04 December 2009

Big Football Sunday in Rio de Janeiro

This is the most important weekend of football in Rio de Janeiro in many, many years.

Rio de Janeiro has many dozens of professional teams, but four major clubs: Botafogo, Fluminese, Flamengo and Vasco da Gama. This is the final weekend of the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, or Brasileirão.

Botafogo is in the relegation zone, playing at home against Palmeiras (São Paulo). If Botafogo wins, they escape relegation. If they lose, they go down to the second division for the second time in five years. In addition to being the team with the most draws (14) they are widely perceived to be the team most harmed by bad luck, poor referring, and general levels of incompetence on the part of club management (despite receiving a massive subsidy from the city for their stadium contract). Palmeiras is three points off the title chase and win might give them the title if other results go their way. They will come with everything they have especially since they were leading the competition by six points six weeks ago, have spent hundreds of millions on transfers, and have very little to show for it.

Three months ago, the odds of Fluminese falling to the second division were 97%. Since the return of their talismanic striker Fred, they have won ten league games on the trot while getting to the final of the Copa SulAmericana. Flu sit one point ahead of both Coritiba and Botafogo and a draw will be enough to keep them in the Brasilieirão. Fluminese plays Coritba for the right to stay in the first division. After losing a heartbreaking final to LDU of Ecuador on Wednesday night they might not have the spirit to stay afloat. If they fall, Rio’s oldest club might not return to the first division for some time.

15Fluminense45371112144855-7
16Coritiba4437128174759-12
17Botafogo44371014135057-7
18Santo André4137118184557-12
19Náutico3837108194870-22
20Sport3137710204867-19
Flamengo are the unlikely story of the 2009 season. In August, they sat in 12th place with not much hope of reaching a continental competition. Since the inclusion of the 37 year old Dejan Petkovic in the starting lineup, week in week out, Flamengo have been the best team in Brazil. Petkovic has been brilliant, combining with ‘O Imperiador’ Adriano and Ze Roberto for some memorable goals. Flamengo idol turned manager Andrade has pulled all the right strings and is about to bring a massive party to the Maracanã.

Flamengo is in first place by two points chased by Internacional of Porto Alegre, Palmeiras and São Paulo. If Inter win and Flamengo lose, Inter will be champion. Problem for Inter: Flamengo is playing Grêmio of Porto Alegre, their arch-rival. Last week the fans of Grêmio began to chant ‘entrega’ to their team, meaning: lose the game intentionally, giving the title to Flamengo so Inter won’t win. It appears that this is going to happen and that a Flamenguista title is a fait accompli.


P
Equipes
PTS
J
V
E
D
GP
GC
S
1
Flamengo
64
37
18
10
9
56
43
13
2
Internacional
62
37
18
8
11
61
43
18
3
Palmeiras
62
37
17
11
9
57
43
14
4
São Paulo
62
37
17
11
9
53
42
11


Rio’s soccer fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years. In recent years, Fluminese fell as far as the third division, Botafogo was relegated in 2004, and Vasco was relegated in 2008. Flamengo, with the largest fan base in Brazil (if not the world) is disputing the title for the first time in 17 years. A Rio team has never won the championship in the era of pontas corridas (running table of points). This in itself speaks volumes about the management of football in this city.

The seasons of Flu and Fogo will be a success if they aren’t relegated. Vasco was champion of the second division and will be retuning to top flight football in 2010. Flamengo is probably going to waltz into the championship because Gremio is going to abria as pernas (as they say) so that their cross-town rivals have no chance at the title. One victory, two escapes?

It’s going to be a big futebol Sunday in Rio.

1 comment:

Valente Filho said...

Muito bom!
Bem explicado, simples de entender (para quem não conhece a realidade do futebol Carioca).

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