The Best Of Brazilian Football : November 2012

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What were the highlights (and lowlights) in Brazilian football through November? Today on the blog Jack Lang takes us through the best and worst of the last month in Brazilian football.

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The Team: Fluminense

Sometimes it’s best just to keep things simple. So it proved for Fluminense this year; the Rio club may not have played the most attractive football in Série A (that honour goes to Atlético Mineiro, although São Paulo have put up a fight in recent weeks), but their formula of solid squad plus experienced manager saw them pull away from the field to record their fourth national title.

Midway through the season it looked as though we had a real title tussle developing, with both the Ronaldinho Gaúcho-inspired Atlético-MG and Grêmio swapping places with Flu at the head of the table. The Rio side proved far too consistent, however, churning out wins with the minimum of fuss and watching their rivals fall by the wayside.

Coach Abel Braga – who had never won a Brasileirão title despite his lengthy CV – managed to create a united, stable squad, which simply ticked too many boxes to fail. Good goalkeeper? Check: Diego Cavalieri’s form earnt him a Brazil call-up. Dependable defenders and holding midfielders? Check. A spark in the final third? Check: the twinkle-toed Wellington Nem shone. Deadly striker? Check: Fred’s 20 goals made him the division’s top scorer.

Interestingly, the club known as Time de Guerreiros (Team of Warriors) barely even needed the kind of never-say-die resilience that earnt them that nickname: this was a victory born of stability and simplicity, a case of grinders keepers. Few would deny that they deserve their title.

The Player: Neymar

A hat-trick to start the month. A stunning (yet, for him, almost run-of-the-mill) goal for Brazil against Columbia, as seen above. Possibly the worst penalty miss in history. A Superclassico title. Another apparently newsworthy haircut. An unwanted gift for Santos coach Muricy Ramalho.

The lad’s nothing if not busy.

The Goal: Lincoln (Coritiba vs Vasco da Gama)

At first viewing, this looks decent: a well-taken volley after the ball falls at his feet. Now watch the replay. That first touch is Lincoln’s as well. And it’s deliberate.

It takes a certain level of pluck to… er… pluck the ball out of the air; most players would probably just try and divert that over-hit corner back into the danger area. But Lincoln isn’t most players. He’s the Great Emancipator, forchrissakes. (On that note, Lincoln isn’t the only Brazilian player to be named after a former US president. There have been plenty of Washingtons and Jéffersons, and Flamengo currently have a Nixon. The headlines basically write themselves.)

With the ball under his spell, all that’s left is to launch into a corkscrew-swivel volley that gives Vasco goalkeeper Fernando Prass no chance. The ball clatters in via the crossbar, which, as we all know, is how all the best goals go in. Golaço.

The Villain: José Maria Marin

In football, as in life, you have to be careful what you wish for. When world-renowned bad man Ricardo Teixeira was president of the CBF (Brazilian football’s governing body), the disapproval was almost universal – at least among right-minded people. This was a man for whom allegations of corruption were as common as hunger pangs – a fat cat in the purest sense of the term.

(One of the most disappointing moments of recent years was the envelopment of Ronaldo Fenômeno into the smutty Corinthians old boys club that Teixeira had established at the heart of the Brazilian game. A photo of the buck-toothed idol hobnobbing with Teixeira, Andrés Sanches (former Corinthians head honcho-turned-director of the seleção) was, for many people, proof that there is no god.)

When Teixeira fell on his sword in March, then, the relief was almost palpable. But his replacement, José Maria Marin, has proved to be similarly divisive. Marin, a career politician whose allegiances have tended to lie with some of the more, shall we say, unsavoury elements of Brazilian governance (military dictatorship for the win!), shot to international fame earlier this year: not for a policy or a press statement, but for being caught on camera stealing a medal at a youth football tournament.

That, it seems, was a harbinger if the idiocy to come. This month he oversaw a reshuffle in the CBF, which resulted in Mano Menezes (viewed by Marin as Teixeira’s man) being sacked from his role as Brazil coach. Just after the two most promising performances of his stewardship.

Menezes’s replacement, Luiz Felipe Scolari, has one major advantage over his predecessor: he’s already won the World Cup. But given Felipão’s recent record, and the kind of wholesale changes that Menezes had to oversee following the ignominy of Dunga’s reign, the decision smacks of populism and politicking rather than football sense. Plus ça change, etc.

 

 

Follow Jack on Twitter: @snap_kaka_pop

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

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.