Brazilian Futebol

News and opinion about Brazilian football (soccer).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sao Paulo opens eight points at the top

Sao Paulo beat Palmeiras 1-0 on Wednesday to reach 47 points and open an eight-point lead atop the standings in the Brazilian Serie A soccer league. The defending champions benefitted from second place Cruzeiro's 2-2 away draw with Parana. Third place Botafogo also tied, 1-1 against Flamengo. Palmeiras is still in fourth, but Vasco could jump to a tie for third with Botafogo with 38 points if it beats Nautico on Thursday. Juventude beat Goias 2-0 at home, and Figueirense had a 3-1 win over America Natal. Corinthians lost 5-2 on the road to Atletico Mineiro, while Inter was surprised at home, losing 4-1 to Fluminense. Finally, Sport beat Gremio 2-0 in Recife.

On Thursday, in addition to Vasco and Nautico, Santos hosts Atletico Paranaense.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sao Paulo plays Palmeiras trying to extend unbeaten streak

Two teams in the top four face each other this Wednesday on the Brazilian Serie A soccer league, with leaders Sao Paulo playing Palmeiras in a local Sao Paulo State derby. Second place Cruzeiro will travel to Curitiba to play Parana, and third place Botafogo has the local Rio de Janeiro derby against Flamengo. Five other games will be played on Wednesday, with two matches being scheduled for Thursday, when Santos will host Atletico Paranaense and Nautico will play Vasco in Rio.

Here's a preview of this Wednesday's games:

After a great 5-0 win at home over Nautico on Sunday, Sao Paulo managed to keep six points clear of second place Cruzeiro in the standings. After a scoreless first half, the defending champions benefitted from a player being sent off to score five times in the last 35 minutes of the game. Palmeiras didn't do too bad itself on Sunday, scoring a good 2-1 away win over Figueirense. Defender Alex Silva returns to Sao Paulo after being rested on Sunday. Aloisio may return to the starting lineup, but coach Muricy Ramalho hasn't confirmed his starting eleven. Palmeiras is also surrounded in mistery, with coach Caio Junior confirming only that midfielder Pierre returns from suspension. Defender Dininho may also return after a one-game suspension, but Palmeiras still has to decide if it field two or three central defenders. In the third round, both teams played to a scoreless draw at the Morumbi.

Cruzeiro had a great 3-0 away win over Corinthians, in a game that cost the job of Corinthians' coach Paulo Cesar Carpegiani. Thanks to a six-game winning streak, the team managed to maintain second place in the standings, with one game in hand over most of its direct opponents (a postponed match against Flamengo). Parana had a good 3-1 win at home over Juventude, jumping to 12th place in the standings with 27 points. The team will be happy with a draw here. Defender Nem is injured for the locals. Cruzeiro has confirmed the return of Wagner and Ramires, who were suspended. Forward Guilherme may return, but Marcelo Moreno played well in the last game and might be given another shot in the starting squad. Defender Thiago Heleno is out, as is coach Dorival Junior, who will be tried for having invaded the pitch in the game against Botafogo. Parana beat Cruzeiro 4-3 in Belo Horizonte in the third round.

Juventude keeps losing matches, and with them the chance of continuing to play in the Brazilian Serie A in 2008. After a 4-0 loss to Flamengo and a 3-1 defeat to Parana, the team returns home to take on Goias, which lost to Flamengo on the road 3-1 after a 0-0 draw with Sao Paulo at home. Coach Beto Almeida makes his debut at home after the two road losses, and will be without suspended Wescley. Right-backs Jucemar and James were sent packing this week and will no longer play for the team. Five players are injured for Goias: defender Andre Leone, left-backs Diego and Luiz Henrique and forwards Fabricio Carvalho and Wendell. They had already missed the game against Flamengo. In the third round, Goias beat Juventude 3-1 in Goiania.

Figueirense lost at home to Palmeiras on Sunday to reach its seventh game without a win. Fortunately, it now has the weakest team in the Serie A to try to recover. America seems to have given up on the season, continuing to lose game after game. On Sunday the loss came at home, 4-1 to Santos, to give the team an eight-game winless streak. For this game America will be without coach Marcelo Veiga, who resigned after the loss to Santos. Forward Arlon and Bea, and right-back Robson Lopes were fired this week. Midfielders Souza and Marquinhos are injured, alongside left-back Adriano Peixe. Forward Paulo Isidoro and midfielder Reinaldo are suspended. The locals will have the return of wings Ruy and Andre Santos, who were suspended. Midfielders Cleiton Xavier and Diogo remain out of shape, and won't play. In their other meeting this season, America lost to Figueirense 1-0 at home.

Botafogo tries to show it is still in the title race, after a 2-1 away win over Atletico Mineiro put the team back into third place in the standings, with 37 points. Flamengo has improved significantly over the past few games, managing to climb out of the relegation zone, while still having two games in hand in comparison to most other teams in the tournament. Left-back Luciano Almeida is questionable for Botafogo, but Dodo, Leandro Guerreiro and Ze Roberto will likely play. Flamengo will be without midfielder Roger, suspended, and forward Maxi Biancucchi, injured. Midfielder Renato Augusto will likely return from injury, and Juan, who was suspended, may also join the red-and-blacks. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in the third round.

After losing at home to Botafogo, Atletico fans might be a bit concerned about the real potential of the team. It looks like the team will settle for a mid-table position, something which would actually be welcomed by unstable Corinthians, which lost coach Paulo Cesar Carpegiani after a 3-0 loss at home to Cruzeiro on Saturday. Defender Leandro Almeida is out suspended, while Bilu and Marcelinho are still injured for Atletico. Corinthians interim coach is Ze Augusto, who will have maybe two games to prove he deserves a longer tenure ahead of the team. Betao, Vampeta and Ricardinho are suspended. Atletico tied Corinthians 0-0 in their other matchup this season.

Inter's last minute controversial goal against Atletico Paranaense saved the team from an embarrassing result on Saturday. Meanwhile, Fluminense was also complaining about the goal scored by Inter's cross-town rival, Gremio, in another match played at the same time against the team from Rio. Now Fluminense travels to the Beira-Rio trying to rescue what's left of its season. With 27 points, the team is just four points ahead of the last team that would be relegated if the season ended today. The Libertadores classification zone now seems like a distant objective, nine points away. Ceara, Guinazu and Iarley are injured, while Indio, Marcao and Alex are suspended for Inter. Right-backs Carlinhos and Rafael are out with injuries, while defender Luiz Alberto is suspended. Fluminense beat Inter 3-0 at home in the third round.

Gremio benefitted from a controversial goal to tie Fluminense on the road on Saturday, but the team will have to play better against Sport in Recife if it doesn't want to distance itself too much from the league leaders. With 32 points, the team is four behind fourth-placed Palmeiras. Sport has 28 points, and was lucky to escape with a draw in the game against Vasco on Sunday, even though the locals lost a penalty kick in the second half. The team must take advantage of this game not to end its two-game homestand without a win. Midfielder Everton and defender Cesar are suspended for Sport. The visitors will have the return of Diego Souza, who was suspended, while Carlos Eduardo is out after being sold to Germany's Hoffenheim. In the third round, Gremio scored an important 1-0 home win over Sport.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Seven matches in the Brazilian Serie A on Sunday

Seven matches complete the 21st round of the Brazilian Serie A on Sunday:

Botafogo tries to keep close to the leaders when it travels to Belo Horizonte to face Atletico Mineiro, still trying to approach the top of the standings but safe enough from the bottom of the table. Defender Marcos and midfielder Rafael Miranda return to Atletico. Midfielder Bilu is injured and will be out though. For the visitors, Diguinho, Dodo and Adriano Felicio are injured. Tulio is questionable, Leandro Guerreiro is suspended and Athirson still isn't fully fit. Botafogo beat Atletico 2-1 when they met in the second round.

Juventude's 4-0 away loss to Flamengo put the team into an even deeper hole, keeping the team on course to the Serie B. Parana will try to take advantage of that, to distance itself from the bottom four. Parana will have the debut of new coach Lori Sandri, after former coach Gilson Kleina and six players left the club. Defensive midfielder and captain Beto is out injured. Juventude may have Marcio Azevedo as the new right-back, with midfielder Manzini also joining the team. In the second round, Parana won at Caxias, 2-1.

With Cruzeiro's win on Saturday, Sao Paulo knows it must win on Sunday to keep a more comfortable lead in the standings. Unbeaten in eight, the team should view this match against Nautico as a mandatory three-pointer. A loss or a draw could have terrible consequences to the morale of the team, especially with Cruzeiro closing the gap. Nautico hopes to give the locals a hard time, as it did in the second round, when it won the matchup at home, 1-0. Sao Paulo may have Borges in the attack, with Dagoberto moving to the bench. Nautico will take a defensive approach, and will be without injured forward Felipe and midfielder Juliano, and suspended forward Ferreira and midfielder Radames.

The locals must get points at home to keep themselves above the top four. The visitors have a great road record, and try to return to the top four. Dininho and Pierre are suspended for Palmeiras, while full-back Wendel joins the team replacing Paulo Sergio. Wings Ruy and Andre Santos are suspended for the locals. Palmeiras won the first matchup between the two this season, with a 2-1 home win in the second round.

Flamengo's win at home over Juventude put the team on its way to escape the relegation zone. This could happen as soon as this Sunday, with a win over Goias. The visitors can be a tough opponent though, and are still hopeful they can get a Libertadores spot this season. For Flamengo, Renato Augusto is still out, and Roger is questionable in midfield. In the attack, coach Joel Santana hasn't made up his mind in regards to who is going to play alongside Maxi Biancucchi: Obina or Souza. The visitors hope to take advantage of counter-attacks to surprise Flamengo. Goias was surprised at home by Flamengo in the second round, losing 3-1.

It looks like only a miracle can save America from the Serie B. Likewise, only a series of events will put Santos back on the title race. The locals have the return of midfielder Souza and full-backs Nei Santos and Adriano Peixe, but goalkeeper Rene was sold to Serie B's Gama. Santos will be without suspended midfielder Pedrinho. Left-back Kleber, who was with Brazil's National Team, will play. America had a rare successful outing on the road in the second round, beating Santos 3-2 at the Vila Belmiro.

