Saturday, 30 April 2011

Myth, Verse, and Futebol

I've taken the novel step of creating another website. It combines two things which I enjoy; old photographs of Brazilian footballers, and stunted poetry. You might find it a diverting accompaniment to this very site.

It's called Games Against Nature, and you can find it here.

I've also put a permanent link on the right of this page.


The lovely folks at The Guardian have featured me on their website!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Juninho Seals Vasco Return; Libertadores Loss for Grêmio

We are now, dear reader, getting to the business end of the first half of the Brazilian season; the state championships are finally drawing to a close, and the Copa Libertadores and is reaching its exciting climax. Without further ado, then, I present my weekly round-up...

Vasco 1-0 Olaria
Royalty. A word which provokes, depending on one's worldview, either a lump in the throat or a stomach ache. An institution which has spawned a million commemorative tea sets, a veritable Atlantic of cloying tat. Yes, reader, as you may have heard, a certain Prince got married today, clogging up the airwaves with the inconsequential ramblings of countless "royal experts" (as if that were a legitimate career). Before you reach for the indigestion tablets, however, I have an altogether more heartwarming royal communion for your consideration.

O Reizinho poses in Vasco's latest jersey.

Juninho Pernambucano, a Vasco da Gama idol thanks to a successful six year spell at the club earlier in his career, has confirmed his imminent return to the São Januário; an announcement which sent fans into raptures. Juninho, who has been representing Qatari side Al-Gharafa since leaving Olympique Lyonnais, is lovingly known among Vasco fans as O Reizinho da Colina (The Little King of the Hill... in reference to the location of the club's stadium, rather than to the cult cartoon series).

The good news didn't end there, however. After restating his love for the club ("This isn't a marketing ploy; Vasco and I are partners, in joy and in sorrow"), Juninho revealed that he had agreed to earn a "minimal salary" throughout the new contract. Most people, me included, took this only to mean that his paycheck would be somewhat smaller than the (presumably stratospheric) figures offered by Al-Gharafa. The reality, however, was utterly astounding. Juninho will receive a basic wage of around £55 per week (yes, you did read that correctly); only slightly above Brazil's national minimum.

Juninho during his first spell at Vasco.

This gesture, so at odds with the stereotype of the modern footballer, has cemented Juninho's place in the hearts of Vascaínos all over Brazil. The Reizinho is not simply fulfilling his promise to return to his heartland; he is doing so on terms which take the club's shaky financial position into account, in a manner which acknowledges his own emotional debt to the fans. So while the return of, for instance, Ronaldinho may have generated more press interest (and monetary gain) for the player and his agent, Vasco wouldn't swap their new (old) midfield monarch for the world.

On the pitch, meanwhile, Ricardo Gomes' side booked their place in the Taça Rio final with a 1-0 win over Olaria. Former Benfica striker Éder Luís scored the only goal of an evenly-balanced game at the Engenhão. Things, then, are looking up for Vasco. One minor worry persists, however; what if Juninho snuck a R$500,000 free-kick bonus into that contract?!

Campeonato Carioca Round-up
In the other Taça Rio semi-final, spot-kicks were needed to separate perennial rivals Flamengo and Fluminense after a 1-1 draw. Rafael Moura put the Tricolor ahead in the first half from close range, but a fine Thiago Neves restored parity. Flamengo goalkeeper Felipe was the hero in the penalty shootout, saving from Araújo and Tartá to hand victory to the Rubro-Negro. Fla will meet Vasco on Sunday, hoping to seal the Carioca crown.

Campeonato Paulista Round-up
There were no surprises in the Paulistão quarter finals, with all four big guns booking their places in the final four. Goals from Ilsinho and Dagoberto (the former coming at the end of a lovely passing move) gave São Paulo a comfortable win over Portuguesa, while Santos snuck past Ponte Preta thanks to a Neymar strike. A rocket from Jorge Valdivia (who also gained infamy this week thanks to this amusing dribbling technique) sent Palmeiras on the way to a 2-1 win over Mirassol, and Corinthians beat Oeste thanks to a late Willian effort.

