
In Argentina in 2021 he had three champions, with two titles for Boca Juniors in the Maradona Cup and the Argentine Cup, but the winners of the First Division contest became more important because they made history. In the first half of the year, with the so-called great teams focused on international competitions, it was the Colón de Santa Fe by Eduardo Domínguez and with Pulga Rodríguez as the main figure, the one who added the first star of his life, by beating Racing in the final, which was the clear favorite. While in the second semester, the River de Gallardo, eliminated in the second round of the Libertadores, stepped on the accelerator and swept the League Tournament. El Millonario was able to overcome important casualties such as Matías Suárez, Nico De la Cruz and Fabrizio Angileri, among others. DT had to rearrange his formation over and over again. He ran from behind to Talleres and Lanús, but with an unbeaten streak of 18 games and the explosion of the young scorer Julián Álvarez was crowned with three dates in advance and thus He settled one of the few pending accounts of the Gallardo cycle: winning the Argentine championship.
BRAZIL: ATLÉTICO MINEIRO, HALF A CENTURY AFTER
Atlético Mineiro ended a fast of no less than 50 years and was crowned in one of the most demanding leagues – if not the most – in America at the Brasileirao. Cuca’s team bet and invested heavily in reinforcements such as Nacho Fernández, Diego Costa, Hulk, Junior Alonso, and Mariano, among others. He made a very good Libertadores. He left on the road nothing less than Boca and River, but Palmeiras left him with nothing in the semifinals. Now without the Cup on the horizon, he aimed all his guns at the local championship and, with the victory over Bahia, three dates from the end, the second title in his history was already a reality. Shortly after, as an extra prize, he also won the Brazil Cup, beating Athletico Paranaense in the finals.
CHILE: CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY SING THE POKER
The Catholic University had a hectic and historic year. He changed DT three times: it started with Ariel Holan, who left in February and was replaced by Gustavo Poyet, who agreed to leave in August due to poor results and Cristian Paulucci took command. In February, due to the suspension for months due to the pandemic, from the hand of Holan came the postponed three-time championship of 2020, in a tournament where the crossed team never dropped from third place and, from date 17, no longer released the lead. The historic four-time championship made people want more, because UC ran from behind to Colo Colo most of the competition and it was Cacique who lost ground in the final stretch, after having been the leader for 15 consecutive days. With Fernando Zampedri as the scorer, the Católica became the first team from Chile to win four titles in a row in long tournaments.
ECUADOR: INDEPENDENT OF THE VALLEY, ON THE TOP FOR THE FIRST TIME
The Pro Bectris League had two clear dominators and a first-time champion: Independiente del Valle. In the first phase, Emelec was the leader in 9 of the 15 dates, fighting hand in hand with Barcelona. In the second phase, the Negriazul led by Renato Paiva was the owner of the top, from the second to the last day, chased by Emelec. In fact, the Eléctricos were the ones that added the most points in the general classification. However, in the hand-to-hand duel, in the finals, Matagigantes appeared, who made a sufficient difference in the first leg, with a 3-1 and, due to the 1-1 draw in the second leg, Independiente del Valle signed up for the great history of Ecuadorian soccer.
MEXICO: FOR CRUZ AZUL AND ATLAS, THE WAIT IS OVER
In Mexico there was the coincidence that the two champions of the year cut a long streak without being able to be crowned. First it was Cruz Azul’s turn: the team led by the Peruvian Juan Reynoso led the first phase and then left Toluca and Pachuca on the way, to dispute the finals with Santos Laguna, and was crowned after 23 years, but also broke the record for consecutive victories de León, with 12, and with the highest percentage of points in short tournaments.
Then it was time for Atlas, who screamed champion for the second time after no less than 70 years. Diego Cocca’s team was 2nd in the first phase behind América and advanced to the final, after equaling their series against Monterrey and Pumas, due to the sports advantage that the initial part of the tournament gave them. In the finals, León hit first with a 3-2, but the Rojinegros won 1-0 in the second leg and the long-awaited glory came from penalties.
ITALY: INTER ENDED THE BIANCONERA ERA
In a season marked by the pandemic, It was the end of an era for the Italian Serie A: after 9 years, Inter cut the hegemony of Juventus. And eleven years later, the Nerazzurro added their 19th Scudetto, after fighting hand to hand with their rival from the neighborhood: Milan. Cristiano Ronaldo was the Capocannoniere, but Juve this time did not even seriously threaten the leadership of Inter, which featured the scoring duo of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez. With four days remaining, Simone Inzaghi’s team had already secured their championship.
FRANCE: LILLE PUT A BRAKE ON PARIS
Ligue 1 also had a surprising champion, because after three consecutive years of Paris Saint Germain at the top (although the last one had been decided without the tournament being completed due to the Covid pandemic), Lille interrupted the streak, with barely a point ahead of the all-star team led by Thomas Tuchel, who had to “be distracted” on the final straight because he reached the final of the UEFA Champions League.
SPAIN: NEITHER BARCELONA NOR REAL MADRID, ATLÉTICO
In LaLiga, Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid went from “third in contention” to first. In the last 17 seasons, 15 times the title was shared between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the only two interruptions were achieved by the Colchonero. It was undoubtedly an esepcial year, since neither meringues nor culés, even with Messi in their ranks, were successful in Europe and, almost as a consolation prize, they fought to the end at the local level, but it did not reach them either. Luis Suárez was the scorer of the Cholo team (although widely surpassed by Messi) and the goalkeeper Jan Oblak was chosen as MVP of the contest, added to the assists of Marcos Llorente and the talent of the young Joao Félix, but above the individualities, Simeone consolidated a team capable of surpassing the figures of its rivals.