By Michael Place RIO DE JANEIRO
Brazil (Xinhua) -- The year
2017 was replete with emotion in South American football
as titles were decided in dramatic circumstances,
tragedies were overcome and World Cup fairytales came
true. Xinhua looks at some of the highs and lows of a
year to remember.
BEST COACH - Former
Corinthians coach Tite, whose given name is Adenor
Leonardo Bacchi, took charge of Brazil in mid-2016 when
the team was in disarray.
The five-time World Cup
champions had just been eliminated from the Copa America
without reaching the knockout stage, prolonging a slump
that began with a humiliating 7-1 World Cup semifinal
defeat at home to Germany two years earlier.
Under Tite’s stewardship, Brazil went on to win nine
consecutive World Cup qualifiers, reclaiming the world
No.1 ranking for the first time in seven years and
becoming the first team (other than hosts Russia) to
qualify for football’s showpiece tournament next June
Brazilians are again excited about their
national team and, while the heartache of 2014 will
never disappear, there is hope that Russia 2018 might at
least bring redemption.
BEST GOAL - Few
goals could match the emotion of the one scored by Henry
Rojas that secured Millonarios their 15th
Colombian first division title earlier this month.
Millonarios and their Bogota rivals Santa Fe were tied
2-2 on aggregate in the 85th minute of the
final’s second leg when Rojas sent a thunderous
first-time shot into the top corner from around 30
The strike prompted an almost equally impressive
25-second goal shout from Caracol TV commentator Javier
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT -
In 1985, Ricardo Gareca scored the goal for Argentina
that denied Peru a place at the 1986 World Cup.
years later he was appointed coach of the Blanquirroja,
tasked with ending the country’s World Cup drought that
dated back to 1982.
He quickly went about turning South
America’s perennial underachievers into a formidable
Gareca steered Peru to third place at the 2015
Copa America and the quarterfinals of the same
tournament in 2016.
those achievements paled into insignificance compared to
the events of the past 12 months.
Having won just one of
their first six World Cup qualifiers in South America’s CONMEBOL group, Peru went on a roll - going unbeaten in
their last six matches - to secure an intercontinental
playoff berth against New Zealand.
A goalless draw
against the All-Whites in Wellington was followed by a
2-0 victory in Lima five days later as Peru’s World Cup
drought ended and Gareca completed his transformation
from villain to national treasure.
BEST TEAM - Brazil’s
Gremio earned the mantle of continental champions when
they defeated Argentine side Lanus 3-1 on aggregate in
the Copa Libertadores final. It was the Porto Alegre
club’s third triumph in South America’s premier club
competition following their titles in 1983 and 1995. The
result earned the team a place in the FIFA Club World
Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where they lost the
final to Real Madrid 1-0 earlier this month.
WORST TEAM -
Paraguay’s Sportivo Trinidense had the poorest record of
any team in South America’s 10 biggest domestic leagues
that were completed in 2017, with just five wins from 44
A mention must also go to Buenos Aires outfit
Arsenal de Sarandi, who have so far registered just one
win, two draws and nine losses in the current Argentine
Primera Division season, which finishes in May.
WORST SIGNING -
Flamengo’s gamble to sign Argentine midfielder Dario
Conca on a year-long loan from Shanghai SIPG was nothing
short of an abject failure.
The 34-year-old played just
three matches as he struggled to recover from a serious
knee ligament injury.
He returned to Shanghai earlier
this month with his reputation in Brazil somewhat
blemished, having previously shone during spells with
Rio de Janeiro giants Fluminense and Vasco da Gama.
BEST PLAYER - In our
opinion, this was a tie between Gremio pair Luan and
Arthur. Forward Luan, a member of the Brazil team that
won last year’s Olympic gold medal in Rio, was named
Copa Libertadores player of the tournament with eight
goals in 12 matches.
Arthur, who has been linked with
Barcelona and Real Madrid, was Gremio’s midfield
metronome with his calmness under pressure, wide passing
range and defensive prowess.
BEST RECOVERY - It
was a tempestuous year for Brazil’s Chapecoense, who
were forced to rebuild almost from scratch after losing
19 players and all of their coaching staff in a plane
crash in November 2016.
The club used four different
head coaches in 2017 - Vagner Mancini, Vinicius Eutropio,
Emerson Cris and, finally, Gilson Kleina - in an effort
to avoid relegation to Brazil’s Serie B.
Chapecoense were unbeaten in their final 10 league
matches and secured a berth in next year’s Copa