Saturday, 18 December 2010

Internacional Claim Third

Internacional 4-2 Seongnam Ilhwa Chumna

Internacional drew what has been a long season to a close with success as they claimed third place in the FIFA Club World Championship with a 4-2 victory over Seongnam Ilhwa Chumna of the Korea Republic in Abu Dhabi earlier on today.

Inter took the lead with fifteen minutes on the clock when Tingha headed home across from Alecsandro to put them ahed. Inter doubled their lead twelve minutes later when Alecsandro turned from creator to scorer. A great pass from Andres D'Alessandro saw Alecsandro fire the ball into the far corner of the goal of Jung S-R. Seven minutes in the second half the game was over as a contest, Rafael Sórbis went bombing down the right hand side and the Argentinian superstar Andres D'Aleesandro fired home from 25 yards out to get the goal of the game.

Alecsandro claimed his second goal of the game nineteen minutes from time, a cross from Nei was missed by the Seongnam Ilhwa Chumna defenders and he was left with a simple tap in at the back post. With the game in the bag, Internacional dropped the pace and Colombian Mauricio Molina grabbed a consolation when a Choi S-K pass split the Inter defence and he slotted past substitute Roberto Abbondanzieri in the Inter goal. Molina also had the last laugh when he picked up a second in injury time when he popped up at the back post to slot home.

FC Internazionale Milano won the tournament with a 3-0 victory over the conquerers of Internacional, TP Mazembe of DR Congo. Two goals in the opening 17 minutes from Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto'o put FC Internazionale Milano in control before Jonathan Biabiany wrapped things up three minutes from time.

There was some good news for Inter as Andres D'Alessandro was awarded the Bronze ball as the third best player in the tournament. Dioko Kaluyituka of TP Mazembe took the Silver Ball and Samuel Eto'o won the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.

We at CONMEBalls are now taking a winter break. We're back the middle of January when the Paulista and Carioca tournaments get underway. See you all then.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Internacional Crash Out

TP Mazembe 2-0 Internacional

Despite careful preparation, sending scouts to TP Mazembe's 1-0 win over Mexican side Pachucha and the general confidence going through the Internacional camp their campaign came to a sudden and abrupt end after a shock 2-0 defeat to the Congolese side at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in the semi final of the FIFA Club World Championship.

The 2006 champions were hoping to follow the tradition of Brazilian clubs generally having the upper hand over African sides in the competition. After the TP Mazembe spent a pre-match prayer together in the goalmouth, Internacional started well. Settling quickly into their rhythm. A Rafael Sobis free kick whizzed over the bar before and two minutes later the TP Mazembe defence somehow survived when Sobis was provided with another chance. The African side played on the counter attack and Renan did well to keep out a shot from Mulota Kabangu before Tingha wasted a great chance by heading over a cross from Nei.

The 5,000 or so Internacional fans who had made the trip were left stunned eight minutes after the break when Mulota Kabangu caught the Inter defence asleep to slot home from close range. Inter went on the attack in order to save their tournament, Mazembe goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba denied both Sobis and Giuliano and with five minutes left TP Mazembe booked their place in Saturday's final when a long ball found Dioko Kaluyituka and he beat Renan to wrap things up.

It's the first time the Libertadores champions have not made the final and it's an unwanted honour for Internacional. The have the pleasure of the 3rd/4th place play-off on Saturday against the loser of the Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma FC and FC Internazionale Milano semi final tomorrow. It's going to be a very disappointing end to what has been a good year for the Porto Alegre based club.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Craque do Brasileirão Awards

The annual awards ceremony took place at Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro on Monday to celebrate the achievements of the 2010 Série A season. The ceremony is run in conjunction by the CBF and media outlet Globo.

Here is who won what

Player of the Year: Darío Conca (Fluminense).

Leading scorer: Jonas (Grêmio with 23 goals

Craque da Galera: Darío Conca (Fluminense)
This award is voted for by a fan vote

Best Newcomer: Bruno César (Corinthians)

Coach of the Year: Muricy Ramalho (Fluminense)

Referee of the Year: Sandro Meira Ricci

Team of the year 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Fábio (Cruzeiro)
Right Back: Mariano (Fluminense)
Centre Back: Dédé (Vasco da Gama)
Centre Back: Miranda (São Paulo)
Left Back: Roberto Carlos (Corinthians)
Midfield: Elias (Corinthians)
Midfield: Jucilei (Corinthians)
Midfield: Walter Montillo (Cruzeiro)
Midfield: Dario Conca (Fluminense)
Forward: Neymar (Santos)
Forward: Jonas (Grêmio)

There was also an award for the best fans of the year and that went to Bahia, the Série B side who will be joining the top flight next year.

Copa Sudamericana Final 2nd Leg

Independiente 3-1 Goiás (after extra time)
Independiente wins 5-4 on penalties

Independiente claimed a place in the 2011 Copa Libertadores after a dramatic fightback in the second leg of the Copa Sudamericana final saw them lift the crown on penalties at the Estadio Libertadores de América.

The Goiás side were probably tired after Independiente fans had an all night vigil at their Buenos Aires hotel in an attempt to give the Brazilian players sleep deprivation. Julián Velázquez put the home side ahead after nineteen minutes when he was first to react after a great save from Harlei in the Goiás goal. After the celebrations had died down, Goiás were level on the night when Rafael Moura headed home a Wellington Saci cross past a despairing Hilario Navarro to level on the night and restore the two goal advantage.

By half time though the tie was level, three minutes after Goiás got their two goal cushion back they were undone by a mistake from defender Ernando. His attempted clearance was blocked by Facundo Parra and the ball looped above Harlei and into the goal. Seven minutes the tie was all square when Rodríguez swung a cross into the box and after Parra and Marcão challenged for the ball, it looped up in the air and the stiker thrust a boot out and beat Harlei.