Copa Libertadores Round-up
Grêmio, who muddled through to the knockout phase of the Libertadores without really hitting peak form, were handed a wake-up call on Tuesday night, losing 2-1 at home to Chilean side Universidad Católica. In truth, it could have been far worse; reduced to 10 men after Borges mindlessly elbowed his marker, Grêmio were overrun for long periods, and only got on the scoresheet thanks to a moment of inspiration from Douglas. The Tricolor have it all to do in the second leg. Local rivals Internacional, meanwhile, battled to a creditable 1-1 draw with Peñarol in Montevideo. Leandro Damião's away goal could prove crucial for Paulo Roberto Falcão's side.

Another night, another win for the peerless Cruzeiro; they saw off Once Caldas with some aplomb in Colombia. José Ortigoza scored the goal of the game, chipping nonchalantly over the 'keeper after being released by Walter Montillo. Fluminense also picked up an impressive win, seeing of Libertad 3-1 at the Engenhão. Rafael Moura broke the deadlock, before stunning second half strikes from Marquinho and Darío Conca put the game to bed. At the Vila Belmiro, meanwhile, Paulo Henrique Ganso's low drive handed Santos a narrow victory over Mexican visitors América.

Copa do Brasil Round-up
Take a bow, Marcelo Oliveira. The 56-year-old coach guided Coritiba to a 1-0 win over Caxias on Wednesday, a result which saw the Coxa set a new Brazilian record of 22 consecutive victories. True enough, many of those wins have come in the modest Paraná state championship, but this shouldn't diminish the achievement of a team that spent 2010 in the second tier of the Brazilian game.

All smiles; Coritiba boss Marcelo Oliveira.

Elsewhere, Flamengo booked their place in the last eight with a straightforward win over Horizonte-CE, as did São Paulo, who beat Goiás 1-0. Vasco and Ceará also progressed this week, meaning that the quarter-final lineup is finally complete; Flamengo vs Ceará, Coritiba vs Palmeiras, Vasco vs Atlético-PR, Avaí vs São Paulo. Those games will take place on the 4th and 5th of May.

Best of the Rest
The final of the Campeonato Gaúcho's second stage will (surprise, surprise) pit Internacional against Grêmio; the Porto Alegre pair enjoyed semi-final wins over Juventude and Cruzeiro-RS respectively. In Florianópolis, Avaí managed a 2-0 win over rivals Figueirense, a win that saw them reach the final of the Campeonato Catarinense.

Selected results. Carioca; Vasco 1-0 Olaria, Flamengo 1-1 Fluminense (5-4 on pens). Paulista; São Paulo 2-0 Portuguesa, Palmeiras 2-1 Mirassol, Corinthians 2-1 Oeste, Santos 1-0 Ponte Preta. Libertadores; Once Caldas 1-2 Cruzeiro, Santos 1-0 América, Fluminense 3-1 Libertad, Peñarol 1-1 Internacional, Grêmio 1-2 Universidad Católica.

(Photo credits; (1) Flávio Dias, (2) Renan Medeiros, (3) Hugo Harada.)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Birthday Greetings!

Today, reader, is a good day. The sun is shining outside, there's a full day of football ahead, and, more relevantly (for this blog post at least), SKP is celebrating its first birthday! Yes, it was but a year ago that I ended a prolonged pregnancy of apathy, and started writing about my first love; futebol (sorry, Mrs SKP).

The twelve months since have provided enormous satisfaction, and I'd like to thank all those who have taken the time to read, comment upon, and publicise my work. It's pleasing to know that one's late-night, coffee-fuelled missives about, for example, the form of Atlético Paranaense's veteran playmaker (oh, Paulo Baier), aren't falling upon deaf ears (...or... blind eyes?!). Thanks also to those who have been kind enough to publish my work on their sites; the hardworking folks at In Bed With Maradona, ITV Football, GhostGoal, The Equaliser, and

I hope that SKP can continue to grow in its second year, and that more people discover that Brazilian football provides an exciting alternative (or complimentary partner) to its more illustrious European cousins. With consistent drama both on and off the pitch, an increasing number of household names, and this month's Next Big Thing™, there's plenty to enjoy.

So, thank-you once again for reading; see you on Friday for the next weekly round-up! Até lá!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Fluminense Live Up to 'Time de Guerreiros' Tag in Libertadores; Santos Also Progress

It was a marvellous week for Brazilian clubs in the Copa Libertadores; Internacional, Santos, and Fluminense all secured last 16 berths alongside Grêmio and Cruzeiro (who had both already qualified). The glorious outcome, however, tells only half of the story...

