Thursday 26 September 2013

Silver surfers: Why finishing second in Série A would be a great achievement for Botafogo

The Brazilian championship used to be decided by a final. Every season ended with the kind of play-off system that would be immediately familiar to fans of American sports, meaning a team that finished as low as eighth in the actual league stage could walk away with the title.

That system lasted until 2003, when the system of pontos corridos (literally 'running points') was finally adopted. It didn't please everyone. Many still yearn for the end-of-season excitement the play-offs provided, while there have also been concerns over the possibility of clubs screwing over their rivals in the final rounds of a league season if they have nothing to play for themselves.

In my latest WhoScored column, I reflect on last week's (sorry for the tardiness) de facto Série A final between Cruzeiro and Botafogo and argue that even second place would be a super achievement for the later.

Click here to have a read.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Birthdays, boos and... bridges rebuilt? On Ronaldinho's (latest) return to Grêmio

Every day is the anniversary of something. And every month, it seems, brings its own milestone for a Brazilian club.

Some of these are clearly newsworthy, others less so. No one begrudged Santos or Corinthians going to town to celebrate their centenaries in recent years, for instance, but it can feel like birthdays are trotted out just for the sake of it. Flamengo win in the week they turn 116 years old! Ponte Preta wear a special shirt to mark the 109th anniversary of the first time they wore white socks!

This weekend it was Gremio’s turn. The Porto Alegre club turned 110 – a landmark apparently worthy not just of a series of retrospective articles in the Brazilian press but also its own book. (Publishers presumably love this fascination with dates. They can do this every 10 years with every one of Brazil’s 12 big clubs.)

Read the rest of this column, on Ronaldinho's latest return to Grêmio, over at Yahoo! Eurosport.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Home comforts: Brazil have learnt to play in front of their own fans again

The Seleção have become something of a footballing Harlem Globetrotters in recent years, zigzagging round the world to fulfil friendly dates. Tuesday night’s Neymar-inspired win over Portugal took place in the city of Foxborough, the latest in a long line of unlikely destinations.

Upon taking charge of Brazil following the disappointment of the 2010 World Cup, Mano Menezes’ first five games took place in New Jersey, Abu Dhabi, Derby (!), Doha and Paris. Since then the Seleção have pitched up in such hotspots as Libreville, St Gallen, Dallas, Malmo and Wroclaw.

In my latest article for Eurosport, I examine how the Brazil side drifted away from the hearts of Brazilian fans – and how that trend was reversed. 

Thursday 5 September 2013

Profit, loss and amused curiosity: Brazil's complex relationship with the European transfer window

All good things must come to an end, and so too must the transfer window. As we spend the next few days peeling our bruised collective sanity off the Jim-White-fronted, will-he-won’t-he, passport-to-mass-hysteria steamroller (I would never have used such hyperbolic compound adjectives a few weeks ago; this is what deadline day does to a fragile mind) we may get round to asking ourselves whether it was all really worth it.

It probably wasn’t. While the self-propelled bluster of the thing may have made James McCarthy’s protracted transfer to Everton seem like The Most Important Thing in the World at 11:05 on Monday night, it is worth noting just how localised this kind of obsessing remains.

Take Brazil, for instance. This isn’t a country afraid of overstating football’s importance, yet coverage of Europe’s deadline day was decidedly muted.

My latest Yahoo! Eurosport column is on Brazil's complex relationship with the (European) transfer window. Read it here.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Brazilian football digest: August

It was quite a month for Atlético Paranaense. Having returned to the top flight after a year in the doldrums, the Hurricanes were probably not expecting to be in the title race at the midway point of the season. But there they are after a stupidly, implausibly good August.

My monthly round-up for Betting Expert also includes Andrés D'Alessandro, a stunning goal by Éverton Ribeiro and plenty more besides. Read it here.