Brazilian Futebol

News and opinion about Brazilian football (soccer).

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sao Paulo tries to increase lead over Gremio

Due to the Brazilian general elections on Sunday, the next round of the Brazilian Serie A will only be played on Wednesday, October 3. However, two games that had been postponed due to the Libertadores Cup final will finally take place this weekend. Sao Paulo travels to Curitiba to face Atletico Paranaense, while Internacional hosts Parana in Porto Alegre.

ATLETICO PARANAENSE x SAO PAULO: With a four-point lead over second-place Gremio, Sao Paulo can increase its safety cushion at the top of the standings with a win over Atletico Paranaense, in the rematch of the 2005 Libertadores Cup final. Atletico is coming off a 1-0 away win over River Plate in the Sudamericana, and wants to defeat the leader here to close the gap to the teams fighting for a Libertadores spot in 2007. Sao Paulo lost to Palmeiras 3-1 on Sunday, and must win to avoid a mini-crisis that could cost the team the lead and ultimately the title in this final run of the season.

Sao Paulo's coach Muricy Ramalho will keep the team playing in the 4-4-2 formation it's used in the last three matches, due to defender Alex Silva being suspended. Fabao and Miranda will be the defenders for this game, with Souza joining the midfield from his usual right-back position. Ilsinho will have another chance at right-back. In attack, Edgard can fill in for Thiago, who will be in the bench, and Aloisio, injured. The young 19-year-old forward joined the team this week, from Serie C's Joinville. Goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni is out suspended. The locals are tired from the sequence of matches in the last few weeks, and may miss important right-back Jancarlos, who twisted his right ankle in the match against River. The rest of the team will probably remain the same, but coach Vadao has already said he's likely going to use a defensive formation against Sao Paulo.

INTERNACIONAL x PARANA: Internacional hosts Parana knowing it must win this game at home to keep its title hopes alive. Winless in three matches, the South American champions have fallen eight points behind Sao Paulo, and simply cannot afford to lose more points at home. Parana is back on track having won three of its last four games, after a four-match losing streak earlier in the month, and is now in fifth place, one point behind Inter. Coach Abel is still thinking about his attack, and may want to give youngster Luiz Adriano a chance to play in a forward position with Iarley. In that case, Fernandao will likely be asked to drop back to midfield, in order to strengthen that sector. Parana will be without midfielder Gerson, injured. Full-back Edinho returns after serving a one-game suspension.

Fluminense only draws against Gimnasia

Fluminense failed to defeat Argentina's Gimnasia La Plata this Thursday, having to settle for a 1-1 home draw at the Maracana Stadium, in the first leg of their round of 16 matchup in the Copa Sudamericana. And the locals were lucky not to leave the field with a loss. The first goal of the game was only scored in the 82nd minute, when defender Herner took advantage of a corner kick to head the ball into the net, putting the visitors ahead 1-0. Fluminense needed injury time to level the score, with Claudio Pitbull on a free kick. The second leg will be played in La Plate on October 11. Fluminense must win or draw with more than 2 goals scored to advance. A scoreless draw qualifies Gimnasia, while another 1-1 tie takes the match to a penalty shootout.

Blatter keeps Brazil hopes up

Fifa's president Joseph blatter said on Thursday that Brazil has great chances of hosting the 2014 World Cup. After meeting with the country's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Blatter said the government's support is crucial for Brazil chances to host the event. Since the rotation schedule points to a South American country to organize the event, and Brazil has been chosen as the natural pre-candidate by the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol), all the country has to do is to meet Fifa's expectations for the host country, according to Blatter. Brazilian officials have continuosly admitted the country is still not ready to be home to such an important global event, but the government and soccer authorities have renewed their vows to improve the infrastructure and build or renew stadiums in time for the competition.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Atletico gets important win in Argentina

Atletico Paranaense fared quite well in its first ever game in Argentina valid for a continental competition. Playing a traditional - but weakened - River Plate side in Buenos Aires, the team from Curitiba came away with a 1-0 win, in the first leg of their round of 16 Copa Sudamericana matchup. Santos also went to Buenos Aires, but were defeated 3-0 by San Lorenzo. In Sao Paulo, Corinthians could only tie Lanus 0-0, completing the three matches scheduled for yesterday in the competition which involved Brazilian teams.

At the Monumental de Nunez Stadium, in Buenos Aires, Atletico took advantage of the fact River Plate was fielding a team filled with reserves to escape with the win. The lone goal of the match was scored in the 26th minute, after Denis Marques crossed the ball from left wing to Marcos Aurelio, who had no trouble putting it in the net. The locals still missed a few good chances, but the Brazilian team was able to hold on to the win. In the second leg, scheduled for October 12 in Curitiba, Atletico only needs a draw to advance to the next round.

Santos was not so lucky in its trip to the Argentinean capital, and lost 3-0 to San Lorenzo. Playing several youngsters in order to rest its main players for the Brazilian League, Santos fell behind after just 7 minutes, when Adrian Gonzalez scored from a free kick. The visitors still tried to create some chances and put some pressure on the locals' defenders, but without result. Jimenez scored the second for San Lorenzo in the 60th minute, and Lavezzi sealed the score six minutes later. Santos must now win by four goals in the return leg to advance.

Finally, in Sao Paulo, Corinthians could not take advantage of playing at home, and was held to a scoreless draw that kept the team winless against teams from Argentina in eight matches, dating back to 2001. The defending Brazilian champions used most of its top players, with the exception of midfielder Magrao, recovering from injury. Even then, the team was unable to create many dangerous opportunities, and stumbled against a good defensive formation adopted by the visitors.

The last game of the first leg in the round of 16 involving a Brazilian team takes place tonight at the Maracana Stadium, when Fluminense hosts Gimnasia La Plata. Coach Antonio Lopes decided to radically change the way the team had been playing, unhappy with the poor display shown at the 3-1 home loss to Fortaleza last weekend. The system using three defensive midfielders has been abandoned, and attacking midfielders Juliano e Juninho return to the team - the latter coming back after missing ten months with a knee injury. Marcelo will be moved from the midfield back to his natural left back position, and defensive midfielder Marcao returns to the team. Rogerio replaces Rissut in the right-back position, and forward Petkovic misses another game due to a thigh injury. Gimnasia's coach Pedro Troglio will probably opt for a defensive formation, with a strengthened midfield. The team will probably be the same that defeated Rosario Central 1-0 last weekend in the Argentine League. That is to say, forward Martin Cardetti remains out, but midfielder Guly (formerly from AC Milan) has been confirmed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Brazil and Argentina play in the Sudamericana

Three matches on Wednesday and one on Thursday mark the first leg of the matches between Brazilian and Argentinean teams in the Copa Sudamericana, or South American Cup. This Wednesday, Corinthians plays Lanus in Sao Paulo, while Atletico Paranaense and Santos travel to Buenos Aires to face River Plate and San Lorenzo, respectively.

In Sao Paulo, Corinthians tries to break a seven-game winless streak against teams from Argentina, dating back to 2001. The game against Lanus is also special for coach Emerson Leao, facing the team for the first time since he was involved in a fight with employees of the club in Buenos Aires in 1997, when he was coaching Atletico Mineiro. For tonight's game, midfielder Magrao will be rested to recover from a thigh injury, but the rest of the team should be the same that has been playing regularly in the Brazilian League. Lanus is currently in eighth place in Argentina's Apertura Tournament. Trying to get at least one away goal in the first leg, coach Ramon Cabrero has said he will not take an ultra-defensive approach, but rather try to open things up.

Meanwhile, Santos travels to Buenos Aires to face San Lorenzo. The team will play without midfielders Ze Roberto and Maldonado, and will again likely give a chance to many youngsters to get some match practice and international experience. Coach Wanderley Luxemburgo has not announced his starting team, but has frequently claimed the South American competition is not the team's priority this season. San Lorenzo, which is trying to recover from a 1-0 loss to Lanus on Sunday, will be without three players this Wednesday: Pablo Quattrocchi and Andres Silvera are injured, and Diego Rivero is suspended. Santiago Hirsig has been cleared to play by team doctors.

In an earlier game, Atletico Paranaense faces traditional side River Plate in the Monumental de Nunez Stadium. Teams will be taking a different approach to the game, however. Atletico will have all its main players available. River will field a reserve side, with eight changes from the starting squad that tied Colon 1-1 on Sunday in the Argentine League.

On Thursday, the other Brazilian team in the competition, Fluminense, faces Gymnasia y Esgrima in Rio de Janeiro.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Government promises World Cup project for next year

The Brazilian Sports Minister, Orlando Silva Junior, said on Monday that the full project showing how the country is planning to organize the 2014 World Cup will be ready by March of 2007. According to the minister, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) will officially inform Fifa in December that Brazil is running for the right to host the competition. The document which the authorities say will be ready in March has then to be sent to Fifa by April. According to the Federal government, authorities will be responsible for spending to improve the infra-structure of the World Cup venues, while CBF will make an effort with the private sector to attract investors to build and renovate stadia. Fifa's president Sepp Blatter will meet Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia on Thursday. Lula will again show Fifa that the Brazilian government is fully behind the project to host the tournament.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Palmeiras comes from behind to beat Sao Paulo

Playing against a team it had not beaten this year, coming off two straight losses and having just lost its coach were not enough to hold Palmeiras back. The team came back from a 1-0 deficit and beat Sao Paulo 3-1 on Sunday, dealing its opponent its first loss in 10 games and preventing the team from Morumbi from opening a larger lead at the top of the standings. Luckily for Sao Paulo, second place Gremio went to Goiania and left with a 4-0 loss to Goias, who left the relegation zone thanks to the win.

In Presidente Prudente, Palmeiras was playing without its coach after Tite was fired this weekend, due to a decision taken by the team's direction following two straight losses, including a 3-2 defeat to last place Santa Cruz on Thursday. Sao Paulo failed to take clear control of the game at the start though, and the result was a poor first half. The leaders were still able to open the score with Souza in the 21st minute, but Palmeiras recovered and tied the game with Nen, 15 minutes later. Sao Paulo missed great chances at the start of the second half, but was down to 10 men when Alex Silva was sent off for a violent foul shortly after the 60th minute. The team did not retreat even then, and allowed many spaces for Palmeiras to start pulling forward, creating some great scoring chances. In the 83rd minute, a penalty kick was poorly awarded to Palmeiras, which scored its second of the game through Paulo Baier. A final goal by Marcinho would seal the score in injury time.