Vasco tries to keep its difference to second place Cruzeiro limited to one point when it travels to Recife to face Sport this Sunday. The locals, on the other hand, will try to get at least a point here, knowing that the relegation zone can soon approach them if they start losing too may points. Forward Enilton is out injured for Vasco. Sport will be without forward Weldon, who was sold to Portugal's Belenenses. Midfielder Adriano Gabiru also returns to the team. Vasco gave Sport no chance in the second round, winning 3-1 at home.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Cruzeiro tries to consolidate second place

Cruzeiro travels to Sao Paulo to face Corinthians on Saturday, trying to consolidate its position in the Brazilian Serie A soccer league. Two other games are also scheduled for Saturday, in the 21st round of the Serie A.

Unbeaten in three, Corinthians is breathing a lot easier now than two weeks ago. Out of the relegation zone, the team still believes it can finish in the top four to gain a spot in next year's Libertadores Cup. The team will have to play a lot better in the second half if it is to achieve this goal. This Saturday Corinthians will play Cruzeiro, currently in second place in the standings and winner of its last five games. For Cruzeiro, midfielder Wagner is suspended, while forward Nene may lose his place in attack to Marcelo Moreno. Corinthians will likely adopt a 3-4-3 formation, with an extra forward replacing defensive midfielder Rosinei. Defender Betao returns to the team after a failed transfer to France's Sochaux. He'll replace suspended defensive midfielder Bruno Octavio. In Belo Horizonte, Corinthians surprised Cruzeiro with a 3-0 away win in the second round.

Fluminense has certainly seen better times. After a 3-0 win over Santos two weeks ago, the team has dropped two straight, losing to Flamengo and Cruzeiro to fall to 13th in the standings with 26 points. Fluminense returns to Maracana this Saturday to host Gremio, which is coming off a 2-0 home win over Parana that lifted the team to 31 points, good for 6th place in the standings. Fernando Henrique and Fabinho return from injury for Fluminense. Romeu is suspended, and defender Thiago returns after being called for the National team's friendly against Algeria on Wednesday. Gremio will be without suspended midfielders Tcheco and Diego Souza and forward Carlos Eduardo. In the second round, Gremio beat Fluminense 2-0 at the Olimpico Stadium in Porto Alegre.

Inter had a good 1-1 away draw with Botafogo last week, stretching its unbeaten streak to three games, with one win at home and two draws on the road. Going back to the Beira-Rio Stadium, the team hopes it can beat Atletico Paranaense, which won only one of its last eight games. Ney Franco makes his debut for Atletico, which will also miss defensive midfielder Valencia, injured. The new coach opted to shift midfielder Ferreira to the attack, where he'll play alongside Marcelo. Inter will be without injured right-back Ceara and midfielder Guinazu, also sidelined with an injury. Midfielder Pinga is suspended. In the second round, Atletico beat Inter 2-1 in Curitiba.


Update: Cruzeiro paid back the second round 3-0 loss at home with a 3-0 away win that cost Corinthians coach Paulo Cesar Carpegiani his job. Gremio and Fluminense tied 1-1 and Inter won thanks to a last minute goal, beating Atletico Paranaense 1-0.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brazil beats Argelia 2-0

Brazil beat Argelia 2-0 on Wednesday, on a friendly match played at Montpellier, France. The Brazilian National Team did not play well, but was competent enough to score two goals in the second half, when star players Ronaldinho Gaucho and Kaka joined the team from the bench. Ronaldinho took a free kick and Maicon headed the ball for the first goal. The second goal was scored by Ronaldinho himself, on a rebound from a shot by Diego. The match didn't mean much, and the display on the pitch probably won't help Dunga much in determining what the future holds for the team. But at least Kaka and Ronaldinho have shown they can't be seriously kept off the team when it matters.

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Desperation enters the pitch

Flamengo and Juventude play this Thursday at the Maracana Stadium, desperately needing a win to increase their chances of remaining in the Brazilian Serie A. With 18 points in 17 games, Flamengo hopes to get its third straight win at home, while Juventude - with 18 points in 19 games - hasn't really performed well away from Caxias do Sul.

Four regular starters return to Flamengo, coming back from suspension: Leo Moura, Juan, Roger and Souza. Jeventude will have a new coach, Beto Almeida. Right-back Jucemar is out injured. Midfielder Julio Cesar, who is coming back from suspension, will likely be left on the bench.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sao Paulo tries to keep advantage atop the standings

Sao Paulo starts the second half of the Brazilian Serie A soccer league on the road against Goias, trying to maintain the seven point advantage built over second place Botafogo in the standings. This and six other matches complete the 20th round of the league this Sunday.

Here's a preview of Sunday's matches.

Nobody really expected the defending champions to be so far ahead atop the Brazilian league at the end of the first half, but a series of positive results in the last few rounds meant the team kept adding points, while its closest opponents continued to lose. For the start of the second half the team travels to Goiania to face Goias, currently in 8th place and trying to return to the top four. Sao Paulo is coming off four straight road wins and seven wins overall. Goias hasn't played well on the road, but at home the team has won four straight. In the first round Sao Paulo defeated Goias at home, 2-0. Goias has all players available for the match. For the visitors, defender Andre Dias is hurt, while Richarlyson and Borges are suspended. Forward Aloisio may return, but his fitness level is still not optimal, so he may start from the bench.

Flamengo won two in a row at the Maracana Stadium, but now the team returns to the road. There's nothing the team would want more than get a third straight win to keep its recovery effort in the standings on track. Curiously, Palmeiras has played decently on the road but not so much at home, where it has won only once in its last four games. In the first round, Palmeiras managed an important 4-2 road win at the Maracana. Three regular starters are out for Palmeiras, midfielders Valdivia, Makelele and Wendel are suspended. Luiz Henrique returns on attack after serving a one game suspension. For Flamengo, Roger, Juan and Leonardo Moura are suspended, alongside Souza. Renato Augusto is still recovering from a thigh injury and remains out. Forward Obina, who has been trying to recover his best conditioning, may return.

A win can move Nautico out of the relegation zone, but the team will have a tough time against a determined Atletico Mineiro team that is still trying to find some consistency under coach Emerson Leao. The locals have won two of their last three, but lost their last match to Flamengo, 2-1. Atletico has lost two in a row and three of the last four. In the first round, Atletico defeated Nautico 2-1 in Belo Horizonte. Defender Onildo and right-back Sidny return for the locals from injury. Defender Breno is also back, but Deleu is suspended. For Atletico, midfielder Marcinho is injured and will not play.

Corinthians has done well to escape the relegation zone, and Juventude will try to draw on that example to do just the same. Second last in the standings, the team from Caxias do Sul knows it must take advantage of the home crowd support to get crucial points at home if it is to stay in the Serie A. Corinthians would like to repeat the excellent effort that ended with a 3-2 away win over Botafogo on Wednesday, a result that left the team in 12th in the standings, with 26 points. In the first round, Corinthians beat Juventude 1-0 at home. Midfielder Willian has been sold to Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk and will no longer play for Corinthians. Zelao returns on defense from suspension, replacing Kadu, who was sent off against Botafogo. Juventude will be without coach Claudio Duarte, who resigned on Friday. Defender Leonardo Silva is out injured, while Julio Cesar is suspended and Wescley is questionable.

Vasco has a good chance to get 3 points against a team that has played pretty poorly all season long and deserves to be in last place in the standings. The locals are unbeaten in five, while America is coming off six straight losses. In the first round in Natal, Vasco won 1-0. Right-back Wagner Diniz returns from injury for Vasco, but Dudar, Morais and Romario continue to be treated by the medical staff and remain out. America let go of four players during last week, and will also be without three suspended players.

Things don't look particularly good at the Laranjeiras, after Fluminense lost to Flamengo 1-0 on Thursday, just days after easily disposing of Santos 3-0. With just one win in its last seven matches, the team coached by Renato Gaucho must get at least a point to try to gain some consistency on the season. Unfortunately the road game against Cruzeiro will be quite a challenge at the Mineirao, with the local team having won its last four games in the Serie A. In the first round at the Maracana, both teams played to a 2-2 draw. Defender Thiago Heleno serves his second game suspension for the locals, after being sent off against Atletico Paranaense. Marcinho and Guilherme are out injured. Rodrigo Tiui returns from suspension for Fluminense, but both players traditionally used as right-backs remain out injured.

Botafogo know the time for wasting points at home is over, after two straight home losses, to Sao Paulo and Corinthians. From a safe five-point lead early in the season, the team has seen Sao Paulo take over and open a seven-point lead atop the standings. With just one win in its last six games, Botafogo will try to get the three points against Inter, knowing its opponent is also going through a tough time, with one win in its last four games. In the first round at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre, Botafogo came away with a good 3-2 away win. Forward Dodo is out injured for Botafogo, while coach Cuca opted to use Max instead of Marcos Leandro in goal. Another tactical option will see Renato Silva replacing Alex on defense. For Inter, Marcao is suspended after failing a doping exam, and Edinho is out injured.

Update: Sao Paulo and Goias tied 0-0. Vasco beat America 2-0, and Atletico Mineiro defeated Nautico 1-0. Palmeiras got a 2-1 win over Flamengo, and Cruzeiro defeated Fluminense 4-2. Corinthians and Juventude tied 2-2, while Botafogo and Inter settled for a 1-1 score.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Five games complete Serie B's 19th round

Five games complete the Brazilian Serie B 19th round on Saturday. Leader Criciuma host Portuguesa already guaranteed first place in the standings at the halfway point of the season. The visitors can take over fourth spot with a win and enter the promotion zone to the Serie A. Third place Coritiba take on Santa Cruz at home, knowing a win will create a five point buffer between them and current fourth place Vitoria. Santa wants to win to get out of the relegation zone. Speaking of the relegation spots, second last Remo will have a tough time on the road, facing 8th place Ponte Preta. Second place Marilia also plays on the road, at 14th place Fortaleza. And 10th place Gremio Barueri hosts 9th place CRB, with both teams tied at 27 points.