Argentinos Juniors 2-4 Fluminense
The odds were well and truly stacked against Fluminense this week. After a poor start to their Libertadores campaign (just one win in their opening five games), they needed an improbable combination of results to occur in order to progress from Group 3. Statistician Tristão Garcia, so often rolled out by the Brazilian media in such circumstances, gave the Tricolor a measly 8% chance of qualification. He might have even knocked a couple of points of that figure in the wake of the build-up to the match; striker Emerson was sent home from the travelling party after (allegedly... and amazingly) singing along to Bonde do Mengão sem Freio, a song which details the various merits of Flu's bitter rivals (and Emerson's former employers) Flamengo. If you insist on alienating yourself from your teammates, at least do it in style, right?!

Interim manager Enderson Moreira went with the (not so) classic big man/big man combination up front, with Rafael 'He-Man' Moura partnering Fred. Deco was absent once more, meaning that the creative responsibilities again fell on the modest shoulders of Darío Conca. It would be two less celebrated figures, however, who would combine for the opening goal; a delightful pass from Marquinho allowed leftback Júlio César to tuck home in the 18th minute. Early hope was quickly extinguished, however, when Argentinos were awarded a soft penalty; Gum was adjudged to have obstructed his man in the box, and Santiago Salcedo made no mistake from twelve yards.

Guerreiros; Flu players and coaching staff celebrate their decisive goal.

The sides continued to trade blows; Fred put Flu back in the driving seat with a long range free-kick, before Gustavo Oberman's deflected effort again restored parity. With news filtering through that América were holding Nacional, the Tricolor appeared to be blowing their chances; only a two-goal victory would be sufficient to see them leapfrog the Uruguayan side. The reigning Brazilian champions seemed to be crashing out at the first hurdle of the Libertadores.

Fluminense, though, are made of sterner stuff. A determined second half display brought two further goals (a Rafael Moura tap-in and a penalty from Fred), and allowed the visitors to scrape through to the knockout stages on goals scored. This was a night on which Flu lived up to the tag Time de Guerreiros (Team of Warriors), a nickname bestowed upon the side following a series of hard-fought victories over the last few years (in their 2008 Libertadores campaign, their 2009 Copa Sudamericana run, and their battle against relegation that same year).

As the Argentinos players instigated an ugly brawl after the final whistle, the words of Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues (a lifelong Flu fan) seemed oddly prescient; "Nobody wins like we win. The victories of other teams are simple, almost boring. Ours are cardiopathic." Fluminense's Libertadores campaign, which seemed to have slipped slowly into darkness, has just been jolted back to life.

Copa Libertadores Round-up
Santos guaranteed their place in the knockout stages with a comfortable win over Deportivo Táchira at the Pacaembu. Early goals from Neymar and Jonathan put the Peixe in the driving seat, before Danilo's strike sealed the points. Internacional also picked up a routine victory, overcoming Emelec 2-0 at home. Rafael Sobis and Leandro Damião got the goals for Paulo Roberto Falcão's side.

Jonathan celebrates his goal for Santos.

Those results mean that Brazil has no fewer than five representatives in the last 16 of the competition. The ties involving these clubs are as follows; Once Caldas vs Cruzeiro, Santos vs América, Fluminense vs Libertad, Peñarol vs Internacional, Grêmio vs Universidad Cátolica.

Campeonato Paulista Round-up
Ponte Preta handed Palmeiras only their second defeat of the Paulistão on Sunday, coming away with a 2-1 victory. That result meant that a point against Oeste was enough for São Paulo to secure top spot in the first phase of the competition. Santos finished the group stage on a high, beating Paulista 3-0 thanks to goals from Keirrison, Alan Patrick, and Maikon Leite, while Corinthians secured three points against Santo André. The Timão, however, will be without new signing Adriano for the forseeable future; O Imperador tore his left achilles tendon in training this week.

Predictably, then, all four of the big guns made it through to the quarter finals of the competition. The fixtures are as follows; São Paulo vs Portuguesa, Santos vs Ponte Preta, Palmeiras vs Mirassol, Corinthians vs Oeste.

