Wonderkid Factory | Part 14 | Consecutive Cup Finals

The worst league stage of Robinho Lazaró’s time in charge of Colombian wonderkid factory Envigado FC was fairly inevitable after losing several key players and replacing them with raw youngsters. But Lazaró was optimistic after a prolonged rest between the Apertura and Finalización stages of the 2028 campaign.

However, another young starlet was on the move for solid money as bids came in for 20-year-old Jhoao Trivino, wh’d scored 39 in 56 league games in the last two seasons. Toluca bid £1m but Lazaró negotiated them up to a new club-record sale of £3.5m rising to £4.5m. The positive was that they had a multitude of young strikers coming through, so Lazaró promoted 18-year-old Álvaro Pena, who can also play as a winger, and 17-year-old José Ruiz to compete with 21-year-old Lucas Florez, who Lazaró was thinking also needs to become a winger, and 17-year-old Francisco Ocampo.

Another Tough Copa Libertadores Draw

You could forgive Lazaró for thinking his side was cursed with their Copa Libertadores knockout draws. This time around Envigado drew another Brazilian giant in Corinthians. But could they pull off the impossible? Nope. They lost 2-0 at home after being dominated by 29 shots to four then got thumped 5-2 away but midfielder Ronaldo Bermudez did bag himself a late brace. Corinthians went on to lose 3-2 to Flamengo in the Final. So that means in the last five seasons, Envigado have faced runners-up Atlético Mineiro, semi-finalists Boca Juniors, winners Flamengo, semi-finalists Palmeiras and runners-up Corinthians.

Copa BetPlay Defence

Envigado’s players returned from two weeks of rest to try and defend their maiden Colombian Cup victory. First up was Real Santander and the rest seemed to have worked wonders as a brace from Bermudez sealed a 5-2 away win. And a 4-3 defeat at home sent them through a ridiculous 8-6 on aggregate!

Ocampo scored his first goal of the season in a 2-1 win in the quarter-final first leg at Deportivo Cali, in which exciting midfielder Randi Redín scored and bossed the midfield. But a 2-1 defeat followed in the home leg, which sent the game to penalties. Both teams missed their first spot kick and scored their next six. But Roberto Torres saved their eighth and young centre-back Auli Maradiago stepped up to send Envigado into the last four. The semis saw Envigado take on América. They seized control in the away leg through Ocampo and right-back Malcom Mina Camacho’s penalty. And they snuck through to the Final for the second year in a row with a 1-0 home loss.

The Copa BetPlay Dimayor Final pitted Envigado against Independiente. However, they lost several key players like Mina Camacho and winger Diego Betancourth through injury, which saw Independiente absolutely dominate the first leg. However, Envigado took an early lead and managed to restrict the visitors to only an equaliser even when Bermudez got sent off. They got some players back for the away leg but started poorly as Independiente scored a free-kick and added a second. Lazaró made five changes, which worked as Ruiz slammed a shot off the post and 16-year-old midfielder Hernán Darío Lugo tucked home the rebound for his first senior goal. But, despite going full-on attack, no more highlights were offered and they lost their cup crown.

Seeking A Stronger Finalización Stage

Envigado’s Finalización stage started well by beating Bogotá 2-1. Juan Manuel Zapata scored his first league goal for three seasons then Ocampo scored his second league goal and got sent off for a horror challenge. A customary defeat at Millonarios followed, before a thrilling 4-3 win at Magdalena led by Florez bagging a hat-trick.

The early form was a little shaky but a Florez strike earned a 1-0 over rivals Águilas Doradas and Ruiz replaced him to earn a 1-0 over Expreso Rojo. A late Florez brace and a debut goal for winger Jhon Jairo Morález nicked a 3-3 at Petrolera then midfielder Randi Redín and Betancourth sealed a 2-1 win over Independiente to move Envigado into the top eight for the first time all season. A sign of Envigado’s improvement was Ocampo bagging a hat-trick to down leaders Junior 3-1, putting Envigado 6th and in the midst of another tight battle for the final post-season places.

It was now the injury crisis hit, but goals from Redín, Bermudez and Ocampo earned an important draw at Deportivo Cali. However, an exhausted side lost at Cortuluá three days after the Cup Final second leg then lost 2-1 at Once Caldas. That took Envigado into the final day in 7th place with just three points separating them from 11th-place Cúcuta. Their final game was a tough one at home to 3rd-place Nacional but a Florez brace earned a 2-2 draw. And that was just about enough to sneak into the post-season in 8th place.

Finalización Post-Season

Envigado’s league position ensured a tough group alongside América, Nacional and Millonarios. And luckily, the schedule wasn’t as brutal as last season, when they played seven games in 12 days, but they did have to play six games in 13 days and a spell of three away games in five days. Which is just ludicrous.

The squad was exhausted for the opener so Lazaró had to fully rotate and a very young team did really well to only lose 1-0 at home to Millonarios. It should come as no surprise that they struggled and lost the first two away games. But they won 3-1 at Nacional then hammered group toppers América, who rested their first 11, 5-1 in the final game led by Betancourth getting two goals and two assists.

That saw them finish in a solid third place in the post-season group, which Lazaró was definitely viewing as a success amid the fixture congestion. That also wrapped up a top-half finish in the overall Liga BetPlay Dimayor league table, which was also a solid recovery after a terrible start to the season.

The already-departed Trivino, who’s only scored two in 10 in Mexico, had the best average rating in the league of 7.63, while Díaz had the second-most assists with 12.

Reflecting On A Mixed Season

Envigado started the season in dreadful form that had fans harshly questioning Lazaró’s position at the club. But they recovered well to reach the Finalización post-season and the Colombian Cup Final, despite again losing their best player for decent money.

This season’s star man according to the fans was Florez, who was the club’s top scorer with 23 in 52. But midfielder Bermudez probably outperformed him with 15 goals and 13 assists from 60 appearances. His midfield partner Redín got 14 assists and four goals, Díaz got 14 assists and eight goals, Betancourth got 12 goals and 12 assists and Ocampo scored 15 in 29.

Additionally, Envigado’s Under 20s won the U20 Division 1 led by Pena scoring 32 in 19, midfielder Diego Mena getting 13 assists and winger Jaiber Prince scoring and assisting 10.

Lazaró’s efforts in the second half of the campaign earned him a new three-year contract worth £2,600 a week, keeping him at Envigado until 2031. Off the field, the board also improved the club’s training facilities, which means it now has great training facilities, superb youth facilities and exceptional junior coaching and youth recruitment.

Could Lazaró’s side continue the improvement into the 2029 campaign? Join us on Friday to find out!

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