Playing after the Sao Paulo game was already over, Gremio knew it only needed to defeat Goias to close the gap to the leader to just one point. Before the first half was over, however, the team was already down 2-0, on goals by Souza and Jadilson. The locals surprised the team from Porto Alegre and could have even scored more goals, including on a clear penalty kick which was not awarded. Johnson and Souza scored two more goals - with Souza's goal being a beauty - in the second half to seal the 4-0 win. The loss left Gremio 4 points behind Sao Paulo and lifted Goias away from the relegation zone, now with 33 points in 15th place. Sao Paulo makes up its game against Atletico Paranaense on Saturday, and can open a seven point lead over Gremio.

Santos regained some ground by beating Flamengo 3-0 at the Vila Belmiro Stadium, its first win of the year of teams from Rio at home. After a poor scoreless first half, the locals finally opened the score when the second half began, with Wellington taking advantage of a backheel pass from Jonas to put Santos ahead 1-0. Flamengo was unable to take much control of the ball after suffering the goal, and Santos slowly waited for time to pass to collect the three points. Ze Roberto then scored his first goal for his new club to put Santos up 2-0, and Tabata finished it up near the end of the game to hand Flamengo the 3-0 loss that halted the team's three-game winning streak. Despite the result, Santos is still six points behind Sao Paulo.

Internacional and Corinthians played at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre, and the locals were unable to win to move closer to Sao Paulo. Corinthians managed a 1-1 draw that kept the team unbeaten in its last five games away from home, but the team is now in 16th place, just two points above Ponte Preta. With a very violent start, the game showed little to make someone believe these were actually the two teams that finished in the first two positions in the league last year. Carlos Alberto opened the score for the visitors, who could have built an even larger lead when Roger and Magrao hit the crossbar in two separate plays. Fernandao tied the game for Inter still in the first half. The locals finally started playing better in the second half, but missed a few chances without being able to capitalize on its better control of midfield. Corinthians held on as well as it could, and left with a great result for what it showed in the pitch.

In other results, Botafogo missed quite a few chances and had to settle for a scoreless draw against Vasco in the local Rio de Janeiro derby at the Maracana Stadium. Santa Cruz got its second straight win by beating Juventude 1-0 at home, but is still in last place. Fluminense was surprised by Fortaleza and lost 3-1 at home, the same result Atletico Paranaense built as a host to Sao Caetano. Parana went to Florianopolis and left with a great 1-0 win over Figueirense. Cruzeiro did the same, defeating Ponte Preta 1-0 away to put the team from Campinas back in the relegation zone.

Due to Copa Sudamericana matches on Wednesday, and the Brazilian presidential elections on Sunday, the Brazilian Serie A stops for a while, returning for its 27th round on October 4. However, two games will be made up on Saturday, September 30: Atletico Paranaense hosting Sao Paulo, and Internacional playing Parana at home. The games had been postponed due to the Copa Libertadores final between Sao Paulo and Internacional, last month.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Brazilian Serie A - round 26 preview.

Gremio and Sao Paulo are away this weekend trying to keep some distance to the other title chasers Santos and Internacional, who have tough matches at home. The bottom-half of the table also has interesting matches, as three teams must start winning soon to keep any chance of remaining in the elite of Brazilian soccer. The Brazilian Serie A soccer championship reaches two-third mark with the 26th round, with two games on Saturday and the remaining on Sunday.

Here are my views for this weekend's games.

FLUMINENSE x FORTALEZA: Fluminense got a good result by tying Santos away from home on Wednesday, and hopes to keep up the momentum going when it faces Fortaleza at home on Saturday. With 34 points, the locals still have a shot at a Libertadores spot, but are not so far away from the bottom of the standings either (just four points ahead of 17th place). Marcao, Roger and Petkovic are out with injuries, but left-back Marcelo returns from a one-match ban. Fortaleza lost an away game to Parana 2-0 and remains second last, seven points out of 16th place. Midfielder Wendel and defender Emerson are out after being sent off in the last game. Defender Alan and midfielder Lucio return after sitting out the last match suspended. It doesn't help the visitors the fact they are now winless in their last seven games.

ATLETICO PARANAENSE x SAO CAETANO: Atletico Paranaense tied Goias 2-2 away at Goiania on Wednesday, but the result certainly felt like a win. After all, the team had fallen behind by two goals but still managed to recover and fight for the draw. This weekend the team hopes it doesn't have to suffer so much when facing a falling Sao Caetano, in a rematch of the 2001 Brazilian League Final. The locals will probably change a player in midfield, after a poor display of that sector in the first half of the Goias game. Atletico has won four of its last five home games, while the visitors have not won in eight matches, losing three straight. A local win is the most probable result here.

INTERNACIONAL x CORINTHIANS: Inter tries to recover from two straight losses by returning home to Porto Alegre to face Corinthians. The locals know they must win to keep any title hope alive - having fallen nine points behind leaders Sao Paulo. Forward Fernandao returns, but defender Indio and midfielder Adriano are suspended for this game. Corinthians definitely seems improved under coach Emerson Leao, but have not shown much away from home. The visitors will be without midfielder Rosinei, suspended, but have midfielder Renato coming back from his ban. In the rematch of last year's battle between champions and runners-up of the league, the locals seem to have an advantage. One must remember that Inter has only two wins in its last eight home games though, while Corinthians is unbeaten in its last four away matches.

FIGUEIRENSE x PARANA: Figueirense hopes to build on the good 1-0 win over Internacional in its last match, and again plays at home this weekend, this time facing Parana. The team from Curitiba is on a high again, returning to 5th place in the standings after a 2-0 win over Fortaleza on Wednesday. This time around, however, they may have a much tougher time to get the win. The draw is not that unlikely. Parana has lost its last five games away from home, and Figueirense hasn't lost at home in ten matches.

SANTOS x FLAMENGO: Santos finally plays its last game at home against a team from Rio, hoping to have better luck against Flamengo than the other teams it faced from the famous beach city. A 1-1 draw against Fluminense on Wednesday was the third time in three games that Santos lost points at home against teams from Rio, the only ones to do so at the Vila Belmiro this year. Flamengo gets to the game in great form, having won its last three games. Due to this retrospect, Flamengo can get at least a point here, but will be without midfielder Leo Medeiros, suspended. Paulinho and Leo return from suspension though, and will reinforce the team's midfield. Savio and Renato Augusto may also return from injury. Santos will be playing their hearts out trying to hang on to their faint title hopes here though. Maldonado could be allowed to undergo an ankle surgery that would keep him out for two months for Santos, including this game. Goalkeeper Fabio Costa, involved in a fight with fans after the game against Fluminense, will play.

SANTA CRUZ x JUVENTUDE: Santa Cruz fans still believe their team can stay in the First Division next year, and may turn out in big numbers trying to push the team to a second straight win here. After beating Palmeiras 3-2, the team ended a ten-game winless streak, but is still nine points behing 16th place Ponte Preta, which has 30 points. Juventude showed it lacks the consistency to play well away from home after falling to Botafogo 2-1 on Wednesday. It has a better chance of getting a positive result here, but one should not doubt the determination the local players may show after some of their confidence has been restored in the last game. Juventude has only one win and one draw in its last nine away games this season. Defenders Fabricio and Igor and midfielder Ivo are out for the visitors.

PALMEIRAS x SAO PAULO: After an eleven-game unbeaten streak following the World Cup break, Palmeiras has now lost two matches in a row. Tied with 17th placed Goias with 30 points, the team desperately needs to start winning again to escape the risk of relegation. A tough schedule for September continues however, as the team plays leaders Sao Paulo in a local derby. Forward Edmundo left the last game with an injury to his shoulder and is still questionable. Sao Paulo hopes to improve significantly from its poor display against Sao Caetano, in which the team was fortunate to score a 1-0 away win to stay four points clear of Gremio at the top of the table and keep unbeaten in its last ten games. Defender Alex Silva and left-back Junior return from suspension, while defender Edcarlos is still questionable. Right-back Souza has recovered from an injury but may start the game from the bench. Palmeiras is unbeaten in seven games at home, but this game will be played in Presidente Prudente, not the Parque Antarctica - and it's also a derby. Sao Paulo has an impressive eight-game unbeaten run away from home. Anything can happen here, but Sao Paulo is still the favorite.

PONTE PRETA x CRUZEIRO: Ponte Preta is glad to return home after being embarrassed in the 4-0 away loss to Gremio in the last round. The team hopes to repeat the performance that allowed it to beat Santos last Sunday, but must improve a lot from what it displayed in Porto Alegre. The team hasn't lost in four matches at home, and coach Marco Aurelio will likely make several changes in the starting squad. Defenders Thiago Mathias and Rafael Santos are out suspended, while midfielder Iran may lose his place to Wellington. Midfielder Fabio Baiano returns from suspension, and forward Luis Mario also comes back after missing last game due to personal issues. Cruzeiro lost to Flamengo on Thursday, and continues to struggle away from Belo Horizonte. The team lost its last seven games away from home. Coach Oswaldo Oliveira will wait until Friday or Saturday to decide which team to field in this game. Due to Ponte's last match, the visitors can escape with a draw here.

VASCO x BOTAFOGO: Botafogo partially averted a crisis when it beat Juventude 2-1 on Wednesday, halting a two-game losing streak an creating some room between itself and 17th place Goias. This Sunday it has another tough matchup though, facing crosstown rivals Vasco in yet another local derby. The team did not have much success against Flamengo (2-0 loss) and Fluminense (eliminated from the Copa Sudamericana after two draws and a penalty shootout) recently, but hopes to change its fortunes against Vasco. Defender Juninho is suspended and will not play. The team from Sao Januario lost 5th place in the standings - and the last Libertadores spot - to Parana after a 1-1 draw with Corinthians on Wednesday, and is determined to win to break a run of five straight draws. Another draw seems like a probable outcome here.

GOIAS x GREMIO: Gremio has a tough test away to Goias this weekend. The team must win to remain close to Sao Paulo in the standings, but faces a determined local side that is desperately trying to get out of the bottom four in the standings. Goias missed a great chance to get three points after wasting a 2-0 lead and draw 2-2 against Atletico Paranaense on Wednesday. The team hasn't lost in five games though, and is unbeaten in its last six matches at home. Gremio, on the other hand, is coming off two straight 4-0 wins at home and is unbeaten in seven. For Goias, defender Leonardo is suspended, but midfielder Robson Luiz returns from his one-match ban. Gremio will be without one of its most important players, midfielder Hugo, who is also suspended. The visitors are the favorites, but Goias can very well battle for at least a point.

Santa Cruz defeats Palmeiras

After seeing its eleven-game unbeaten streak end last Sunday against Cruzeiro, Palmeiras lost its second straight game on Thursday, falling 3-2 away to Santa Cruz. The result leaves the team with 30 points, the same number of points as Goias - currently in 17th place and thus in the first relegation spot. Santa Cruz is still in last place, but has jumped to 21 points.

