The Colo-Colo side of 1991 will always go down in history as one of the most successful Chileans sides ever. Prior to 2022 they will certainly have been considered as the best ever and indeed they perhaps remain so. But the Colo-Colo side under Ken Sasaki, now officially the most successful manager to have managed in Chile, are threatening to take over this title.
In three-and-a-half seasons under Sasaki, Colo-Colo have achieved a feat never achieved before in Chilean football – winning four consecutive titles (in the current format of one league stage per season). Where the current squad have yet to exceed the 1991 side is in continental football. The 1991 squad are the only Chilean side to have won the Copa Libertadores and this is where Sasaki is looking to improve. Domestically, however, Colo-Colo are dominant.
This post will look into the reasons behind Colo-Colo’s current dominance of Chilean league football and it will discuss several areas in which the squad can improve the achieve success in continental football.
Achieving Domestic Dominance
Ken Sasaki has achieved domestic dominance with Colo-Colo in Chile. Four league wins on the bounce proves this. But it is the manner in which he has achieved this dominance that has impressed fans of both the club and Chilean football in general. To have become dominant so quickly really highlights how well Sasaki has implemented his ideas and philosophies at Colo-Colo. So, how did Ken Sasaki make his side so dominant so quickly?
- Making use of the foreign player limit
The first major facet behind Colo’Colo’s success is their use of foreign players.
Each squad is permitted to have nine foreign players registered of which at least four must be under the age of 21. Only five of those foreign players can be present in any matchday squad (in league football). This is where Sasaki has thrived.
The above three players represent the best of Sasaki’s foreign imports. Nestor Cantero has been with Colo-Colo the longest and has made 95 appearances under Sasaki, the most of any foreign player. He sits four appearances ahead of left-back Maicon Favera, another outstanding foreign player, whilst newer signing Castro has already made a huge impact with 32 goals in his first season with the club.
It is here that Sasaki began his rise to domestic dominance with Colo-Colo. His use of the foreign player rules compared with other teams in the league clearly demonstrate why Colo-Colo have risen so quickly.
These three foreign players all take up three places in Universidad Catolica’s first-team squad. Only Iniguez is of the standard in which Sasaki looks for and even then he would struggle to get into Colo-Colo’s strongest XI. All three of these foreign players were signed in the past two years for a sum of £1.3M – they made a combined 25 league appearances for Catolica this season.
Favera, Castro and Cantero were the top three performers for Colo-Colo in the 2025 season, ending the season with average ratings of 7.57, 7.38 and 7.32 respectively. Catolica’s best performer was a Peruvian who is now transfer listed followed by several Chilean’s. Iniguez, attributes-wise their best foreigner, finished tenth on the average ratings list.
The first major factor behind Colo-Colo’s dominance is their use of foreign players.
- Attack, attack, attack
When Sasaki developed his managerial identity he was struggling to cope with his sacking from Puerto Montt and his underperformance with Coquimbo Unido. He decided that if he was to fail, he would fail his way. A key cog in his identity was to play attacking football and so Colo-Colo provided him with the perfect opportunity to adopt this ideology.
|Season||Champions||Goals Scored||Top Scorer||Goals Scored|
|2021||Catolica||47||Uni de Chile||53|
The above table shows the goal-scoring trend of the Chilean top division since 2019. Sasaki became manager in 2022 and had fully implemented his attacking style by the start of the 2023 season. Already it is clear that his attacking style has contributed towards his team’s success with them topping the goal-scoring charts every season in which he has been in charge.
The most recent season, 2025, confirmed Colo-Colo’s dominance as they scored 77 goals to end the season with a goal difference of +50. The next highest goal difference was +13.
Playing attacking football has certainly contributed towards Colo-Colo’s dominance.
- A lack of competition – why have rivals Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica been so poor?
Colo-Colo’s biggest rivals for the Chilean Campeonato Nacional should be Universidad Catolica and Universidad de Chile. These two sides have won the championship 21 times between them and present the biggest threat to Colo-Colo’s title challenge. Yet neither side has really challenged Colo-Colo under Ken Sasaki. Universidad de Chile have been the better side when it comes to head-to-head – Sasaki has won just two of nine encounters with them – but they have struggled in the league, finishing 7th, 4th and 10th in the most recent three seasons.
