Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Much to improve on

So it's nearly a week since this friendly happened and I'm only writing this blog about it now. I went to the game and couldn't get any decent internet access in Paris for one reason or another which explains why this is late.

So the headlines. France beat Brazil 1-0 thanks to a goal from Karim Benzema just after halftime. Brazil's midfielder Hernanes was sent off just before halftime for a shoulder high kick on Benzema which turned the match.

Click here for highlights

I had a reasonably good view of the red card incident and my gut reaction was that it was serious and that it would be punished. However, I was shocked to see the referee produce a straight red card in the first half of a friendly match. The incident was not replayed on the big screen so I only saw it later on television and Hernanes could clearly have no complaints about a challenge that was dangerous and reckless if not necessarily intentional.

The red card for Hernanes (number 11) changed the game

Brazil had been playing well until the red card creating more chances. Robinho and Alexandre Pato looked to be combining well up front. Dani Alves was causing particular problems for France with his probing runs down the right. After the red card, France were dominant. Robinho dropped back into midfield and Pato could do very little on his own up front. Alves, didn't push forward so much either. This conservative style seemed to encourage France to attack more rather than contain them. The goal came shortly after halftime when Jérémy Menez burst down the right wing past a couple of Brazilian defenders and delivered a cross to an unmarked Benzema at the far post who had a tap in to give the home side the lead. Brazil never really looked like equalising. Benzema was in particular was a menace all night and deservedly picked up the man of the match award.

This was Brazil's second loss in a row and the pressure is now firmly on coach Mano Manezes who seemed to be able to do little to change things when his team were trailing with ten men. Indeed, he seemed reluctant to change the formation late on despite the need for an equaliser by bringing on defensive midfielder Sandro on for Robinho and target man Hulk to replace Pato as the lone striker.

Brazil's next game is against much more modest opposition in the form of Scotland in London in March. Manezes will hope to have Neymar available to him. The 19 year old Santos striker missed this game as he was playing in the South American under 20 championship in Peru. He scored nine goals in that tournament helping Brazil to the title and with it a place at the London Olympics. He will be hoping to bring some magic to the senior side after their lacklustre performance in Paris.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Robinho: We can show Brazil is the best

Brazil captain Robinho is confident that Brazil can put on an impressive display in tomorrow night's friendly against France at the Stade de France in Paris. In an interview before training on Tuesday, Robinho was questioned about the 1998 World Cup final between the two teams at the same venue, which the hosts won 3-0.

'I remember Zidane having a spectacular game. In football unfortunately defeats happen. But this is in the past. Now, Brazil has a chance to show that Brazil has the best football in the world', said Robinho.

Robinho concede entrevista após treino do Brasil (Foto: Reuters)
Robinho confident

Coach Mano Manezes has called up five uncapped players including Manchester United's Rafael for tomorrow's friendly. Manezes's hand has been forced to an extent as he can only call on European based players and also cannot choose any of Brazil's under 20s notably Santos starlet Neymar as they are currently involved in the under 20 Copa America in Peru.

Manezes looks set to give a set to hand a first start to Bayer Leverkusen's Renato Augusto in midfield alongside Liverpool's Lucas, Lazio's Hernanes, and Elías, who recently moved to Atletico Madrid from Corinthians.

Júlio César returns in goal for his first appearance since the World Cup. Robinho will captain the team alongside the returning Alexandre Pato up front.

Mano Menezes no treino da seleção (Foto: Reuters)
Manezes takes training in Paris

Likely Brazil line-up. 4-2-2-2

Júio César (Inter Milan)-David Luiz (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Dani Alves (Barcelona), André Santos (Fenerbache)-Lucas (Liverpool), Elías (Atlético Madrid), Hernanes (Lazio), Renato Augusto  (Bayer Leverkusen)- Robinho (AC Milan, captain), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan).

Brazil will be looking to get back on track after a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Argentina in their last match. This brought an abrupt end to Manezes' honeymoon as coach, having won his first three matches in charge against more modest opposition. The priority for 2011 will be to defend the Copa America in Argentina in July.

France have proved a tough opponent for Brazil in the past. As well as their 1998 triumph, les Bleus knocked the selecao out of the 2006 World Cup quarter finals in the last meeting of the teams. France also eliminated Brazil at the same stage of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Under new coach Laurent Blanc they have shown a huge improvement after their disastrous showing in South Africa. Striker Karim Benzema, who was omitted from the World Cup squad, is likely to pose the main threat to Brazil tomorrow night.

I am pleased to say that this blogger will be attending tomorrow night's game and I hope to share my thoughts on it tomorrow night providing I can find an internet  connection.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Angry scenes as Corinthians crash out while Grêmio book place in group stage

Supporters of Corinthians have reacted badly to their team's elimination from the 2011 Copa Libertadores in the preliminary round. After a goalless first leg, a star studded Corinthians team went down 2-0 against Deportivo Tolima in Colombia on Wednesday night.