The locals started the game playing better, and opened the score after just 16 minutes, on a free kick taken by Paulo Rodrigues. Palmeiras gradually improved, but only tied the game in the second half, when Juninho scored four minutes after the break. Three minutes later, however, Santa Cruz scored again on a penalty kick converted by Nene. In the 59th minute, Jorge Henrique made it 3-1, and the visitors all but gave up. Roger would still score in the 79th minute, but that was not enough to prevent Santa Cruz from finally winning a game after a ten-match winless streak and five straight losses. Palmeiras will now play Sao Paulo on the local derby on Sunday, while Santa Cruz hosts Juventude.

In the other match played on Thursday, Flamengo obtained its third straight win, beating Cruzeiro 1-0 at home. The only goal of the game was scored by Renato in the 32nd minute, taking advantage of a cross from left wing to put the ball into the net. The result leaves the popular team from Rio de Janeiro ith 33 points in the standings, just one behind Cruzeiro and three clear of the relegation zone. Flamengo will face Santos away on Sunday, while Cruzeiro travels to Campinas to play Ponte Preta.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dunga calls players for October friendlies

Brazilian National coach Dunga named 22 players today for the matches against Kuwait (October 7) and Ecuador (October 10). Four players were called for the first time by Dunga: goalkeeper Helton (Porto), full-backs Daniel Alves and Adriano (Sevilla) and midfielder Lucas (Gremio).

During a press conference following the announcement, Dunga explained he is trying to limit the number of new players called in order to try to build a base for official competitions next year. At the same time, by calling new names he keeps giving a chance for younger players to gain a spot in the team. The coach said he's particularly worried about the game against Ecuador, "a tough team" which played quite well in Germany during the World Cup.

Here are the players called by Dunga for the two matches next month:

Goalkeepers: Helton (Porto-POR) and Gomes (PSV Eindhoven-HOL)
Full-backs: Maicon (Internazionale-ITA), Daniel Alves (Sevilla-SPA), Marcelo (Fluminense-BRA) and Adriano (Sevilla-SPA)
Defenders: Lucio (Bayern Munich-GER), Luisao (Benfica-POR), Juan (Bayer Leverkusen-GER) and Alex (PSV Eindhoven-HOL)
Midfielders: Lucas (Gremio-BRA), Dudu Cearense (CSKA-RUS), Edmilson (Barcelona-SPA), Gilberto Silva (Arsenal-ENG), Kaka (Milan-ITA), Elano (Shakhtar Donetsk-UKR), Ronaldinho (Barcelona-SPA) and Daniel Carvalho (CSKA-RUS)
Forwards: Vagner Love (CSKA-RUS), Robinho (Real Madrid-SPA), Rafael Sobis (Betis-SPA) and Fred (Lyon-FRA)

Brazil will face Ecuador next month

The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) confirmed this Thursday that the team will play a friendly against Ecuador on October 10, in the Spanish city of Barcelona. The match will take place just three days after the team coached by Dunga plays in Kuwait, against the local National side. The Brazilian coach will name his players for the match later today.

Gremio gets another 4-0 win at home

Gremio kept its excellent form of late with another impressive 4-0 home win on Wednesday, this time against Ponte Preta. The team from Porto Alegre, which had defeated Botafogo by the same score on Sunday, reached 45 points in the standings, and kept pace with Sao Paulo, which is four points ahead, with one game in hand.

More than 30,000 people showed up at the Olimpico Stadium for this pleasant afternoon game, during a local holiday in Rio Grande do Sul state. And fans were given an even better reason to feel good from the starting kickoff, with the local team simply dominating the match in all its aspects. Gremio missed a few chances at the beginning and only opened the score after 20 minutes, with Hugo. The team kept wasting good scoring chances until Hugo found Lucas, who got past a defender to make it 2-0, in the 44th minute. In the second half, the locals slowed down a bit, but still managed to score two more goals to double the score, with Herrera. The Argentine scored his first after a pass from Hugo, in the 72nd minute, and the second after a pass from Lucas, in the last minute of regulation.

The only reason the day wasn't perfect for Gremio was because leaders Sao Paulo managed an extremely important 1-0 away win over Sao Caetano to keep its four point cushion at the top of the table. The leaders were missing six regulars, but still managed to play well enough - or not as bad as Sao Caetano - in a very slow match in which both teams failed to create much. In such a game, it was only natural to see the only goal of the game being scored almost by accident, after Richarlysson attempted a cross but ended up putting the ball into the net. Fans were not complaining though, aware of the importance of the four points over Gremio just ahead of the local derby against Palmeiras, on Sunday.

The two other closest title chasers were not able to win on Wednesday, and started to desperately distance themselves from Sao Paulo. Santos managed to recover third place in the standings, but still lost two points at home after a 1-1 draw with Fluminense. Cleber Santana opened the score for the locals after a controversial penalty kick was awarded, but Fluminense tied the game near the end on an own goal by Luis Alberto, misdirecting a free kick taken by Petkovic. It was the third time in as many matches that the team lost points at home against teams from Rio de Janeiro this season. Botafogo had also tied Santos there earlier in the year, while Vasco beat them 2-0. Santos has won all its other games at home in this year's Brazilian League.

South American champions Internacional had trouble facing Figueirense away without forward Fernandao, and ended up losing by a 1-0 score. The team fell to fourth place in the standings, tied with Santos at 40 points but with a worse goal differential. The team has one game in hand though. On Wednesday, it became clear from the start that the team would miss its reference in attack with Fernandao out suspended for accumulating three yellow cards. Marquinhos Parana scored the lone goal of the game in the 26th minute, after going by goalkeeper Clemer, who stopped to ask for an offside call which simply did not occur.

In other matches, Goias opened a 2-0 lead over Atletico Paranaense at home, only to have to settle for a 2-2 draw that kept the team in the relegation zone, in 17th place. Fortaleza was not able to move ahead from 19th place either, going to Curitiba and losing to Parana 2-0. The result put the locals back in 5th place in the standings, tied with Vasco, who went to Sao Paulo and still failed to beat Corinthians, settling afor a 1-1 draw. Corinthians has not last to Vasco since 2001, winning seven matches and tying five in that span. Finally, Botafogo gained some breathing room near the relegation zone, with a 2-1 win over Juventude to jump three points ahead of Goias.

Two matches complete the 25th round on Thursday. Flamengo hosts Cruzeiro, while Palmeiras travels to Recife to face Santa Cruz.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Brazilian Serie A - round 25 preview

The Brazilian Serie A again has games in midweek, with eight matches opening the 25th round on Wednesday and two other games on Thursday. Second place Gremio opens the round with an afternoon game against Ponte Preta at home, while Sao Paulo travels to Sao Caetano trying to keep its comfortable lead atop the table.

Here are my views for the games this round:

GREMIO x PONTE PRETA: Gremio has another great chance to collect three points here, playing at home again following a 4-0 beating over Botafogo on Sunday. The team faces Ponte Preta, which surprised Santos with a 1-0 win over the weekend, but remains desperately close to the relegation zone. Gremio has won its last six home games, while Ponte hasn't managed an away triumph in seven tries. Gremio is complete for the match, with the return of midfielder Tcheco and left-back Wellington. Ponte will be without midfielder Fabio Baiano, suspended, and forward Luis Mario, injured.

BOTAFOGO x JUVENTUDE: Botafogo tries to recover after suffering a 4-0 away loss to Gremio, its second loss in a row. It may have a tough time against Juventude, coming off two home wins. Away from home has not been a pleasant story for the team from Caxias do Sul, though. Juventude has managed just one win and one draw in its last eight away games. Right-back Ruy and midfielders Claiton and Diguinho return to Botafogo, which may go back to a 3-5-2 formation, after a failed 4-4-2 experience in the loss to Gremio. Left-back Julio Cesar will not play, however, after being sent off in the last match. Defender Antonio Carlos and midfielder Fabricio are out suspended for Juventude.

FIGUEIRENSE x INTERNACIONAL: Internacional tries to rebound from the 2-0 away loss to Sao Paulo to stay in the race for the league title. However, the team has another tough away encounter, this time against Figueirense in Florianopolis. The locals are also trying to prove themselves, having failed to win a game in its last four matches, which included three draws. Inter has shown it has the quality needed to win away games, having done so in two of its last three away matches. To repeat its success story, however, Inter will have to overcome the loss of forward Fernandao, suspended, as well as goalkeeper Clemer, still questionable with a groin injury. Figueirense tries to regroup after a fight in the dressing room between teamates Flavio in Schwenk during the team's 2-0 away loss to Fluminense. Both should play tonight, alongside the other regular starters.

PARANA x FORTALEZA: Can Parana finally regain its form from earlier in the tournament? The team has now lost five of its last six games, and has quickly slipped from being in contention from the title to being closer to the relegation battle. The team is five points clear of 17th place, and a full ten points away from leaders Sao Paulo. To stay in the upper half of the table the team must defeat second last Fortaleza, winless in six and almost sure to play in the Serie B next year. Having won only one of the 11 away games it played this season, the visitors don't look like they could do much here. The locals return to their traditional Durival Brito Stadium, completely overhauled, after a three-year restoration project. Parana will try a more offensive 4-4-2 formation, instead of its usual 3-5-2. Fortaleza will miss Alan - suspended - and Mazinho Lima - injured.

GOIAS x ATLETICO PARANAENSE: Only one point separates 11th place Atletico Paranaense from 17th place Goias, and the latter must win this home game to increase its chances of staying in the main division of Brazilian soccer next year. Atletico stopped a two-game losing streak with a tough 2-1 home win over last place Santa Cruz last weekend, and may have trouble facing a determined Goias side unbeaten in five at home, and in four games overall. Atletico has won only once in its last nine away games. Forward Souza and defender Rogerio Correa return after serving a one-game suspension and recovering from injury, respectively. Atletico will start the same team that began the match against Santa Cruz.

SANTOS x FLUMINENSE: The away loss to Ponte Preta cooled down Santos quite a bit, putting the team in fourth place, seven points behind Sao Paulo and having played one more game than the league leaders. The team knows it must win this game against Fluminense, and should deliver a strong performance for the home fans. Having won eight of its last home games, the team is the clear favorite here against a struggling Fluminense side that finally broke a seven-game winless streak with a home win over Figueirense on Sunday. However, the only two teams to steal points from Santos at the Vila Belmiro this season were also from Rio: Vasco (which won) and Botafogo (which left with a draw). Forward Reinaldo is out until October for Santos with an injury, but the team will field its main midfielders together for the first time, with Andre Luiz, Maldonado, Cleber Santana and Ze Roberto. Defender Anderson and left-back Marcelo are out suspended for Fluminense.