Off the pitch, a special mention goes to São Paulo president Juvenal Juvêncio, who accused centreback Alex Silva of inventing transfer interest from Sporting Lisbon. If Silva did make up the whole thing, he certainly went to a lot of effort; he (supposedly) travelled to Portugal in order to discuss the potential move last week. This, of course, isn't the first time a São Paulo player has been suspected of such skulduggery; iconic goalkeeper Rogério Ceni was once suspended by the club for allegedly conjuring up a contract offer from Arsenal.

Campeonato Carioca Round-up
Late strikes from Bernardo and Rômulo rescued Vasco da Gama from unexpected defeat against Olaria at the Estádio Cláudio Moacyr. That match was little more than a dress rehearsal for this weekend's clash; the two meet again in the semi-finals of the Taça Rio. The other tie will see Flamengo play perennial rivals Fluminense; the latter beat Nova Iguaçu 1-0 on Sunday, but Ronaldinho's late penalty meant that Fla squandered the opportunity to pick up three points. Botafogo miss out on the knockout stage, despite a 3-1 win over América; rightback Lucas scored two fine goals for the Alvinegro in that one.

Copa do Brasil Round-up
Palmeiras and Atlético-PR are both through to the quarter finals of the cup after midweek wins; Palmeiras overcame Santo André despite Kléber's (third successive) penalty miss, whilst the Furacão dispatched Bahia with some ease. Also in the last eight are Avaí, who snuck past Botafogo on away goals in a match marred by a bout of fisticuffs. A bad week for Botafogo was completed when they were greeted by a group of disgruntled fans upon their arrival back in Rio.

Best of the Rest
Both Internacional and Grêmio progressed to the semi-finals of the Taça Farroupilha (the second stage of the Campeonato Gaúcho... yes, it is that complicated); the former beat Santa Cruz-RS 1-0, whilst the latter needed penalties to overcome Ypiranga-RS. Cruzeiro finished top of the Campeonato Mineiro group stage, despite Atlético Mineiro's enormous 7-1 win over América-TO.

Selected results. Carioca; Flamengo 1-1 Macaé, América 1-3 Botafogo, Fluminense 1-0 Nova Iguaçu, Olaria 2-2 Vasco. Paulista; Santos 3-0 Paulista, São Paulo 1-1 Oeste, Santo André 0-2 Corinthians, Ponte Preta 2-1 Palmeiras. Libertadores; Santos 3-1 Deportivo Táchira, Argentinos Juniors 2-4 Fluminense, Internacional 2-0 Emelec.

(Photo credits; (1) Rafael Moraes, (2) Ivan Storti.)

Friday, 15 April 2011

Unbeaten Flamengo Overcome Botafogo in Clássico; Santos Keep Libertadores Hopes Alive

Despite not producing the attacking brilliance that some may have expected in the wake of Ronaldinho's arrival, Flamengo have established themselves as a robust force this year. Sunday's derby win over Botafogo was their 18th game of the season, and the Rubro-Negro have yet to taste defeat. In the Campeonato Paulista, Palmeiras and São Paulo pulled away at the head of the table after Corinthians and Santos dropped points. The latter, though, managed an impressive Libertadores win over Cerro Porteño, a result which keeps alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages.

Botafogo 0-2 Flamengo
There is, in the eyes of many Flamengo fans, one piece of the jigsaw missing. Decent goalkeeper? Check. Solid defence? Check. Combative ball-winners? Check. Attacking midfielders? Check, check, write another cheque. A striker to provide a focal point? Oh. Oh dear. Diego Maurício, a promising young forward, seems unable to cement his place as a titular, whilst Wanderley seems to have been discarded after an impressive pre-season. The incumbent, meanwhile - former Fenerbahçe hitman Deivid - has flattered to deceive since his arrival last year, and must realise that he is just keeping the seat warm for someone more lethal.

That man, provided the Rubro-Negro commercial machine continues to purr, is likely to be Vágner Love; a striker who accumulated plenty of goals during his last spell at Gávea. Love has recently restated his desire to return to Flamengo later in the year, and is hopeful that current club CSKA Moscow facilitate the move. In the meantime, Fla will have to hobble on with their awkward blunt attack.

Ganhando sem freio; Flamengo celebrate Thiago Neves' second.