Around fifty supporters invaded the club's training ground on Thursday morning, breaking car windows and daubing graffiti on buildings. Some of the anger appears to be directed at Corinthians' star veterans Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos.

protesto da torcida do Corinthians com a derrota na Libertadores
Some graffiti called for Ronaldo to quit the club

Earlier in the day, angry fans came armed with eggs to throw at the players when they arrived at Campinas airport. However, a clash was avoided when the players escaped in a special bus.

Second half goals from Santoya and Medina for the Colombians put paid to Corinthians' dream of a first ever Libertadores title. With Ronaldo retiring at the end of this season, o fenomeno will now end his career without a winners medal in South America's premier club competition.

After the game he cited the pitch as a factor in the defeat.

"It's defeat that we will have to carry with us all season. We didn't play well but the grass didn't help our team."

See the goals by clicking here

Ronaldo Corinthians x Tolima
Ronaldo was unhappy with the surface

Meanwhile Grêmio did manage to qualify for the group stages with a convincing 3-1 win over Liverpool of Uruguay. The win gave the Immortal Tricolors a 5-3 win on aggregate with the first leg 2-2.

See the goals here

Emiliano Afaro had given the Uruguayans an early lead but this was cancelled out by André Lima just before the break. Substitute Vinicius Pacheco scored both goals in the second half for Renato Gaúcho's side to send them into group 2 of the main tournament. The two time Libertadores winners will fancy their chances against modest opposition in the form of Junior Barranquilla of Colombia, Oriente Petrolero of Bolivia and Léon de Huanuco of Peru.

vinicius pacheco gol grêmio x liverpool uruguai
Vinicius Pacheco (centre) celebrates his second with André Lima and Gabriel

Ronaldinho stars on Flamengo debut

After a protracted transfer saga, Ronaldinho got back to what he does best last night, playing football. The 31 year old made his debut for Flamengo in a 1-0 win over lowly Nova Iguaçu in a Rio state championship match.

Vontade de sobra e lampejos de gênio (Vontade de sobra e lampejos de gênio (Vontade de sobra e lampejos de gênio (Vontade de sobra e lampejos de gênio (Maurício Val/VIPCOMM))))

Ronaldinho didn't score but plenty of the old magic was on display including two efforts on goal from free kicks that the Nova Iguaçu goalkeeper only just kept out. The former Milan and Barcelona star was majestic throughout in a Flamengo performance that was much more dominant than the scoreline suggested.

Highlights here


Ronaldinho joined the rubro-negros after a drawn out departure from AC Milan. He turned down offers from his hometown club Grêmio, Corinthians, Palmeiras and an outlandish bid from Blackburn Rovers. Cynics will say that he has chosen to join the Rio de Janeiro club to spend more time partying in Copacabana and Ipanema than playing football. However, the Porto Alegre native looked fit and busy in last night's game with a new lease of life compared to the lethargic journeyman that had been struggling to get into the Milan team in 2010.

Flamengo fans are certainly excited about his arrival. His debut drew a 42,000 sellout crowd to the Engenhao stadium for a fixture that would normally struggle to attract a fraction of that. The fans of Brazil's most popular club and its manager Wanderlei Luxemburgo will be hoping that he can inspire them to glory in 2011.

ronaldinho gaucho flamengo x nova iguaçu torcida

Masks of their new hero have been selling well amongst Flamengo fans

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Teixeira escapes investigation

CBF President Ricardo Teixeira has escaped a judicial investigation into allegations of bribery following on from reports last week. On Tuesday, a court in Rio threw out a move made by the Federal Ministry of Public Affairs in 2008. Teixeira's lawyers had previously succeeded in delaying a decision on the process. This means that the Brazilian football chief will not be charged in Brazil with relation to allegations made on a BBC Panorama programme last week that he had received illegal payments from FIFA's defunct marketing partner ISL.

O presidente da CBF (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol), Ricardo Teixeira, foi hostilizado durante boa parte do evento.. Foto: Agência Lance
Teixeira received a hostile reception at awards

Teixeira is a member of the FIFA Executive Committee that last week controversially voted to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

On Monday, Teixeira was booed as he came on stage to present an award at Monday's 'Craque do Ano' (player of the year) ceremony in São Paulo.

Fluminense's midfielder Conca was named the Brazilian Championship's player of the year as was widely expected and also picked up the prestigious Bola de Ouro (Golden Ball) from Placar Magazine. The Argentine received a further boost on Tuesday when Argentina manager Sergio Batista said that the 27 year old had attracted his attention.