SAO CAETANO x SAO PAULO: Sao Paulo is still fighting to field a complete team, after several players have recently been forced out of the team due to injuries or suspensions. Fortunately for the current leaders, team captain and goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni has been cleared to play, after suffering an injury in the final moments of the game against Internacional on Sunday. The team will have a tough meeting on Wednesday in Sao Caetano, against a team that is fighting to remain in the First Division. Winless in seven, the team will have to play a lot better than it has recently to beat a team unbeaten in nine. Marcelinho and Wellington Amorim return from suspension, while defender Gustavo, midfielder Leandro Lima and forward Gustavo Gaucho are back from injury. Defender Mauricio is out for the locals after being sent off in the team's last match. Defenders Alex Silva and Edcarlos, and left-back Junior are all out suspended for Sao Paulo. Right-back Souza is questionable, and forward Aloisio is also out due to injury. Forward Leandro may return to the team. Due to the injuries, and Sao Paulo's recent trouble in getting two straight wins, a draw may not be that surprising.

CORINTHIANS x VASCO: Reborn after a tough first half, the defending champions face Vasco for the third time in two weeks, having won the previous two meetings that were valid for the Copa Sudamericana. The team from Sao Paulo has not lost to Vasco in 11 matches, dating back to 2001, winning seven and tying four of those games. Playing again at home, the team should be considered the favorite, against a falling Vasco side that is just clinging to the last Libertadores spot. Vasco is unbeaten in seven, but has drawn its last four games. Corinthians, on the other hand, is unbeaten in four, and will try to get its fourth win in five matches. Trying to make matters worse for the locals, Vasco will have a new 3-5-2 tactic in place. Defender Jorge Luiz remains out, and defensive midfielder Amaral enters the team in place of Ygor, who will be asked to play as a sweeper. Right-back Claudemir replaces Wagner Diniz, injured. Full-backs Eduardo Ratinho and Gustavo Nery, as well as forward Rafael Moura, return to Corinthians after a one-game suspension. Despite a slight Corinthians edge, a draw is also possible.

FLAMENGO x CRUZEIRO: After beating Botafogo and Fortaleza, Flamengo has managed to stay out of the bottom four in the standings. However, the team has not been able to pull away from the relegation zone by more than a point, which means it could return to it at any time. Fortunately for the loyal red-and-black fans, the team faces an inconsistent Cruzeiro side on Thursday at the Maracana Stadium. Despite and important 1-0 home win over Palmeiras last Sunday, the team from Belo Horizonte has lost its last six matches away from home. For the locals, Rodrigo Arroz, Leo Medeiros e Toro will play in midfield replacing Paulinho and Leo, suspended, and injured Renato Augusto. Forward Luizao returns from a game suspension. Cruzeiro will miss defender Gladstone and midfielder Sandro, suspended, as well as left-back Leandro and his immediate substitute, Julio Cesar, injured. Defensive midfielder Jonilson and forward Elber remain out, recovering from injuries.

SANTA CRUZ x PALMEIRAS: Palmeiras travels to Recife trying to recover from the 1-0 loss away to Cruzeiro that saw the team's 11-game unbeaten streak come to an end. Santa Cruz may be the perfect opposition for that. Dead last with little chance of escaping a return to the Second Division next year, the team from Recife is on a ten-game winless streak that includes the current run of five straight losses. Forward Nene returns to the team, but three players remain out: defender Marcio Alemao, left-back Cassio and forward Edson Pele. The locals' only other change in regards to the team that lost to Atletico Paranaense will be the return of defensive midfielder Augusto Recife. Paulo Baier is out injured for Palmeiras, which will also be without defenders Nen and Alceu, suspended. Surprises can always happen, of course, but this looks like it's Palmeiras game to lose.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sao Paulo interested in Nilmar

After seeing its former forward Amoroso sign for Corinthians, Sao Paulo is now said to be interested in getting back at their cross-town rivals by going after striker Nilmar, according to reports from the Brazilian media. The player, which came to Corinthians last year from France's Olympique Lyon, is currently injured, and will return only in 2007. The team has reportedly only paid € 2 million of the € 10 million transfer fee it agreed to with the French club, and if the situation is not solved soon the player's rights may fully return to the French champions. Should that be the case, Sao Paulo would be interested in loaning the player for a year starting in January, or even buy his rights with support from local businessmen. Nilmar recently said he's not happy with the treatment he's been getting from Corinthians team officials since getting injured earlier this season.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sao Paulo finally solves Inter

Sao Paulo defeated Internacional 2-0 this Sunday at the Morumbi Stadium to remain atop the standings in the Brazilian Serie A, four points clear of new second place Gremio. The gauchos defeated Botafogo 4-0 in Porto Alegre to reach 42 points, but have played one more game than Sao Paulo and Inter (now third, with 40 points). Santos fell to fourth place after a 1-0 away loss to Ponte Preta.

At the Morumbi, just over 13,000 people showed up to watch Sao Paulo face Inter, in a rematch of this year's Copa Libertadores final. Still worried about the recent poor results from the team, fans preferred to stay home rather than spend a trip to the stadium. In the field, Sao Paulo had trouble finding enough healthy bodies, particularly in attack - where the main attacking duo of Aloisio and Leandro remained out with injuries. Shifting away from its traditional 3-5-2, the team was finally able to solve Internacional, defeating the current continental champions for the first time since 2004.

Sao Paulo scored its first goal quickly, after a good play by Danilo and Thiago left Lenilson in good condition to make it 1-0. Inter did not stay back though, and created several chances of its own before the first half was over. Due to poor finishing or great saves by goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, the visitors still trailed when the players left for the dressing room.

Things seemed to get worse for Sao Paulo at the start of the second half, after Alex Silva was sent off in the 54th minute. The team managed to handle the pressure and still scored another goal after right-back Ilsinho passed the ball to left-back Junior, who had no trouble putting it into an empty net to seal the final 2-0 score. The result softened the doubts that started appearing at the Sao Paulo camp after the scoreless draw against Corinthians last week, when the team had two more men for most of the match and still couldn't beat the crosstown rivals.

Meanwhile, Gremio proved again that the team that came from the Serie B is back to its glorious form, humiliating Botafogo 4-0 at the Olimpico Stadium in Porto Alegre. Despite starting without one of its top players, midfielder Tcheco, the locals were able to control the game from the start, and opened a 2-0 advantage before two Botafogo players were sent out. With the two-men advantage, Gremio had no trouble administering the result and building the final score. Romulo scored a hat trick, with Herrera getting the other goal to help Gremio reach a six-game unbeaten streak. After a four-game winning streak, Botafogo has now lost two in a row and is again just one point clear of the relegation group.

Santos went to Campinas to face Ponte Preta, but came out empty handed in a 1-0 loss that distanced the team even more from the leaders, now in 4th place and seven points behind Sao Paulo - which has one game in hand. Midfielder Ze Roberto was making his debut and almost opened the score for the visitors in the first minutes of the game, but the locals gradually gained more control and even hit the crossbar before the first half was over. Santos complained about a penalty kick that should have been awarded in the 35th minute, but the referee didn't think the foul had happened. In the second half, Santos took up a more aggressive approach. After missing a few chances, however, the visitors saw Ponte Preta regain its confidence and star risking more in attack. Ponte had a penalty kick of its own, this time awarded by the referee, in the 72nd minute. Tuto had no trouble converting the kick to help his team temporarily escape the relegation zone.

Palmeiras finally lost after the World Cup break, ending its eleven-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 loss away to Cruzeiro. With two teams trying to win the game, the match saw a very entertaining display of soccer, with goalkeepers Fabio and Diego Cavallieri saving several goal scoring chances. Cruzeiro scored the only goal of the game in the 28th minute, on a penalty kick converted by Geovanni. Cavallieri still touched the ball as it went into his lower right-hand corner. Cruzeiro was the better team for the remainder of the first half, but Palmeiras improved in the second, and almost scored an equaliser late in the game. Luckily for the locals, however, Palmeiras would hit the crossbar or post three times in the final 15 minutes, frustrating any chances of keeping the unbeaten streak alive.

Another streak came to an end in Rio de Janeiro. Fluminense defeated Figueirense 2-0 at the Maracana Stadium, with great performances by Petkovic and Marcelo, to end a nine-game winless streak. Petkovic and Tuta scored for the locals, while Figueirense was unable to create much during the game.

In other games, Goias and Vasco tied 0-0, while Flamengo went to Fortaleza to win 4-3 in a very entertaining match. The locals seem destined to the Second Division in 2007, alongside Santa Cruz, 2-1 losers at Atletico Paranaense. Juventude is now in sixth place after a 1-0 win at home over Sao Caetano, the same result obtained at home by Corinthians over Parana.

The weekend confirmed the balance between the teams in the First Division, with Ponte Preta leaving the bottom four in the standings thanks to a win over third placed Santos. Six teams, including Ponte, are now tied with 30 points, just one clear of the relegation zone. Goias (29), Sao Caetano (26), Fortaleza (23) and Santa Cruz (18) would be relegated if the season ended today. Goias, by the way, could still make the Libertadores, since it's only seven points behind fifth place Vasco.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Brazilian Serie A - round 24 preview

Round 24 of the Brazilian Serie A highlights the rematch of this year's Libertadores final, with Sao Paulo hosting Internacional and hoping to win to increase its lead over the team from Porto Alegre, currently sitting in second place in the standings. Third place Santos and Gremio also have tough matches, while the fight against relegation also heats up.

Here are my views on this weekend's matches:

ATLETICO PARANAENSE x SANTA CRUZ: Atletico Paranaense has a great chance to gain some breathing room in the fight to remain in the First Division when it faces Santa Cruz at home on Saturday. One of four teams tied with 27 points - among which 17th placed Ponte Preta, the first to be relegated if the season ended today. Santa Cruz seems to be destined to return to the Serie B one year after being promoted. After a brief recovery following the World Cup, the team is again mounting a series of poor results, and now trails its closest rival - Fortaleza - by five points. With Flamengo nine points ahead, Santa Cruz must pray for a miracle if it wants to play in the Serie A next year. Since that is unlikely to happen, Atletico should win this game with relative ease.

VASCO x GOIAS: Coach Renato Gaucho wanted to rest his main players against Corinthians in the Sudamericana, but after the board demanded he fielded his main team in match against Corinthians, he now wishes he hadn't listened. Vasco was eliminated after a 3-1 loss, and now must regroup when it faces Goias at home. After losing some ground in the race for first in the standings, the team knows it can't waste chances like this if it wants to keep in contention for a place in the Libertadores Cup in 2007. Forward Leandro Amaral can make his debut for Vasco, but defender Jorge Luiz is likely out. Goias seems to have finally improved after an earlier 11-game winless streak, and managed a great 2-2 tie with Figueirense in Florianopolis last week. This time it will be a lot tougher for the visitors though, and Vasco should triumph. For this game midfielder Cleber Gaucho is out suspended, and forward Welliton will also not play.

