Explaining the State Championships in Brazil is confusing at best. There are 26 states, each with their own system. Most are split into two phases with the winner of each phase playing a final over two legs starting next weekend. In the state of Sao Paulo things are a little bit different: there is only one phase and the semi-finals took place this weekend. Neymar scored a hat trick to put his Santos team in yet another final but more in some of the other states first.
In Rio Grande do Sul, Internacional and GrÃªmio went head to head in the final there. The wily old fox Vanderlei Luxemburgo â€“ who is the coach of GrÃªmio these days after getting the boot at Flamengo â€“ was up to his old tricks as usual: not disclosing his starting line-up before the game, arriving late on the pitch with 14 players taking to the field, closed training sessions during the week, a ban on pre-match interviews including the club president and not signing some apparently important document before the game. It backfired spectacularly: Luxemburgo was sent off for pushing a ball boy and GrÃªmio lost the game 2-1. Argentine International DÃ¡tolo (ex-Napoli) and FabrÃcio scored for Inter. Werley (not sure where that name came from) scored for GrÃªmio. Inter will play the little-fancied Caxias in next weekendâ€™s final (the winners of the first phase play the winners of the second phase to decide the ultimate state champions).
Botafogo beat Vasco 3-1 to win the Rio Cup. Their talisman â€“ that crazy Uruguayan called Loco Abreu â€“ scored two goals for them. They play Fluminense over the next two weekends to decide the overall state winner.
Disaster for Cruzeiro in Minas Gerais. They lost to AmÃ©rica-MG 2-1. Well done to AmÃ©rica, they play AtlÃ©tico-MG in the final there.
In SÃ£o Paulo, Neymar was on fine form. He scored a hat trick against SÃ£o Paulo who frankly were second best throughout. I said on twitter before the game that I thought it could be SÃ£o Pauloâ€™s lucky day â€“ they have been quite good so far this year and with home advantage and Santosâ€™ long trip to Bolivia during the week presumably taking its toll, I thought it might have been Sao Pauloâ€™s time.
Think again. Santos have one of the best strikers in the world in Neymar and SÃ£o Paulo had a relative rookie Paulo Miranda playing at centre back. They also have a seriously dodgy keeper called Denis with Rogerio Ceni unavailable. That made the difference. SÃ£o Paulo were also without Luis Fabiano although his substitute Willian JosÃ© (a player who I have rated for a while) did score a good goal. Santos will play Guarani in the final (they won the local derby against Ponte Preta in the other semi).
So, Neymarâ€™s hat trick means he is this yearâ€™s SÃ£o Paulo state Championshipâ€™s top scorer with 16 goals and has also now scored his 100th goal for Santos. Some interesting stats you might like to know about his goals: 66 with his right foot, 25 with his left, 6 headers, 1 stomach and 1 arm (that adds up to 99 so donâ€™t know which body part the 100th came from). 13 of them have been set up by Ganso. 5 by Robinho, Madson and Marquinhos.
Goals: SÃ£o Paulo 1 Santos 3
Neymarâ€™s dribble on poor old Piris (and overreaction when fouled)
Other finalâ€™s taking place over the next two weekends:
ParanÃ¡ â€“ AtlÃ©tico-PR v Coritiba (over two legs 6th and 13th of May)
Bahia â€“ VitÃ³ria v Bahia (over two legs 6th and 13th of May)
GoiÃ¡s â€“ AtlÃ©tico-GO v GoiÃ¡s (over two legs 6th and 13th of May)
Remember, the National Serie A Championship starts on the 19th of May.
For more information about the State Championships and how they work check out this link.