Thursday, 11 December 2014

Continuity the key for Cruzeiro, Brazilian champions for the second year running

The Campeonato Brasileiro, to bastardise that neat Gary Lineker aphorism, is a simple championship. 20 teams slog away for the best part of a year and in the end, Cruzeiro win.

It wasn’t always thus, of course: the Belo Horizonte side’s dominance is a relatively unusual phenomenon for a league that usually prides itself on the fact that pretty much any one of 12 or so teams could take the title in any given year. Yet for the first time since São Paulo’s reign of terror between 2006 and 2008, one side looks to be establishing something of a dynasty.

Key to Cruzeiro’s success this term was that most rare of commodities in Brazilian football: continuity. Forward-thinking coach Marcelo Oliveira stayed put following the 2013 title, as did the vast majority of his key players: Éverton Ribeiro, last season’s player of the year, resisted overtures from Europe, while Lucas Silva and Ricardo Goulart also stuck around.

Read the rest of this article on the WhoScored site.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Golden Boy's final act: Former Fenerbahçe playmaker Alex gets emotional send-off from Coritiba fans

Days before the game, they filled the streets, lighting flares and chanting his name. The words "thank you, captain," rang around the city like a mantra.

The game was always going to be a sellout; there had been queues to reach the ticket booths at the Couto Pereira. Coritiba had done just about enough to avoid relegation from Brazil's top flight, meaning there was nothing much to play for, but that mattered little. He would be there, for the final time. 25,550 people flooded the stands. It was their highest attendance of the season.

This was a party, certainly, but one tinged with sadness. Coritiba, one of Brazil's most historic clubs, were bidding farewell to perhaps their biggest idol of the modern era.

As kick-off approached, he made his big entrance. The reception was huge but there were to be no real histrionics on his part. Not that that surprised anyone familiar with him. For Alexsandro de Souza – better known as Alex – has always been one to shy away from the fanfare when possible.

Read the rest of this piece on the Mirror website.