'I am keeping an eye on him. I've known him since he was in River Plate's youth ranks and he's always been a very interesting player. He's playing at a high level and that's why we have to follow him.' Batista told the Argentine sports newspaper Olé.

Meia argentino Dario Conca exibe os dois troféus conquistados no Bola de Prata, premiação da revista Placar, em parceria com a ESPN, realizada nesta segunda-feira: melhor meia pela esquerda e craque do Campeonato Brasileiro  Foto: Fernando Borges/Terra
Conca with his awards

Conca's team-mate Mariano was named as right back in the Championship's team of the year. Santos' young Brazil international Neymar was selected up front along with league top scorer Jonas of Grêmio. Veteran Roberto Carlos was named as left back after his return to Brazil with Corinthians.

The full team as follows

Goalkeeper: Fábio, Cruzeiro
Centre back: Miranda, São Paulo
Centre back: Dedé, Vasco da Gama
Left back: Roberto Carlos, Corinthians
Right back: Mariano, Fluminense
Defensive midfielder: Elias, Corinthians
Defensive midfielder: Jucilei, Corinthians
Attacking midfielder: Conca, Fluminense
Attacking midfielder: Montillo, Cruzeiro
Striker: Neymar, Santos
Striker: Jonas, Grêmio

Manager: Muricy Ramalho, Fluminense

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Fluminense seal title with 1-0 win

Fluminense won their first Brazilian Championship for 26 years amidst jubilant scenes at the Engenhão stadium in Rio on Sunday. A goal from striker Emerson after 61 minutes was enough to give Flu a nervy 1-0 win over relegated Guarani. Fellow title contenders Cruzeiro came from behind to beat Palmeiras 2-1 at home to keep the title in the balance right up to the final whistle. Corinthians' title hopes ended with a 1-1 draw at Goiás, which saw them fall to third in the final table despite having led only two weeks ago.

Emerson gol Fluminense

Emerson (centre) celebrates the goal that won the league title.

Flu had much the better of possession in the first half but created few clear chances against a determined Guarani side. 40,000 expectant home fans grew ever more nervous and this clearly started to show in the play of their heroes the longer the game remained scoreless. The 0-0 scoreline at halftime was not in the script. The tension was relieved 16 minutes into the 2nd half. Carlinhos's cross from the left was met by a scuffed header from Washington which fell for Emerson to volley through the goalkeeper's legs from six yards out. On course for the title, Flu avoided the temptation of playing recklessly during the final half hour. The home side played cautiously and while they had few chances to extend their lead, Guarani rarely threatened to spoil the party. The final whistle was met with a massive outpouring of joy from the home fans but there was no pitch invasion in contrast to other recent title celebrations. Highlights here http://sportv.globo.com/videos/v/melhores-momentos-de-fluminense-1-x-0-guarani-pela-38-rodada-do-brasileiro-2010/1387670/#/Futebol/Campeonatos Nacionais/Brasileirão Série A/page/1

Coach Muricy Ramalho claimed his fourth Brazilian title in five years adding to the three he won with São Paulo. After the match he claimed that he had played a large part in his side's success.

'I always say that the manager doesn't have to interfere a lot. However, this team needed me and I gave everything to it.'

 His side deserve the title for being the consistently the most complete and best organised side throughout the season. His team built mainly around the talents of experienced players like Washington, Fred, Deco and in particular Conca, has not always been the most entertaining but have played the most effective football. With few young starlets it is possible that his team won't be broken up as quickly as other recent champions.

Cruzeiro finished second after they came from behind to beat Palmeiras 2-1 with goals from Henrique and Wallyson. Highlights here http://sportv.globo.com/videos/v/melhores-momentos-de-cruzeiro-2-x-1-palmeiras-pela-38-rodada-do-brasileiro-2010/1387710/#busca=cruzeiro

Corinthians fell from second to third in the final table as they could only draw 1-1 away to Goiás. Felipe Amorim for Goiás and Dentinho both scored in the first half. 3rd place means that Corinthians will now need to take part in the preliminary round of next year's Copa Libertadores while Cruzeiro go straight to the group stage. Highlights here.

Beneath the title chasers Grêmio secured a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Botafogo in the fourth place decider.The goals came from Douglas, Andre Lima and Jonas. With his goal, Jonas finished as the league's top scorer with 23 goals. It caps a remarkable turnaround for Grêmio since Renato Gaúcho took over as manager halfway through the season when they were in the relegation zone. They will qualify for next season's Libertadores provided that Independiente defeat Goiás in the final of the Copa Sulamericana. See the goals here http://sportv.globo.com/videos/v/os-gols-de-gremio-3-x-0-botafogo-pela-38-rodada-do-brasileiro-2010/1387718/#/Futebol/page/1

In the relegation decider Atlético Goianense drew 0-0 away to Vitória in Salvador. The draw was enough for Atlético to survive and condemn their hosts to life in Serie B next season. Goiás, Guarani and Grêmio Prudente were condemned to relegation before today. Last season's champions, Flamengo eventually finished in 14th just two points above the drop zone in what has been an underwhelming season for Brazil's most popular club. 

