State championship wrap-up

Corinthians don’t like doing things the easy way and their victory against São Paulo in yesterday’s state championship final was no exception. More on this and the conclusions to the other state championships.

Fábio Carille’s Corinthians never cease to amaze. They struggle to score goals. They don’t dominate games. And when you think that it is impossible for them to win a game, never mind win the competition, they lift the trophy. This was the third year in a row in which they have won the São Paulo state championship. Carille said modestly after yesterday’s title win that this was the one they least deserved. Maybe so, but they still deserved it because they produced the goods at the right moment, as usual.

São Paulo will go home and lick their wounds, although they can be quite proud of the overall effort and performance of their young team. They could, and probably should, have done more in yesterday’s final and I felt that they never really went for it, despite Corinthians not being at their best.

But the turnaround after a dreadful start to the season, the promise of their new young players (Antony, Luan, Igor Gomes, Everton Felipe, etc), the new coaching team (Cuca with Vagner Mancini helping out), plus the signings of Pato, Vitor Bueno and Tchê Tchê (who were all ineligible yesterday but will be available for the national league campaign, which starts next week) will give São Paulo fans a lot of optimism. I am very interested to see how they will get on for the rest of this year.

But yesterday was about Corinthians. Classic Corinthians. They scored from a set piece, were defensively solid – apart from the one moment they allowed São Paulo’s new star Antony to put his foot over the ball, roll it forward and fire it into the bottom corner from outside the box – and they were not dominating the game. Par for the course, before they produced a decisive bit of quality at just the right moment. And what a moment.

As the 90 minutes reached their conclusion Corinthians’ Ecuadorian midfielder Sornoza floated a delicious pass over the São Paulo defence and into the path of the onrushing (and ageing but still quick and hard working) Vagner Love, who slotted the ball home expertly. It was the classic sucker punch. São Paulo were shell shocked and tried to get the ball to Antony at all occasions to make something happen, but he couldn’t manage it and if anything, Corinthians should have extended their lead in injury time.

Overall then, it was an interesting championship. Palmeiras and Santos showed moments of quality, but something just doesn’t seem right in the former and the latter, under the guidance of Jorge Sampaoli, are a work in progress. São Paulo showed promise, but fell short and Corinthians, despite not playing well, lift the cup.

Things were a bit more straight forward in yesterday’s final in Rio, between Flamengo and Vasco, with Flamengo running out 2-0 winners on the day, and 4-0 winners on aggregate. No contest really, although there were some ups and downs during the campaign and Flamengo didn’t have it all their own way. The Carioca championship is split into two phases, each worth a trophy, before a final is played and the overall winner determined. Vasco won the first of those phases (the Taça Guanabara) and were minutes away from winning the second (the Taça Rio) too. But ultimately, Flamengo have a much better team and a much bigger budget and this showed in the end.

Grêmio beat Internacional on penalties, after 180 minutes of goalless football in the campeonateo gaúcho. And in Minas Gerais Cruzeiro beat Atlético-MG 3-2 on aggregate. Fred scored again for Cruzeiro and he finished as the championship’s top scorer with 12 goals. It is no surprise that Cruzeiro lifted the trophy – they are unbeaten so far this season, in both the state championship and Copa Libertadores games and Atlético have been awful: they’ve lost three out of their four Libertadores matches, been booed by their own fans and have now fired their coach.

Rogerio Ceni’s Fortaleza won the campeonato cearense beating Ceará 3-0, over the two legs. Ceará’s management team thought that was enough and decided to give coach Lisca the boot after the game. Alberto Valentim (Vasco) and Jared Kushner lookalike Maurí­cio Barbieri (Goiás) were also fired after their teams lost yesterday in their respective state championship finals. That means as things stand, four teams go into the start of the national season without a manager. And the merrygoround could continue if Atlético Mineiro get their way and appoint Rogerio Ceni as their new coach after his good work at Fortaleza.

Elsewhere, Athletico-PR, Avaí­ and Sport needed penalties to win their respective state finals against Toledo, Chapecoense and Náutico respectively. And in Bahia, Bahia beat Bahia de Feira thanks to a goal from Gilberto.

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