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The second half begins

The second half of the 2007 Brazilian Serie A soccer league begins on Saturday, with three games.

The two teams from Brazil's South are dangerously close to the bottom of the table. Atletico is in 16th place, and Figueirense in 15th, the two spots just above the relegation zone. Atletico has won only one of its last eight games. Figueirense has lost only once in its last six games. But the team hasn't won much either, with only one victory and four draws to show for in the other games. In the first round, Atletico had a wild 6-3 away win to open the Serie A. Right-back Ruy and defender Vinicius are suspended for Figueirense, while midfielder Carlinhos returns from injury - probably starting from the bench. Atletico can have the return of midfielder Alan Bahia, who was out of the team for the past few weeks after being involved in a car accident that killed a friend of his.

Gremio, with 28 points, is trying to return to the top four in the standings after its performance dropped in the final rounds of the first half. Parana is long gone from the top of the table, and is now dangerously approaching the bottom four. The locals lost three of the last four, while Parana is winless in six and hasn't scored a goal in four games. In the first round, Parana scored a good 3-0 win. Tcheco is suspended for Gremio, while Gavilan may return from suspension. Hidalgo will make his debut on the left-back position, while Marcelo Grohe takes up goalkeeper spot from suspended Saja. Parana has the return of top scorer Josiel, who was suspended. Left-back Leo Matos is suspended, and defender Daniel Marques is injured.

A mid-table matchup, with both teams tied at 27 points and currently occupying the qualification zone for the Copa Sudamericana. After three straight wins, Santos lost to Fluminense 3-0 last weekend, and tries to rebound at home against Sport, which defeated Juventude at home 3-0 in its last game. In the first round of the Serie A, Sport beat Santos 4-1 in Recife. Midfielder Petkovic will likely make his first game as a starter for Santos, while defensive midfielder Maldonado returns after a thigh injury kept him sidelined for a month. Left-back Kleber returns from suspension. Sport's coach Geninho decided to replace three players, Gustavo, Adriano Gabiru and Da Silva.

Update: Gremio and Santos had 2-0 wins, while Atletico and Figueirense played to a 1-1 draw.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Serie B's 19th round continues on Friday

Three games on Friday in the 19th round of the Brazilian Serie B.

BRASILIENSE x SAO CAETANO - Brasiliense will try to return to the top 4 in the standings when it hosts Sao Caetano. The team lost its fourth place position when Vitoria beat Gama 3-1 on Tuesday. But a win can even lift the team to a tie for third place with Coritiba, depending on that team's result. Sao Caetano, currently in 14th, should be worried about relegation soon, being just two points above 17th place Santa Cruz. Sao Caetano will be without coach Paulo Comelli, who resigned on Thursday. Forward Luizao may begin the game after starting from the bench on the last two games. For Brasiliense, forward Dimba is questionable, while midfielder Coquinho is suspended.

SANTO ANDRE x CEARA - Santo Andre must not waste this chance at home to get points that can help in its quest against relegation. With only 17 points in 18 games, the team is currently in second last. Ceara is not doing that well on the season either, but at least the team has 25 points, four more than the best team in the relegation zone.

ITUANO x AVAI - Last place Ituano must start winning more games at home if it is to stay in the Serie next year. Against a team that is just outside the bottom four, Ituano has a moral obligation to win. The team has won three and tied one in the four last games it played at home.

Update: Brasiliense and Sao Caetano drew 0-0. Santo Andre beat Ceara 5-2 and Ituano and Avai could only draw 1-1.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Flamengo and Fluminense battle at the Maracana

Flamengo starts making up for the lost ground caused by the series of home games it had postponed due to the Rio de Janeiro Pan-American Games. The team just hopes the extra games will allow extra points, at least enough to guarantee the team a spot in next year's Serie A. Still in the relegation zone, Flamengo faces Fluminense on Thursday at the Maracana Stadium, desperately needing the points to leave the uncomfortable 19th position it currently occupies in the standings. For Fluminense, it's a chance to move closer to the top four in the standings, while at the same time making life miserable for its most traditional opponent.

During the week, coaches from both teams exchanged provocations, which just served to raise the interest on the match. Both Renato Gaucho and Joel Santana minimized the incidents, however, saying they're actually friends and just badly want to win the game. Renato will have the return of three players for the match. Defenders Thiago Siva and Roger, alongside midfielder Arouca, return suspension. Right-backs Carlinhos and Rafael are out injured, which will force Arouca to play in the position. Souza is out suspended for Flamengo's attack, while Obina is still not fully fit and will also sit out this game. Renato Augusto is also out. Argentine Maxi Biancucchi and Paulo Sergio will be the forwards in the derby.


UPDATE: Flamengo won the match 1-0, thanks to Argentine Maxi Biancucchi's goal. That's two in a row for Flamengo, which begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Corinthians surprises Botafogo in Rio

Botafogo spent 16 round without a loss at home in this year's Brazilian Serie A soccer league. Now the team has lost two in a row at the Maracana Stadium. After last week's 2-0 loss to Sao Paulo, the team lost this Wednesday to Corinthians by 3-2. The game against Corinthians had been postponed due to preparation for the Pan-American Games, which took place in Rio last month.

With the result, Botafogo wasted a great chance to close the gap to the league leaders, since the team had a game in hand and could have finished the first half of the season trailing Sao Paulo by just four points. Now the difference remains at seven. For the visitors, the win leaves the team six points above the top team in the relegation zone, creating some needed insurance for the second half of the season.

Botafogo opened the score early in the game, when Nilton scored an own goal. Arce tied the game shortly after, in the 10th minute. The match was very balanced, with both teams wasting opportunities. But the next goal of the game would only come in the second half, in the 54th minute. Defender Nilton redeemed himself and scored again, this time for his own team, on a good shot from outside the penalty box. Three minutes later, Finazzi scored again for the visitors.

He'd almost score again in the 76th minute, but his shot would hit the crossbar. One minute later, Dodo scored on a penalty kick to give final numbers to the game. Corinthians sat back and resisted bravely for the final minutes, as the locals unsuccessfully pressed on for the tying goal that never arrived.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Botafogo tries to close gap at the top

Botafogo faces Corinthians tonight at the Maracana Stadium, in a game postponed from the 7th round of the Brazilian Serie A soccer league. A win takes the team to 36 points, four less than current leaders Sao Paulo. The visitors are trying to build up on the comeback win over Gremio, 2-1, which took them out of the relegation zone. They will have a tough time against a team determined to show it's still in the chase for the league title.

Botafogo will have several players back to its lineup. Juninho, Luciano Almeida, Tulio and Lucio Flavio return after serving a one-game suspension on the 1-1 away draw with Figueirense. But Renato Silva and Andre Lima are out of the team, suspended. For Corinthians, Finazzi returns to the starting lineup after scoring one goal and giving an assist coming out of the bench against Gremio. Defender Zelao is suspended, while left-back Carlao is sidelined with an injury.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vitoria tries to reach the top 4 in the Serie B

Two games open the 19th round of the Brazilian Serie B soccer league on Tuesday. Vitoria hosts Gama needing a win to temporarily join the top four in the promotion zone, while Paulista travels to Ipatinga trying to move further away from the bottom of the table.

Here's a preview of tonight's games:

Vitoria can temporarily join the promotion zone of the Serie B with a win over Gama at the Barradao Stadium on Tuesday. The team is coming off its second road win of the season, over Remo, and believes the support from its fans can make the difference on the game against the team from the Federal capital. At home the team has won seven and lost two, including its last home game, against Paulista. Gama could jump to sixth in the standings with a win, but the team hasn't won on the road yet in the Serie B. Right-back Apodi returns to Vitoria after settling an argument with coach Marco Aurelio. Jean will replace suspended Anderson Martins. Gama will probably field the same team that beat Gremio Barueri 5-3 in its last game.

After three straight wins took the team out of last place in the standings, Paulista will keep its comeback efforts on full alert this Tuesday, when they travel to Ipatinga to face the 11th placed team in the standings. The locals are also coming off a good result, beating Sao Caetano away on Saturday to get their first road win of the season. Ipating will try to take advantage of its strong play at home, where it has won six, tied one and lost only one game in the Serie B. Paulista has only one win on the road, with seven losses and one draw. Defensive midfielder Recife returns from suspension for Ipatinga, while another midfielder Luciano Sorriso, has been cleared to play by the medical staff. The same happens to goalkeeper Tiago Braga, who was also injured. Paulista will field the same team that beat Fortaleza.

UPDATE: Ipatinga defeated Paulista 2-0 and Vitoria beat Gama 3-1 to confirm the strength of the home teams in tonight's games.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Perfect weekend for Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo had the perfect weekend on the Brazilian Serie A soccer league. First, the team did its part in beating Atletico Paranaense at home 2-0 on Saturday. Then, of its closest opponents on the league standings, only one won. As a result, the team finished the 19th round seven points clear at the top of the table, reaching the halfway point of the league in great fashion.

Botafogo can close that gap to four if it beats Corinthians on Wednesday, on a game postponed from the seventh round. On Sunday, the team from Rio went to Santa Catarina and jumped ahead of Figueirense at the start of the second half with Dodo, but in the end the locals tied the game in a goal that should have been called off for offside.

Meanwhile, Corinthians scored twice in the last ten minutes to come back from a 1-0 deficit and beat Gremio 2-1 at the Pacaembu Stadium, in Sao Paulo. It was the second win in the last three games for Corinthians, which jumped out of the relegation zone with the result. Gremio deserved to lose, and actually was lucky to finish the first half ahead on the scoreboard.

In other games, Cruzeiro beat America Natal 2-1 in the final minutes of the game to gain third place from Vasco in the standings. The team from Belo Horizonte now has 32 points, one less than Botafogo, while America keeps holding the last spot, unlikely to move from there till the end of the season, in another 19 rounds.

Vasco went to Curitiba and could not get past a scoreless draw with Parana, dropping to fourth in the standings with 31 points. Parana, which had also tied Botafogo 0-0 at home last week, sits in 13th with 24 points.

