Brazilian Futebol

News and opinion about Brazilian football (soccer).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Relegation to Serie B defined

The second-last round of the Brazilian Serie A played on Sunday defined which teams were relegated and will play in the Serie B next year. Santa Cruz and Fortaleza were already doomed to the Second Division before this round, which saw Sao Caetano and Ponte Preta complete their fall from the Brazilian Football elite. Traditional teams Fluminense and Palmeiras breathed a giant sigh of relief, as their presence in next year's Serie A was confirmed following the weekend results.

Palmeiras was humiliated at home by Internacional, suffering a 4-1 loss with a great display by newcomer Alexandre Pato, 17, who scored once and was considered the name of the match for Internacional. The result left the locals with 43 points, which meant the team could still be surpassed by Ponte Preta if the team from Campinas managed to win its last two games.

However, Ponte went to Goias and left with another lopsided loss, a 3-0 defeat. This result guaranteed that Palmeiras could no longer be relegated. However, Fluminense was losing to Santa Cruz in Recife and remained only three points ahead of Ponte. That meant the team from Rio could be caught in the last round, next week, if it lost and Ponte won.

All changed when Fluminense came back from its first half partial loss and scored twice in the second half, sealing the 2-1 win and getting more than enough points to save its season and remain in the Serie A.

Sao Caetano, which still had a slim chance of avoiding relegation, lost 2-0 at home to Parana and also said hello to the Second Division in 2007. The result was also important for the visitors, who reached 59 points and took the last Libertadores spot from Vasco, which only managed to tie 1-1 with Santos at home to fall one point behind Parana. In the last round Vasco will travel to Santa Catarina to play Figueirense, while Parana will host champions Sao Paulo - which will likely rest several starters, granting them an early start to their vacation following last year's shortened holidays due to the World Club Championship in December.

On Sunday, Sao Paulo played its last home game of the season at the Morumbi, in front of 45,000 fans who gathered to see the team officially celebrate the league title. The players did not disappoint and scored a 2-0 win over Cruzeiro, with a celebration ceremony following. Players and staff received medals for winning the title, and goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni lifted the Serie A trophy after having scored the 68th goal of his career during the game (the other goal was scored by defender Fabao, who's leaving the team for Japan).

In other matches, Botafogo and Corinthians played to a scoreless draw at the Maracana Stadium, while Gremio defeated Flamengo 3-0 in Porto Alegre. Juventude disappointed in a 2-2 home draw against Fortaleza. Still, that was better than the home collapse of Atletico Paranaense, 4-1 losers against
Figueirense, just three days after a 4-1 loss to Pachuca in Mexico ended the team's hopes of a Copa Sudamericana final berth.


Meanwhile, Atletico Mineiro confirmed its Serie B title with a 2-2 home draw against America de Natal at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, in front of close to 75,000 people. It was the largest crowd of the year for a soccer match in Brazil, surpassing the 69,000 fans gathered last week at the Morumbi Stadium for the game that gave Sao Paulo the Serie A title. The result also qualified America for the Serie A next year, alongside Atletico, Sport and Nautico. The tying goal scored ten minutes from the end gave America a tie in points with Paulista, which beat Brasiliense 4-3, but the team from Natal had advantage in the tiebreakers.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Brazilian Serie A - round 37 preview

With Sao Paulo winning the title last weekend, all that is left to play in the Brazilian Serie A is qualifying for continental competitions Libertadores and Sudamericana, as well as a final relegation battle.

Here are my views for this weekend's games:

BOTAFOGO x CORINTHIANS: Botafogo and Corinthians are still trying to confirm their Copa Sudamericana invitation, having improved in the latter part of the tournament to escape the risk of relegation. The locals seem to have a little bit of an edge here, but Corinthians has shown in the last couple of weeks that it should have done a better job in the tournament, were it not for the many troubles that hit the team at the administrative level this year. Botafogo is winless in three games overall, but won five of its last seven home games. Corinthians is unbeaten in seven games, three of them away from home.

