Nacional end long wait

Libertad may have been the team of the decade in Paraguay with six titles, but Nacional pipped them to the post in the closing championship to win their first crown for 63 years.
Ever Almeida’s team made hard work of it over the final stretch though, losing their penultimate game to Libertad and ending up grateful for their rivals’ 1-0 defeat by Tacuary on the last day of the season.

Libertad’s 2-1 win over Nacional put the two teams level on points and with everything to play for on the final day. Nacional, known as “The Academy”, held Olimpia 0-0 in a match they dominated to finish a point clear. They were rewarded for their attacking game, in which coach Almeida successfully mixed youth and experience under 35-year-old defender Denis Caniza, who will captain Paraguay at this summer’s World Cup finals – his fourth in a row.

Nacional now go into this year’s Libertadores Cup, along with opening champions Cerro Porteno, who finished sixth in the clausura while focusing on the Sudamericana Cup.

As the team with most points overall in the year, Libertad will join those two in the group stage if they get past Venezuelan opening champions Deportivo Tachira in the preliminary knockout round.

The country’s most successful club side, Olimpia, had an indifferent year. Their derby against Cerro Porteno early in the championship was marred by crowd violence and five red cards. Olimpia finished with eight men and a 1-0 defeat, courtesy of an own goal by Dario Caballero – who had begun the afternoon being hit by an object thrown from the crowd that left him with a head wound and delayed the kick-off.

Both coaches, Cerro’s Pedro Troglio and Olimpia’s Carlos Kiese, were also sent off. Kiese resigned four matches from the end of the season and was replaced by Jose Cardozo.

Player of the season
Pablo Velazquez
(Rubio Nu)
Tall 22-year-old striker who had an impressive year on loan with promoted Rubio Nu from Libertad. He was top scorer in the opening championship with 15 goals, then helped his team to a surprise fourth place in the closing tournament.

Coach of the season
Ever Almeida
The 61-year-old, Uruguay-born former goalkeeper won a string of titles playing for Olimpia, including the Libertadores Cup in 1979 and 1990. He took charge of Nacional last July after a year with Olimpia.