The Best Of Brazilian Football
With Cruzeiro looking headed for the Serie A crown, today on the blog Jack Lang takes a look back at the September highlights in Brazilian football.
The Team – Cruzeiro
Picking the team that is leading the Brasileirão feels like something of a cop-out here, but Cruzeiro have really given me no other choice this month. The Belo Horizonte side were absolutely sensational in September, winning seven of their eight games and extending their advantage at the summit of the table to 11 points - no mean feat given that a third of the season remains.
In a division in which the top sides are usually very evenly matched (the destination of the title is often decided only in the final weeks of the season), the Foxes have managed the rare feat of being both big-game players and flat-track bullies, seeing off nominal title challengers (Atlético-PR, Botafogo) and strugglers alike with a minimum of fuss.
Admittedly, they have a squad that is the envy of almost every other club in the division, with two or more quality options in every position. Their riches are particularly abundant in attack, where Borges, Vinícius Araújo, Dagoberto, Willian, Ricardo Goulart, Luan, Éverton Ribeiro, Júlio Baptista and Alejandro Martinuccio compete for four positions. That kind of firepower was key in the wins over Botafogo and Vasco, but defensive solidity has also played its part: Cruzeiro managed four clean sheets in September.
Their relentless winning streak may slow a touch in the weeks that come, but Marcelo Oliveira's side already look like shoo-ins for the title. That they have been the best side in Série A by some distance is beyond doubt by this stage.
The Player – Gilberto
A month ago, Portuguesa were down and out. Sucked into the relegation zone following a run of rotten form, only the travails of Náutico kept them from the foot of the table. But a few weeks on, the Lusa sit relatively comfortably in midtable, above the like of Corinthians, Flamengo and São Paulo at time of writing.
The upturn in fortunes can be attributed in part to coach Guto Ferreira, who has resolutely stuck with the same group of players for almost every game, eschewing the temptation of rotation. He has been helped, though, by the staggering form of striker Gilberto, who plundered ten goals in nine matches to drag his side up the standings. A firm fan favourite at boyhood club Santa Cruz, he struggled to impress with Internacional but now appears to be getting to grips with the challenge of Série A.
The Goal – Gilberto
Portuguesa vs Náutico
Subtlety is all well and good but what's the point in messing around with passes and stepovers when you can do THIS. Thwack.
Cruzeiro look all but certainties to take the lead title, meaning the more interesting bets are to be found elsewhere. The race for the Copa Libertadores places is hotting up, with both Botafogo and Atlético-PR dropping ground in September. Atlético-MG, in fifth at time of writing, will be looking to gain momentum ahead of the Club World Cup in December and could thus be a side to watch in the coming months.
As unthinkable as it would have seemed just a few weeks ago, relegation worries could be sneaking up on Corinthians. They slipped towards the dropzone with a series of toothless displays in September and are under a huge amount of pressure from their fans. They may be worth opposing in the next few games.
Current Brazil Serie A Odds
Odds as at 4th October 2013.
Follow Jack on Twitter: @snap_kaka_pop
And read more of Jack's work on his blog: SnapKakaPop.blogspot.com