It is a testament to Flamengo's fighting spirit, then (or perhaps to the poverty of competition within the Campeonato Carioca), that they remain on course to finish unbeaten in the state championship. With no player racking up the goals, many of their victories this year have been obtained thanks to opportunist strikes from their stable of attacking midfielders; Ronaldinho, Renato Abreu and Thiago Neves have often been decisive for Vanderlei Luxemburgo's side. So it proved on Sunday against Botafogo; a relatively dull affair was settled by a Thiago strike either side of half time.

While the wait for a star striker continues, then, Fla fans will be largely content in the knowledge that the foundation of a strong team is in place. Despite the absence of an out-and-out goal-getter, the Rubro-Negro have battled to a three-month unbeaten run, and find themselves well placed both in the Carioca and in the Copa do Brasil. Taça na raça indeed.

Campeonato Carioca Round-up
Vasco continue to lead Group A of the Taça Rio, following a narrow win over Cabofriense. New boys Bernardo and Alecsandro were both on target for the Gigante da Colina; the former finished with glorious aplomb in the first half, and the latter tucked home a late penalty to seal the three points. Fluminense, meanwhile, thrashed Americano 5-1 at the Estádio Cláudio Moacyr. Araújo bagged a brace for the Tricolor, but the pick of the goals came from Darío Conca; the Argentine bent home a glorious free-kick in the opening period.

Campeonato Paulista Round-up
Palmeiras were without talismanic striker Kléber for their clash with Grêmio Prudente, but did enough to grind out a 2-0 victory. Defender Thiago Heleno put the Verdão ahead, before a late Douglas own goal thwarted any hopes Prudente had of a comeback. São Paulo were somewhat more emphatic, putting five past struggling Noroeste. Rogério Ceni claimed his sixth goal of the year from the penalty spot, and there were also goals for Marlos, Dagoberto, and Ilsinho.

Adriano was presented to the Corinthians fans ahead of their tie with São Caetano, but it would be another striker who stole the headlines at the Pacaembu; Éduardo scored twice for the visitors, condemning the Timão to an unexpected defeat. Santos also lost ground on the leaders; they struggled to a goalless draw with Americana.

Copa Libertadores Round-up
Grêmio had already sealed their place in the knockout stages ahead of Thursday's match against Oriente Petrolero, but will still have been disappointed with a 3-0 loss. The Tricolor will hope that the last 16 draw doesn't give them reason to regret their performance in Bolivia. Cruzeiro picked up their second win over Estudiantes in the group stages, romping to a 3-0 win in La Plata. In-form attackers Thiago Ribeiro and Wallyson put the Raposa in charge, before ex-Tottenham Hotspur utility man Gilberto completed the scoring.

Maikon Leite celebrates his goal against Cerro. Paraguayan security guards not impressed.

Santos travelled to Paraguay knowing that anything less than a win against Cerro Porteño would have severe implications for their hopes of progressing to the oitavas. The Peixe's task was rendered even more difficult by the absence of their three standout performers this term; Neymar, Zé Éduardo, and Elano were all suspended following dismissals against Colo-Colo. Nerves were settled early on when Brazil U20 star Danilo crashed home an unstoppable effort from 25 yards, and the quicksilver Maikon Leite doubled Santos' lead just after the break. Pedro Benítez reduced the arrears in injury time, but Muricy Ramalho's side held on for a deserved victory on the day of the club's 99th anniversary.

Copa do Brasil Round-up
Goals from Dedé, Alecsandro, and Bernardo gave Vasco da Gama a comfortable win over Náutico in the first leg of their last 16 tie; the perfect birthday present for club president Roberto Dinamite. Palmeiras also boosted their hopes of progress to the quarter finals with a 2-1 win away to Santo André. Avaí held Botafogo to a 2-2 draw at the Engenhão, while Atlético Paranaense drew 1-1 with Bahia at the latter's Pituaçu stadium.

Paraná club Coritiba (confusingly hailing from a city called Curitiba) will also fancy their chances of reaching the last 8, after an impressive 4-0 win over Caxias. Incredibly, Thursday's result was the Coxa's 19th consecutive competitive victory; a sequence which leaves them just two wins away from the Brazilian record, held by Palmeiras.

Best of the Rest
It was an eventful week for Internacional; they sacked Celso Roth last Friday, thrashed Canoas 6-2 on Sunday, and appointed club icon Paulo Roberto Falcão as their new coach on Monday. Roth, who guided Inter to the Libertadores last season, had been on shaky ground since the Colorado's disappointing Club World Cup campaign, and is unlikely to be missed by many of the club's fans. Whether Falcão can translate his popularity into managerial success remains to be seen; his last coaching role - with the Japan national team - ended fully 14 years ago.