Palmeiras went to Belo Horizonte and came away with a very undeserved 2-1 win over Atletico Mineiro, which dominated for most of the match but was unable to get this advantage translated into more goals than the opposing team. Palmeiras reached fifth place with 30 points, while Atletico fell to 12th with 25.

Goias also dropped a few positions, to sixth, after going to Porto Alegre and losing to Internacional 1-0, on the first game back for local coach Abel Braga. Inter's win lifted the team to ninth place, with 27 points.

The surprise of the round happened at the Maracana Stadium, where a Fluminense team missing several regulars had no trouble handling Santos, in a 3-0 win that ended a five-game winless streak and a three-game scoreless streak for the locals. Santos, on the other hand, had won three games in a row, but was unable to stop Fluminense on Sunday. The win left Fluminense with 26 points, one behind Santos.

Flamengo defeated Nautico 2-1 on Saturday, getting only its third win in the league this season. And Sport Recife defeated Juventude 3-0 at home, also on Saturday, to reach 27 points.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Seven matches complete 19th round in the Brazilian Serie A

After losing 2-0 at home to leaders Sao Paulo, Botafogo travels to Santa Catarina trying to close the gap at the top of the standings in the Brazilian Serie A soccr league. Sao Paulo, which defeated Atletico Paranaense 2-0 at home on Saturday, opened an eight-point lead over Botafogo, which has two games in hand. In other matches on Saturday, Flamengo finally won, defeating Nautico 2-1 at the Maracana Stadium to reach 15 points. Sport beat Juventude 3-0 in Recife, temporarily climbing to eighth place, before this Sunday's games.

Here's a preview of this Sunday's games.

From a comfortable lead to an uncomfortable second place position, eight points behind the leaders. In just a few weeks, Botafogo saw Sao Paulo zoom past to take command of the league. The team from Rio has two games in hand, however, and could close the gap to two points by the end of the week - the 7th round game against Corinthians will be made up on Wednesday. For Sunday the opponent is not easy, though, as Figueirense has shown time and again that it can play any team at its Orlando Scarpelli Stadium in Florianopolis. The visitors will also have to deal with the loss of several suspended players: Juninho, Luciano Almeida, Lucio Flavio and Tulio. Ze Roberto remains out on a disciplinary action by the club, and midfielder Leandro Guerreiro is still questionable. At least defender Alex returns from suspension. For the locals, left-back Andre Santos and defender Chicao are back from suspension, but Claiton Xavier is out injured.

Inter managed a good away draw at Palmeiras on Thursday, but the team must take action soon to define whether it still wants to battle for a Copa Libertadores position next year or just be happy with finishing at the middle of the standings. Goias has certainly shown it prefers the former option, jumping back into the race for fourth place with a 3-2 win over Atletico Mineiro on Wednesday. The team is now tied with Cruzeiro for fourth place, with 29 points. Inter has 24 points, good for the eleventh position. Inter has replaced coach Gallo with Abel, who had left the team just four months ago to pursue other opportunities, which didn't come to fruition. The team hopes the coach that lead it to the Libertadores title last year can ignite a fire that seems to have been lost in the last couple of weeks. Right-back and captain Paulo Baier and his immeadiate substitute Vitor are out suspended for Goias. Wellington Monteiro is the new face for Inter in Abel's first game back, starting the game on the right-wing of a 3-5-2 formation.

After ending a ten-game winless streak, it was business as usual for Corinthians on the road to Vasco on Thursday, where it lost 2-0. After a busy week away from the pitch, with the team's president and vice-president being removed from their positions, the second most popular team in the country doesn't have an easier time this Sunday, facing tough Gremio in Sao Paulo. Corinthians can again take advantage of its home field advantage, but the visitors will battle to guarantee at least a point here. The locals will be without defender Fabio Ferreira, suspended. Gremio will likely repeat the team that defeated America 3-0 on Thursday.

Atletico could not manage to come back against Goias at the Serra Dourada, and dropped its second game under new coach Leao. The team will be happy to return home, where its fans can certainly provide a boost to face any opponent. Palmeiras, on the other hand, doesn't seem to mind to play on the road, after some dismal performances at home. It doesn't hurt that the team was also able to win its last road game, a 1-0 triumph over Fluminense. Palmeiras will be without suspended forward Luiz Henrique, while Edmundo may sit out the game to rest. Midfielder Pierre returns from suspension. Defenders Leandro Almeira and Vinicius return from serving a one-game suspension for Atletico, and criticized goalkeeper Edson continues in goal. Midfielder Marcinho was taken out of the team for missing Friday's training session, and forward Lucio is out suspended.

How low can America get? With five straight losses, the team is deep into last place, five points behind Flamengo, the next team in the standings. Cruzeiro doesn't mind taking the trip to Natal, hoping to remain inside the top four that qualify for a Libertadores position in 2008. America will likely have the same team that lost to Gremio, but defender Edson Borges, who was recovering from an injury, may return. Forward Wesley may make his debut, but only in the second half. Midfielders Ramires and Leandro Domingues are suspended for Cruzeiro.

Fluminense returns to the Maracana one week after losing there to Palmeiras 1-0. After a 0-0 away draw to Juventude, the team now hasn't scored in three games. Fortunately for the home team, the visitors are not know for worrying that much about their defense. Unfortunately, this team is Santos, who can really punish a team with its attack every now and then. Coming off three straight wins, Santos has been gaining some ground in the standings, and already sits in seventh place, with 27 points. Left-back Kleber is suspended for Santos, and coach Wanderley Luxemburgo will probably adopt a formation with three defenders to try to prevent Fluminense from creating too many chances. The locals will be without seven regular starters. Arouca, Roger, Carlinhos and Thiago Silva are suspended, and Alex Dias, Fernando Henrique and Fabinho are injured. Several youngsters should either start or be on the bench for Fluminense.

Third place Vasco goes to Curitiba to face 12th place Parana, who is dangerously slipping down the table and near the relegation zone. The team from Rio hopes it can repeat the performance it showed in its last road game, when it beat Internacional 2-0 in Porto Alegre. For Parana, winless in five overall, the performance will have to be better than last week's scoreless draw against Botafogo, or a 3-1 home loss to Atletico Mineiro before that. Rubens Junior returns from suspension for Vasco. Parana has three suspended players for this game, defender Daniel Marques, midfielder Adriano and forward Josiel.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Three games on Saturday in the Brazilian Serie A

The 19th round of the Brazilian Serie A soccer league starts on Saturday with three games. Leaders Sao Paulo can finish up the first stage of the tournament with the symbolic title of 'winter champions'. Flamengo returns to Maracana Stadium after a long absence, hoping the mytical stadium will lend some of its aura to the team, which continues to struggle in the relegation zone. And Sport Recife tries to show it has enough quality to remain in the Serie A, in a home match against Juventude.

Here's a preview of the three games scheduled for Saturday:

Ever since they met in the 2005 Copa Libertadores final, the matchup between these two has never been the same, with a rivalry been created due to that historical matchup. Sao Paulo continued at the top of the Brazilian game, winning last year's league and once again leading this year. Atletico has seen better days, but hopes it can still surprise the leaders at the Morumbi Stadium. The locals have won six in a row, and are the favorites once again. Atletico recovered from a 3-2 away loss to Sport with a good 2-0 win at home over Flamengo on Wednesday. For the locals, Souza returns from suspension, while full-back Reasco is out after breaking his leg on the match against Botafogo. Forward Dagoberto plays for the first time against Atletico, his former team. Atletico will have the same team that beat Flamengo, including defender Danilo, who was questionable.

After two comeback wins, Sport couldn't repeat its good second half performance and ended up losing 2-0 to Cruzeiro in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday. The team still has a good chance to get full points in this game at home, helping consolidate its recovery in the league. At the beginning of the season the struggling red and blacks were in the relegation zone, but timely wins have lifted them to the middle of the pack. Juventude has not had as much luck, and continues to be tormented by the prospect of relegation. Their poor performances away from home are mostly to blame, and once again the players will have a tough time getting points on the road here. Defender Gustavo and midfielder Romerito were sent off against Cruzeiro and won't play for Sport. Forward Carlinhos Bala returns to the team after serving a one game suspension. For Juventude, Fabio Baiano is out injured, but Julio Cesar returns from suspension.

The most popular team in the country still has a very decent chance of staying in the Serie A. Of the team's final 24 games, 16 will be played at the Maracana, which had been unavailable for the last couple of months due to the Pan American Games in Rio. Now back to the stadium, Flamengo hopes to get things going again to escape the troubling 19th place in the standings. The team still has four games in hand in comparison to most teams, and could use this difference in its advantage if it manages to start getting some wins here and there. Nautico is a much improved team in the past few rounds, having won three and tied one of its last four games, and won three and tied two on the road. This could mean more trouble for Flamengo, in a game certain to be interesting. Coach Joel Santana, who has lost the two games since taking over from Nei Franco, will promote the debut of defender Fabio Luciano and youngster Romulo, from the U-20 squad. Forwards Souza and Paulo Sergio are suspended, while Obina is not fit yet to play. Right-back Sidney is out with an injury. The team will likely move from its usual 3-5-2 formation to a 3-6-1, trying to prevent Flamengo from creating too many opportunities.

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It's great to be home

No home team lost in the final four games of the 18th round in the Brazilian Serie A soccer league on Thursday. With three wins and one draw, the home teams closed the round with an impressive record of seven wins, two draws and one loss. The only team to win on the road in this round was Sao Paulo, which beat Botafogo 2-0 in Rio de Janeiro to open a five-point lead atop the standings.

On Thursday, Vasco had no trouble beating a disorganized Corinthians side 2-0 at the Sao Januario Stadium, in Rio. The match began with both teams struggling, but Vasco opened the score with Wagner Diniz in the 24th minute. Vasco improved in the second half and scored once again, with Enilton in the 55th minute. The locals still missed a couple of other chances and could have even won by a larger margin. In the end, the result pleased Vasco nevertheless, since the team jumped back to 30 points, good for third in the standings.

