Fluminense have taken this year’s Brazilian championship. The tricolor (team with three colours) from Rio beat relegated Guaraní 1-0 in front of 40,000 Fluminense fanatics in the Engenhão stadium. Normally Fluminense and most of the other big teams from Rio play their home matches at the Maracanã (capacity of around 80,000) but the famous old stadium is currently closed for refurbishment.
Perhaps it was a good thing though, because Fluminense looked scared by the weight of expectation on their shoulders. Even star-man Conca couldn’t find a player in a Fluminense shirt. But, 16 minutes into the second half, talented but injury prone striker Emerson scored the only goal of the match. Seeing the game out was relatively easy and they were helped by Corinthians’ failure to beat Goiás (also already relegated) away from home.
Corinthians end their centenary year trophy-less and dropped to third place in the table as Cruzeiro, third and with a outsiders chance of winning the league at the start of the day, came from a goal behind to beat Palmeiras’ reserves 2-1.
I’ve got to say well done to Fluminense, they just about deserved it. For Corinthians, it’s a story of what might have been and while their team has a lot of admirable qualities – well organised and hard to break down with a dressing room full of strong characters – they also have some big problems: A lack of creativity in midfield, serious lack of pace up front and dependence on a ridiculously overweight Ronaldo. The big man only played 10 games this year; his body can’t take the strain of professional football anymore and he missed the other 28 through injury. He doesn’t have to fight for a place in the team. It is guaranteed thanks to his huge salary. And probably thanks to his huge salary, there isn’t enough money to pay the salary of somebody else up front.
For Cruzeiro, it’s a case of what might have been if the Championship lasted for a few more weeks. They had a terrible start to the season, preferring to focus on their Libertadores campaign. Corinthians managed the two a little bit better and Fluminense closely escaped relegation last year and so didn’t quality for that competition. Santos and Internacional, the other two stronger teams in the league this year, also had their attentions elsewhere and guaranteed their participation in next year’s Copa Libertadores by winning the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores respectively. Shame about that because I’m still not convinced that Fluminense are the best team in Brazil.
In the end, the league finished with something of an anticlimax for me. For one, just about everybody trying their best to lose:
• Botafogo v. Internacional (Inter Inter asked to lose by fans to favour Botafogo in fight with Inter rivals Grêmio for Libertadores).
• Corinthians vs. Vasco (Vasco asked by fans to lose so not to favour Fluminense)
• Palmeiras vs. Fluminense (you know the story)
• São Paulo vs. Fluminense (ditto)
Even Guaraní fans apparently asked their team to lose against Fluminense. Why the hell anybody actually cares about Guaraní (small team from Campinas, a city one hour’s drive from São Paulo) I don’t know. To be fair to their players, they gave it a decent shot and I don’t think they threw in the towel against Fluminense. Grêmio finished the strongest of the lot and with Jonas, they have the top scorer in the league this year with 23 goals. They finished in fourth place, after being direct rivals Botafogo 3-0. They will qualify for next year’s Libertadores cup only if Independiente from Argentina beat Goiás in the final of the Sul-Americana cup. Confused? So I am.... but read it again, that is the deal. Vitória are the fourth and final team relegated. They played Atlético-GO (that means Atlético from Goiânia) and drew 0-0. So that’s the league for this year.
There is of course, the small matter of the Copa Sul-Americana final. After unceremoniously dumping Palmeiras out in the semis, Goiás beat Independiente 2-0 in the first leg on Wednesday. The return leg is this week in Argentina. Watch out for Rafael Moura, Goiás’ big centre forward. He’s 188cm, good in the air and got a good touch. Apparently Cruzeiro are after his services for next year.
To round it off, the top transfer news and rumours:
Elias (Corinthians) – going to Atlético Madrid (confirmed)
Adriano (Roma) – looks like he’s going to Corinthians (unconfirmed)
Ronaldinho (AC Milan) – He would cost a fortune but the club reckon they can get sponsors for the deal and he’s got a good relationship with Big Phil from the national team (I’ve got my doubts about this one)