Robinho Lazaró’s team of young starlets became the first Colombian club to win back-to-back league stage titles for a decade as Envigado FC won the Apertura league six months on from winning the Finalización. Lazaró’s exceptional efforts in developing young talents attracted the attention of another South American wonderkid factory as Boca Juniors came calling. But he swiftly said “No gracias.”
This feels like a good time to reflect on just how good some of these academy products have become. The best player at Envigado is 19-year-old striker Francisco Ocampo, who is already the best player in Liga BetPlay Dimayor. He’s closely followed by 4-star winger Jaiber Prince, fellow international Ronaldo Bermudez and right-winger Luis Ángel Díaz.
Envigado also have four 3.5-star ability players, which is considered a leading Liga BetPlay player, in goalkeeper Frank Marimón, midfielder Randi Redín and two players that started the save at the club in Jhon Banguera and captain Juan Manuel Zapata. There’s much more where that came from as 18 players at the club have 5-star potential and another 15 have 4.5-star potential.
Copa Sudamericana Knockouts
The positive of coming third in the Copa Libertadores group was dropping into Copa Sudamericana knockouts – which was starkly portrayed by Independiente, who qualified ahead of Envigado, drawing Palmeiras in the second round. Envigado, on the other hand, drew Uruguayan side Montevideo City Torque in the Copa Sudamericana second round. They started well with a 2-1 win in the home leg and secured qualification with a wild 6-4 away win, in which Ocampo bagged a hat-trick and Bermudez got an assist hat-trick.
The quarter-final got trickier as they drew Internacional, one of four remaining Brazilian sides. But they put in possibly their best continental performance so far as Ocampo scored a first-half brace and created a late Redín goal to inspire a 3-1 home win. Lazaró took a more conservative approach to the trip to Brazil, where the hosts dominated with 58% of possession and 26 shots to seven. But Ocampo struck again after five minutes, giving his side a three-goal lead to defend. And great performances by Marimón and Banguera restricted Internacional to just one goal in response. So Envigado made it through 4-2 on aggregate!
Envigado got the most favourable semi-final draw as they took on Universidad Católica while Gremio played Sao Paulo. Lazaró rested the first 11 for the first leg in Chile and that worked wonders as Ocampo scored just before the break and Bermudez doubled the lead with 15 minutes remaining. And Católica didn’t even get a shot on target. They also offered little in the second leg until forcing a great save out of Marimón before striker Juan Camilo Rojas had a goal disallowed. But a 0-0 at Polideportivo Sur was enough to send Envigado into their first-ever continental cup final!
Dreaming Of 3 Consecutive Titles
Envigado began the Finalización stage with a 2-1 win at Santander thanks to centre-back Rodolfo Vega heading home a Bermudez corner in the 93rd minute. Lazaró had to rotate to manage league and continental action, which led to an up-and-down start to the campaign. But a 2-1 win over Expreso Rojo led by a Rojas brace lifted them into 7th at the halfway mark.
Unusually compared to recent seasons, Envigado’s games had been pretty dull with 14 scored and 12 conceded. But that changed in a crazy 7-4 win over Orsomarso with an Ocampo hat-trick, Prince brace and Bermudez scoring and getting two assists. But the league form continued to be a little all over the place, including a 4-1 thumping by leaders Independiente in the penultimate game. But a 2-1 win over Millonarios – who finished 18th! – somehow secured a 4th-place finish.
Envigado got a favourable post-season group with Cúcuta, Junior and América de Cali. The goal-shy league stage was long forgotten as the group began with a 4-3 win at Junior and a 3-3 at Cúcuta, in which Ocampo bagged a brace. The striker was suddenly just three goals off Jhoao Trivino’s club record of 40 goals in a season and moved one closer in a 1-0 win over Junior. The ridiculous scheduling returned but a rotated team won 2-0 at home to América. A draw at home to Cúcuta would win the group with a game to spare and the first 11 returned to win 4-0, with Ocampo’s brace equalling the club record.
