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Soccer: Why Brazil has become the dominant club team in South America

The echoes generated by Angel Di Maria’s goal last year, in perhaps the most important final in the history of the Copa América for Argentina, are still lasting and will continue to last.

Context: at the Maracanã stadium in Rio, against Brazil, top of the FIFA ranking, after 28 years without titles, with six consecutive finals lost in international competitions since then. By any standards: a milestone and a celebration of all time.

Then, on June 1 of this year, almost as a way of consolidating a World Cup candidate, at Wembley, Argentina beat Italy, the European champions, 3-0 in the Intercontinental Cup (called La Finalissima, organized by UEFA and Conmebol, heir of the Artemio Franchi, the same one Argentina had won in the summer of 1993, with Diego Maradona and against Denmark).

Among the local teams, Brazil dominates South America. For starters, it has the last two champions of the most important competitions: the Libertadores, won by Palmeiras, and the Sudamericana, won by Athlético Paranaense.
Among the local teams, Brazil dominates South America. For starters, it has the last two champions of the most important competitions: the Libertadores, won by Palmeiras, and the Sudamericana, won by Athlético Paranaense. (Photo: internet reproduction)

However, at the club level, there is no correlation with this national team holding a national record of 33 matches without losing.

Among the local teams, Brazil dominates South America. For starters, it has the last two champions of the most important competitions: the Libertadores, won by Palmeiras, and the Sudamericana, won by Athlético Paranaense.

There is more data to support this growing phenomenon, apart from the fact that Argentina is the historical dominator both in the Libertadores (it has been played since 1960 and the country of Diego and Messi have 25 titles against 21 of their arch-rivals) and in the Sudamericana (it has been played since 2002, and the advantage is also for Argentina, 9 to 5). But recent years have changed the scenario of history. Come and see:

1) Of the last five editions of the Libertadores, Brazilians won 4 (twice in a row Palmeiras, most recently Flamengo in 2019, and Gremio in 2017.

2) In the last two finals, there were only finalists from Brazil: the two titles of Palmeiras and their defeated, Flamengo and Santos.

3) The four finalists of the two main competitions in 2021 were also from Pelé’s country: Palmeiras and Flamengo (the same as saying São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the two sporting powers of the largest territory of our sub-continent) in the Libertadores and Atlético Paranaense and Bragantino in the Sudamericana.

4) In the Sudamericana, in any case, counting the last five years, they are even: with two champions (Paranaense in both cases for Brazil; and Independiente and Defensa y Justicia for Argentina) and two finalists each (Flamengo and Bragantino on the one hand; Colón and Lanús, on the other).

5) The Cup Winners’ Cup looks like an exclusive duel between the two giants, with the advantage for Brazil in the last five years: three titles (Palmeiras, Flamengo, and Gremio) and three runners-up (Paranaense twice and Palmeiras); Argentina is a little further behind with two trophies (River and Defensa y Justicia, the last Argentine international champion) and one finalist (Independiente). The only exception is Independiente del Valle, from Ecuador, in 2020.

6) The only exception to the Brazilian dominance in the last five years was one of the most controversial, controversial, and remembered finals of all time: River’s victory over Boca, in 2018, curiously at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.

7) In the current edition of the Libertadores, of the eight teams that have qualified for the quarterfinals, five are from Brazil (Paranaense, Mineiro, Palmeiras, Corinthians, and Flamengo, who face each other in the duel between the two teams with the most fans, according to various surveys, such as the one conducted last June by the consulting firm Convocados) and three from Argentina (Estudiantes, Talleres, and Colón). As a result, it is already known that there will be two semifinalists from Brazil and one from Argentina.

8) And in the quarterfinals of the Sudamericana, there will be four Brazilians (Inter de Porto Alegre, Goianiense, São Paulo, and Ceará; and as the latter two meet, there will be at least one semifinalist from that country) and no Argentinean.

9) In defense of the surprises, in the Sudamericana, a miracle happened: Táchira of Venezuela eliminated the multi-awarded Santos in the round of 16.

WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THIS SUPREMACY?

As in the case of the Champions League, the matrix is economic: almost always, those who win or go the farthest are the ones who have the most money and possibilities to invest.

Some examples:

1) Of the 20 soccer players with the highest market value, 14 are Brazilian. All of them represent Brazilian teams that are in the quarterfinals. And to them we must add one Uruguayan and one Argentinean who appear in the top 20: Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Flamengo midfielder) and Matias Zaracho (Atlético Mineiro midfielder).

2) Of the top 20, only one did not play in this edition of the Libertadores but is in the quarterfinals of the Sudamericana: Facundo Farías (from Colón, valued at €12 million – US$12.4 million).

3) The other Argentines present are already out: Enzo Fernández (sixth, €15 million, from River) and Ezequiel Barco (nineteenth, €10 million, from River). Another Uruguayan, also from River, joins them: Nicolás de la Cruz (ninth, €13 million).

4) And extending the list to the top 40, 28 are Brazilians, and 31 of the total play in the Brasileirão.

What happens with individuals, logically, also happens with clubs: in terms of market value, 12 of the top 14 are Brazilian. The only two exceptions are superclásicas: River (fourth, behind Palmeiras, Flamengo) and Boca (seventh, behind the four mentioned above, plus Corinthians and Bragantino, now owned by the multinational Red Bull).

It was pointed out the year before his death in 2015 by the imperishable and indispensable Eduardo Galeano to the São Paulo newspaper O Estadão:

“I pray to God that players do not lose that pleasure of playing soccer because, in recent years, they have been conditioned to only win, which translates into more money. Soccer has lost that spark of amazement that should mark every game. And now it is in danger of being a profitable business like drugs or weapons.”

So true, so painful. Almost as it now shows -perhaps exaggerating- through Netflix, the German series Dogs of Berlin.

With information from Clarín

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