CORINTHIANS x PARANA: After a heroic scoreless draw with the league leaders last weekend, Corinthians gained even more momentum by qualifying in the Copa Sudamericana after a 3-1 win over Vasco on Wednesday. The team has everything in place to get another win here against a recovering Parana side, which is relieved after halting a four-game losing streak last Sunday with a win over Fluminense. The visitors lost to Atletico Paranaense in the Sudamericana though, and it remains to be seen if the team can regain the confidence it needs to win a game away from home again. Corinthians will play without suspended Eduardo Ratinho, Cesar and Rafael Moura, with Edson, Gustavo Nery and Nadson replacing them. Coach Caio Junior opted not to use midfielder Maicosuel in Parana, after the player showed up late for a training session. Sandro or Joelson could replace him.

SAO PAULO x INTERNACIONAL: Sao Paulo must desperately win this match or risk losing all its confidence for the remainder of the season, ultimately hindering its chances of winning its first Brazilian title since 1991. After a disappointing scoreless draw against a nine-men Corinthians side last Sunday, the team from Morumbi tied Boca Juniors 2-2 on Thursday to lose the Recopa to the Argentine side. Worse, it was the third runner-up finish for the team in the three tournaments it played in this year. Now Sao Paulo faces Internacional in the rematch of this year's Libertadores final. Forwards Aloisio and Leandro, who were scratched just prior to the Boca game due to injury, are still questionable. Right-back Souza and midfielder Richarlyson are also out, injured. Inter seems to be back on track after losing four players following the continental title, and is currently on a three-game winning streak. Hidalgo will play as the right-back in place of Rubens Cardoso, while Michel and Perdigao are still battling for a spot in midfield. A very close match, where a draw should not surprise anyone.

GREMIO x BOTAFOGO: Botafogo had its four-game winning streak snapped by cross-town rivals Flamengo last Sunday, only to be eliminated by another rival - Fluminense - in the Copa Sudamericana four days later. Players were visibly upset following the game, and may feel the impact of the loss in the upcoming matches in the Brazilian League. This weekend the team from Rio will face a strong Gremio side that is still very much in the race for the Brazilian League title, even after losing one place in the standings following a 1-1 draw at Vasco last Saturday. Left-back Bruno Teles plays in place of Wellington, while midfielder Leo Lima could return from injury. Botafogo's coach Cuca has yet to confirm his team. Gremio is the favorite.

JUVENTUDE x SAO CAETANO: Sao Caetano must stop its freefall if it wants to remain in the Brazilian Serie A in 2007. Winless in six matches and sitting in 18th place, the team travels to Caxias do Sul to face a tough Juventude side. The locals recovered from a 2-0 loss to Goias by beating Cruzeiro by the same score, moving into eighth place with 32 points and still very much in the race for a spot at the Libertadores next year. The locals may miss goalkeeper Andre, who's suffering from the flu. Defender Antonio Carlos and midfielder Lauro return from suspension. Defender Gustavo is questionable for Sao Caetano, while defender Mauricio and forward Dinelson can make their debut for the team. Despite the situation in goal, Juventude should still win this one.

CRUZEIRO x PALMEIRAS: Cruzeiro tries to recover from a loss in a penalty shootout to Santos in the Copa Sudamericana when it hosts Palmeiras at the Mineirao Stadium. The locals have completely wasted their chances of battling for the Brazilian title after a miserable month of August that saw the team plummet to ninth in the standings. Forward Elber could return to the team from injury but is still questionable. Left-Back Leandro and defender Andre Luis could be used by coach Oswaldo Oliveira, who may opt to use a 3-5-2 tactic. Palmeiras, on the other hand, continues to be one of the better teams following the World Cup break, jumping out of the relegation zone and now trailing Cruzeiro by just a point. Defender Nen should return to the team. Both teams should pay attention to the bottom of the standings though, as 17th place Ponte Preta is dangerously close with 27 points. Another possible draw.

FLUMINENSE x FIGUEIRENSE: Fluminense is still happy about advancing to the second round of the Copa Sudamericana after a controversial match with Botafogo on Thursday. In the Brazilian League, however, the team remains winless in seven games, and must win soon or risk falling too close to the bottom four. This week the tricolor from Rio hosts Figueirense, which is coming off a disappointing 2-2 draw with Goias at home. Roger and Juliano are out for the locals, suspended. Right-back Neto can make his debut. For the visitors, foward Diego will replace suspended Soares, while defensive midfielder Rodrigo Souto returns from his ban. A draw wouldn't surprise me here, though Fluminense has a slight advantage for playing at home.

PONTE PRETA x SANTOS: After failing to defeat Fortaleza away from home last Sunday, Santos fell to third place in the standings and saw Internacional move closer to leaders Sao Paulo. With both teams ahead of it in the standings battling each other at the Morumbi, the team from Vila Belmiro will desperately try to beat Ponte Preta in Campinas to gain ground in the title race. Brazilian International Ze Roberto has been confirmed and will make his debut. Ponte will have a much tougher time this week than it did last weekend, when it beat Santa Cruz at home. Still in the relegation zone, the team must at least tie this game in order not to risk falling too much behind 16th place - the last spot that guarantees a place in the First Division next year. Forward Tuto could return in place of Velber, with defender Rafael Santos playing instead of midfielder Danilo in a shift from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 to strengthen the defense.

FORTALEZA x FLAMENGO: It's a game to try to build on good results to escape the bottom of the standings. Flamengo travels to Fortaleza after a great 2-0 win in the local derby against Botafogo that took it out of the bottom four - on goal differential over Ponte Preta. The team will face a tough opponent though, which was able to hold off second place Santos to a 1-1 draw last week. Lucio, Chicao and Finazzi are suspended for Fortaleza, while Dude, Ivan and Osmar are injured. The visitors will not use forward Peralta, accused of not showing enough interest during training sessions this week, and could instead opt to play Fabiano Oliveira with Obina in attack. Flamengo can take advantage of Fortaleza's missing players, but a draw would not be unexpected.

Boca secures Recopa title

Sao Paulo failed to defeat Boca Juniors this Thursday at the Morumbi Stadium, and had to settle for its third second-place finish this season, in three tournaments in which it took place. After losing the first leg of the South American Recopa 2-1 last week in Buenos Aires, the Brazilian team could only draw 2-2 at home, frustrating fans that had hoped to see the team win its third Recopa title. Instead, Boca was the team to win its third Recopa crown, adding up an impressive 16 international titles in tournaments officially recognized by the South American Soccer Confederation (Conmebol).

Sao Paulo suffered its first blow even before it entered the field, when it learned in the dressing room that forwards Leandro and Aloisio would be unfit to play. Coach Muricy Ramalho then chose a last minute formation with Thiago and midfielder Lenilson up front. Unfortunately, the move was not that good for the home team, which seemed to lack a reference in attack for most of the game, and thus did not create many dangerous scoring opportunities during the match.

The locals opened the score after 34 minutes though, when Junior received the ball from Souza and put it past goalkeeper Bobadilla. Boca greated a great chance to score four minutes later, but Rogerio Ceni made a fantastic save on a shot by Cardozo. Palacios tied the game before the end of the first half, however, taking advantage of a head pass by Palermo to put the ball past the Sao Paulo goalkeeper. This meant Sao Paulo would need at least two goals to win the title, or one to force a penalty shootout.

The second half started very promisingly to Sao Paulo, but the team failed to score on some early chances it created and soon started to miss several passes, allowing for Boca to gain control of midfield. The visitors scored their second goal of the game in the 75th minute, when Palermo controlled the ball just outside the penalty box and put a perfect shot past Ceni. Sao Paulo knew the game was out of hand, since it would need to score three goals in 15 minutes to win the title. The team did not give up however, and would still tie the game with just 5 minutes left, when Morel Rodriguez misdirected a cross with his head to score an own goal.

In the end, Boca partied again at the Morumbi, as it had done before in Libertadores finals against Palmeiras and Santos. And coach Alfio Basile left the team with his head high, ready for dedicating himself exclusively to the Argentina National Team. Boca fans can only hope his replacement will live up to Basile's achievements.

Fluminense advances on penalty shootout

A controversial goal allowed Fluminense the chance to decide its fate in the Copa Sudamericana in a penalty shootout. And the team did not waste this chance. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg of its matchup in the Copa Sudamericana against Botafogo last week, Fluminense forced a penalty shootout in the second leg when it scored a controversial goal in injury time of the second leg, this Thursday. And then it won the shootout 4-2, benefitting from its opponent obvious distress after suffering a last minute goal.

Botafogo had the return of important midfielder Ze Roberto, while Fluminense countered with the presence of Serbian Dejan Petkovic, returning after missing four matches. Needing only a scoreless draw to advance, Fluminense opted for a defensive formation, allowing few spaces to Botafogo and trying to minimize scoring opportunities for both sides. The first half ended without any goals being scored, and Fluminense started the second half still happy to wait for time to pass.

Botafogo opened the score in the 82nd minute though, when Junior Cesar scored from a free kick. Fluminense then abandoned its defensive approach and pushed forward, desperately trying to send the game to a penalty shootout. And it managed to do so in the third minute of injury time, when Marcao received the ball on a clear offside position that the linesman preferred to ignore, and proceeded to score the tying goal. Botafogo players complained with the referee, but as is usually the case in plays like this, to no avail.

Thiago and William missed their kicks in the shootout for Botafogo, and all Fluminense players scored to determine the final 4-2 score.

Botafogo continues to fail to beat Fluminense in the past seven games against them, having last done so nearly two years ago, in October of 2004.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

President acknowledges Brazil still not able to host World Cup

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said today that Brazil doesn't yet have what it takes to host the World Cup of soccer in 2014. According to Lula, the Brazilian organizing committee would need to receive full support from the Federal and State Governments to receive the necessary investments to build new stadia and improve the country's infrastructure.

"We currently don't have any stadium which meets FIFA's criteria to hold a World Cup game, and we'll need at least 12 for a competition of this magnitude," said the president, during an official ceremony in which he launched a sports lottery created to try to help solve team debts with the Federal Government. By hosting the event, the country could improve its international image and ultimately attract investments from abroad, argued Lula.

A final decision about the host country will be made in 2008. According to a rotating model developed by the world's soccer governing body, FIFA, the 2014 competition will be in the Americas. FIFA's president Joseph Blatter was recently quoted as saying he'd support a World Cup in Brazil, but only if the country invested billions in infra-structure.

