A revealing table –and an analysis of seven specific aspects– tells us that, despite the ponderable –and indisputable– advance of Ecuador, Uruguay and Colombia can be considered the third football in South America. Or, at least, those who dispute that seat. If it were for national teams, no one disputes that place for the Celestes, but in clubs their gravitation is very low and that puts them on a par with both Colombia and Ecuador. We are talking about the last 21 years.
Added to the participation of the clubs of the continent of the ten countries of the, Colombia leads by a small margin –but it leads– to Ecuador. Aurelio Dávila, Ecuadorian journalist and statistician, listed in a table all the matches played by the teams in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana and the result was as follows: 1. Brazil, 2. Argentina, 3. Colombia, 4. Ecuador, 5. Paraguay, 6. Uruguay, 7. Chile, 8. Bolivia, 9. Peru and 10. Venezuela.
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The ordering is by percentage of effectiveness and the computation was made from 2002, when the Copa Sudamericana began, up to and including 2022, that is, 21 editions of each competition. «The columned by percentages because not all countries have the same team quotas,» says Aurelio. Indeed, Brazil and Argentina receive more places.
However, the remaining eight are equipped, since 4 teams qualify for each tournament. In that case it is perfectly comparable and there the positions change: 1. Brazil, 2. Argentina, 3. Colombia, 4. Paraguay, 5. Ecuador, 6. Chile, 7. Uruguay, 8. Bolivia, 9. Peru and 10. Venezuela. In both situations, Colombia maintains the third chair.
The fall of Colombia has been in the last six years
Although in recent years the good Colombian teams have not completed international campaigns (with the exception of Atlético Nacional, champion of Libertadores in 2016, and Independiente Santa Fe, in 2015), they have not lost third place, behind the two greats.
Ecuador has a small advantage: it has won four championship titles in that period: two from the Quito League (Libertadores and South American) and two from Independiente del Valle (both South American), against three of the Colombians, but these added two Libertadores, that is more important: one from Once Caldas and another from Atlético Nacional. The rest was the achievement of Santa Fe in Sudamericana, in which Junior and Nacional were runners-up. In the case of those from Medellín, triple. In other words, Colombian soccer was a finalist seven times in club tournaments, not a little. It’s loosened up in the last six years.
Argentina and Brazil equal the podium of conquests with 15 coronations each. Argentina, through eight clubs, Brazil, 10. This speaks of the power of both. They even have, altogether, 27 subtitles, an impressive supremacy. Argentina’s has even greater merit due to the economic difficulties in which its teams move.
A notable fact is that the Uruguayans Peñarol and Nacional, once fierce rivals who used to reach the top (they won eight Libertadores between them), have gone 36 and 35 years without being crowned. And they have never won the South American since it was created in 2002. The other Uruguayan teams do not even withstand this analysis, they are very far from any possibility of a title.
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The Brazilian representatives played 1,975 matches; the Argentines, 1,683; the Colombians, 890 and, fourth, the Paraguayans, with 811. The one who plays the most is because he went further. But club football does not say everything. How did it go in terms of selections? Uruguay chest out there. The small country of 3.4 million people generates many footballers and always manages to put together a competitive team.
Uruguay takes advantage in selections
In the same period analyzed in terms of clubs (2002-2022), Uruguay qualified for 5 World Cups out of 6. Ecuador, 4; Paraguay, a 3; Chile and Colombia, at 2 and Peru, at 1. We count the six who consider themselves rival directors among themselves. Brazil and Argentina qualified everyone, while Bolivia and Venezuela were not even close in that race.
In terms of playoffs, logically the same number were played as world cups: six. Uruguay prevails there, with 160 points achieved; followed by Colombia, with 154; Ecuador, 153; Paraguayan, 143; Chile, 140, and Peru, 112. The strange thing is that, making one less point, Ecuador went to two World Cups more than Colombia. A possible explanation? The goals. In this crucial area, Colombia has a serious deficit: first there is Uruguay, with 149, then Ecuador, with 141; Chile, against 139; Colombia, against 126; Paraguay, with 124, and Peru, with 108.
Each goal can be decisive in the tie. Colombia has missed going to a World Cup by one goal in 2002. The goals section is really disturbing for Colombia. Namely: in the qualifiers he was sixth (2002), third (2006), ninth (2010), second (2014) and sixth (2018 and 2022). Without goal there is no paradise.
There is also the Copa América. There were seven editions in the analyzed period. Despite not being champion in that interim, Colombia shares the position in points with Uruguay (a conquest, in 2011), both add up to 54. Then there is Peru, with 53; Chile (twice champion), with 51; Paraguay much further behind, with 35, and Ecuador, with a very low 13 points. The Copa América is Ecuador’s historical karma. He never won it.
A fifth comparative item is the FIFA world ranking. Colombia has appeared several times –between 2013 and 2016– in third place, very high. Not even Uruguay got that far; his best placement was fourth. The same Chile, fourth in 2017. Paraguay was eighth in 2001, its greatest achievement. Peru climbed to a historic tenth place in 2017, in the time of Gareca. Ecuador, on the other hand, achieved thirteenth place in its best production (2012 and 2015).
The sixth item, although perhaps the most important of all, is the production of players with international projection. Here, without a doubt, Uruguay heads the batch of the six analyzed. A small country, demographically speaking, that exports hundreds of professionals. Among the most notable, Luis Suárez, Édinson Cavani, Diego Forlan, Federico Valverde, Darwin Núñez, Ronald Araújo, Josema Giménez, Giorgian De Arrascaeta, Rodrigo Bentancur and dozens more in the different European leagues. It is followed by Colombia, which has had Falcao García, James Rodríguez, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, David Ospina, Mario Yepes, Iván Ramiro Córdoba and many more at the highest level. Then Chile would be located with Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sánchez, Gary Medel and Claudio Bravo at the head. Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru follow, the latter with a poor generation of talent.
There would be one last meter: history. There, Uruguay takes several laps ahead of its five direct competitors, by number of titles, prominence and feats. Adding up all the items, there is no doubt that Uruguay and Colombia are fighting for third place on the grid, although distanced from Brazil and Argentina.
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