GREMIO x FLAMENGO: Gremio stepped up in the last couple of weeks after falling of the title race, and is now guaranteed of a return to the Libertadores. Not bad for a team coming back from a trip to the Serie B in 2005. Its only motivation now seems to be to see if it can finish better than their crosstown rivals Internacional, currently two points ahead in the standings. Flamengo will also play in the Libertadores thanks to its Brazilian Cup win, and has nothing to play for here. The locals are favorites for this match. Gremio has a three-game winning streak going, while Flamengo has lost two in a row.

JUVENTUDE x FORTALEZA: With a place in the Serie A guaranteed for next year, Juventude now tries to make some ground and get into the Copa Sudamericana qualification zone. The team has a great chance to close the gap to Corinthian and Goias this week, hosting second-last Fortaleza. The team from Ceara State has been in the relegation zone for most of the season, and has been confirmed to be going to the Serie B for a couple of weeks now. With zero motivation from the visitors, this should be an easy one for Juventude, which usually plays well at home. The locals have won six of their last eight in Caxias do Sul. Fortaleza lost its last two games away from home.

SAO PAULO x CRUZEIRO: Crowned new Brazilian champions last week, Sao Paulo will have a tough time keeping its concentration and effort levels to a similar level than experienced when the team was still battling for the title. Cruzeiro does not have a chance of making the Libertadores zone anymore, but the team still has to get some points to confirm its spot in the Copa Sudamericana. With only four losses this season, Sao Paulo is currently unbeaten in eleven games. Cruzeiro is winless in three.

SAO CAETANO x PARANA: Sao Caetano still holds a very faint hope of remaining in the Brazilian Serie A if it can win its last two games and Fluminense and Ponte Preta lose twice. Despite this unlikely scenario, the team will try to at least do its part when it hosts Parana on Sunday. The task will not be an easy one though, as Parana trails Vasco by just one point for the last Libertadores spot, and will do its best to remain in contention for a place in the prestigious continental competition. Parana hasn't won a game in its last four tries away from home, but Sao Caetano hasn't shown much at home either, having just two wins in the last ten games at Anacleto Campanella.

ATLETICO PARANAENSE x FIGUEIRENSE: Figueirense still has an outside chance of making it to the Libertadores, but to do that the team must win its last two games and hope that Vasco and Parana fail in their own matches. This week, the team from Santa Catarina travels to Curitiba to face Atletico Paranaense, who had a good effort in the game that confirmed Sao Paulo's title last Sunday, only to be eliminated from the Copa Sudamericana with a humiliating 4-1 away loss to Pachuca in Mexico midweek. How Atletico reacts to that game will be essential in knowing how they will show up here. The locals are still fighting for a Copa Sudamericana berth though, so that could be motivating enough. The locals are winless in four, while Figueirense managed two away wins in its last three games outside Santa Catarina.

VASCO x SANTOS: Vasco is the favorite for the last Libertadores spot in the standings, but the team must not take anything for granted with a single-point advantage over Parana with two games left in the season. This week the team has a tough meeting at home against Santos, which itself is just one position above Vasco, three points up. Theoretically, Santos can still be surpassed by both Vasco and Parana and be left out of the Libertadores, so the team will not just give up the points here. Vasco has won four and tied one of its last five home games, while Santos hasn't won a match away from Sao Paulo State all season (its only away wins came against other teams from Sao Paulo State).

GOIAS x PONTE PRETA: Ponte Preta keeps losing great chances to escape the relegation zone, and now the team sees itself with no room to spare in the last couple of games. Trailing Fluminense by three points, Ponte has a tough matchup away to Goias. The team must not only win both its matches, but also hope that Fluminense doesn't get more than three points in these games. Something difficult to happen, considering Ponte has won only two of its last ten games. Depending on Fluminense's result, a draw here would not be too bad. Goias is still fighting for a Copa Sudamericana spot, but must do better than what it did in its last three home games, all losses.