After the drama and excitement of the first half, the second half was a complete contrast with chances few and far between. With none of the Goiás players featuring at the weekend they pressed for the winner but they couldn't get a goal within the 90 minutes. With away goals not counting, the tie went to extra time and again it was the visitors who pressed. Otacilo Neto had a goal ruled out for offside, Rafael Tolói rattled the woodwork and Marcão was also denied by the assistant referee.

Therefore the final was to be decided from 12 yards, substitute Maxi Velázquez put Independiente ahead before Rafael Tolói levelled. Parra and Éverton Santos were both successful before Gracián put Independiente ahead again. Goiás then suffered a blow when Felipe hit the woodwork to leave them behind the 8 ball. Mattheu then put Independiente two clear in the shoot out before Rafael Moura kept Goiás in the hunt. It then fell to Eduardo Tuzzio and he beat Harlei to give Independiente the crown and that spot in the Libertadores for next year. Also the Argentinians will contest the 2011 Recopa Sudameriacana against Inter and a trip to Japan for the Suruga Bank Championship.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Week 38

Prudente 0-3 Internacional
São Paulo 4-0 Atlético Mineiro
Santos 0-0 Flamengo
Vasco da Gama 2-0 Ceará
Fluminense 1-0 Guarani
Cruzeiro 2-0 Palmeiras
Grêmio 3-0 Botafogo
Goiás 1-1 Corinthians
Vitória 0-0 Atlético Goianiense
Atlético Paranasense 1-0 Avaí

Week 38, the last round began on Thursday night in Presidente Prudente as relegated Prudente bid farewell to the top flight after a two year stay with defeat to an Internacional side warming up for a trip to the UAE and the FIFA World Club Championship. Alecsandro put Inter ahead with a quarter of an hour gone and Tingha doubled the lead eight minutes later. Giuliano wrapped things up nine minutes from time as Inter signed off in style before their next game on December 14th.

And onto Sunday, the final round with all nine games kicking off at the same time. The situation at the top of the table was simple, if Fluminense won they would be champions. Any other results could let in Corinthians or Cruzeiro. Grêmio and Botafogo met to decide fourth and Vitória and Atlético-GO fought out the last relegation place. This is how Sunday panned out.......

The opening goal of the round came after six minutes at the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba where veteran Paulo Baier got what turned out to be the only goal of the game for Atlético-PR against Avaí. That would give Atlético-PR a fifth place finish, much better than last years relegation battle. Then the big news came in from the Serra Dourada where relegated Goiás had taken the lead against Corinthians. A mistake from Júlio César in the Corinthians goal allowing Felipe Amorim to give a virtual Goiás reserve team the lead. News quickly spread to the Engenhão and Sete Lagoas where Fluminense and Cruzeiro were in action. The next goal came at the Monumental where Grêmio took the lead in their shoot out with Botafogo for fourth when André Lima fired the hosts ahead. At the Morumbi, São Paulo then established a two goal lead against Atlético-MG, Ilsinho put the hosts ahead with twenty-seven minutes gone and Lucas Silva doubled the lead three minutes later.

In between those goals going in at the Morumbi, Corinthians hauled themselves back into the title race when Dentinho levelled at the Serra Dourada. The news was wasn't greeted well in the Engenhão or in Sete Lagoas but served to fire up the Fluzão. Across town in Rio, Vasco da Gama were the next team on the scoresheet when Dedé put them ahead in the dead game against Ceará at the São Januário. Six minutes before the break Grêmio got themselves in the box seat for fourth when a 23rd of the season for Jonas put them two up against Botafogo. Marlos then put São Paulo three up just before the break as all the other games went into half time scoreless, including the crucial games at the Barradão, the Engenhão and in Sete Lagoas.

So into the last 45 minutes of the season and it was Vasco who struck first a minute after the break. The goal eventually being credited to an own goal by Ceará's Erivélton. At the Morumbi it was turning into a rout as two minutes later Renato Silva made it four for São Paulo as Atlético-MG's recent good run was bought to an end. With fifty two on the clock Grêmio secured fourth place when Douglas made it 3-0 against a Botafogo side that simply hadn't shown up on the night. Then came huge news from Sete Lagoas, where Rivaldo (no, not that one) had put Palmeiras ahead, if Cruzeiro were to do anything now they had to fight back from a goal down. Then came the crucial strike at the Engenhão just after the hour, a cross from the left finding Emerson who fired the ball between his namesakes legs in the Guarani goal to send the Fluzão into raptures. They now believed the title was heading their way. A minute later though, it was all change in Sete Lagoas as Henrique levelled for Cruzeiro to get them back in the title race.

In the big relegation match at the Barradão it was still goalless but Vitória were reduced to ten men with eight minutes left as frustration set in and Gabriel was sent off for a poor tackle. As the season drew to a close, Muricy Ramalho went to defend the lead his side had as Vitória piled on the pressure. Corinthians were still in second, hit the post and still couldn't find a way through the Goiás reserve side. Then came the late drama we expected, and it came in Sete Lagoas where Wallyson grabbed a winner for Cruzeiro. It wasn't enough to give them the title but it snatched them second place from Corinthians and gave them a place in Group 7 in next years Libertadores. Corinthians now, will have to enter into the qualifying stage where they will take on an as yet undetermined team from Colombia. Nothing to report though from the Vila Belmiro where a tame encounter between Santos and Flamengo fnished goalless and without much incident. It also finished goalless at the Barradão, a result with saved Atlético-GO and caused the heartbreak of relegation for Vitória. In contrast the scences at the Engenhão were in stark contrast as the Fluzão celebrated their first top flight title since 1984 and a fourth for coach Muricy Ramalho after his previous treble success with São Paulo.

