If its a lack of giant-killing action, average quality football and poorly-attended matches you are looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
At times, watching games in the Brazilian state championships can be a bit like watching Newport County versus Manchester City in the FA Cup. The sense that a magical cup upset, could, just could, be in the air. The feeling that you now know how David applied himself against Goliath in an epic biblical battle.
But in round eight of the Brazilian state championships, when a match is played in front of a few hundred fans and their dogs, and the big boys have already played, and beaten, minnows in the previous seven games, and they know that regardless of the result in this match they will almost certainly still qualify for the knockout phase of the competition, that magical Newport County v Manchester City FA Cup feeling starts to fade.
I have no cup upsets to report to you this week. No last-minute drama. No heroics from a part-time postman who man-marked Sergio Aguero and kept him quiet all game. In fact, other than Grêmio’s 2 – 0 win against Veranópolis, which kept them top of the Campeonato Gaucho, I ain’t got much.
But the fact that I have nothing much to report on the footballing front this week, is, itself, interesting in a way. Because you wouldn’t see your pampered Premier League footballer doing this. Unless, their name is Richarlison. Or Fred. Or Yerry Mina. Or Fernandinho. Or Gabriel Jesus. Or Alisson. Or any of the other Premier League footballers who used to play their club football in Brazil. But Premier League superstar or no Premier League superstar, these competitions make already-crowded fixture list even more crowded. It is a strange mixture of tradition, strangely distributed power between the states, and, a lack of vision, that has kept things this way.
The football may have been poor last weekend. Players get overplayed. The intensity drops. And there was a distinct lack of giant-killing drama. There were no classicos of note to report either. But like all good sports, even when nothing of note is happening on the pitch, a number of sub plots are unfolding off of it.
São Paulo are doing their best to replicate the drama of last year, when they started the season terribly, fired the manager, before going on a decent run and then ending badly and firing the manager again. They have already achieved the terrible start and firing of the manager so far this year.
Corinthians have reappointed Fábio Carille, the talented coach who won them the National League title, and last year’s São Paulo state championship, before leaving for two truckloads of money in Arabia. He was away for less than a year, but oh how they missed him. After he left, they surrendered their title in the meekest of meek fashions, they struggled to score goals, failed to keep clean sheets and lost to their city rivals along the way.
But returning this year, they have already beaten their main city Palmeiras and São Paulo. They have also struggled to break down weaker teams like Botafogo-SP – who they beat on Sunday thanks to a scrappy goal from their Argentine forward Boselli – but their fans won’t care one bit, as long as they are beating their city rivals, grinding out results and winning trophies.
They might be strolling through the State Championship, but they have a huge match against Racing in Argentina tonight in the Copa Sulamericana. It won’t be easy and they will need to score in order to progress, after only managing a 1-1 draw in the first leg (away goals count double if the aggregate score is tied after two legs). It would have been a lot worse were it not for the 87th minute equaliser from Gustavo (aka Gustagol, who has been scoring for fun this year and was this week linked with Watford. Yes, Watford!) for Corinthians in the first leg.
Santos have had a relatively breezy time in the State Championships, but their run in the Copa Sulamericana came to an end before it even really properly got going last night as they were dumped out of the competition by River Plate. And that was not the powerful and famous River Plate of Buenos Aires that won the Copa Libertadores last year. It was the much lesser-known River Plate of Uruguay, who beat them. Jorge Sampaoli has his work cut out.
Well done for the little River Plate, but its bad news for the Brazilian clubs. Bahia and Chapecoense have also already been knocked out of that competition and Paulo were also eliminated from the Copa Libertadores by Argentinian opposition in the second qualifying round of that competition. That’s four Brazilian teams dumped out of intercontinental competition before it even got started. And Fluminense (with their new signing Ganso) could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to Antofagasta last night.
Now, could this poor intercontinental form from Brazilian clubs be due to a lack of intensity and preparation from the state championships anyone?
Leave a comment below – join the debate.