SANTA CRUZ x FLUMINENSE: Santa Cruz has been sentenced to the Serie B for a few weeks now, and seems to be just waiting for its miserable season to end. To make matters worse for them, their crosstown rivals from Sport and Nautico confirmed promotion to the Serie A next year, just as Santa goes down. This week the team has a good chance of getting some last honour saved when it hosts Fluminense, which has been playing just as poorly but remains just outside of the relegation zone thanks to a better start to the season. The team from Rio could find itself among the bottom four if it loses, so it will likely give its best effort to avoid disaster. Fluminense has drawn four times and lost six in its last ten games away from home. Santa has won three of its last seven home games.

PALMEIRAS x INTERNACIONAL: Palmeiras is not completely safe from being relegated just yet, but for that to happen the team must lose both its games while Ponte wins twice, with Fluminense also getting at least a win. The team hosts Internacional, who can finish as runners-up for the second year in a row. With its title hopes over, the team from Porto Alegre is now exclusively worried about its participation in the World Club Championship next month in Japan. Palmeiras has won its last two home games, while Inter lost to Parana away from home last weekend to see its three-game away winning streak end.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Midfielder banned for a year for age fraud

Figueirense midfielder Carlos Alberto was banned for 360 days on Tuesday, after the Brazilian High Sports Tribunal judged he had purposefully changed his birth certificate to hide his real age. Carlos Alberto confessed he changed his birth certificate to show him as being five years younger than his real age, so that he could get more chances to start his career as a youngster and escape poverty.

The player, who's now confirmed to be 28 and not 23 as previously believed, was believed to be in negotiations to join Brazilian champions Sao Paulo next year, but the ban has cancelled the deal. Sao Paulo officials have said they may further pursue the transfer if the ban is reduced to six months, something which depends on the success of an appeal to be filed by Figueirense on the case.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sao Paulo wins its fourth National title

Sao Paulo won its fourth ever Brazilian National title on Sunday, after a 1-1 home draw against Atletico Paranaense at the Morumbi Stadium. With Internacional's 1-0 defeat at Parana, the difference between the two teams jumped to eight points, with just two games left in the season. It is the first National title for Sao Paulo in 15 years, after winning the championship three previous times, in 1977, 1986 and 1991.

After building a 1-0 lead in the first half, Sao Paulo fell back trying to wait for time to pass, aware that Inter was losing in Curitiba - a result that would give Sao Paulo the title even with a loss. Atletico gradually took control of the game in the second half, tying the game with just over ten minutes to go and almost scoring a second goal shortly later. As the referee blew the final whistle, Sao Paulo players and fans nervously waited for the scoreboard to confirm that Inter's game had ended. After all, if the team from Porto Alegre had managed to score twice in the dying moments of its match, it could still mathematically overtake Sao Paulo in the standings. But with the confirmation of Inter's loss eight minutes later, the party could finally begin.

Players were overjoyed with the title, finally relieving the pressure that had been put on the team after three second-place finishes in the year (in the Sao Paulo State, Libertadores and South American Recopa championships). The win was also particularly pleasurable for coach Muricy Ramalho, who also finished as runners-up to Corinthians in last year's Brazilian Serie A, when he was in command of Internacional.

Sao Paulo will now have two games to play before the end of the season. Defender Fabao and midfielder Danilo are almost confirmed to be leaving the team for Japan, while defensive midfielder Mineiro, one of the best players in the squad, is still deciding whether to accept an offer from abroad or stay at the club. Internacional will concentrate on getting ready for the World Club Championship, which takes place next month in Japan.

As for the tournament, there are still midtable fights for a spot at the Libertadores or the Sudamericana next year, as well as one last spot in the fight against relegation between Ponte Preta and Fluminense.


I have finally solved the technical issues that prevented the regular updating of the blog over the past month or so. Many apologies for all the trouble caused by this, and thanks for your understanding.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Still facing problems

To those who wondered, the problems I am having are related to my current connection at home. Due to our great cable providers, some minor problem apparently got so out of hand that they haven't been able to fix it in nearly one month. In the meantime, I can't really do much in terms of research to write half-decent posts here. I am now at a public access computer and can't just write an appropriate post from here. I hope their latest promise of fixing it by next week comes through. Sorry again for the last month.