That set up a second-successive Finalización Final this time against Santa Fe, who Lazaró had only lost to four times in 24 meetings. That continued in the away leg as Ocampo showed why he’s easily the best player in the league with a hat-trick inspiring a 4-2 win. The home leg was equally entertaining but without the goals. Ocampo had a chance to kill it off but missed a penalty, only for Envigado to keep the ball and Prince created a sitter for the striker. And that was enough for another title.
Envigado defended their Finalización crown and won three back-to-back Colombian titles!!
Copa Sudamericana Final
Thousands of fans packed out Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in Medellín ready to board flights to La Paz, in Bolivia, as they nervously awaited Envigado’s first continental cup final. They were up against it as they took on Brazilian giants Sao Paulo, who won their only Copa Sudamericana title back in 2012 and were 11/10 favourites. But Envigado had a chance with odds of 2/1.
Lazaró had more or less a clean bill of health, except for defender José María Romero getting the flu. So he lined up:
Marimón; Camacho, Vega, Banguera, Mira; Zapata; Bermudez, Redín; Díaz, Prince; Ocampo
Sao Paulo came out flying and forced Marimón into a couple of decent stops. But out of nowhere, it was Envigado that landed the first punch. Bermudez got free down the right and crossed for Ocampo to brilliantly slam home on the volley. The Brazilians continued to have the best of the game but Envigado went close again as Díaz’s shot was pushed onto the post. But Lazaró’s side took a 1-0 lead into half-time.
Sao Paulo equalised immediately after the break through dangerous striker Netinho. So Lazaró went a little more cautious and the Brazilians offered very little as the game drifted to a 1-1 finish. A few subs came on and extra-time was an absolute non-event. So the game went to the lottery of penalties.
Sao Paulo went first and scored and Lazaró’s trusted man Ocampo followed suit. Each team’s next three takers all also scored, to effectively make it sudden death. And that woke up Marimón, who saved from substitute left-back Welington. Fittingly, that meant Envigado’s all-time record appearances holder Juan Manuel Zapata had a chance to make himself a true club legend. And he coolly stepped up to slam the winning penalty home.
Envigado won Copa Sudamericana!!
Lazaró was beyond delighted with los chicos. He led a lap of celebration and was the first to crack open the champagne during the on-pitch celebrations. And it’s safe to say the Envigado manager, players and supporters painted La Paz orange!
This was a ridiculous achievement, leading a squad of fully homegrown players to South America’s second-biggest club trophy. It also made Envigado only the third Colombian team to win Copa Sudamericana, after Santa Fe in 2015 and Tolima in 2023. And it’s probably going to be the biggest achievement Lazaró will ever achieve as Envigado boss as Copa Libertadores seems unlikely if not impossibly for a team of their stature.
Reflecting On A Remarkable Season
The power of the Envigado wonderkid factory was shown to devastating effect this season as Envigado won both the Apertura and Finalización league stages on top of lifting Copa Sudamericana. This team of fully homegrown heroes has become absolutely phenomenal, the only problem now may be holding on to most of them.
The star man this season was undoubtedly Ocampo, who smashed the club record for most goals in a season as he scored 44 and got 10 assists plus an average rating of 7.54 in 50 games in all competitions. The striker won Colombian Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year and set a new league average rating record of 7.51. He’s also only 28 goals behind Diego Rodríguez’s all-time league goals record of 99, having scored 71 in 100 league appearances.
Pushing him close was Bermudez, who scored an impressive 26 plus 17 assists in 58 appearances. Prince scored 14 and got a club-high 21 assists, Díaz got 17 assists and four goals and Redín got seven assists and three goals in 31 games. Special mention also has to go to centre-backs Banguera and Vega for averaging over 7.00.
How would Lazaró and his homegrown heroes build on this success? Join us on Friday to find out!
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