New Internacional boss Paulo Roberto Falcão.

Selected results. Carioca; Botafogo 0-2 Flamengo, Vasco 2-1 Cabofriense, Americano 1-5 Fluminense. Paulista; Palmeiras 2-0 Grêmio Prudente, Americana 0-0 Santos, Corinthians 1-2 São Caetano, Noroeste 1-4 São Paulo. Libertadores; Oriente Petrolero 3-0 Grêmio, Cerro Porteño 1-2 Santos, Estudiantes 0-3 Cruzeiro.

(Photos credits; (1) Bruno de Lima, (2) Jorge Adorno.)

Friday, 8 April 2011

Santos Overcome Colo-Colo in Dramatic Libertadores Clash; Palmeiras Reach Paulistão Summit

In this week of eighteen Champions League goals, the Copa Libertadores would have been forgiven for cowering in the corner, jealously observing its cousin's domination of the football dancefloor. Luckily for us, however, it did nothing of the sort; South America's premier club competition dusted off its glad rags and produced some drama of the highest calibre. There was a potentially ruinous defeat for Fluminense, a surprise loss for the previously unbeaten Internacional, and a five goal (and five red card) thriller between Santos and Colo Colo. Among all the excitement, it was Grêmio who kept their heads to guarantee a place in the last 16.

There was also, of course, a full schedule of state championship and domestic cup games; Brazil is a country that seems to cram a month into every seven-day period. With that in mind, let's cut to the chase...

Santos 3-2 Colo-Colo
If you like watching games with plenty of goals, indiscipline, and bizarre drama (that is, if you like football), then you're going to enjoy watching Santos. The seasiders are committed proponents of the the "you score six, we'll score seven" philosophy, and have a staggering array of attacking talent at their disposal; Zé Éduardo, Maikon Leite, Diogo, and Keirrison (OK, so maybe not the latter two!) all compete for one striking spot alongside Brazil stars Neymar, Elano, and Paulo Henrique Ganso.

Wednesday night's Libertadores clash with Colo-Colo provided an instructive example of the kind of drama Santos tend to provide; the Peixe raced into a 3-0 lead at the Vila Belmiro, but only just managed to hold out for the three points after a drastic late capitulation. Elano's delightful free-kick put the hosts ahead, before a deflected strike from Danilo stretched their advantage. Santos added a third early in he second half, when the mercurial Neymar danced through the Chilean side's defence before clipping casually home.

Neymask; the young Santos young striker celebrates his goal.

What followed, however, was even more arresting; Neymar received a second yellow card after putting on a mask handed to him by a fan. Brilliantly, photos later showed that the mask in question was one of NEYMAR'S OWN FACE, and was one of hundreds that had been distributed around the stadium as part of an advertising campaign. This was sport at its pantomime best, although an understandably displeased Neymar failed to see the funny side.

The excitement, though, was far from over. The hot-headed Zé Éduardo indulged in some handbags with Andrés Scotti, an incident which culminated in both players being dismissed. Patricio Jerez then brought the visitors back into contention, before Diego Rubio made it 3-2; finishing off a fine move with a composed finish. Santos nerves were beginning to fray; Elano, who had already been substituted, threw a towel at the Colo-Colo bench, and received a red card of his own. The Peixe would, by hook or by crook, manage to hold out in the remaining minutes; but not before Cristóbal Jorquera had racked up the game's fifth dismissal.

This was a rivetting encounter, even by Santos' standards, but it comes with a cautionary rejoinder. The imminent appointment of Muricy Ramalho, a coach who favours defensive discipline and pragmatism above all else, could spell the end of the seasiders' joyous approach. In a week in which former seleção icon Sócrates felt the need to bemoan the lack of joy in modern football, this would be a sad development indeed.

Copa Libertadores Round-up
Fluminense's terrible start to the year got worse on Wednesday night, as they crashed to a 2-0 defeat to Nacional in Uruguay. After a promising first half display, the Tricolor simply ran out of steam after the interval, and allowed Santiago García to net the crucial goals. Flu, whose Libertadores hopes were already hanging by a threat before the game at the Centenário, now need a mathematical miracle to reach the knockout stages. The ire aimed by supporters at coach Enderson Moreira, however, seems somewhat misplaced given that he is only acting as caretaker until the arrival of Abel Braga.