Sao Paulo tries to regain confidence against Boca

Last year's Libertadores winner Sao Paulo faces Argentina's Boca Juniors at the Morumbi Stadium, in the second leg of the South American Recopa. The Brazilian team is trying to come back from the 2-1 loss it suffered in Buenos Aires last week, and also to regain some confidence after failing to defeat a nine-men Corinthians team last Sunday, when the team played with the numerical advantage for most of the game.

Lenilson will remain on the team playing in midfield instead of Danilo. Coach Muricy Ramalho hasn't determined his formation yet, and could opt to use Souza as right back, moving Leandro to his natural position in attack alongside Aloisio. However, he may instead field forward Thiago with Aloisio, playing Leandro as right back in place of Souza.

Boca will have right-back Ibarra returning to the team from injury, while midfielder and captain Battaglia will probably be replaced by Ledesma due to another injury. Coach Alfio Basile makes his last game ahead of the popular Argentine club. After the game he will dedicate his time exclusively to the Argentina National team, being replaced at Boca by former Mexico's coach Ricardo Lavolpe, who's Argentine. Due to Basile's farewell, team players have promised to fight to the end to guarantee the team its 16th international title.

Corinthians and Santos advance in the Sudamericana

Corinthians defeated Vasco 3-1 this Wednesday to advance to the next round of the Copa Sudamericana, South America's second most important club competition. The team had already won the first game, in Rio, by 1-0. And Corinthians didn't waste too much time on the return leg, scoring a goal after just five minutes, with new signing Amoroso. Rafael Moura made it 2-0 in the 27th minute, with Diego scoring for Vasco six minutes later. The final goal of the game was scored in the 42nd minute, when another new signing, Magrao, took a free kick near the penalty box. Corinthians still had some more scoring opportunities in the second half, but the score stood unaltered until the end of the game. The team will face Argentina's Lanus or Velez in the next round, with the first leg on September 27.

Santos went to Belo Horizonte and beat Cruzeiro 4-3 on a penalty shootout, after a 1-0 loss in regulation resulted in a 1-1 aggregate score. With the 1-0 lead after the first leg, Santos opted to field several reserves, trying to rest some players for the Brazilian League. Cruzeiro, on the other hand, had its main players and the support from the crowd. That was not enough to open the score in the first half though, despite the locals constant pressure in attack. Cruzeiro was only able to open the score in the 51st minute, with Wagner taking advantage of a quick free kick taken near midfield. But the team was unable to score a second goal, and the match ended up being decided on a penalty shootout. Carlinhos missed his kick for Santos, but Gabriel and Edson lost their chances for Cruzeiro, as Santos advanced with a 4-3 win. In the next round the team will face San Lorenzo, from Argentina.

In Curitiba, Atletico Paranaense took advantage of the 3-1 advantage it had built last week to play with confidence in way to another win over Parana, this time by a 1-0 score. The lone goal of the game was scored by Denis Marques, in the 77th minute. The team will play against traditional Argentine side River Plate in the next round.

Botafogo and Fluminense make the last match involving Brazilian teams in the return leg of the Sudamericana today. Important midfielder Ze Roberto returns to the Botafogo lineup after missing a couple of games due to injury. Defensive midfielder Diguinho is still out and Ale will keep playing in that position. Coach Cuca hasn't determined whether to use a 4-4-2 (with midfielder Thiago) or the 3-5-2 (with defender Rafael Marques) he's used lately. Fluminense also has the return of an important player in midfield. Serbian Dejan Petkovic returns after missing four games. Forward Evando will return in place of Osmar, and left back Marcelo will again play in his natural position - instead of midfield, where he was used in the last two matches.

After a 1-1 draw in the first game, Fluminense can advance with a scoreless draw, since it played as the visitor team last week - despite both games being at the same venue, the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Botafogo hasn't beaten Fluminense in nearly two years, or six games, winning the derby for the last time in October of 2004. Fluminense is currently on an eight-game winless streak, including both the Brazilian League and the Sudamericana. The winner will play Argentina's Gimnasia La Plata in the next round.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Brazilian teams decide their fate in the Sudamericana

The return leg of the Copa Sudamericana matches involving Brazilian teams take place this Wednesday and Thursday. In three matches on Wednesday, Corinthians and Atletico Paranaense are favored to advance at home against Vasco and Parana, respectively, while Cruzeiro tries to revert a 1-0 away loss last week to Santos when it plays at home in Belo Horizonte.

Coach Wanderley Luxemburgo hasn't decided which team to field when Santos faces Cruzeiro at the Mineirao. Despite saying he wants to win both the Sudamericana and the Brazilian League, the coach has admitted he may field a team with several reserve players in the South American competition tonight, to rest his starters for the Brazilian League game in the weekend, away to Ponte Preta. Goalkeeper Fabio Costa, for instance, didn't even travel with the team to Belo Horizonte. Midfielder Andre Luiz, who was sent off in the first leg, is also out. In the meantime, Cruzeiro still believes a good result in the continental competition can help the team overcome its recent poor form in the Brazilian League. Former Malaga right back Gabriel will probably make his debut for the locals, while four injured players also return - defender Thiago Heleno and midfielders Fabio Santos, Martinez and Wagner. Forward Elber is still questionable, also due to injury.

In Curitiba, Atletico Paranaense hosts Parana after a great 3-1 away win in the first leg. The team, which can even lose by one goal at home to advance to the next round to face Argentina's River Plate, will be without defender Joao Leonardo, sent off last week. Midfielder Cristian return to midfield, in place of William. Parana will try to build some momentum after halting a five-game losing streak on Sunday. Midfielder Beto is out suspended, while Neguette and Batista are out injured. Leonardo is still questionable, and coach Caio Junior will probably only name his starting eleven just prior to the game.

Finally, Vasco travels to Sao Paulo to face Corinthians, trying to come back from a 1-0 home loss in the first leg of their matchup. Corinthians, which is still excited about the scoreless draw playing with only nine men against Sao Paulo on Sunday, will field its main players again. According to coach Emerson Leao, left back Cesar, sent off against Sao Paulo in the Brazilian League, will have another chance. The other new signings Magrao and Amoroso will also play. Vasco, which hinted it could use some reserves, may also field its main team. Coach Renato Gaucho wanted to test a few players in the continental competition, but the team's board of directors convinced him the tournament should be considered a priority. Forward Jean is the only player that will sit out, due to an injury. Midfielder Ramon returns after missing six matches. Since Corinthians was punished for incidents against River Plate at the Pacaembu Stadium in the Libertadores, it decided to change today's game to the smaller Caninde Stadium, also in Sao Paulo.

Botafogo and Fluminense close the first round for Brazilian teams at the Copa Sudamericana, playing tomorrow at the Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro. In the first leg, at the same venue, the teams tied 1-1.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Referee validates goal scored by ballboy

Referee Silvia Regina de Oliveira validated a goal scored by a ballboy during a match valid for the Sao Paulo State Federation Cup, between Santacruzense and Sorocaba, on Sunday. Santacruzense was losing the game, in the 89th minute, when the incident ocurred. TV images clearly show that the ball had gone past the goaline on a shot from right wing. The ballboy can be seen picking up the ball and kicking it into the net after the play, but the referee and the linesman validate the goal. The match ended on a 1-1 draw. The referee later recognized to the Brazilian media she shouldn't have validated the goal, and said she only did it because she wasn't sure about the play, and rather trusted the linesman judgement. She said she thought the ball went out, but when the linesman started running towards centerfield, signalling a goal, she chose to trust him instead. Oliveira was returning from an injury that kept her away from matches for the last seven months. This was just her second game since coming back.

Watch this incredible highlight below:

Monday, September 11, 2006

Corinthians holds on to heroic draw

Playing with nine men against eleven for 65 minutes, Corinthians was able to hold on to a scoreless draw against Sao Paulo at the Morumbi Stadium this Monday, frustrating the league leaders quest to open a larger advantage over their closest pursuers in the standings of the Brazilian Serie A. After losing two points in this local derby, Sao Paulo saw Internacional close the gap to three points, and keep the tournament still wide open.

Corinthias began the game pulling forward, wanting to surprise Sao Paulo. However, new signing Cesar was sent off after just 4 minutes, due to a violent tackle on Souza. Despite the advantage, Sao Paulo was unable to create many chances, and Corinthians still seemed closer to opening the score. Twenty minutes later, Eduardo was also sent off for another violent tackle, this time over Thiago. Amazingly, Sao Paulo still failed to gain full control of the game, and allowed Corinthians to come forward dangerously on a couple of occasions.

The match's perspective changes substantially in the second half, with Sao Paulo finally opting to play more using its wings instead of just the middle of the pitch. However, despite hitting the post and the crossbar, the leaders were unable to convert one of the several chances they were able to create. Corinthians stayed back, trying to hold on and go forward on occasional counterattacks. In one of those chances, it almost scored near the end of the game. However, in the end this was to be one of the best scoreless draws of the tournament, one that left the leaders feeling like they should have won it easily, while the defending champions felt proud for their efforts that saw nine men playing like they were twelve warriors.

Internacional was more than happy to hear about the news coming from Sao Paulo, and did its part to defeat Atletico Paranaense 2-0 at the Beira Rio, in Porto Alegre. In a first half with four balls hitting either the post or the crossbar, Inter went up ahead 1-0 when Adriano took advantage of some nice playmaking by Fernandao. Atletico almost tied when Indio deflected a free kick and hit his own crossbar, shortly after. Inter was the better team for the remaining of the first half though and hit the post twice, with goalkeeper Cleber saving two other chances created by Inter's attack. Atletico still hit another post before the first 45 minutes were over, in another extremely entertaining spectacle.

Inter was still better in the second half, and scored its second with Fabiano Eller, in the 51st minute. The rythm dropped a little after that, but Fernandao was still able to hit the post one more time for the Libertadores champions, now in second place just three points behind Sao Paulo, and seemingly back on track after missing a beat when four players left the team following the continental title.

Meanwhile, Santos failed to defeat Fortaleza away from home, despite giving the impression it could do so early in the match. After an initial burst by the visitors, Fortaleza quickly began settling down, and then passed on to control the action. Just as the locals seemed closer to score, Santos made it 1-0 with a long shot by Denis. Despite the goal, Fortaleza kept playing well, but only tied the game in the second half, with Rinaldo, in the 58th minute. From there till the end, both teams traded excellent goal scoring chances, but the 1-1 draw would stand.

The same result achieved away from home by the other second place team, Gremio, which went to Rio to face Vasco on Saturday. On a very tight and defensive game, the visitors went ahead with Lucas on a shot from outside the box. Vasco tied on a free kick by Andrade. Since the defensive style of both teams prevailed, very little chances were created from then on, and the second half was not enough to determine a winner.