Gremio played just enough to beat a very poor America Natal side 3-0 at home, with two goals by Tuta and one by Kelly. After scoring early in the game, the locals sat back and almost got scored in a couple of chances. The team managed to hold on till the second half, when it scored twice more to break a two-game losing streak and reach sixth place in the standings, with 28 points.

Santos jumped to seventh one point behind Gremio with a 2-0 win over Parana at the Vila Belmiro Stadium. The locals had a lot of trouble trying to break through the defensive formation taken by Parana, but in an isolated play reached the goal with Marcos Aurelio, in the 38th minute. From then until the end little was created and nothing changed until injury time of the second half, when Kleber Pereira scored to confirm Santos' third win in a row. Parana is now winless in five games.

Finally, Palmeiras hosted Internacional at the Parque Antarctica Stadium, in Sao Paulo, but was unable to go beyond a 1-1 draw. Valdivia scored early for the locals, in the second minute, but the team was once again unable to secure a win at home. The home team sat back on defense after the goal, and Inter started pushing forward. Palmeiras was able to hold on the pressure until the 85th minute, when Alex scored on a free kick for the visitors. The result left Palmeiras with 27 points, in eighth place. Inter has only 24 points, good for tenth place.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Four games complete 18th round of Brazilian Serie A

Four matches will be played on Thursday to complete the 18th round of the Brazilian Serie A soccer league:

Gremio can't afford anything but a win at home against last place America Natal if it hopes to remain in the race for this season's title. With Goias win over Atletico Mineiro on Wednesday, not even the win will bring Gremio back to the top four in the standings after this game. But having lost its last home game 2-0 to Sao Paulo, and the previous one to Figueirense on the road, Gremio has no other option but get the three points here. America, on the other hand, seems destined to the Serie B in 2008. The team was simply embarrassed in its last game, a 5-1 loss to Nautico at home. Midfielder Eduardo Costa and forward Marcel may debut for Gremio, but both are still not in top physical shape and may start on the bench. Colombian Bustos will play on the right-back position, while Anderson Pico returns as left-back after a one-game suspension. Carlos Eduardo also returns to the team up front. America will try a more defensive approach after its last embarrassing loss, with only Paulo Isidoro as a forward. Defender Edson Borges is out, injured. Rogelio may lose his place to Robson, and Eduardo will be substituted by Reinaldo as right-back. Left-back Adriano will replace Marcio Goiano and even goalkeeper Rene lost his place, with Gleguer joining the team.

Vasco lost a great chance in its last home game, wasting two precious points in a 2-2 draw with Figueirense. Meanwhile, Corinthians ended a 10-game winless streak by beating Goias at home, 1-0. For this game, Vasco is still the clear favorite, but the team must pay extra attention if it doesn't want to be surprised at home again. Rubens Junior is suspended for Vasco, while captain Jorge Luiz returns from suspension on defense. Left-back Gustavo Nery may make his debut on his return to Corinthians. The team is also still under pressure outside the pitch, as president Alberto Dualib and his vice-president Nesi Curi were removed from their positions through a council vote earlier this week.

Palmeiras is coming off a good 1-0 away win over Fluminense on the weekend, but the team is somewhat afraid of playing at home now, especially after losing 2-1 to Sport a week ago. To make matters worse, the team will now face the always dangerous Internacional side, itself trying to regain some ground after losing its last two games, to Vasco at home and Cruzeiro on the road. Midfielder Pierre is out for the locals, suspended. Coach Gallo will try several changes to take Inter back to its winning ways. From a 4-4-2 formation he will likely change to a 3-5-2. Mineiro joins the defense, while Jonas and Alex replace Magal and Rubens Cardoso on the wings. Pinga is probably not going to play due to an injury, but Edinho returns to midfield for this game. Adriano will join Iarley in the attack, while Christian will probably start from the bench.

Santos is the favorite for this game at the Vila Belmiro, but Parana can always be a dangerous opponent. Santos has a one-point advantage over the visitors in the standings. The locals seem to have recovered from the 2-1 home loss to Nautico three games ago, having beaten Atletico Mineiro 2-1 on the road and Flamengo 3-0 at home since then. Parana is coming off a scoreless draw at home against former leaders Botafogo, after dropping two straight - to Atletico Mineiro at home and Goias on the road. Right-back Baiano and midfielder Petkovic are cleared to make their debut. Baiano will likely start replacing Alessandro, who is injured, while Petkovic may begin on the bench since he's not fully fit yet. Left-back Carlinhos and midfielder Rodrigo Souto return from suspension. Captain Beto returns to Parana, after being suspended for the game against Botafogo.

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Sao Paulo opens five points at the top of the Brazilian league

The game was obviously not as good as many had anticipated. But to the fans of Sao Paulo, it didn't really matter in the end, after the team managed to beat Botafogo on the road, 2-0, to reach 37 points, five more than Botafogo itself, which continues in second place.

Close to 50,000 people showed up at the Maracana Stadium to watch the game between the two best teams in the league. But the first half was a total disappointment, with almost no real scoring chance created, and with Sao Paulo's full-back Reasco having to leave the field after being kicked by a Botafogo player and breaking his leg - he's out for the remainder of the season.

In the second half, both teams seemed to open up a little bit more, pushing forward and not waiting so much for the opponent to take action. Rogerio Ceni had to make a few good saves to keep the scoreless draw. In the 64th minute, Sao Paulo surprised Botafogo on a corner kick, and Alex Silva headed the ball into the left side of the goal defended by Marcos Leandro. In the 71st minute, Botafogo's Tulio got upset with Sao Paulo's Leandro and kicked him on the face while he was laying down, after being fouled on by the Botafogo player. He was promptly sent off, and from there on Botafogo lost any hope of making a comeback. Leandro himself would score the second goal of the night for the defending champions, connecting a perfect shot from outside of the penalty box three minutes later.

It was the first loss at home for Botafogo in the season, and the end of a 25-game unbeaten streak at the Maracana Stadium. Sao Paulo got its sixth win in nine matches on the road in the Brazilian Serie A, its second straight 2-0 road win over teams that are directly fighting for the title this season - on Sunday the team had beaten Gremio in Porto Alegre. Botafogo still has one game in hand, but the 2-0 loss at home may have a significant psychological impact if the team fails to get a few wins in the upcoming rounds.

In other matches, Nautico got its second win of the season at home, beating Figueirense 4-2 in Recife. The team was winless at home in seven games. Acosta scored twice and had an assist for Nautico. The result took the team to 20 points, out of the relegation zone ahead of Corinthians, which faces Vasco on Thursday.

In Belo Horizonte, Cruzeiro beat Sport 2-0 in a game marred by three red cards - two for Sport. Not many chances were created in the first half, when both teams preferred to stop the play by consistently fouling an opposing player. The locals took advantage of the sending offs in the second half to score twice with Alecsandro and reach 29 points, third in the standings. Sport was held to 24 points, in tenth place.

Fluminense and Juventude played yet another poor match in Caxias do Sul, with defense taking preference over the attacks and very few chances created by both sides. The result left the locals still struggling to come out of the relegation zone, where they remain in 18th place with 16 points. Fluminense is a little better, in 14th place with 23 points.

Goias beat Atletico Mineiro in Goiania, 3-2, to stop the visitors' two-game winning streak on the road. The locals showed why their home record is so good this season, reaching their sixth win in nine matches at home in the Brazilian Serie A. The first goal was scored by Paulo Baier in the first minute of play, after a mistake by Atletico goalkeeper Edson. Baier scored the second at the start of the second half, on a penalty kick. Atletico scored next with Marcos, but Goias made it 3-1 with Cristiano. Atletico still had a second goal with Vanderlei on a penalty kick with eight minutes to go, but was unable to tie the game in the dying minutes of the game. Goias returned to the top four in the standings, now with 29 points.

Finally, Flamengo went to Curitiba and lost 2-0 to Atletico Paranaense. It was the second loss in a row for Flamengo under new coach Joel Santana, with the team conceding five goals and scoring none in those games. The locals scored early with Marcelo, in the third minute, and then again with Edno, in the 60th minute. It was the first win in five games for Atletico, which reached 22 points, good for 15th place in the standings. Flamengo is second last, with 12 points - but the team has played only 14 games.

Four games complete the 18th round of the Brazilian Serie A soccer league on Thursday: America Natal travels to Porto Alegre to face Gremio, Vasco hosts Corinthians, Palmeiras plays at home against Internacional and Parana has a road game at Santos.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Two best teams in Brazil face each other tonight

The duel between the two top teams in the league is the highlight of the 18th round of the Brazilian Serie A soccer league. Second place Botafogo hosts Sao Paulo at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, with five other matches also scheduled for tonight. Four games complete the 18th round on Thursday.

Here is a preview of tonight's games:

After leading for most of the season, Botafogo finally saw Sao Paulo take over first place over the weekend. Tonight, Botafogo can retake the lead even with a game in hand. In order to do so, however, it must manage to find a way to score on Sao Paulo's defense, the best of the league with only 7 goals allowed in 17 games. The locals have the second-best attack though, with 35 goals in 16 matches. The new leaders have won four straight, and definitely would hope to get at least a point from the game at the Maracana. Midfielder Ze Roberto was punished for being one-hour late to the training session on Tuesday, and will not play for Botafogo. Wing Joilson, who was suspended against Parana, returns to the team. Defender Alex, who is on a loan from Sao Paulo, cannot play for Botafogo either, due to a clause in his loan contract. Midfielder Hugo and Souza are out suspended for Sao Paulo, with defender Andre Dias and forward Aloisio also out, with injuries. Dagoberto returns to the team, but will start on the bench since he's just coming back from an injury.

Juventude lost to Atletico Mineiro on Sunday, and hopes it can regroup to avoid a devastating second straight home loss. The team from Caxias do Sul still sits in the relegation zone, in 18th place with 15 points. Fluminense continues to play erractically, losing 1-0 to Palmeiras at home in its latest match to extend its winless streak to four games. Forward Rodrigo Tiui may return to Fluminense after sitting out the game against Palmeiras. For Juventude, midfielder Marcao returns to the team, replacing Julio Cesar, who was sent off against Atletico. Coach Claudio Duarte is still searching for his first point ahead of the team, after losing to Sao Paulo and Atletico in his two first games.