So this is who got what at the end of enthralling season in Brazil.

Champions: Fluminense
Copa Libertadores Group Stage: Internacional (as holder), Cruzeiro, Santos (via Copa do Brasil)
Copa Libertadores Qualifiers: Corinthians, Grêmio or Goiás (to be confirmed after Copa Sudamericana final)
Copa Sudamericana: Grêmio (subject to Goiás in Sudamericana), Atlético-PR, Botafogo, São Paulo, Palmeiras, Vasco da Gama, Ceará, Atlético-MG, Flamengo (subject to Grêmio's participation)
Relegated: Vitória, Guarani, Goiás, Prudente

So that's it for the 2010 Campeonato Brasileiro. There is one game left of course and we'll have the second leg of the Sudamericana final on Thursday plus we will be following Internacional in the FIFA World Club Cup. The national competition will return mid-May 2011 but don't forget our coverage of the Campeonato Paulista and Campeonato Carioca begins in the middle of January and our coverage of the 2011 Copa Libertadores also begins the last week of January.

On a personal note I would just like to thank everyone who has been along for the ride this season, especially everyone who follows us on twitter. It's been a pleasure bringing you all the action from one of the most exciting leagues in the world.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Copa Sudamericana Final 1st Leg

Goiás 2-0 Independiente

In the final that no one expected, Goiás will take a commanding lead into the second leg after a first half blitz gave them an advantage over Independiente in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final at the Serra Dourada.

On a poor night weather side the home side to the lead with just 14 minutes on the clock when Rafael Moura slotted the ball past Hilario Navarro after the ball ended up at his feet inside the area. Six minute later, Moura turned provider as the Indepediente defence went walkabout and Otacílio Neto rolled the ball into an empty net. The visitors in all truth never settled in the conditions and Goiás took full advantage. It could have got worse for Independiente when they had Nestor Silvera sent off after an off the ball incident but they hung on the give them a chance in the second leg.

That second leg takes place next week at the Estadio Libertadores de América and kicks off at 0000 GMT on Thursday

Monday, 29 November 2010

Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Week 37

Corinthians 2-0 Vasco da Gama
Palmeiras 1-2 Fluminense
Flamengo 1-2 Cruzeiro
Botafogo 3-1 Prudente
Guarani 0-3 Grêmio
Atlético Mineiro 3-1 Goiás
Internacional 1-1 Vitória
Atlético Goianiense 1-1 São Paulo
Ceará 1-1 Atlético Paranaense
Avaí 3-2 Santos

The title race just got better and better as all ten games this weekend started at the same time. At the Pacaembu Corinthians kept their title hopes alive after a 2-0 victory over Vasco da Gama. Corinthians' leading scorer Bruno César put them ahead five minutes before the break and Danilo doubled the lead twelve minutes into the second half. Vasco finished with ten men after Zé Roberto was sent off eighteen minutes from time. At the Arena Barueri, Fluminense will go into the last week top of the pile after coming from behind the defeat Palmeiras. Dinei put Palmeiras ahead with a cracking strike with just four minutes on the clock but Carlinhos levelled fifteen minutes later. It wasn't looking good for the Tricolor when Deco hobbled off just after the half time but his replacement Tartá won the game when he struck just short of the hour. Cruzeiro are still in with a chance when they came from behind to defeat Flamengo in Volta Redonda. Diego Mauricio put Flamengo ahead with just nine minutes on the clock but Roger levelled seven minutes later. Cruzeiro needed to win this game to stay in the title hunt and Thiago Ribeiro got the winner half way through the second half. Despite the result Flamengo are safe from relegation but it is a season to forget for the Rubro-Negro.

Botafogo stayed in contention for a provisional place in the Libertadores after easily disposing of relegated Prudente at the Engenhão. Antônio Carlos put the Alvinegro ahead on the half hour and Edno doubled the lead just before the break. Willian José got Prudente back in the game half way through the second half but Marcelo Cordeiro wrapped things up from the spot for Botafogo in injury time. Guarani's season long stay in Série A was ended after they were defeated by Grêmio. André Lima put Grêmio ahead half way through the first half but they had to wait until twelve minutes from time before Jonas penalty doubled the lead. Diego made sure of the win seven minutes from time to leave Grêmio in fourth and sweating on a Libertadores spot. Atlético-MG ensured their safety in the top flight after victory over a relegated Goiás side with one eye on their midweek Copa Sudamericana final against Independiente. Diego Souza put Atlético-MG ahead with a quarter of an hour gone but Éverton Santos levelled six minutes before the break. Atlético-MG went into the break ahead though thanks to Renan Oliveira and Diego Tardelli wrapped up the points just after the hour. Vitória still occupy the last relegation spot after letting a lead slip at the Beira-Rio against Internacional. Adailton put Vitória ahead five minutes after the break and the win would have been just the tonic but Inter levelled twelve minutes later through Rafael Sóbis as they continue their preparations for the FIFA World Club Championship.

It will be a straight shoot out for the last relegation spot between Vitória and Atlético-GO after they came from behind to take what could be a valuable points against São Paulo at the Serra Dourada. They fell behind five minutes after the break when Rogerio Céni converted from the penalty spot but they grabbed a life line eight minutes later when Elias levelled. It will all come down to a last day shoot out at the Barradão next weekend. Atlético-PR's slim hopes of a provisional Libertadores spot was ended at the Castelão as they could only draw with Ceará. Rafael Santos set Atléico-PR on the right track when he put them ahead nine minutes before the break but the lead lasted only seven minutes before Magno Alves levelled. Ceará played most of the second half with ten men after Diego Sacoman was sent off a minutes after the break but Atlético-PR couldn't find the winner to keep them in the hunt for the premier continental competition. Avaí have also secured their safety in the top flight after an amazing comeback saw them defeat Santos at the Ressacada. On loan man Keirrison put Santos ahead with just nine minutes on the clock and Neymar's 17th of the season doubled the lead just after the half hour. Avaí rallied and were level by the break, Caio pulled a goal back five minutes before the break and he added another in injury time at the end of the half. With nine minutes left Avaí secured a third season in the top flight when Caio completed his hat trick to give the home side an amazing victory.

