Colombia – fairly simple formula: closed league, no promotion and relegation. Standard league first stage, Torneo Apertura – the top two clubs qualify to the semi-final stage. America won this stage, trailed by Millonarios. Second stage, or Torneo "Chalela y Chalela" [Finalización], had different formula – the league was divided into 2 groups of 7 teams each. Group A included the top 7 teams from Torneo Apertura and Group B – the lower half in Torneo Apertura final table. The top 4 teams in Group A and the top 2 in Group B moved ahead to the semi-final stage. At a glance – unfair rules, giving chances to those who were weaker, but complicated championships are never perfect. For instance, America and Millonarios, already qualified to the semi-finals simply dismissed the second stage, finishing at the last two places in Group A. No surprise: they had nothing to play for. On the other hand Atletico Junior and Deportes Tolima obviously skipped the Apertura – they were at the bottom of the table then, but now and against weaker competition, they not only came back to life, but were much stronger than the rest of Group B. Tactical maneuvers ended with this stage – in the semi-finals it was all or nothing – the 8 teams were divided again into 2 round-robin groups, the top 2 of each going to the finals. Usually at this stage the wisdom or the fallacy of previous 'tactics' really showed up: Millonarios collapsed. America, however, was great. And so were Deportes Tolima and Atletico Junior... but Atletico Nacional was pretty much invisible to this point and although not very convincing, still clinched second place in Group B and qualified to the finals. Go figure. It could be said that a few usual favourites at least underperformed this year: Millonarios
Independiente Santa Fe
Deportivo Independiente Medellin. Especially DIM. They were among the last three teams in both first and second stage. Very disappointing season. The Final Quadrangular decided not only the champion, but also the second Colombian team to play in Copa Libertadores, which was exactly separate aim – all finalists put their efforts to win the championship and after playing twice against each other there was the final table: Teams P W D L Goals Pts 1. Atlético Nacional 6 3 2 1 7- 6 8 2. Deportes Tolima 6 2 2 2 10- 9 6 3. América de Cali 6 1 3 2 6- 8 5 4. Atlético Junior 6 1 3 2 10-10 5 Apparently, America never quite reached their form from the Apertura. Atletico Junior may be reached its peak earlier too. However, the final tournament was competitive and fairly equal – there was no obvious outsider.
Deportes Tolima perhaps was not strong enough for winning the title, but they clinched the 2nd place. Standing from left: Oscar López, Luis Montúfar, Gustavo “Piña” Mendoza, Tito Ramón Correa, Juan Muentes, Oscar Quintabani. Crouching: Heberto Carillo, Rigoberto Balanta, Víctor Hugo Del Río, Cristino Centurión, Janio Cabezas. Not bad for a team playing poorly in the Apertura – they qualified for Copa Libertadores. But Deportes Tolima managed only to finish ahead of America and Atletico Junuor. Atletico Nacional was best at the finals:
1981 champions, standing from left: Lorenzo Carrabs, Luis Fernando López, Hernán Darío Herrera, Héctor Darío Dragonetti, César Cueto, Guillermo la Rosa. Crouching: Carlos Maya, Víctor Luna, Norberto Peluffo, Eduardo Emilio Vilarete, Pedro Sarmiento. First title for Atletico Nacional (Medellin) since 1976 and their 4th altogether. And their arch-enemy – DIM – nowhere to be seen! What could be better? A bunch of players were already stars, some became legends – Victor Luna, for example – but may be the greatest name in this squad was Cesar Cueto. The Peruvian midfielder was well remembered from 1978 World Cup, where he was one of the best performers. Now he captained Atletico Nacional to the title.