Slowly but surely, Cruzeiro has been gaining important points at home over the last few rounds. On Sunday the team beat Internacional 3-2 at the Mineirao Stadium to reach 26 points, good enough for fourth place in the standings. Sport Recife has also improved a lot from the start of the season, and currently sits in tenth place, with 24 points. The team just hopes it can start its games on a better pace. In its last two matches, against Palmeiras and Atletico Paranaense, it fell behind on the scoreboard before having to rally for a couple of wins. But perhaps the team wouldn't mind doing the same again, if it resulted in another three points in the standings. Cruzeiro has the best attack in the league with 36 goals, but Sport is not far behind, with 30. Both teams have allowed 32 goals, second-worst in the league. Forward Guilherme returns from suspension, and midfielder Charles, who also missed last game, is available as well for the locals. The visitors may have five players back. Captain Everton was cleared by the medical staff and may start the game. Igor, Bilica and Dutra return from suspension, and Junior Maranhao may make his debut. But top scorer Carlinhos Bala is out suspended.

With a few good matches of late, including a superb 5-1 away win over America Natal over the weekend, Nautico is already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. With a win over Figueirense, and a combination of other results, Nautico could end the 18th round already out of the bottom four. The visitors won't be easy opponents though, being excited about their recent 1-0 win over Gremio and a 2-2 away draw at Vasco, that extended the team's unbeaten streak to four. Midfielder Acosta returns from suspension for Nautico, while defender Toninho is out after accumulating three yellow cards. Ruy returns to Figueirense, but Andre Santos and Chicao are out suspended.

Atletico has managed two wins in three matches under new coach Emerson Leao, including a great 2-1 victory over Juventude on the road on Sunday. Tonight the game won't be easy, with Goias holding a very respectable home record. The team from Goiania helped Corinthians end a 10-game losing streak with a 1-0 loss on Saturday, but knows things could be different at the Serra Dourada Stadium this Wednesday. The locals haven't lost to Atletico in six games. Forward Cristiano may make his first appearance for Goias, as well as left-back Chiquinho. Defender Amaral and full-back Vitor are suspended. Atletico will be without its two defenders, Vinicius and Leandro Almeida, suspended.

Is Flamengo really that bad? Will the team fall to the Serie B in 2008, or is it still sitting in the bottom four only due to the fact that it has played four less games than most of its opponents? Perhaps it's a mixture of both, but time is certainly running out for the most popular team in Brazil, which must start getting points to regain the confidence it needs to climb out of the relegation zone. Atletico Paranense still hasn't recovered from the long-term injury loss of Alex Mineiro and Evandro, injured a couple of weeks ago in the game against Gremio. The team is not completely safe from relegation either, sitting just two points ahead of Nautico, which would be the last team to be relegated if the season ended today. Flamengo is still trying to clear midfielder Cristian - who was transferred from Atletico - to play. If he's not able to dress up for the game, coach Joel Santana is likely going to use a 3-5-2 formation instead of the regular 4-4-2 adopted by the team. Forward Souza is still out after being suspended for four games following his sending off against Gremio on July 22. Midfielder Claiton is likely out for Atletico, together with Evandro, Alex Mineiro, Jancarlos, Nei and Michel, all injured. Left-back Alessandro is available for the match.

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Marilia closes gap to leaders in Serie B

Leaders Criciuma lost on the road to Paulista, 3-1, on Tuesday, and saw its advantage at the top of the standings shrink from seven to four points in the Brazilian Serie B soccer league. Roberto Santos scored all three goals for the locals, helping the team reach 19 points to climb out of the relegation zone, to 15th place.

Meanwhile, Marilia defeated Ipatinga at home, 2-1, thanks to a goal in the final minutes. The team from the state of Sao Paulo reached 32 points, four behind Criciuma's 36. Third place Coritiba went to Sao Paulo and lost to Portuguesa, 3-1. Fourth place Brasiliense also lost, on the road to Santa Cruz, 1-0.

In other results, Ponte Preta had a great 3-2 win on the road over Avai. Gremio Barueri went to Fortaleza and lost to Ceara, 2-1. The other team from the city, Fortaleza, went to Sao Caetano and lost 1-0. Gama hosted Santo Andre but could not go beyond a 1-1 draw. CRB had a very entertaining 4-3 win at home over Vitoria. Remo defeated Ituano at home, 2-0, to climb out of last place. Ituano is now in last.

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Dunga calls players for friendly against Algeria

Brazilian National coach Dunga announced the name of the 22 players for the friendly against Algeria, on August 22, in Montpellier, France. Kaka and Ronaldinho, who were not in last month's Copa America team, were included in the list. The coach had not been happy by both players' request to be left out of the team that played in the competition, ultimately won by Brazil. Here are the names of the players called up by Dunga:

GOALKEEPERS - Doni (Roma), Julio Cesar (Inter Milan)

DEFENDERS - Maicon (Inter Milan), Daniel Alves (Sevilla), Gilberto (Hertha Berlim), Kleber (Santos), Juan (Roma), Alex Silva (Sao Paulo), Lucio (Bayern Munich), Naldo (Werder Bremem)

MIDFIELDERS - Josue (Sao Paulo), Mineiro (Hertha Berlim), Fernando (Bordeaux), Lucas (Liverpool), Elano (Manchester City), Julio Baptista (Real Madrid), Diego (Werder Bremem), Kaka (Milan)

FORWARDS - Robinho (Real Madrid), Ronaldinho (Barcelona), Rafael Sobis (Betis), Vagner Love (CSKA Moscow)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Brazilian Serie B has full fixture list on Tuesday

A full schedule on Tuesday marks the 17th round of the 2007 Brazilian Serie B football league. With ten games scheduled for tonight, the fight for one of the four spots in the Serie A next year continues.

Leaders Criciuma, already seven points clear of second place Marilia, travel to Jundiai to face 18th place Paulista, which would be dropping to the Serie C if the tournament ended today. With three wins and one draw in its last four games, the leaders hope to do better on the road today than they did the last couple of times they were in Sao Paulo State, losing 3-2 to Ponte Preta and tying Santo Andre 3-3. Paulista started the season on the wrong foot, but slowly the team has been getting better results, including its last match, a 1-0 road win over Vitoria.

Marilia lost six points due to the irregular use of players early in the season, but from a spot in the relegation zone the team has climbed the standings to reach second place prior to Tuesday's games. If not for these lost points, the team would trail Criciuma by a single point. Tonight it faces tenth place Ipatinga at home, defending a nine-game unbeaten streak. The visitors have yet to win away from home, and don't look like they could do it tonight, despite a good 3-0 home win over Gama in the last game. Midfielder Reginaldo may return from injury for the locals, while Ipatinga will likely field the same team as the one that beat Gama.

Third place Coritiba tries to improve its road record when it travels to Sao Paulo to face Portuguesa. The visitors have won two, drawn two and lost four of the eight games it played on the road in the Serie B, while Portuguesa - in eighth with 24 points - has five wins, one loss and two draws at home. Midfielder Preto and defender Bruno Rodrigo return to the locals after a game suspended. Coritiba will be without several regulars, including suspended goalkeeper Edson Bastos. Midfielder Marlos and forward Gustavo are injured.

In Recife, 19th place Santa Cruz hosts fourth place Brasiliense, trying to break an eight-game winless streak. The last win by Santa Cruz was on June 26, a 1-0 victory over Ituano. Brasiliense is coming off three wins, one loss and a draw in its last five games, and promises to try hard for the win against Santa to remain in the top four of the Serie B. Santa Cruz is coming off a 6-0 loss to Ponte Preta, and will likely see many changes on the pitch for Tuesday's game. Rodriguinho returns to Brasiliense after serving a one-game suspension, while right-back Rafael Toledo may start in place of injured Patrick.

In other matches, 15th place Avai hosts 7th place Ponte Preta, which will try to repeat on the road its success at home this season. The team from Campinas has won six of eight at home, tying two games, but has only one win, one draw and six losses away from home. Just two points above the last relegation spot, Avai is winless in three.

Sixth place Vitoria goes to Maceio to face 11th place CRB, and last place Remo hosts 16th place Ituano. Ceara, in 14th, plays at home against fifth place Gremio Barueri, and 17th Santo Andre goes to Brasilia to face 12th place Gama. Finally, it will be 13th place Sao Caetano at home to 9th place Fortaleza.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Sao Paulo takes the lead from Botafogo

Sao Paulo defeated Gremio 2-0 on the road on Sunday and took the lead on the 2007 Brazilian Serie A football league. The defending champions were lucky to score in the third minute with Borges, holding on the pressure from the locals for most of the game to reach 34 points in the standings. Diego Tardelli, who had just replaced Borges, scored the second goal in the 87th minute on a counterattack, after a very balanced match in which Sao Paulo's defense worked well enough to give the attack the chance to score on the chances it created.

Meanwhile, Botafogo played better than Parana on the road, but still wasn't able to score in a 0-0 draw in Curitiba. Goalkeeper Flavio made two great saves for the locals, while newcomer Marcos Leandro had no trouble but in a header by Josiel. With the result, Botafogo is now two points behind Sao Paulo, with one game in hand. The teams face each other on Wednesday, at the Maracana in Rio.

In other results, Figueirense susprised Vasco in Rio and settled for a 2-2 draw, ending the locals perfect record at home. Fluminense played for in Rio for the first time in seven matches, in the reopening of the Maracana Stadium, and lost to Palmeiras, 1-0. Internacional went to Belo Horizonte without Alexandre Pato and left the Mineirao Stadium with a 3-2 loss to Cruzeiro. Flamengo was not able to get much going in the debut of new coach Joel Santana, going to Santos and losing to the locals by a 3-0 score. Atletico Mineiro, on the other hand, had a good road game, defeating Juventude 2-1 in Caxias do Sul to end that team's five-game unbeaten streak at home.