So one week to go, three teams in with a shout of winning the title and a big relegation shootout in Salvador. Inter's game takes place on Thursday to give them more time to get to the UAE for the FIFA World Club Championship but as things sit at the moment all the other games are at 1900GMT next Sunday. We suspect some meaningless games may be moved to Saturday. We will bring any news of that on Twitter and there will be live updates on there on Sunday as well. They line up like this

Prudente x Internacional
São Paulo x Atlético Mineiro
Santos x Flamengo
Vasco da Gama x Ceará
Fluminense x Guarani
Cruzeiro x Palmeiras
Grêmio x Botafogo
Goiás x Corinthians
Vitória x Atlético Goianiense
Atléico Paranaense x Avaí

The last promotion place from Série B was taken by América-MG despite a nervy 0-0 draw at Ponte Preta. The point was enough to see them back into the top flight despite the efforts of Portuguesa who won 2-1 at Sport Recife. Brasiliense, Santo Andre, Ipatinga and América-RN were all relegated to Série C.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Copa Sudamericana Semi Final 2nd Leg

Palmeiras 1-2 Goiás
3-3 on points, Goiás advances on away goals
Independiente 2-1 LDU Quito
3-3 on points, Independiente advances on away goals

A stunning result at the Pacaembu as relegated Goiás qualified for the final of the Copa Sudamericana after coming from behind to defeat Palmeiras. It was all going well for the Big Green when Luan fired past Harlei with 34 minutes gone. Goiás looked sunk but they got a foothold in the tie just before half time when a free kick from Marelo Costa rattled the woodwork, Rafael Moura collected and crossed for Carlos Alberto to head in via a deflection. As things stood Palmeiras were still going through courtesy of their win last week at the Serra Dourada but with eight minutes to go they were stunned when Rafael Moura turned creator again for Ernando to score from six yards out.

Goiás will meet Independiente in the final after the Argentinian side knocked out holders LDU Quito at the Estadio Libertadores de América on the away goals rule. Trailing 3-2 from the first leg at La Casa Blanca the two away goals were to prove crucial on the night. Facundo Parra put Independiente ahead with 25 minutes gone to level the tie on goals scored but LDU got level on the night, and ahead in the tie, when Uruguyan Juan Salgueiro scored just before half time. A minute after the break Independiente got what turned out to be the tie winner when Hernan Fredes put the home side ahead on the night. LDU battled for the goal that would see them into consecutive finals but it just wasn't to be and a new name will now appear on the trophy.

The first leg of a final that no one expected is next week at the Serra Dourada and the rules change for this tie. Away goals don't count and it's just a straight scoring contest. If we're level on goals at the end of the second leg, extra time will be played. If it's still level then we'll go to penalties.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

2011 Copa Libertadores Draw

With most teams still yet to qualify the draw for the 52nd edition of the Copa Santader Libertadores took place at CONMEBOL headquarters in Asunción today. We'll bring you the draw as much as we can at the moment and try to fill in the blanks. It'll all become clearer in the next few weeks and of course we will bring you right up to date as soon as we can.

12 teams enter in the qualifying round with 26 teams going straight into the group phase. Brazil have six entries this year, with holders Internacional guaranteed the chance to defend their title. Argentina have five entries and the rest of the associations, plus invitees Mexico have three qualifiers each.

Qualifying Round Draw

Game 1: Brazil 5 v Colombia 3
Game 2: Jaguares (Mexico) v Peru 3
Game 3: Paraguay 3 v Deportivo Petare (Venezuela)
Game 4: Chile 3 v Bolivia 3
Game 5: Argentina 5* v Ecuador 3
Game 6: Brasil 6+ v Liverpool (Uruguay)

* if Independiente wins the 2010 Copa Sudamericana they will take this spot, if not the 3rd best 2010 aggregate among non-champions will.
+ if Goiás wins the 2010 Copa Sudamericana they will take this spot, if not the fourth placed team in Série A will.

We expect the qualifying competition to start week beginning 17th January.

Groups Stage Draw

Group 1

Peru 1
Guaraní (Paraguay)
Colombia 2
San Luis (Mexico)

Group 2

Junior (Colombia)
Bolivia 2
Peru 2
Winner Game 6

Group 3

Argentinos Juniors (Argentina)
Nacional (Uruguay)
Brazil 3
América (Mexico)

Group 4

Deportivo Táchira (Venezuela)
Chile 1
Argentina 3
Winner Game 4

Group 5

Santos (Brazil)
Chile 2
Caracas FC (Venezuela)
Winner Game 3

Group 6

Internacional (Brazil)
Jorge Wilstermann (Bolivia)
Ecuador 2
Winner Game 2

Group 7

Argentina 2
Paraguay 2
Brazil 4
Winner Game 1

Group 8

Ecuador 1
Peñarol (Uruguay)
Argentina 4
Winner Game 5

Estudiantes (Argentina) has qualified but has yet to be allocated a berth
Oriente Petrolero (Bolivia) has qualified but has yet to be allocated a berth
Fluminense, Corinthians and Cruzeiro (Brazil) have qualified but yet to be allocated a berth
Colo Colo (Chile) has qualified but has yet to be allocated a berth
Emelec and LDU Quito (Ecuador) have qualified but have yet to be allocated a berth
Libertad and Cerro Porteño (Paraguay) have qualified but have yet to be allocated a berth
Universidad San Martin and León de Huánuco (Peru) have qualified but have yet to be allocated a berth

Fixtures and matchdays to be confirmed.