Fluminense midfielder Souza probes for an opening against Nacional.

There was better news for Grêmio, who sealed their place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over Junior Barranquilla. Lúcio and Borges both got on the scoresheet for the Tricolor, whose campaign has been quietly effective so far. Neighbours Internacional, meanwhile, who had hitherto been thoroughly impressive in the competition, turned in a woeful display against Jaguares, and were beaten 1-0.

Campeonato Paulista Round-up
Palmeiras moved to the top of the Paulistão with a 1-0 win over Santos on Sunday. Off the pitch, the Verdão, who have been so reliant on Kléber (the forward who bagged the winner at the Vila Belmiro), finally signed another striker; Wellington Paulista arrives on loan from Cruzeiro. Although perhaps not the marquee signing that fans hoped for, Wellington clearly ticked a number of boxes for Luiz Felipe Scolari; he is a hard worker both in attack and defence, seems unlikely to moan about being benched occasionally, and knows Kléber well from their time in Belo Horizonte. Things are looking up for Palmeiras.

At the Arena Barueri, a stunning individual goal from Lucas handed São Paulo a narrow victory over Mirassol. The young attacker surged from the halfway line, beating countless defenders before slotting home. Que golaço! Corinthians, meanwhile, could only manage a goalless draw wih Botafogo-SP.

Campeonato Carioca Round-up
Vasco maintained their upward trend under the stewardship of Ricardo Gomes, beating Bangu 4-0 at the Engenhão. Veteran playmaker Felipe was again the star of the show, playing a role in the opening three goals before curling home one of his own. At the Engenhão, Botafogo needed a late Antônio Carlos strike to rescue a point against Resende, but there were away wins for Flamengo (2-0 against Duque de Caxias) and Fluminense (2-1 against Volta Redonda).

Vasco forward Éder Luís celebrates his goal against Bangu.

Copa do Brasil Round-up
The second round of the cup was finally completed on Wednesday night, with no fewer than seven teams booking their place in the last 16. Botafogo and Caxias made light work of Paraná and Botafogo-PB respectively, but Vasco needed a late Bernardo strike to overcome ABC-RN. Goals from Rhodolfo and Ilsinho allowed São Paulo to overturn a first leg deficit against Santa Cruz, but Atlético Mineiro crashed out against Grêmio Prudente. Bahia and Santo André also progressed.

Best of the Rest
Cruzeiro remain top of the Campeonato Mineiro after a win and a draw this week, but Atlético-MG could close the gap with a win over Caldense on Sunday. In the Gauchão, Grêmio recorded a tightly-fought win over Veranópolis, but Inter could only manage a 1-1 draw with Lajeadense. Elsewhere, Adílson Batista, who was recently sacked by Santos, was appointed as the new Atlético Paranaense boss.

Selected results. Carioca; Vasco 4-0 Bangu, Volta Redonda 1-2 Fluminense, Duque de Caxias 0-2 Flamengo, Botafogo 1-1 Resende. Paulista; Santos 0-1 Palmeiras, São Paulo 1-0 Mirassol, Botafogo-SP 0-0 Corinthians. Libertadores; Grêmio 2-0 Junior Barranquilla, Santos 3-2 Colo-Colo, Jaguares 1-0 Internacional, Nacional 2-0 Fluminense.

(Photo credits; (1) Ivan Storti, (2) Ivan Franco, (3) Paulo Sergio.)

Friday, 1 April 2011

Rogério Reaches Century in Clássico; Cruzeiro Through to Last 16 of Libertadores

A short pause in domestic action while international games take place? Not in Brazil, partner. A full schedule of state championship, Copa do Brasil, and Taça Libertadores games was lit up by Rogério Ceni, the São Paulo goalkeeper who netted his 100th career goal against Corinthians. And no, that's not a typo. Elsewhere, Cruzeiro guaranteed their place in the knockout stages of the Libertadores, where they look likely to be joined by Internacional.

Campeonato Paulista Round-up
Oh, Rogério! You mythical goleiro artilheiro, you! You disrespecter of received wisdom! You one-man embodiment of everything that is great about football in your homeland! Yes, reader, Sunday was a magical day in Brazil; 38-year-old goalkeeper Rogério Ceni bent home a trademark free-kick to complete a century of goals for São Paulo. That the goal gave the Tricolor a victory over bitter rivals Corinthians made the moment all the more sweet.