Speaking of streaks, Corinthians was able to end a 10-game winless streak with a win over Goias at home, 1-0, on Saturday. Sport Recife came from behind at home to beat Atletico Paranaense 3-2, while America Natal kept its losing ways by hosting Nautico and losing by a terrible 5-1 score.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Brazilian Serie A - 17th round

Three matches on Saturday and seven on Sunday make up the 17th round of the 2007 Brazilian Serie A football league. The most important match will likely be the last, with Gremio hosting Sao Paulo needing to win to close the gap between itself (currently with 25 points) and its opponent (31 points), which is tied with Botafogo for the league's lead. Botafogo will also have a tough time, going to Curitiba to face Parana.

Here's a brief preview of this weekend's games (updates on player injuries and suspensions for Sunday's games coming later):

With ten games and counting, Corinthians hopes to finally win a game after nearly two months without a victory. The win that escaped in the final minutes of the road game against Atletico Paranaense on Wednesday may not be reached in this game, since the opponent is persistent Goias, currently fourth in the standings. Goias lost its last road game 4-1 to Vasco, but the result was not really a reflection of the quality of both teams. The visitors have a good chance of getting at least a point here. Veteran midfielder Vampeta will start for Corinthians, right-back Edson is suspended and Marcelo Oliveira replaces Dinelson, out for several months with a knee injury. Defender Leonardo returns from suspension for Goias, and forward Fabricio Carvalho may be taken out of the team after not scoring a goal in more than one month. Midfielder Harison and forward Cristiano may make their debut for the visitors.

The relegation zone matchup could be a preview of more games to come between these teams next year, only in the Serie B. America hopes it can get its second home win of the season against an inconsistent opponent, but Nautico has been improving of late, getting good results against traditional teams from the Brazilian Southeast. Desperation should be the tone of the match here, and any result is possible. Defender Cris and midfielder Marquinhos are out suspended for America, but defender Edson Borges comes back after sitting out the game against Botafogo with a suspension. Midfielder Acosta is suspended for Nautico. Midfielder Radames and forwards Felipe and Ferreira have served a one-game ban and will likely play. Left-back Hamilton is also out after accumulating three yellow cards.

Sport heroically defeated Palmeiras on Wednesday in Sao Paulo, absorbing the shock of falling behind early in the game and having a player sent off to score twice and holding on to the win, despitehaving only nine men against eleven for the last 15 minutes of the game. Home fans should be happy to welcome the team back to Recife this Saturday, in a match against Atletico Paranaense, still feeling the effects of several missing players. Sport will be without full-back Dutra, defender Igor and midfielder Bilica, suspended, and injured Everton. Atletico is still missing four starters due to injury, but defender Gustavo, midfielder Claiton and left-back Edno return to the team.

After getting its second road win of the season in the impressive 2-0 victory over Internacional in Porto Alegre, Vasco returns home to host Figueirense on Sunday. Now in third place, the team hopes to get support from its home fans against a Figueirense team that will likely take a defensive approach to the match. The visitors had a good 1-0 home win over Gremio on Thursday, but will have a hard time getting away with a point here. Defender and captain Jorge Luis is out for Vasco, and Rubesn Junior may play improvised in his place. Guilherme will likely get another chance as left-back, while forward Enilton may make his debut. Roberto Lopes is out suspended. Figueirense will try to break Vasco's perfect record at home with the debut of right-back Cesar Prates, who played for Vasco in 2004. Ruy is out after being sent off against Gremio. Otacilio Neto returns in attack, while Carlinhos and Fernandes are still out with an injury.

The Maracana Stadium in Rio is finally available for the Brazilian Serie A again, after being closed for over a month in preparation and during the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro in July. Fluminense welcomes the return home, having two draws and a loss in its last three games. Palmeiras believes getting away from Sao Paulo can help the team forget about the embarrassing 2-1 home loss to Sport on Wednesday, when the team scored early and failed to capitalize on the opponent's two sending-offs during the game. Right-back Carlinhos is probable, but his presence will have to be confirmed at game-time. Forward Edmundo returns to Palmeiras, with left-back Leandro and midfielder Makelele also joining the starting lineup. Defender Nen is suspended.

Now officially without its star youngtser Alexandre Pato, Inter travels to Belo Horizonte trying to recover from the 2-0 home loss at the hands of Vasco on Wednesday. The team still has a decent 5-2 record over its last seven games, and can't be counted out on this one. Cruzeiro's game against Flamengo on Wednesday was postponed till next month, but the team hopes it can deliver another strong performance, similar to the one that resulted in a 3-2 home win against first place Botafogo on Sunday. Forward Araujo has left Cruzeiro for Catar, but Alecsandro will be available after coming back from Portugal. Thiago Heleno and Leo Silva return from suspension, while forward Guilherme is out after accumulating three yellow cards. This will be the first game for Inter after Alexandre Pato was sold to AC Milan. Magrao and Guinazu may make their debut for Inter, with defender Marcao also returning from suspension. Edinho and Alex are out suspended, while Pinga is questionable after getting injured in the 2-0 loss to Vasco.

Santos managed to halt a two-game losing streak with a 2-1 away win over Atletico Mineiro on Wednesday. The team is still far from the leaders, and time may be running out for a rally that would send the team to the top of the standings. If Santos hopes to climb the standings, it must take all three points in games like this, against a team in the relegation zone. Flamengo's stats are still a bit off, however, since the team has played four less games than most of its opponents due to last month's Pan American Games in Rio. Coach Joel Santana makes his debut for Flamengo. Ibson and Maxi Biancucchi - Lionel Messi's cousin - may make their debut. Roger will likely start in midfield, after coming in from the bench in the match against Corinthians. Santos will be without left-back Carlinhos and midfielder Rodrigo Souto, suspended. Pedrinho is still questionable in midfield.

Atletico tries to regroup after losing 2-1 at home to Santos, the first loss under new coach Emerson Leao. Meanwhile, Juventude returns home, where it's played decently this season, hoping to get three points to climb out of the relegation zone. The locals are unbeaten in five at home. Forwards Michel and Tadeu are still out with injuries, and midfielder Marcao is suspended. Eder Luis returns to Atletico, but midfielder Rafael Miranda is out with an injury.

After falling on the road to Figueirense on Thursday, Gremio knows it must win to continue chasing leaders Sao Paulo and Botafogo from close range. A loss doesn't mean the team will be out of the title race, of course, but things will be a lot tougher if the locals can't use this head-to-head matchup to gain some ground. Sao Paulo is coming off four straight wins, including Thursday's come-from-behind 3-1 triumph at home over Juventude. Andre Dias and Alex Silva are questionable in defense, but may play for Sao Paulo. Dagoberto and Aloisio are still out in the attack. Colombian right-back Bustos may make his debut for Gremio, which will have the return of midfielder Gavilan. Forward Tuta may also return, after recovering from an injury.

Botafogo survived two tying goals from America Natal on Wednesday to score a 4-2 win. But the biggest win for the leaders came one day later, when star forward Dodo had his 120-day suspension for doping lifted by the country's top Sports Court. Dodo may even return to the team on this game, depending on his conditioning. Parana lost three straight, including its last home game - a 3-1 loss to Atletico Mineiro. Joilson is out for Botafogo. Beto is suspended and Lima is out with an injury for the locals, who have won three, tied one and lost four of the eight matches it played at home in this year's Serie A.

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Eight games close out Serie B round

Two matches on Friday and six on Saturday complete the 16th round of the Brazilian Serie B. On Tuesday, second place Coritiba defeated Avai 1-0 at home, while Ituano continued its recovery with a 2-1 home win over Sao Caetano, its second win in a row.

Last place Paulista travels to Salvador to face Vitoria, which defeated Coritiba 3-1 on Saturday. The other game of the night features two teams tied at 24 points with Vitoria, with Portuguesa visiting Gremio Barueri.

On Saturday, 11th place Fortaleza host second last Remo, while 18th Santa Cruz goes to Campinas to play Ponte Preta, currently in eighth. Fourth place Brasiliense, still feeling the heat for the 3-0 loss to Ituano on the road, returns home to play Ceara. Leaders Criciuma are at home against ninth place CRB, and 14th placed Ipatinga host Gama, in 10th. Finally, third place Marilia hopes to continue its excellent season when it goes to Santo Andre, currently in 17th.

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Sao Paulo survives early scare

Not that many people went to the Morumbi Stadium on this cool Thursday night to watch Sao Paulo host Juventude. But those who went suffered a scare early on, when Luciano scored for Juventude after just two minutes. The visitors, who were already thinking about defending before the game, just sat back and decided to rely on counterattacks to hold on to the win.

Fortunately, though, Sao Paulo slowly started to take advantage of the Juventude positioning. Defender Miranda took advantage of a rebound from a free kick and tied the game in the 31st minute. In the second half, two more goals, by Borges and Hugo, sealed the 3-1 win. Sao Paulo reaches 31 points, tying Botafogo for the league's lead - though the team from Rio has one game in hand. Juventude missed a chance to leave the relegation zone, and now remains in 17th place, with 15 points.

The night was even better for Sao Paulo after receiving confirmation that Gremio had lost to Figueirense in Florianopolis. After a poor match played under heavy rain, the locals found a late game with just five minutes to play to seal the win, leaving Gremio in fifth place, with 25 points. Figueirense jumped to 11th, with 22.

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The duck flies North

And it finally happened, to nobody's surprise. The most recent young talent from Brazil is yet again sold to Europe. Alexandre 'The Duck' Pato, from Internacional, was sold to Italy's AC Milan for US$ 20 million, after the club paid his buyout clause. With the transfer, Pato will no longer play for Inter. Meanwhile, the rossoneri hope Pato can live up to the expectations created around him since the end of last year. Could he be a new Kaka for the Italians?