All will become a lot lot clearer in the next few weeks, I promise.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Brasileirão > Premiership

Yesterday while driving home I heard commentator Nigel Adderley on Radio 5 Live refer to the Barclays Premier League as the most exciting league in the world when commentating on the Fulham x Manchester City game. And after shaking my head about it all day I've decided to put it into words and defend my choice of league.

He's obviously not been a regular reader of this blog or keeping up to date with what is going on in other leagues around the world, especially in Brazil. With two rounds to go the title is a three horse race between Fluminense, Corinthians and Cruzeiro who as separated by just two points at the moment. When was the last time this happened in the English league, a league that sees a two horse race after Christmas and one team pulling away at the beginning of April. Could you imagine the Premiership still having three teams two points apart with just two games to go? Until much recently it was a four horse race until Botafogo's ability to draw rather than win finally caught up with them. And another thing, before the start of the season you know it's going to be only one of two teams who has any chance of winning the league. In the Brasileirão it could be anyone of fifteen teams that could win the league before an opening ball is kicked. On the flip side of that it could be anyone of 15 teams that could get relegated, and the so called big clubs aren't exempt from that. Botafogo, Palmeiras, Vasco da Gama and Corinthians have all had spells in the second tier in recent times. We tried to predict this league at the start of the season and we've ended up a county mile away with most of the predictions.

Look at the finish last year, when Flamengo came from nowhere to take the title and Palmeiras went from the box seat to not even qualifying for the Libertadores after their last day defeat at Botafogo, a result that saved the Alvinegro from relegation. The way Fluminense somehow avoided relegation with an incredible late run and the heartbreak in Coritiba, which ultimately led to violence as they were relegated from the top flight by Fluminense. One thing you can't do in Brazil is buy success, it just simply causes too many problems.

The relegation race this year is just as intriguing. Coming into the final two rounds there are still six teams with a chance of filling the final two relegation places. Grêmio Prudente and Goiás are already gone, the former not helped by a three point deductions for fielding a suspended player in a league game. Guarani and cup finalists Vitória currently occupy the final two spots but Flamengo in 13th are still not safe. Champions last year, they've been in wretched form since losing Adriano and Wágner Love to Roma and CSKA Moskva respectively and gone through coaches like hot dinners. Avaí were one of the form teams before the world cup break but have since plummeted. Atlético Mineiro, who could well have been in the Libertadores this year with different results at the end of last season have only just exited the relegation zone after being in it for nearly all of the season. The other team with a chance of going down is Atlético Goianiense, who will be hoping to avoid the same fate as their near neighbours. Normally in the English league there is probably only one relegation spot to be decided on the last day and there are only two teams contesting the final available spot.

Admittedly in the premiership there is the odd veteran or two like Scholes and Giggs but in Brazil you still have the likes of Fabio Rochemback, Paulo Baier, Iarley, Roberto Carlos and Geraldo still doing their stuff. But it's the young talent that gets it's chance to shine and the two name that spring to mind are Neymar and Ganso. Could you see them getting as much game time at an English club as they have at Santos?

I really don't think the commentator in question really has a clue what he was on about. He's been brainwashed into believing that the Premiership is the best league in the world when it simply isn't. It isn't even the best league in Europe but that is an argument that our sister site Euroballs should be undertaking.

When the Premiership is a three horse race with two games to go I might believe them then but until that happens give me the Brasileirão anyday.

Thanks to Jack, John and Ben for their help in the creation of this article. Feedback welcome.

Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Week 36

Flamengo 2-1 Guarani
Prudente 1-1 Ceará
Grêmio 3-1 Atlético Paranaense
São Paulo 1-4 Fluminense
Palmeiras 0-2 Atlético Mineiro
Botafogo 1-2 Internacional
Vitória 1-1 Corinthians
Cruzeiro 3-1 Vasco da Gama
Avaí 3-0 Atlético Goianiense
Goiás 1-4 Santos

On Saturday Flamengo picked up a crucial victory over Guarani as they look to escape relegation. The Rubro Negro are still not safe despite this victory but there are dark days ahead for the visitors who were in just as much need for the points. Renato Abreu had Flamengo ahead inside two minutes but Baiano levelled ten minutes later. Diego Mauricio got the winner for Fla ten minutes from time. Relegated Prudente picked up a point at home to Ceará as the visitors booked their place in the top flight next season. Rhayner put Prudente ahead with 27 minutes on the clock and it looked like they were on track to pick up only their eighth win of the season until Geraldo levelled from the spot five minutes from time. Ceará had João Marcos sent off two minute from time but they can be proud of their achievement in retaining their top flight status. After their woeful pre-World Cup form who would have thought Grêmio would provisionally occupy the last Libertadores spot with two games to go. They climbed above Atlético-PR after a 3-1 victory at the Monumental. Neuton put Grêmio ahead with thirteen minutes on the clock but Paulo Baier levelled from the spot six minutes later. A Douglas penalty on the hour restored the lead for Grêmio and Diego wrapped things up in the last minute.