Final table

Team MP W D L GF GA +/- Pts
 1 Fluminense 38 20 11 7 62 36 26 71
Cruzeiro 38 20 9 9 53 38 15 69
Corinthians 38 19 11 8 65 41 24 68
Grêmio 38 17 12 9 68 43 25 63
Atlético-PR 38 17 9 12 43 45 -2 60
Botafogo 38 14 17 7 54 42 12 59
Internacional 38 16 10 12 48 41 7 58
Santos 38 15 11 12 63 50 13 56
São Paulo 38 15 10 13 54 54 0 55
Palmeiras 38 12 14 12 42 43 -1 50
Vasco da Gama 38 11 16 11 43 45 -2 49
Ceará 38 10 17 11 35 44 -9 47
Atlético-MG 38 13 6 19 52 64 -12 45
Flamengo 38 9 17 12 41 44 -3 44
Avaí 38 11 10 17 49 58 -9 43
Goianense 38 11 9 18 51 57 -6 42
Vitória 38 9 15 14 42 48 -6 42
Guarani 38 8 13 17 33 53 -20 37
Goiás 38 8 9 21 41 68 -27 33
Grêmio Prudente 38 7 10 21 39 64 -25 28

Fluminense set to Conca

Fluminense go into today's last round of matches knowing that a win at home to relegated Guarani will hand them their first national title since 1984. Should they succeed, it will be in no small part due to their attacking midfielder Dario Conca. The 27 year old Argentinian is also favourite to secure the Brazilian player of the year award later this week, the first non Brazilian to do so since Carlos Tevez in 2005.

Key to Fluminense's success, Conca.

Conca came through the youth ranks at River Plate but never established himself in the first team there. He was loaned out to a string of clubs across South America becoming something of a journeyman. Ironically, he caught the attention of Fluminense when he impressed during a loan spell at their Rio rivals Vasco da Gama. Flu signed him for the start of the 2008 season and was part of the team that reached the final of the Copa Libertadores that year. A classical playmaker who possesses the full range of skills, has flourished under Muricy Ramalho. He has weighed in with nine goals of his own during this year's Brazilian Championship as well as being the fulcrum of the team. Surprisingly he has never been called up by his country and perhaps never will be given the depth of talent that Argentina possess in his position. A belated move to Europe is perhaps a greater possibility.

Corinthians and Cruzeiro will be hoping to take advantage should Fluminense fail to win today. I have examined the scenarios below. This is the current league table. Where teams are tied on points, they are separated first on wins then goal difference then goals scored.

1 Fluminense371911761362568
2 Corinthians371910864402467
3 Cruzeiro37199951371466

For Fluminense to win the title

A win over relegated Guarani will hand the Rio club the title regardless of other results. A draw will be enough only if Corinthians and Cruzeiro both fail to win. Should Flu lose, then they would need Corinthians also to lose and Cruzeiro to fail to win.

For Corinthians to win the title

Fluminense must lose or draw for Corinthians to stand any chance of winning the league. A victory for Corinthians away to relegated Goiás would give them the title if Flu draw or lose. A draw would be enough  to hand Corinthians the title on goal difference or goals scored should Cruzeiro fail to win and Flu lose although in an unlikely situation Flu could still take the title if they scored at least three goals in defeat and lost by a margin of one.

For Cruzeiro to win the title

Cruzeiro must win at home to Palmeiras and hope that Fluminense and Corinthians both fail to win to stand any chance of the title. However, any combination of draws and defeats for the other two will give Cruzeiro the title so long as they win. For example, if Cruzeiro win and the other two draw, Cruzeiro and Fluminense would be level on 69 points but Cruzeiro would have more total victories which is the first tie breaker used in this competition. Cruzeiro's chances have been boosted by the fact that Palmeiras manager Luis Felipe Scolari has chosen a reserve team for what is a dead rubber for his midtable side.

Beneath the title chasers, Grêmio host Botafogo in Porto Alegre in a decider for fourth and the final Copa Libertadores place. Botafogo must win to steal the slot in South America's premier club competition in 2011 from the Gremistas.

At the bottom Vitória host Atlético Goiano in Salvador in a decider for the last relegation place. Vitória must win to avoid relegation and send Atlético Goiano into next year's Serie B. A draw would be enough to ensure Atlético's survival.

All matches begin at 5pm Brasilia time, 7pm GMT, 8pm CET, 2pm EST. I will blog later tonight on the outcome.