The Best Of Brazilian Football : December 2012

Corinthians claim the Club World Cup, Maicon kicks a delicious goal and Samuel gets a little ahead of himself. Today on the blog Jack Lang offers the highlights of the past month in Brazilian football.

ClubWorldCup2012

The Team – Corinthians

15,000 fans turned up at the airport on December 3 as the Corinthians set off for the Club World Cup in Japan. At least that number were in attendance for the 1-0 semi-final win over Al Ahly – a game that felt (and sounded) like a home tie for the Timão. One thing, then, was clear: if Corinthians were to lose to Chelsea in the final, it wouldn’t be for a lack of support.

It wouldn’t be for a lack of preparation either; Corinthians had been gearing up for the competition from the moment they won the Copa Libertadores in early July. A Série A title challenge was never on the cards as coach Tite tinkered with his side and players looked to preserve themselves for the December showcase.

(The Club World Cup is, not to put too fine a point on it, a big deal in Brazil. It represents a chance to stick two fingers up at the footballing hegemony of the velho continente – although recently things haven't always gone to plan.

Hopes were high, then, although many expected them to be little more than that: hopes.

Then Paolo Guerrero did his thing, nodding a loose ball past the despairing Chelsea defenders and giving the stolid Corinthians defence a lead to protect. And protect it they did, turning in the kind of gutsy display that makes a welcome mockery of all those jogo bonito platitudes.

“I hope other Brazilian teams learn from Corinthians and become more organised – both on and off the pitch,” said Brazil striker-turned-newspaper columnist Tostão, alluding to the kind of institutional stability in which the club has specialised over in the last couple of seasons.

There can be no stronger praise. Corinthians’ second world title makes them standard bearers for the Brazilian game, both in South America and globally. Should the Timão build upon this success (and the early signs are good: see the signing of Alexandre Pato) this could well turn out to be the start of a golden era. This Bando de Loucos (band of madmen) might be celebrating for a while yet.

The Player – Paolo Guerrero

History has decreed that Paolo Guerrero be remembered as the hero of Corinthians’ triumph, but how different things could have been. The signing of the Peruvian from Hamburg in July, while undoubtedly a major coup for the Timão, threatened to provide Tite with a major tactical headache.

In the Copa Libertadores, Corinthians had most success when playing without an out-and-out striker; forwards Emerson and Jorge Henrique/Romarinho occupied wide positions, allowing midfielders (Alex, Danilo, Paulinho) the space to burst forward down the centre. This system worked like a charm in the final against Boca Juniors, who struggled to cope with the incessant movement and the lack of an obvious attacking focal point.

Guerrero, a target man in the purest sense, is ill suited to such a formation. Luckily for him – and for Tite, who decided to include him at the expense of Jorge Henrique or Romarinho – he’s very well suited to heading the ball into the net.

His two goals in Japan brought home the bacon for the São Paulo side, saw him chosen the second best player in South America by El Pais, inspired a slew of horrific haircut copycats and ensured that he was linked – somewhat incongruously – with a transfer to Chelsea.

Quite the man of the moment, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Goal – Maicon (São Paulo vs Corinthians)

This is all about Paulo Henrique Ganso. He didn’t have the best of years (yet more injuries; his status as Brazil’s great white playmaking hope beginning to look like an elaborate prank; a protracted exit from boyhood club Santos… you get the idea), but he did provide a timely reminder of his quality in the final round of the Brasileirão season.

Sure, the finish is fantastic. But it’s the pass that makes this goal. Contrary to popular opinion, a playmaker’s job isn’t sending ambitious 40-yard balls into the channels for your striker to chase down (coughcoughStevenGerrard). A number ten (yes, I know Ganso wears 8 for São Paulo, pipe down at the back), rather, trades in more subtle gestures.

The almost-imperceptible pause before Ganso plays that pass is glorious. Time stops. The ball travels no more than five metres. Ganso is one of the rare players who can play the game at walking pace – and can make sure everyone else does as well.

More of this in 2013, please.

The Villain – Samuel (Fluminense)

Nothing truly pernicious stood out in December, so let’s have a laugh at some fabulously misplaced youthful arrogance. Fluminense forward Samuel came close to netting one of the goals of the season against Vasco, dribbling past defenders and goalkeeper alike only to see his shot cleared off the line.

Nothing to be ashamed of there, at first glance. But watch the replay. Yep, he did one of those OMG-I’m-going-to-look-the-other-way shots and ended up looking only at the metaphorical egg that came crashing down all over his face.

 

 

Follow Jack on Twitter: @snap_kaka_pop

And read more of Jack's work on his blog: SnapKakaPop.blogspot.com