In the early Sunday games, Fluminense went back to the top of the table but it took the sending off of two São Paulo players before they established their dominance on proceedings at the Arena Barueri. Gum headed Fluminense ahead ten minutes before the break but Lucas Gaúcho levelled ten minutes after the break. On 63 minutes substitute Xandão was sent off after bringing Fred down when the last man and Richarlyson then went seven minutes later for abusing the referee. Dario Conca put Fluminense ahead with 17 minutes left, Rogério Ceni gifted Fred the third four minutes later and Conca wrapped things up three minutes from time with his second of the game. Leaders going into the round, Corinthians lost their place at the top of the table after being held by relegation threatened Vitória in Salvador. It all started well for Corinthians when Danilo put them ahead after twenty minutes but they were pegged back two minutes before the break when Julian Viáfara levelled from the spot. Corinthians could find a second half winner as the title race gets hotter and hotter but the result put Vitória back in the relegation zone. Palmeiras are definitely putting all their eggs in the Sudamericana basket as Atlético-MG got revenge for their exit in the same competition. An under strength Palmeiras were put to the sword at the Estádio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara, Diego Souza put Atlético-MG ahead after half an hour and Neto Berola wrapped things up thirteen minutes from time. Atlético-MG still aren't safe but they will welcome those three points. Botafogo fell behind in the Libertadores race after their fell to only their sixth defeat of the season against Internacional at the Egnenhão. Inter, who are getting things right for the trip to the UAE next month, went ahead with 25 minutes to go through Andrezinho. Rafael Sóbis doubled the Inter lead nine minutes later but two minutes later Antônio Carlos pulled a goal back but Botafogo were unable to find an equalising goal as they fell to sixth in the table.

The late Sunday games saw Cruzeiro stay in the title picture after a blistering opening half hour gave them victory over Vasco da Gama in Sete Lagoas. Roger put Cruzeiro ahead with just 14 minutes on the clock and Henrique doubled the lead five minutes later. Edcarlos put Cruzeiro three up just after the half hour but Vasco pulled a goal back just before half time through Renato Augusto. There were no further goals in the second half but Cruzeiro are now just two points behind Fluminense in what is now a three horse title race. Avaí hauled themselves out of the relegation zone after what could be a crucial victory over fellow strugglers Atlético-GO at the Ressacada. Atléico-GO lost Thiago Feltri to a red card with just 38 minutes on the clock and the suffered a bigger blow two minutes later when Eltinho put the home side ahead. Substitute Jeférson doubled the lead for Avaí four minutes from time and a second from him a minute later put the icing on the cake for Avaí. Despite having a Sudamericana semi final on Wednesday night, Goiás were relegated to Série B after a late Neymar show saw them surrender to Santos. It started well for Goiás when Ernando put them ahead with just eleven minutes on the clock but the lead lasted just eight minutes before Danilo levelled for Santos. It all went wrong for Goiás in the last fifteen minutes as Neymar collected a hat-trick inside seven minutes to take his total to sixteen for the season as Goiás tumbled out of the top flight for the first time since 1999.

Next week all the games kick off at the same time, that will be 1900GMT on Sunday and they line up like this

Corinthians x Vasco da Gama
Palmeiras x Fluminense
Flamengo x Cruzeiro
Botafogo x Prudente
Guarani x Grêmio
Atlético Mineiro x Goiás
Internacional x Vitória
Atlético Goianiense x São Paulo
Ceará x Atlético Paranaense
Avaí x Santos

The last promotion place is still up for grabs in Série B after wins for both América-MG and Portuguesa at the weekend. Coritiba were crowned champions after their 2-2 draw at Icasa. Portuguesa beat Ipatinga to keep their promotion hopes alive whilst América-MG won 2-1 to condemn Sport Recife to another season in the second tier. The last place still lies in the hands of América-MG and it will take a minor miracle for Portuguesa to be promoted. At the other end of the table Santo André suffered relegation in consecutive seasons despite a 2-1 win over Bahia. There is no way now that Santo André can climb out of the relegation zone although it's three from five for the other relegation spots from Série B with one week to go.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Copa Sudamericana Semi Final 1st Leg

Goiás 0-1 Palmeiras
LDU Quito 3-2 Independiente

Palmeiras took a giant stride to claiming a place in the final after victory in their semi-final first leg in Goiânia. After a confidence building draw against Fluminense at the weekend, Goiás are hoping to qualify for their first ever continental final but must do it the hard way in the Pacaembu next week. One goal was enough to win the game for Palmeiras and when it came it was an absolute screamer from Marcos Assunção three minutes after the break. Goiás were denied in injury time when Otacílio Neto headed past Deola but the goal was disallowed due to an offside. Felipão was hit by a radio thrown from the crowd after the game but will be happy with his side taking a lead back to São Paulo next week.

In Quito at La Casa Blanca, the holders LDU will take a narrow advantage back to Buenos Aires for the second leg in a weeks time. Independiente, in their first continental semi final in 15 years, made a bright opening but they fell behind right on half time when Uruguayan Juan Salgueiro struck. Whatever was said in the changing room at half time seemed to work for the home side as they came out like a steam train. Four minutes after the break substitute Miller Bolanos made it two and when Neicer Reasco got the third eight minutes later it seemed LDU had put one foot in the final already but a minute later Nestor Silvera grabbed an away goal for Independiente. When Lucas Mareque got the second Independiente goal six minutes later it was suddenley game on game and the home side were hanging on. Independiente threw everything at the holders but LDU held on to make the second leg in Avellaneda next week much more interesting.

The second leg at the Pacaembu is on Wednesday at 2350 GMT while the night owls can take in Independiente v LDU Quito next Friday morning at 0030GMT

Monday, 15 November 2010

Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Week 35

Ceará 2-2 Botafogo
Corinthians 1-0 Cruzeiro
Santos 0-0 Grêmio
Atlético Mineiro 4-1 Flamengo
Guarani 1-1 Vitória
Internacional 2-3 Avaí
Atlético Goianiense 3-0 Palmeiras
Fluminense 1-1 Goiás
Vasco da Gama 1-1 São Paulo
Atlético Paranaense 2-1 Prudente

The round actually started last Wednesday at the Castelão as Botofogo's outside hopes of taking the title were probably dashed by their 17th draw of the season. The visitors took the lead through Sebastian Abreu's 10th goal of the season with 11 minutes on the clock but the Alvinegro were behind by half time. Magno Alves levelled for Ceará half way through the half and Geraldo had them in front 10 minutes before the break. A second of the game from Abreu levelled things but Botafogo couldn't find a winner, despite Ceará being reduced to ten after the dismissal Michel three minutes from time.

