Atlético Mineiro

Atlético Mineiro’s first Brazilian title in half a century felt like it was worth the wait when they celebrated it in front of 62,000 fans at Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto on Sunday.

Clube Atlético Mineiro, affectionately known as Galo to its supporters, ended up clinching the title by a comfortable margin as early as last Thursday. Their points tally of 84 after a 4-3 win over Red Bull Bragantino means that they lead second-placed Flamengo by an astonishing 13 points with just one match to play. Flamengo has two games of their own still to complete in the 2021-22 campaign.

Newly-crowned Copa Libertadores champions Palmeiras, who defended their 2021 crown in South America’s most prestigious knockout club competition, are a further nine points adrift of Palmeiras with 62 points in third. This title race has been more of a procession than a contest.

This is Mineiro’s first Brazilian title win since their only other Serie A success back in 1971, a staggering half-century wait to be crowned as the nation’s best team once more, but they’ve not been strangers to success in other major competitions this millennium. Galo claimed its maiden (and only) Copa Libertadores title back in 2013, beating Paraguayan outfit Olympia. That 2013 vintage contained the legendary Ronaldinho as well as ex-Arsenal and Brazil stalwart Gilberto Silva.

Hulk, once of FC Porto, Zenit St. Petersburg and Shanghai SIPG among others, leads the scoring charts with 19 goals and it’s highly unlikely that Bahia’s Gilberto (15 goals) will eclipse him with just one match to play. Galo’s title win has been built on a solid attack, the second-best in the division, coupled with the most miserly defence in the whole of Brazil. They’ve conceded just 30 times all season. Ex-Chelsea and Atlético Madrid hard man Diego Costa also chipped in with four goals in 15 league outings.

This has been an unforgettable title run for Mineiro, who will be eager to push on and enjoy a deep run into the Copa Libertadores knockouts next season. With the utter dominance of Brazilian teams in that competition of late, it’s not out of the question.

For now, manager Cuca, skipper Júnior Alonso and experienced European scene veterans Hulk and Diego Costa will bask in this historic success with the rest of the class of 2021.

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