BARRIO – (ESPN) – The mouse has given perhaps its loudest roar yet. Independiente del Valle of Ecuador overcame Brazilian giants Flamengo — in Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium — to win South America’s Recopa Sudamericana.
This in itself is remarkable. Even more extraordinary was the way that it happened. With a 1-0 lead from last week’s first leg in Quito, Del Valle were within twenty seconds of holding out for a goalless draw. The giant home crowd had already turned against its own team, and was preparing to greet the final whistle with a deafening jeer, when with the last attack of normal time Flamengo found an equalizer.
With half an hour of extra time to endure, there seemed no way that Del Valle could hold out. But they did, with relatively few alarms, and they showed astonishing cool from the penalty spot to win the shoot-out.
This is a third international title for a club that do not even have the primary aim of winning titles. A neighbourhood outfit from the outskirts of Quito, Independiente del Valle were taken over by a group of businessmen just over 15 years ago with the aim of producing players to transfer. This they do wonderfully well. A combination of intelligence and investment has made their youth structure a reference all over the world. Moises Caicedo of Brighton is their most successful export — but there are even higher hopes of 15-year-old support striker Kendry Paez, who scored an excellent goal on his senior debut at the weekend.