On Saturday there was huge controversy in the big one at the Pacaembu as Corinthians took a giant stride to winning the title. It was a coolly taken last minute penalty from Ronaldo that separated the sides after he'd been fouled by Gil in the box. The camera angles seemed to give a different impression on the foul but the Cruzeiro players were aggrieved by the decision as Gil was also dismissed for a second bookable offence. Grêmio still remain in the hunt for a Libertadores spot after they claimed a point at the Vila Belmiro against Santos. It didn't start well for Grêmio when they had top scorer Jonas sent off for an elbow after 18 minutes but they had goalkeeper Victor to thank after his penalty save from Eduardo kept the game scoreless. In the final Saturday game, Atlético-MG took a huge stride to safety and left Flamengo nervously looking over their shoulder after a resounding 4-1 win in Sete Lagoas. Former Fla player Obina put the home side ahead ten minutes before the break before Renan Oliveira doubled the lead a minute before the break Another former Fla man, Diego Tardelli made it three half way through the second half before a second from Renan two minutes later put the icing on the cake. Marquinhos pulled a goal back for Flamengo fifteen minutes from time but it was meter consolation for the visitors.

In another huge relegation clash Vitória have their heads just above the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw with Guarani. Vitória took the lead twelve minutes from time through Adailton but the lead last just two minutes before Geovane levelled. A point is a point, but it wasn't much use to either team as Guarani fell into the relegation zone. Avaí gave themselves hope of survival after a stunning 3-2 victory at the Beira-Rio against Internacional. Avaí were ahead inside a minute after a stunning goal from Patric and the doubled their lead seven minutes before the break through Batista. Inter hit back after half time, substitute Leandro Damião halved the nine minutes after the break before Rafael Sóbis levelled on the hour. Three minutes later though, Avaí were ahead again through Robinho and they held on to secure a crucial win. Atlético-GO eased their relegation worries a little after a comfortable victory over a Palmeiras side that could be putting all it's eggs in the Sudamericana basket. Gilson put Atlético-GO ahead after half an hour and Robston doubled the lead nine minutes after the break. Palmeiras then had Danilo sent off on the hour before a second from Robston two minutes later wrapped up the points and give Atlético-GO a chance of beating the drop

In the late Sunday games, Fluminense knew a victory over relegation threatened Goiás was take them back to the top of the table. However it was the visitors, still on a high from the midweek Sudamericana victory, who made all the running at the Engenhão. They took the lead with 19 minutes on the clock through midweek hero Rafael Moura and the Tricolor were booed off at half time. They eventually got level just six minutes before time when Dario Conca converted from the penalty spot, but Flu relinquished top spot in the table. São Paulo's outside chance of getting into the frame for the last Libertadores spot seems to be over after they were held at the São Januário by Vasco da Gama. The home side took the lead on the hour through on loan stiker Éder Luís but they were pegged back ten minutes later by Lucas Gaúcho. The point was enough to ensure that Vasco will survive for a second season in the top flight. The relegation fight though is over for Prudente after they were relegated to Série B after defeat at the Arena de Baixada against Atlético-PR. Prudente went behind after 21 minutes when Paulo Baier converted from the penalty spot and they didn't help their cause when Wesley was sent off four minutes later. Despite being a man short Willian José levelled for Prudente on the half hour and a point would have been just enough to keep them afloat. Disasater struck for Prudente in injury time when Paulo Baier got his second of the game to keep Atlético-PR in the hunt for a Libertadores spot and condemn Prudente to second tier football next year.

So three games to go in this years championship as the title and relegation race hots up. They line up like this with the top three games taking place on Saturday

Flamengo x Guarani
Prudente x Ceará
Grêmio x Atlético Paranaense
São Paulo x Fluminense
Palmeiras x Atlético Mineiro
Botafogo x Internacional
Vitória x Corinthians
Cruzeiro x Vasco da Gama
Goiás x Santos
Avaí x Atlético Goianiense

With two weeks to go in the Série B season Coritiba will return as Champions if they win their game at Icasa on Saturday night. A 3-0 for Bahia against Portuguesa in the last week also sees them into the top flight next season. Figuerense will also be in the top flight next season after despite a defeat to Coritiba, Portuguesa's defeat at Bahia meaning they cannot now be caught. The final promotion spot is currently in the hands of América-MG who lead Portuguesa and Sport Recife by three points in the table with six to play for. At the other end of the table Santo André are facing back to back relegation in the face, they currenlty lie six points adrift of safety but they can still catch Guaratinguetá in 16th. Ipatinga, Brasiliense and América-RN occupy the other relegation spots.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Copa Sudamericana Week 14

LDU Quito 1-0 Newell's Old Boys
Palmeiras 2-0 Atlético Mineiro
Avaí 0-1 Goiás
Independiente 0-0 Deportes Tolima

Holders LDU Quito were the first team to qualify for the semi final on Wednesday night after they left it late to overcome Newell's Old Boys. After a scoreless first leg the tie was heading for penalties until Walter Calderon turned and shot past Sebastian Peratta from the edge of the box nine minutes from time. It left Newell's needing a goal for penalties but LDU Quito hung on as they continue the defence of their title. Palmeiras also joined LDU in the semi finals on Wednesday night when they overcame Atlético Mineiro at the Pacaembu. Renan Ribeiro was a busy man in the Atlético-MG goal as Palmeiras went for the throat from the off and they finally broke the deadlock after 28 minutes when Marcos Assunção put Palmeiras ahead with an "Olympic goal" although there could have been a slight deflection. Atlético-MG threw on the forwards as they looked for an equaliser but they were undone ten minutes from time when Luan was left unmarked at the back post and he fired the ball past Renan Ribeiro to put Palmeiras into the last four.

