The Best Of Brazilian Football

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Mirassol defeat Palmeiras by 4 goals. Oscar scores with frieza against Italy. And Engenhão stadium is found to have structural weaknesses. Today on the blog Jack Lang takes us through last month's best and worst of Brazilian football.

StadiumRio

The Team – Mirassol

In a month in which no side has particularly stood out, let’s go for Mirassol, a modest side from the state of São Paulo. Perennial midtable cloggers in the Campeonato Paulista, the Leão da Alta Araraquarense actually only won a single game in March; but what a win it was. Mirassol thrust one of the country’s traditional big guns into a sea of despair, thrashing Palmeiras 6-2 at the Campos Maia. Amazingly, every single goal was scored in a rip-roaring first half as the minnows ran riot.

The result seemed likely to cost Verdão coach Gilson Kleina his job, but common sense has – for the time being at least – prevailed; a change of coach would hardly be ideal as the Série B season approaches. Nonetheless, the match was a fine reminder that, even in when the sides of the football pyramid are as steep as they are in Brazil, the little guys can still have their day.

The Player – Hernanes

Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari may have got plenty wrong in the friendly draws with Italy (2-2) and Russia (1-1), but he deserves praise for his decision to play Hernanes in central midfield. The Lazio midfielder has long been viewed as one of Brazil’s best passers (he stood out in this respect during his time at São Paulo) but, for one reason or another, had never had a run in his preferred position for the seleção.

His performances – particularly against Italy – showed fans what they had been missing. His ability to spray the ball around with both feet allowed Brazil to transition from defence to attack, while providing a little of the control that had been lacking against England. That such displays came alongside the inexperienced Fernando suggests that there could be more to come from Hernanes when he gets paired with Paulinho or Ramires.

The Goal – Oscar (Brazil vs Italy)

Neymar didn’t have the best of international breaks, but he did play a major part in Brazil’s best moment. The confidence he shows to hold onto the ball despite the attentions of Andrea Pirlo is particularly laudable here, while the reverse ball to Oscar is pure animal magic. The Chelsea man then displays customary frieza (coolness) to clip a shot past Gigi Buffon.

This kind of counter-attacking brilliance is surely Brazil’s best chance of success over the coming years, particularly given the speed and directness of the young players at Scolari’s disposal. As Russia proved a few days later, however, the seleção can really struggle when required to force the issue and play on the front foot – something they’ll have to do at the World Cup in front of an expectant home crowd.

The Villains – those who designed/built the Engenhão stadium

Given the problems Brazil has had with its stadiums since the turn of the year, more bad news was the last thing anyone needed. But bad news came a-knocking. Rio de Janeiro’s Engenhão stadium – nominally the home of Botafogo but also used by Flamengo and Fluminense since renovation work began at the Maracanã – was closed indefinitely last week after structural weaknesses came to light.

Such issues could perhaps be forgiven of an aging stadium but the Engenhão was completed just six years ago, in time for the 2007 Pan American Games. As a result, major questions must be asked of the planning and construction work. The post-mortem is yet to apportion official blame – fingers are currently being pointed at local politicians and three firms involved in the building of the stadium – but stories of botched public works, lined pockets and shifty deals are a depressing part of the everyday reality in Brazil.

The R$380 million (£124 million) arena – which is Rio’s designated Olympic Stadium for 2016 – must now be reformed, meaning Fla, Flu and Botafogo must find alternative accommodation until the Maracanã reopens later in the year.

 

 

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Brazilian football writer for a range of sites and publications, as well as for his blog, Snap, Kaká and Pop! He doesn't particularly enjoy writing about himself in the third person, but sometimes must.