Centurion; Rogério roars with joy at his 100th goal.

Rather than continuing to wax lyrical about RC01 here, I refer readers to a previous article of mine, where I weighed up the impact of the veteran at the Morumbi. Suffice it to say that Sunday's effort, which came sandwiched between nice goals from Dagoberto (for São Paulo) and Dentinho (for the Timão), prompted an outpouring of goodwill, both from São Paulinos the world over and from the Brazilian public more generally; the consensus was that Rogério, a true gentleman of the game, fully deserved his moment in the spotlight.

A Neymar-less Santos, meanwhile, scraping a tight 3-2 win over Ituano at the newly-reopened Novelli Júnior stadium. Rightback Jonathan opened his account for the Peixe, and there was also a goal for the much-maligned striker Keirrison. Palmeiras were also victorious, overcoming Bragantino with some ease; centreback Thiago Heleno bagged a brace for the Verdão in that one.

Off the field, both Adriano and Luís Fabiano were unveiled this week by their new clubs. Over 40,000 São Paulo fans packed into the Morumbi to welcome the former, although the presence of Rogério probably boosted attendance somewhat. The former Sevilla marksman was greeted as a returning hero by the club's fans, who hope that his goals will fire an impressive squad to glory this term. Adriano, on the other hand, was presented with relatively little fanfare; no fans were invited to the Corinthians training centre for the announcement. O Imperador admitted that his arrival at the Pacaembu was motivated by a desire to return to the Brazil side, and cited the "huge willpower" at his disposal. It seems unlikely, however, that many football fans would share this generous psychological appraisal.

Campeonato Carioca Round-up
Tiny Boavista repeated their giant-taming antics this week, holding Botafogo to a 0-0 draw at their modest Cláudio Moacyr ground. Fluminense and Vasco also failed to produce any notable goalmouth action, sleepwalking to a goalless draw in Sunday's clássico. Thankfully, Flamengo took it upon themselves to liven things up, battling to a 3-3 draw with Madureira. A stunning own goal from Welinton put Fla in trouble early on, and they needed late goals from Deivid goal and Thiago Neves to rescue a point.

Copa Libertadores Round-up
A comfortable 2-0 win over Guaraní in Paraguay was enough to guarantee Cruzeiro their place in the last 16. The Raposa, who remain unbeaten in this year's competition, took the lead when Thiago Ribeiro coolly slotted home, before José Ortigoza's late strike sealed the points. Internacional produced another impeccable continental performance, strolling to victory over the marvellously-monickered Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Young midfielder Oscar was the star of the show at the Beira-Rio, opening the scoring and providing a threat througout. Experienced Libertadores campaigner Andrés D'Alessandro also found the net.

Cruzeiro forward Thiago Ribeiro celebrates his goal against Guaraní.

Copa do Brasil Round-up
São Paulo must make up a deficit in the second leg of their tie with Santa Cruz, after slumping to an unexpected 1-0 defeat on Wednesday. Vasco and Botafogo must also negotiate tricky return matches; the former drew with the acronym-tastic ABC-RN, whilst the latter picked up a narrow win over Paraná in Caio Júnior's first game in charge. A number of teams did, however, manage to book their places in the last 16; Goiás, Coritiba, Avaí, Ceará, and Horizonte-CE all did enough to progress.

Best of the Rest
Cruzeiro opened up some breathing space at the summit of the Campeonato Mineiro with a 3-2 win over América-MG. Once more it was Walter Montillo who made the difference for Cuca's men; the Argentine nicked a late winner at the Melão. In the Gauchão, Grêmio beat Pelotas 3-1, but Inter could only manage a draw with São Luiz.

Selected results. Paulista; São Paulo 2-1 Corinthians, Ituano 2-3 Santos, Palmeiras 3-0 Bragantino. Carioca; Fluminense 0-0 Vasco, Boavista 0-0 Botafogo, Flamengo 3-3 Madureira. Libertadores; Internacional 3-0 Jorge Wilstermann, Guaraní 0-2 Cruzeiro.

(Photo credits; (1) Tom Dib, (2) Andrés Cristaldo.)