Ronaldinho’s Flamengo ran out 3-0 winners against a well drilled and skilful northern team called Murici in the Brazilian cup on Wednesday night. This is the first time I’ve watched Flamengo this season (they don’t show Rio state Championship games on TV in São Paulo). Despite the glossy score line – which allows Flamengo to progress without a second leg – I was not impressed. Ronaldinho was poor and Flamengo were all over the place. They did hit the post in the first half but other than that it was their lower league hosts who created the better chances. They really should have been 2-0 down before they took the lead midway through the second half. As it happens, Ronaldinho scored with a header and then Renato and Negueba made sure of the points after some defensive errors.
It’s now nine victories in a row for Flamengo this season. Great stat. But they have been playing against very low quality sides in the state Championship. Their first real test will come this weekend against Botafogo in the semi-final of the Guanabara Cup. The match is part of the Campeonato Carioca, or Rio State Championship. The structure of this competition is too confusing to explain right now but the fact of the matter is that this is an important match in and counts for more than the previous matches against semi pro teams. So, we shall see how they fair in this match.
Ronaldinho was far from his best on Wednesday night. It has been said that he has been training really well since arriving at Flamengo but he looked a little lazy against this team. His explosiveness has long gone. But what was even more baffling was that in the end was playing as a lone striker. Before scoring, he was even being booed by some of the many Flamengo fans at the game. Trying to silence the booers, he mistimed a tackle and could really have been sent off. He went over the ball and hit the players’ foot. I think the ref felt sorry for him and he wasn’t even booked. The game was played in the King Pele stadium in the beautiful city of Maceió in the north of the country, far away from Rio, but there are loads of Flamengo fans there. That’s one of the reasons they are the most supported team in Brazil.
I just don’t understand what coach Luxemburgo was doing. His formation is a joke. The unfit Deivid was up front on his own with Ronaldinho and Thiago Neves floating around behind him. Thiago Neves isn’t the same player he was at Fluminense after a couple of years in the Middle East. Let me ask you Luxemburgo: why do you start with a lousy formation and then change it ten times during the match? What were you doing playing Ronaldinho up front on his own? Ok, you’re lucky he scored in this match but do you know what you are doing? He won’t play well there. I’d love to see you try that against Botafogo this weekend. You messed around at Palmeiras and Atlético Mineiro. Bringing on players, switching systems mid-match, buying busloads of players who you didn’t pick, cursing and swearing at your own players. You didn’t even win anything with Santos with Neymar and Ganso. It’s a mess, it doesn’t work. On this showing, Flamengo are far behind the likes of Santos, Fluminense, Cruzeiro, Inter and Grêmio. And if things carry on like this it’s not going to work out for you or Ronaldinho. Take a guess who they’ll send packing first.
That was a bit of an unwarranted rant but we’ll see. Luxemburgo is one of Brazil’s most respected club coaches with no less than five league titles. But I think he has lost it. In his last three jobs he did nothing if not mess up the teams he was at: Palmeiras, Atlético Mineiro and Santos. My tip: Luxemburgo is fired within the next six months. Any thoughts?
And in the only other Brazilian Cup result worth mentioning, São Paulo beat another northern team Treze 3-0, thanks to goals from Dagoberto (2) and Fernandinho. Portuguesa from São Paulo lost to Bangu from Rio 3-1. Not very interesting that one really.