On Thursday night two times in the relegation zone in Série A met at the Ressacada in Florianópolis when Avaí and Goiás went in all square from the first leg. It was the away side though who made all the running as they constantly put Avaí under pressure and kept Carlos busy. The visitors took the lead just before the break when a corner from Wellington Saci ended up with Felipe and his shot come cross went into the path of Rafael Moura who found the back of the net. That turned out to be the only goal of the game, Goiás were much the better side on the night as Avaí's first foray into continental competition came to an end. Independiente ensured continued Argentinean representation in the competition after a scoreless draw allowed them to qualify courtesy of their two goals in Colombia last week. Not without a fright though, the visitors had a goal disallowed after 34 minutes for a foul on goalkeeper Hilario Navarro. The home side went closest two minutes before the break when Facundo Parra blocked a clearance from Tolima keeper Antony Silva but the ball spun agonisingly wide.

So, no rest for the wicked as the semi-finals begin next week and they line up like this

LDU Quito v Independiente
Goiás v Palmeiras

Monday, 8 November 2010

Campeonato Brasileiro Série A Week 34

Atlético Mineiro 2-2 Santos
Grêmio 5-1 Ceará
Atlético Goianiense 2-2 Internacional
São Paulo 0-2 Corinthians
Prudente 4-1 Goiás
Vitória 0-1 Cruzeiro
Avaí 0-0 Botafogo
Palmeiras 1-0 Guarani
Flamengo 0-1 Atlético Paranaense
Fluminense 1-0 Vasco da Gama

Saturday's games saw Atlético-MG take another small step to safety after an entertaining 2-2 draw with Santos in Sete Lagoas. Neymar's 12th goal of the season put the visitors ahead with just eight minutes on the clock but Diego Tardelli levelled matters after 25 minutes on the clock. When Obina put Atlético-MG ahead on the hour the home side were on course for a crucial point but Neymar's second of the game seven minutes later rescued a point for Santos. Grêmio are still an outside bet for the last Libertadores spot after they took Ceará to the cleaners. André Lima set the Tricolor on the way with 24 minutes gone and a 21st of the season from Jonas doubled the lead on the half hour. Ceará had Heleno sent off before veteran Fábio Rochemback made it three before the break before Douglas got the fourth ten minutes after half time. A second for André Lima made it five on the hour before Magno Alves got a consolation for Ceará thirteen minutes from time. Atlético-GO were another team to take a small step to safety but will be kicking themselves after letting a two goal lead slip against Internacional. Juninho put Atlético-GO ahead with twelve minutes on the clock and an 11th of the season from Elias from the spot doubled the lead. Inter halved the deficit ten minutes after the break courtesy of Leandro Damião before Giuliano levelled matters from the spot twenty minutes from time.

The early Sunday games started with a huge clash at the Morumbi between São Paulo and Corinthians, the Majestoso. It was the visitors who briefly returned to the top of the table courtesy of a 2-0 victory. Elias put Corinthians ahead six mintues before the break and Dentinho made the points certain with the second six minutes from time. Prudente kept their heads above the parapet after a 4-1 victory over a Goiás side that now looks likely to join them in the second tier next season. Rafael Moura put Goiás ahead with just six minutes on the clock but Prudente levelled through João Vitor after twenty minutes. Willian José put Prudente ahead six minutes after the break and Goiás were then reduced to ten men on the hour when Rafael Tolói was dismissed. Wesley made it three half way through the half before Rhayner put the icing on the cake four minutes from time. Cruzeiro kept up the heat at the top of the table after a single goal was enough to give them victory at Vitória. That goal came seven minutes before half time with Jonas unfortunate to put the ball into his own net. In Florianópolis, Avaí got a point in their battle to beat the drop but it was against a disappointing Botafogo side that collected an amazing 16th draw of the season. The Rio club have lost the least games of any team in the division so far but an inability to win more games will probably cost them in the long run.

The late Sunday games all featured a single goal in all the contests. At the Arena Barueri, Palmeiras got the better of Guarani ahead of their second leg Sudamericana game in midweek. The only goal in this one came four minutes before half time from Leandro Amaro. That result leaves Guarani in the relegation zone with just four games left to play. Flamengo ended up playing their home game against Atlético-PR at the Estádio Raulino de Oliveira in Volta Redonda due to Fluminense bagging the Engenhão to take on Vasco. It was the visitors who kept their Libertadores hopes alive after veteran Paulo Baier got the only goal of the game six minutes before the break. Over at the Engenhão, Fluminense, after a couple of hours in third, went back to the top of the table after victory over Vasco da Gama in the Clássico dos Gigantes. The goal came with just four minutes on the clock from Tartá and means that Fluminense have a single point lead at the top of the table with just four matches left.

Week 35 starts on Wednesday night in Fortaleza when Botafogo need a victory against Ceará if they have any chance of winning the title. The biggest clash of the week is on Saturday when Corinthians in second entertain Cruzeiro in third. They line up like this

Ceará x Botafogo
Corinthians x Cruzeiro
Santos x Grêmio
Atlético Mineiro x Flamengo
Vasco da Gama x São Paulo
Guarani x Vitória
Internacional x Avaí
Atlético Goianiense x Palmeiras
Fluminense x Goiás
Atlético Paranaense x Prudente