In other matches, Palmeiras came back from suffering an early goal at home to Sao Caetano to win 3-1, with all goals coming in the first half. Ponte Preta defeated Santa Cruz 2-0 in Campinas, and Juventude beat Cruzeiro by the same score in Caxias do Sul. Parana ended its four-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory at home over Fluminense. And Flamengo left the bottom four with a good 2-0 win to end Botafogo's four-game winning streak. Finally, Figueirense could only tie Goias 2-2, dropping to seventh place.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Brazilian Serie A - Round 23 preview

Three matches open the 23rd round in the Brazilian Serie A this Saturday, with seven games scheduled for Sunday. Sao Paulo and Corinthians make the local derby in Sao Paulo, while Botafogo and Flamengo battle at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Second place Santos and Gremio have tough matches away from home, and fourth place Inter host Atletico Paranaense.

Here are my views for this weekend's games.

PONTE PRETA x SANTA CRUZ: After a change in command after the 3-1 loss at home to Sao Paulo, Santa Cruz travels to Campinas to play Ponte Preta, needing a win to dream about remaining in the First Division of Brazilian soccer. The locals also find themselves in the bottom four, and hope to defeat the last placed team to gain some positions in the standings. Defender Preto and defensive midfielder Carlinhos should return after serving a one-match ban. Coach Marco Aurelio is still undecided whether to use forward Tuto or midfielder Danilo, or whether to use a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation. Ponte has the advantage for playing at home, but Santa is still an unknown under new coach Ernesto Guedes. He'll likely play defender Adriano Santos in place of Sidraílson, as well as try midfielder Wilson Surubim and a new attacking duo with Jorge Henrique and Fabricio Ceara. Guedes has been trying new formations in training this week, and may use a 4-4-2 formation instead of the previous 3-5-2. In their first matchup in May, the teams tied 1-1.

VASCO x GREMIO: Two teams that were left for dead until the World Cup break and have shown new life in August. Gremio is under a slightly better form, having won four in a row to reach second place in the standings together with Santos. Vasco has also been good during the last month, despite having drawn its last couple of games - against Ponte Preta and Fluminense. Defender Jorge Luiz will miss the game for Vasco after being sent off against Fluminense, but coach Renato has yet to name his substitute. Jeovanio, Evalo and Hugo return for Gremio. The match could be close, and a draw would not be a surprise. Botafogo defeated Gremio 2-1 in Porto Alegre in their first meeting this year.

PALMEIRAS x SAO CAETANO: Palmeiras is still trying to understand what went wrong in the 5-1 loss at Santos last week. The team is trying to focus on the 11-game unbeaten streak that ended with the loss, knowing it has enough talent to overcome the unusual result. Fortunately for the white-and-green fans, this week's opponent has not been in great form lately, having failed to beat two teams in the relegation zone in its last two matches, despite playing at home. As a result, the team finds itself just one place above the bottom four. Dininho and Enilton return to Palmeiras after serving a match suspension. Chiquinho plays instead of Michael at left back, and Roger Bernardo will likely replace Francis in midfield. New coach Helio dos Anjos will change some players for his debut for Sao Caetano. Anderson Lima returns after serving a ban, while Maraba plays in place of Mucamba. In attack three players - Wellington Amorim, Fabiano Gadelha and Marcelinho - battle for two spots. Palmeiras should win this game, or risk a much bigger crisis. Sao Caetano won their first match against Palmeiras in this year's Brazilian League, 2-0.

FIGUEIRENSE x GOIAS: Goias broke a three-month winless streak with two wins in a row, but now must face a tough test away from home to keep its new streak going. Figueirense is unbeaten in three, but has won only once in its last six. At home it should still beat Goias, who hasn't won away from the Serra Dourada since its 1-0 win over Corinthians in Sao Paulo, on June 1st. Munoz could make his debut in attack for Goias, which won't have forwards Romerito - suspended for the game - and Welliton - injured. Defenders Rogerio Correa and Fabiano are questionable with muscle problems, and midfielder Leonardo is suspended. The locals won't have right back Flavio and midfielder Rodrigo Souto, also banned for one game after collecting their third yellow card. Figueirense is the favorite in this game. Goias defeated Figueirense 2-1 in May.

SAO PAULO x CORINTHIANS: The Sao Paulo derby has the return of Amoroso to the Morumbi, but this time playing for Corinthians. Less than a year after leaving Sao Paulo for AC Milan, forward Marcio Amoroso should make his debut for Corinthians here, together with midfielder Magrao and left back Cesar, also signed last week by the popular club. Meanwhile, the leaders try to recover from a pitiful presentation in Argentina against Boca Juniors on Thursday, when the team was lucky to lose by just a goal (1-2) in the first leg of the South American Recopa. Forward Thiago will play instead of suspended Aloisio, while left back Junior and forward Leandro return. Sao Paulo won 3-1 in the first match between the two in this year's Brazilian Serie A.

PARANA x FLUMINENSE: Parana tries to halt its four-game losing streak (five if considered the loss to Atletico Paranaense in the Sudamericana) when it faces Fluminense in Curitiba. After a good series after the World Cup that saw the team climb to second in the standings, Parana lost four times and is now just in seventh, with 31 points. Fluminense also lost track with the top teams in the standings after the World Cup, and sits in ninth with 30 points, amidst a six-game winless streak. Missing several players, Parana will have a tough time against the team from Rio. Edinho, Gustavo, Emerson and Pierre are suspended, while Angelo and Leonardo are injured. Fluminense will be without forward Tuta, suspended. Left-back Marcelo, who made a surprise appearance against Botafogo in midfield, could play again in that function. Back in May, Fluminense defeated Parana 2-1.

JUVENTUDE x CRUZEIRO: Juventude hosts Cruzeiro trying to recover from its 2-0 loss to Goias on Sunday. Cruzeiro continues to struggle, having just one point in two matches since its 3-0 win over Sao Caetano ended an eight-game winless streak. The visitors will have five changes, with goalkeeper Fabio returning from the National Team and four other players being substituted due to a coach's decision. Juventude will make four changes, with defender Antonio Carlos and midfielder Lauro suspended, and defender Fabricio and midfielder Alexandre injured. Juventude is favored to win, but with so many changes a draw is also possible. In the first meeting between the two this year, Cruzeiro won 2-0.

BOTAFOGO x FLAMENGO: Botafogo tries to extend its four-game winning streak in the local Rio de Janeiro derby against Flamengo, which finds itself back in the relegation zone. For Sunday's match, midfielder Ze Roberto is out and Joilson, Diguinho and Lima are still questionable on Botafogo's side. Flamengo will probably be without Savio, with Obina and Luizao playing in the attack on a 4-4-2 formation. Botafogo's missing players could harm the team, and a win like the 5-0 trouncing of Atletico last week does not seem likely, especially since it's a derby. Nobody should bet against a desperate Flamengo side, which could very well win this game since it finds itself near the bottom of the standings. Flamengo won their previous meeting in the league by a 1-0 score.

INTERNACIONAL x ATLETICO PARANAENSE: Internacional tries to build on its two straight away wins when it returns home to the Beira-Rio stadium. Back in the race for its fourth ever National title and first since the 1970s, Inter tries to take advantage of an unstable Atletico Paranaense. The visitors lost 5-0 to Botafogo at home last week, and despite recovering from the loss with a 3-1 win over Parana in the Copa Sudamericana, still feel bad about last Sunday's embarrassment. Renteria and Edinho will be able to play for the South American champions, while Fabinho will likely miss the game. Wellington Monteiro and Perdigao battle for a spot in midfield. Atletico will miss defender Joao Leonardo and midfielder Cristian, suspended, and injured midfielder Marcelo Silva. Inter won the first match of the season between the two sides, 2-1 in Curitiba.

FORTALEZA x SANTOS: Santos tries to move closer to Sao Paulo when it travels to Fortaleza to face the struggling team. Coming off a 5-1 win over Palmeiras, the team coached by Wanderley Luxemburgo is confident it can get another three points to stay near the top of the standings. Fortaleza managed two away draws against Sao Paulo and Sao Caetano, and will try to continue with a strong gameplan to prevent Santos from creating too many attacking chances. Midfielder Ze Roberto will likely make his debut for Santos. Defensive midfielder Dude is out for Fortaleza, which will debut new coach Roberval Davino, replacing Helio dos Anjos after he left for Sao Caetano. Santos won the previous match between the two, 2-0.

Sao Paulo lucky to lose by just one goal

Current Brazilian League leaders Sao Paulo were lucky to escape with a 2-1 loss away to Boca Juniors on Thursday, in the first leg of the South American Recopa, which features the winners of last year's Libertadores and Sudamericana tournaments. Boca, which won the latter, dominated the game and should have won more handily. Instead, they had to come from behind and overcome a first half deficit to finally turn things around in the second.

Nobody could have bet Sao Paulo would play so poorly, but the team coached by Muricy Ramalho clearly showed its intention from the opening kickoff, staying put in defense in order to try to take advantage of counterattacks. The tactic proved useless for the most part though, since the team had trouble connecting too many passes when it got past the midfield. Boca lost a few oppotunities at the start of the game, and even hit the crossbar after nearly 10 minutes.

Sao Paulo opened the score though, on a long shot from Thiago in which Paraguayan goalkeeper Carlos Bobadilla failed miserably to let the ball in. The match did not change much after the goal, and Boca kept the pressure on but with no luck. As is usually the case, the fans at the Bombonera kept singing and pushing their team, certain that the leaders of the Argentine Soccer League would pull through and come back to at least tie the game.

And it didn't take long for it to happen. Palacio tied the game after finding himself all alone inside the penalty box, in the 53rd minute. Sao Paulo continued to play poor soccer, and missed counterattack after counterattack after misplaying a ball or missing a pass. Forward Alex Dias was the clear example of the team's futility, coming in to sub an injured Aloisio in the 35th minute and being subbed himself in the 60th minute, after missing all 6 plays he took part on.

Boca eventually scored its second, in the 73rd minute, against with Palacio. And it only didn't score more because its forwards missed a handful of chances. In the end, the 2-1 score did not reflect the clear superiority shown by the Argentine team.

Sao Paulo now only needs a 1-0 win back home in the return leg next week to win the Recopa. But the team must know that it will have to play a lot better to get that result. At stake, more than the continental title: the team's own pride and confidence it may need to keep atop the Brazilian league.

