Best Latin American Teams in 2016
Best Latin American Teams in 2016
Which were the best Latin American teams in 2016? PanamericanWorld proposes a ranking of the finest performances delivered by teams from our region in an Olympic year. This list ranges from the titles obtained by Brazilian soccer and volleyball teams in Rio, the surprising win by the Argentinean Lions in field hockey, to the triumph of such clubs as Atlético Nacional or Venados de Mazatlán in regional competitions, as well as the crown held by Chile in the America Cup.
Brazil Breaks the Olympic Curse
In Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games the Brazilian soccer team got the only title that was missing in its rich history. It wasn’t as easy as many people forecasted when the locals announced that Neymar Jr. would be included in the lineup, since he was the best player in that tournament by far.
Months before, the Barcelona star and main benchmark in the Brazilian team had to decide between participating in Copa America Centenario and competing in the Olympic Games. People say he wanted to be in both events, but in Barcelona—the club that pays for Ney’s megabuck contract—the executives said that it wasn’t possible because the player wouldn’t be physically capable of enduring the long European season plus these two events. Therefore, Neymar decided to lead his team in the fight for a title that had been taken from Brazil in three Olympic events.
In front of its public, the Brazilian team began with the wrong foot, since no goal was scored in the first games. The recovery came against Denmark (4-0) and they later defeated Colombia (2-0) and Honduras (6-0). This is how they made to the final, where the Brazilian players faced Germany.
This duel took place at mythical Maracana stadium. Neymar scored the first goal, but Maximilian Meyer drew the scoreboard and that was the end for goals, so they had to go to penalties. Neymar was in charge of the last kick. With the entire Latin America guiding his leg, the star didn’t miss the shot and his goal triggered the biggest feast even seen in Rio de Janeiro. That’s how the Brazilian soccer put an end to the “Olympic curse”.
The Roar of Argentinean Lions in Olympic Hockey
The Argentinean men’s field hockey team achieved one of the most surprising team wins in Rio. The so-called “Lions”, coached by Carlos Retegui, climbed positions in the tournament and undoubtedly amazed the world by defeating the super favorite German team, which had previously won two Olympic events. Afterward, in the final, the South American team prevailed over Belgium (4-2) and got its first Olympic crown.
The Red Fury was Unleashed in Copa America Centenario
Once again, the Chilean soccer team stood out in a Copa America. Barely twelve months after having conquered their first Cup by defeating Argentina in penalties, the Chilean players once again faced the blue team, with Lionel Messi leading the actions. It was the fight for the title in the special edition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this tournament.
Just as it happened back in Santiago de Chile, none of the two teams scored a goal, so they had to go to penalties. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was spectacular, Messi missed his shot and it was the second time in a row that the team won the championship, now coached by Juan Antonio Pizzi.
The Olympic Reign of Brazilian Volleyball
The Brazilian men’s volleyball team won its third Olympic championship. The team, coached by Bernardo Rezende, fulfilled the forecasts and swept Italy.
In 2016, the Brazilian players lost the final in the World League, but everybody was sure that they were favorites in Rio. In the qualifying stage, the locals were defeated by Italy; however, when it came to the crunch and led by Wallace de Souza, the South American athletes were unstoppable and got their fourth consecutive Olympic podium: gold medal in Athens 2004, Rio 2016 and silver in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
The Atletico Nacional’s Clean Game
Medellin’s Atletico Nacional was the best Latin American soccer club in 2016. The Colombian players were unbeatable in Copa Libertadores: en la fase de grupos ganaron cinco de los seis desafíos y empataron el otro; además, no permitieron goles. Luego, dejaron en el camino a Huracán, de Argentina; remontaron a otro club argentino, Rosario Central; vencieron al Sao Paulo en la semifinal y, para rematar, terminaron con las esperanzas del equipo sorpresa de esta Libertadores, el Independiente del Valle de Ecuador, con gol decisivo anotado por Miguel Borja. Esta fue la segunda Copa para el Atlético Nacional.
Este equipo también avanzó a la final de la Copa Sudamericana, que debía disputar ante otra sorpresa, el club brasileño Chapecoense. Esos duelos nunca se celebraron, porque el avión que transportaba al “Chape” cayó a tierra y en el accidente murieron 71 personas, entre ellos la casi totalidad del equipo brasileño. Ante esta tragedia, los directivos de Atlético Nacional pidieron a Conmebol que se le otorgara el título de la Copa Sudamericana al Chapecoense. La petición fue aceptada y, poco después, la FIFA reconoció al Atlético con el premio anual al Juego Limpio.
Venados de Mazatlan, Unstoppable in the Caribbean Series
Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan provided one of the most complete performances in the history of the Caribbean Baseball Series. The champions of the 2015-16 season of the Pacific Mexican League prevailed over their rivals in the Dominican Republic.
In the semifinals, the Mexican players defeated Ciego de Avila’s Tigres, the Cuban representation, 7-2 and they later left Venezuela’s Aragua on the field, 5-4.
That was the second title in Caribbean Series for the Venados, who counted on catcher Sebastian Valle, center fielder Justin Greene and pitcher Hector Rodriguez.