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Dodo's suspension lifted

League leaders Botafogo got a huge boost on Thursday, after the Sports Supreme Court agreed to the team's request to review the 120-day suspension for doping of star forward Dodo, which had been ruled on July 24. The court accepted the team's appeal, which was based on an analysis showing that the player had been given caffeine pills by the team's medical staff - which had been accidentally contaminated by an illegal substance. The authorities were not able to determine who was responsible for such contamination, but accepted the argument that neither the player nor the team were aware of the presence of an illegal substance in the pills. With this decision, the forward can return immediately to the team, and may even start next match, against Parana, on Sunday.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Vasco gets important road win

Vasco reached third place in the standings with an impressive 2-0 road win over Internacional on Wednesday. It was only the second road win of the season for the team from Rio de Janeiro, which had also lost five times and tied once away from home. Inter lost for the second time in seven matches, and fell eight points back from leaders Botafogo. The locals created a few chances and could have opened the score in the first half, but it was Vasco that took advantage of the opportunities that appeared near the end of the opening 45 minutes. Alan Kardec and Amaral scored for the visitors, who only had to sit back and administer the two-goal advantage in the second half to reach 26 points.

Botafogo jumped to 31 points to remain at the top of the table with a 4-2 win over America Natal in Cariacica. The leaders had a scare twice when they scored and saw America come back to tie the game. In the end, however, Botafogo showed why the team is in first place and why America is in last, and controlled the final half to score twice and seal the 4-2 win. Ze Roberto was the name of the match, with two goals.

Santos went to Belo Horizonte and recovered from the two straight losses it had suffered in its last two games, beating Atletico Mineiro 2-1. Kleber set up Marcos Aurelio in the first half and Kleber Pereira in the second to score the goals for the visitors, while Danilinho had Atletico's lone goal. After two wins, Atletico loses the first since coach Zetti was fired, and fans anxiously wait to see how the team will react to the first loss under Emerson Leao.

Corinthians' winless streak reached 10 games, after a 2-2 draw on the road against Atletico Paranaense. The locals scored first in the final minute of the first half, but Corinthians was able to come back in the final 45 minutes with William, who scored twice to give the visitors a short-lived lead. Near the end of the game, Cadu scored an own goal to extend Corinthians personal purgatory.

Goias defeated Parana 2-0 at home, with Paulo Baier scoring once and setting up the other goal. Nautico went back home after defeating Santos on the road and, despite dominating some stretches of the game, was unable to get much going against Fluminense, in a game that ended scoreless.

Palmeiras scored first and looked like it wouldn't have too much problem beating Sport Recife in Sao Paulo. However, the team slowed down and allowed the visitors to score twice for a 2-1 road win. The visitors played with only nine men for the last 17 minutes (the first player had been sent off in the 12th minute, with a second sent of in the 73rd), but Palmeiras was still unable to tie the game. A nice rebound for Sport, which had lost at home to Inter on Sunday, 5-1.

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Brazilian players got drunk during the World Cup

According to an article on the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, the president of the Brazilian Footbal Confederation (CBF) admitted some of the players in the National squad were involved in heavy drinking during the 2006 World Cup, played in Germany. Mr. Ricardo Teixeira explained to the newspaper some of the reasons why he thought the team played so poorly during the competition. As the defending world champions and with top players like Ronaldinho Gaucho, Kaka and Robinho on the team, Brazil failed to live up to the high expectations placed on the team.

During an informal talk with the newspaper, Mr. Teixeira allegedly said that some players arrived between 4 and 6am on the team's hotel, completely drunk. He failed to give out any names, but also criticized the atmosphere created around the hotels where the team stayed, with several fans paying $100 just to watch the team train - and training sessions sometimes consisting of players only jogging around the pitch.

He admitted there was a lack of command and discipline, and confessed this was one of the reasons he may have chosen new coach Dunga to replace Carlos Alberto Parreira after the fiasco in Germany. Famous for his strong character on the pitch, the captain of the 1994 World Cup championship team had never coached a team prior to this assignment. Last month he helped Brazil win the Copa America, defeating Argentina 3-0 on the final match.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Brazilian Serie A: round 16 preview

Seven matches open the 16th round of the Brazilian Serie A football league. Two more games will be played on Thursday, while the last one, between Flamengo and Cruzeiro, was postponed until September 12. Thus, new Flamengo coach Joel Santana will make his debut only on Sunday, against Santos.

Here is a brief preview of the games to be played this midweek:

Two teams that until recently were among the top four in the table face each other in Goiania trying to once again prove themselves worthy of respect. Goias will try to rebound from a 4-1 away loss to Vasco on Saturday, and may take advantage of its home field. Parana, 3-1 losers at home to Atletico Mineiro on Sunday, will be happy with a point. The locals will be without its two starting defenders, Leonardo - suspended - and Paulo Henrique - injured. Forward Josiel, with 12 goals in the season, may be playing his last match for Parana, since he's been discussing a possible transfer to France. Defender Luis Henrique comes back from suspension, midfielder Adriano plays for the first time in 45 days and Vinicius Pacheco starts in attack alongside Josiel.

Not even the most optimist Nautico fan could have hoped for the result the team achieved on the weekend, when it went to the famed Vila Belmiro Stadium and defeated Santos 2-1, in a way vindicating the 2-0 home loss to Gremio in the previous match. The team returns to Recife on Wednesday to face Fluminense, which only tied Figueirense 1-1 on Sunday. Midfielder Fabinho and right-back Carlinhos are out injured for the visitors. Forward Ferreira and midfielder Radames are out suspended for Nautico.

After being embarrassed on a 5-1 home loss to Internacional on Sunday, Sport welcomes the trip to Sao Paulo to face Palmeiras. Unfortunately they face a good Palmeiras team that is tough to beat in Sao Paulo. Coach Caio Junior opted to rest forward Edmundo for this game, with Luis and Luiz Alberto starting in attack for Palmeiras. For Sport, a complete revamping was in order after the humiliating loss to Inter. Coach Geninho may change up to nine players - four due to supension - and the tactical formation in order to try to guarantee at least a point on the road.

After falling 3-2 on the road to Cruzeiro and seeing Sao Paulo join it at the top of the standings, Botafogo has a golden chance to recover some of its pride on Wednesday, when it hosts last place America Natal. America is coming off a 1-0 loss to Sao Paulo at home, having won only once in its last five games. Botafogo goalkeeper Julio Cesar has lost the starting job to Max, with a new goalkeeper coach making his debut after former coach Acacio was fired following the 3-2 loss to Cruzeiro. Luciano Almeida and Jorge Henrique are out with injuries for the locals. America has the return of two players that did not face Sao Paulo in the 1-0 loss at home on Sunday. Ney Santos and Arlon return, while Adaozinho may make his debut in midfield. Defender Edson Borges is out suspended.

Despite a great 1-1 away draw at Gremio on the weekend, Atletico had a significant loss in its last game, when forward Alex Mineiro had to leave the pitch with a broken nose. He was submitted to a surgical procedure following the game to fix the problem, and will remain sidelined for three months. Evandro also had to leave the match when he suffered an elbow hit to the mouth, losing a couple of teeth. To make matters worse, defensive midfielder Alan Bahia was involved in a traffic accident on Sunday, being sent to hospital with minor cuts and bruises. Former Atletico player Alex Miranda, who was without a contract, was killed on the accident. Midfielder Claiton and left-back Edno are also out, suspended, while right-back Jancarlos is out with an injury. Corinthians, on the other hand, keeps surviving, gaining just enough points to remain out of the relegation zone. Winless in nine games, the team must do better than that to stay in the Serie A next year though. Defensive midfielder Bruno Octavio is suspended. Forward Everton Santos returns from a shoulder injury and replaces Wilson.

Atletico has won twice in two games since coach Zetti left the team. This Wednesday it faces Santos, which is still trying to understand how it could lose to Nautico at home on Saturday. Midfielder Pedrinho is out for the visitors, which may force coach Wanderley Luxemburgo to adopt a more defensive formation, with defender Marcelo replacing him. Defensive midfielder Adriano is also out, suspended. For Atletico, Coelho and Rafael Miranda return from suspension.

Internacional had a strong game in a 5-1 away win over Sport Recife on Sunday, but Vasco has been showing lately that it will try as hard as it can to battle for the title. The team has been performing better at home than on the road, but it nevertheless should give Inter a very tough time in this that may be considered the best game of this round. Both teams have 23 points, and must win to keep pace with leaders Sao Paulo and Botafogo, five points ahead. The only change for Vasco is in midfield, where Roberto Lopes replaces suspended Amaral. With five wins in its last six matches, Inter will have the return of Alexandre Pato, who missed the last game. Marcao, suspended, is out.

Figueirense slowly tries to move away from near the bottom of the table and closer to the top, but its inconsistency during the season has kept the team in a mid-table position for most of the year. In the last four games, the team has managed only two draws, with two losses. On Thursday it will host third place Gremio, which will try to recover from a blown opportunity to close in on the leaders, after a 1-1 home draw to Atletico Paranaense. The visitors are unbeaten in nine matches, but haven't defeated Figueirense in Florianopolis in the last 5 years. Gremio will be without defender Schiavi, sold to Argentina's Newell's Old Boys, suspended midfielder Gavilan and injured forward Tuta. Sandro Goiano may return to midfield after taking part in training sessions this week. Defender Felipe Santana and midfielder Diogo return from suspension, but forward Otacilio Neto is out after accumulating three yellow cards.

By the time this game is played, on Thursday, Sao Paulo may no longer be tied at the top of the standings, since co-leaders Botafogo play at home one day earlier against last place America Natal. But this doesn't mean the defending champions don't have a moral obligation to win this game, against a team that is also in the relegation zone. Juventude has been playing a little bit better of late at home, but definitely not so on the road. Having won three straight games, Sao Paulo will be without injured defender Andre Dias, who will be replaced by Alex Silva. Forwards Dagoberto and Aloisio are still out with injuries, and Jorge Wagner is suspended. Juventude has a new coach for this match, Claudio Duarte. He has already told the press he'll make several changes in the way the team plays, trying to lift Juventude out of the relegation zone. For this match he'll likely adopt a defensive approach, trying to take advantage of mistakes by Sao Paulo to create chances in counterattacks. Left-back Marcio Azevedo returns to the team, but will play in midfield. Midfielder Maraba, who had been playing supporting the attack, will move back to his original position as a defensive midfielder. Midfielder William and forward Michel have been cleared my the medical staff and could return if the coach wishes to use them.

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