One dead and three injured before game in Rio

A fight before the Botafogo and Fluminense game this Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, for the South American Copa Sudamericana, ended up with one dead and three people injured. A Botafogo fan died during the shooting that took place prior to the game, as people were moving towards the Maracana Stadium. According to police, Botafogo and Vasco fans had organized an invasion to the office of a Fluminense fan club. The Fluminense fans learned about this plan and prepared a trap, waiting for their opponents near the fan club's office. When a bus with Botafogo fans approached, they started shooting at it, killing one person. Three other people were injured in the fight - two by gunshot -, and are in critical condition.

The game ended 1-1, with Fluminense playing most of the match with 10 men, and Botafogo losing Ze Roberto and Lima to injuries (they weren't even meant to start, but coach Cuca decided to play with his team's full strength at the last minute). Fluminense dominated the first half despite being one man down, and scored first with Arouca. Botafogo tied with Juninho in the second half and could have scored the second if it hadn't missed so many chances. The result means Fluminense can tie the second game 0-0 and advance, since it played in Thursday's game as the visiting team.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Boca and Sao Paulo fight for Recopa

Boca Juniors and Sao Paulo open the fight for the South American Recopa today, at the La Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires. The winners of last year's Libertadores travel to Argentina to face the winners of the Copa Sudamericana. Despite its apparent lack of glamour, the matchup is being considered by both sides as a chance to claim supremacy in the continent's soccer scene. Too bad the match comes after Internacional has already won this year's Libertadores, which may serve to question the validity of such claim. Maybe the South American Federation (Conmebol) could study the option of hosting the game earlier in the season next year.

Both teams currently lead their National Leagues, with Sao Paulo four points ahead its nearest chaser and with one game in hand, and Boca having won all 5 matches it has played in the Apertura Tournament. Alfio Basile will likely make his last match commanding the team - he'll concentrate exclusively on coaching Argentina's National side -, with former Mexican National Team coach Ricardo Lavolpe on deck to replace him. Sao Paulo will be without Junior and Leandro, injured, but will probably field a strong side with most of its regular players.

Meanwhile, Botafogo and Fluminense play in Rio de Janeiro for this year's Sudamericana. Botafogo is currently in a four-game winning streak in the Brazilian Serie A, while Fluminense hasn't won in six matches. Reinaldo and Ze Roberto will not play for Botafogo, being left out to rest for the weekend. Jefferson Feijao will replace Reinaldo in the attack, while Ale and Wando battle for Ze Roberto's spot in midfield. Fluminense will have forward Osmar playing alongside Tuta up front, with midfielder Roger playing in the left back position to replace Marcelo, who hasn't returned from the Brazilian tour to England yet.

Corinthians and Atletico get important wins

Corinthians and Atletico Paranaense scored important away wins in the first leg of their matchups in the Copa Sudamericana this Wednesday. Playing with its main team, Corinthians went to Rio and defeated Vasco 1-0 on a goal by Gustavo Nery in the second half. Atletico beat crosstown rivals Parana in Curitiba by a 3-1 score. Both teams play at home in the second leg and will advance with a simple draw. Santos also won yesterday, playing with a mostly reserve side to beat Cruzeiro 1-0 in Sao Paulo.

Cruzeiro player still recovering after heart attack

Cruzeiro defensive midfielder Diogo is still recovering from surgery after suffering a heart attack during a training session yesterday in Belo Horizonte. The 20-year-old was promptly taken to hospital, and operated to clear an artery in his heart which had become obstructed. He will remain at the hospital for at least three days, recovering from the surgery. Team doctors did not want to comment on what may have caused the heart attack, and don't know yet if the player will be able to resume his career. In 2004, a player from Sao Caetano died from a heart attack during a game against Sao Paulo in the Brazilian League.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Six Brazilian teams play for the Sudamericana

Three matches involving a total of six teams from the Brazilian League open the country's stage in the Copa Sudamericana - or the South-American Cup, a competition similar to the UEFA Cup in Europe, and second to the Libertadores in order of importance in South America.

Parana and Atletico Paranaense play the first leg of their matchup in Curitiba, with the winner of the home and away series facing Argentina's River Plate in the next round. Atletico has full Jean and Michel back to the team, after they missed the embarrassing 5-0 loss at home to Botafogo on Sunday, in the Brazilian Serie A. Parana has lost four straight in the National competition, and will have forward Cristiano back. Sandro could also be picked to start in place of Batista or Joelson.

In Rio de Janeiro, Vasco faces Corinthians - the only team allowed by the Brazilian Federation to participate in the Libertadores and Sudamericana, for having won the Brazilian League last year. Corinthians will have its full squad for the game, trying to keep the momentum that shifted the club from the relegation zone in the Brazilian Serie A. However, the team will still not have its three newest signings - Magrao, Amoroso and Cesar. Left back Gustavo Nery could return. Vasco will also have all its regular starters, except Wagner Diniz and Ramon, who are out with injuries.

Finally, Santos hosts Cruzeiro at the Pacaembu, in Sao Paulo, still in good spirits thanks to the 5-1 win over Palmeiras on Sunday. The team will probably field quite a few youngsters and reserves, trying to keep its main squad rested for the national tournament, considered the club's top priority for the year. Midfielder Wagner is out for Cruzeiro, who will probably have Leandro Bonfim in his place.

Botafogo and Fluminense complete the first leg of the Brazilian stage in the tournament on Thursday, at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil manages to beat Wales 2-0

Despite not playing as well as it had two days earlier against Argentina, Brazil defeated Wales 2-0 on Tuesday to finish its London tour with two wins in two games, five goals scored and none conceded. Coach Dunga remains unbeaten in three matches since taking command after the World Cup, in which the team coached by Carlos Alberto Parreira fell in the quarterfinals to France.

Facing a team that did not allow as many spaces as Argentina, Brazil had trouble creating scoring chances. Fielding a different starting eleven, the team still controlled the game, but often with several passes in midfield, far from the goal defended by Jones. Not even the presence of Ronaldinho Gaucho and Kaka in midfield seemed to give the team the spark it showed against Argentina. At times, it looked more like the passionless team from the World Cup than the renewed one that gave new hope to Brazilian fans last Sunday.

After a scoreless first half, the South Americans opened the score in the 60th minute, when left back Marcelo hit a nice shot from outside the penalty box. The goal seemed to wake up the team, which started playing better. Dunga made a few substitutions but the team kept the pressure. At the 74th minute mark, Cicinho made a cross from the right wing to Vagner Love, who headed the ball into the net to make it 2-0.

In the end, a positive result that allowed Dunga to test almost all the players he called for the friendlies. The new coach seems to be headed in the right direction. His next match will be next month, against Kuwait.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Santa Cruz hires new coach

Following the 3-1 loss at home to Sao Paulo on Sunday that kept the team in dead last in the Brazilian League, Santa Cruz got rid of four players and its coach. Mauricio Simoes was let go on Monday with former captain Valdson. On Tuesday, three more players were added to the list, with midfielders Zada, Mauricio and Tiano being released on Tuesday. Ernesto Guedes has been temporarily named the new coach of the team, which will have to win most of its games till the end of the season if it wants to remain in the First Division next year. With only 18 points in 22 matches, Santa is four behind Fortaleza, the next team in the standings. The first team currently out of the relegation zone is Sao Caetano, with 26 points.

No changes at the top

For the first time in quite some time, all four teams at the top of the standings in the Brazilian Serie A won their matches in the same round. This weekend, Sao Paulo, Santos, Gremio and Internacional gained three points, to keep the race for the title unchanged. The most impressive result came at the Vila Belmiro, where Santos crushed Palmeiras 5-1 in the Sao Paulo State derby. Inter and Sao Paulo had important away wins, while Gremio defeated Parana in its return to the Olimpico Stadium after a three-match ban.

Santos started the game against Palmeiras trying to control the game in its attacking zone, while the visitors put on a more defensive formation. After a few missed chances by both sides, the locals opened the score with Luiz Alberto. Former Middlesbrough's Juninho tied the game shortly after, and it looked like Palmeiras could keep its unbeaten streak after the World Cup alive. Luiz Alberto had other plans though, and scored the second for Santos shortly after. With the partial score in its advantage, Santos did not fall into the trap of sitting back trying to protect the lead though. Right at the start of the second half, the team scored again with Wellington Paulista and continued to create chances. Before the game was over, the same Wellinton Paulista would score again, with Jonas making it 5-1. The result keeps Santos four points behind Sao Paulo, with 38 points, tied for second place with Gremio.

Sao Paulo went to Recife to face the worst team in the tournament, and came away with three points. Rogerio Ceni put the visitors ahead in the first half, redeeming himself for the penalty kick he missed in injury time of the game against Fortaleza at home, on Thursday. This time he scored on a free kick, thanks to a mistake by goalkeeper Guto. Sao Paulo still hit the crossbar twice, while Santa Cruz had trouble generating dangerous chances. The locals gained some control of the game at the start of the second half though, and tied the game with Jorge Henrique, at the 50th minute mark. He almost scored again one minute later, but instead hit the post of Ceni. Santa Cruz could have gone ahead, but Thiago scored twice to give Sao Paulo the 3-1 win.

After playing three home games away from home, with closed gates, due to a sanction because of incidents during a game against Internacional, Gremio returned to the Olimpico Stadium in Porto Alegre. Forty thousand fans showed up too, eager to see the team that had won six of its last seven. They were given a small scare early in the game, when visiting side Parana opened the score after just 15 minutes. Angelo scored on a free kick. Captain William scored fifteen minutes later, when Gremio pulled forward desperately seeking the tie. The locals kept playing better but only went ahead in the second half, when Tcheco converted a penalty kick at the 73rd minute.

In Rio de Janeiro, Internacional scored twice with Fernandao in two penalty kicks given two minutes apart in the second half, to come from behind to beat Flamengo 2-1. Obina opened the score in the first half, but missed several other chances that could have given the Brazilian Cup champions a win at home. The result, combined with the other matches this weekend, returned Flamengo to the relegation zone, in 17th place and only 24 points from 22 matches. Inter is still in fourth, with 37.

Corinthians left the bottom four with a 1-0 win at home over Ponte Preta, which is now in 18th place. In Belo Horizonte, Cruzeiro and Figueirense tied 2-2, with the locals scoring the tying goal only in the last minutes of the second half. In Sao Caetano, Fortaleza and Sao Caetano were held scoreless, while Vasco and Fluminense tied 1-1 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. After a 11-game winless streak, Goias has now won two in a row, after defeating Juventude 2-0 at home. Finally, Botafogo continues to surprise everyone, going to Curitiba and beating Atletico Paranaense 5-0 to reach its fourth straight win and distance itself from the bottom four. The team from Rio is now in 10th place, with 30 points.

There will be no games from the Brazilian Serie A this midweek, with the 23rd round taking place on Saturday and Sunday.