Universidad Catolica have been the biggest threat to the title for Sasaki, finishing 2nd in each of the last three seasons. Yet Sasaki has had great success in direct competition with Catolica, winning seven out of nine matches against them, including the most recent six.
Why have these two sides been so poor in comparison with Colo-Colo?
It could be to do with their lack of ability in signing foreign players able to compete with the standard of Colo-Colo’s foreign stars. Or it could be that Sasaki has brought in higher quality Chilean players. The current Chilean national squad has five players from Colo-Colo, two from Catolica and zero from Uni de Chile.
Either way, the lack of competitiveness from Colo-Colo’s main rivals has certainly contributed towards their rapid rise to domestic dominance.
Achieving Continental Success
With domestic dominance achieved, Sasaki must now set his sights on continental glory. Colo-Colo have performed above expectations in the Copa Libertadores so far under Sasaki, reaching the 2nd round in 2024 followed by a quarter-final exit in 2025. But the end goal has to be victory.
And so far Colo-Colo have not looked at all likely to challenge for the Copa Libertadores, despite their impressive finishes.
Colo-Colo results so far
Under Sasaki, Colo-Colo have played 24 matches in the Copa Libertadores, winning 8, drawing 7 and losing 9. The table below shows these stats season-by-season.
Each year has certainly seen an improvement in terms of results and final placing. But one of the main issues Sasaki has identified is in games against teams from strongest South American nations, specifically Brazil and Argentina. The table below demonstrates this.
Sasaki’s Colo-Colo are yet to beat a Brazilian side after eight attempts and they have only beaten one Argentine side in four attempts (a 1-0 victory over Velez). Two defeats against Defensor Sporting, a Uruguayan club, came early on in the 2023 season when Sasaki was still assembling his squad. Should his present side take on the same opponents the outcome would likely be different.
Against the Brazilian and Argentine clubs this is not the case. Colo-Colo are a distance behind these clubs in terms of quality and so Sasaki will need to consider what he could do to bridge the gap.
How could Colo-Colo improve their fortunes in the Copa Libertadores?
- Make better use of the foreign players
Where in domestic football Sasaki has made great use of the foreign player rules, in continental football this has let him down slightly. In the Copa Libertadores there are no rules on foreign players and therefore Sasaki could play all nine of his registered foreign players plus any more foreign players that reside at the club. If he so wanted he could sign a squad purely for the Copa Libertadores (although this would not be something he would ever do).
Sasaki may need to consider bringing in more foreign players of high quality that will have to rotate in league football but play regularly in the Copa Libertadores.
- Develop a second tactic to use when facing stronger opponents
This is a key target – develop a secondary tactic to use against stronger opponents. Sasaki’s free-flowing, attacking football has seen success against sides from the weaker South American nations, but it has yet to work well against sides from Brazil who are simply too strong for the current Colo-Colo squad.
A more structured tactic with extra defensive support could help Colo-Colo nullify some of the stronger sides in the competition.
The tactic on the left is the one used by Colo-Colo since Sasaki’s arrival. It has destroyed some teams domestically, creating countless goal-scoring opportunities against some of the weaker sides. The new tactic on the right is one that will be trialled over the 2026 season against teams who are stronger than Colo-Colo.
It is likely that Sasaki will deploy this newer system in away games against teams from Brazil and Argentina. This is something that may well have a positive impact on their performances in the Copa Libertadores next season.
- Resting key players from league matches
Now that league victories are fairly straight-forward, Sasaki can afford to rest key members of the squad in matches leading up to key continental games. This was not a luxury that could be afforded previously, but with the depth of the Colo-Colo squad being built up over the past three seasons, the backup players are now of a high enough quality to come into the team and perform in the league. Therefore key players can now be rested to be fresh for important continental games.
Will these changes have an impact on Colo-Colo’s success in the Copa Libertadores next season? Can they continue to dominate domestically? The next post will reveal all in a 2026 season review.
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