It’s that time of the year again when local pride is at stake in the numerous state championships which are prevalent in the opening months of the Brazilian football calendar. From Amapá in the far north to Rio Grande do Sul in the south, from Acre in the west to Paraíba in the far east of the country, twenty seven regions of Brazil will be involved in their own local championship, mixing the big boys with the smaller village teams, with each club hoping to win their respective title and qualify for a place in next year’s edition of the national cup, the Copa Brasil.
The Rio State championship, more popularly known as Carioca, will begin next weekend with the first of the two component tournaments which make up the competition. The first of these is the Taça Guanabara (from 19th January – 10th March) which sees sixteen teams split into two groups. Each club will play the eight teams in the opposite group only once, culminating in a straight knockout between the top two of each group comprising of single leg semi-finals and final. Almost as soon as the action in the Taça Guanabara is finished the second half begins with the Taça Rio (16th March – 5th May). Each team will, in this competition, play the other seven teams in its own group once only with the top two in each group going through to a knockout stage just like in the Guanabara. If the same team wins both competitions then they are instantly crowned Carioca champions for the year. If the Guanabara and the Rio competitions see different winners then they will face off in a two-legged final to decide the overall champion of Rio State on May 12th and 19th. In 2012 Fluminense claimed the Guanabara title whilst Botafogo were victorious in the Rio Cup, thus both clubs met in an overall title decider which was won by Fluminense 5-2 on aggregate. “Flu” therefore took the Carioca title for the 31st time, leaving them just one behind old rivals Flamengo, and went on to enjoy national glory in the Campeonato Brasiliero later that year to complete a remarkable double.
WATCH 2012 CARIOCA FINAL, 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The other major state championship in Brazil is in São Paulo state, known as the Paulista. The duration of this tournament is the same as the Carioca beginning on January 19th and running until May 19th. The format of this competition is rather more straightforward than its Rio counterpart with a twenty team league, each team playing the rest once only. After 19 rounds of games the top eight go through to the knockout stages with the quarter-final and semi-final rounds played over one leg followed by a two-legged final. In the 2012 competition Santos finished in third place in the regular season table but managed to win their way through each of the knock-out rounds to take their 20th Paulista title, their third consecutive success at state level, by getting the better of Guarani in the final with a 7-2 aggregate victory.
WATCH 2012 PAULISTA FINAL, 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS:
There are some other notable state championships outside of the big two but many of these will contain an outstanding rivalry which has been the focus for many a tournament over the years. In the Mineiro championship, played in the state of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte giants Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro have won 77 of the 95 tournaments that have been played to date and their dominance is expected to continue this year. Atlético sealed their 41st title success last year with a 4-1 aggregate win over América in the final. Similarly, the Gaúcho championship will no doubt see the Porto Alegre rivalry between Grêmio and Internacional light up the campaign. Internacional will be hoping to reclaim the title they’ve won for the last two years, in 2012 courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate over Caxias in the final, but arch-rivals Grêmio are expected to put up a fight this time around. There’s more than just local bragging rights at stake for two clubs who have won all but two Gaúcho championships that have been played since 1954.
The Campeonato Paranaense was won in 2012 by Coritiba FC for the fourth time in five years as they faced off against eternal foes Atlético Paranaense in the final. Coritiba won out the penalty shoot-out which followed the second leg following an aggregate tie of 2-2 to claim the club’s 36th state title. It was back to business as usual in the Campeonato Baiano in 2012 as the big two of EC Vitória and EC Bahia fought out a tense final. Following Bahia de Feira’s shock maiden title win in 2011, the big two took it upon themselves to re-establish the old order in 2012 by reaching the final. Ultimately it was EC Bahia who emerged triumphant as they won the Baiano for the 44th time; the two-legged final against EC Vitória ended in a 3-3 aggregate draw but, due to the rules of the competition, Bahia’s superior record in the regular season won them the championship.
At this time of year we usually mention the Potiguar championship, held in the Rio Grande do Norte region, because of the dominance of ABC FC. The record champions at state level, ABC FC have won their local championship 52 times but they were unable to add to this total last year. América de Natal won their first Potiguar for nine years in 2012 by defeating ABC FC 4-1 in the final to claim their 34th overall win. Both of last year’s Potiguar finalists will sit it out during the first phase of this year’s championship, having a bye until the competition reaches its second phase in March.
WATCH 2012 POTIGUAR FINAL, 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
No sooner have Brazil’s vast array of localized state championships reached their conclusion does the time come for the national championship to commence. The “Brasileiro” is now in its 41st year and the quality of the competition has increased in recent years thanks to the adoption of a standard round robin league format, as used in many of Europe’s top leagues, which has brought about many a dramatic finish since it was introduced in 2003.
Corinthians are the defending Brazilian champions having pipped Vasco da Gama to the 2011 season title with just two points separating the top two as the Timão sealed their fifth national crown in dramatic fashion. Corinthians were involved in a big derby clash against São Paulo city rivals Palmeiras whilst Vasco were due to face off against their eternal rivals Flamengo CF in Rio de Janeiro on the last day of the campaign. Corinthians could only muster a goalless draw at home to Palmeiras but, with the visitors thinking that they had done enough to deprive their arch-rivals of the title, news came through that Vasco had blown their big chance, dropping two points with a 1-1 draw.
The allocation of places for the South American club tournaments has certainly played its part in helping to create a more interesting domestic championship. At the end of the season only four clubs will finish in a league position (i.e. from 13th to 16th) with virtually no meaning other than league safety. The top four, along with the winners of the domestic knockout competition “Copa Brasil”, qualify for South America’s premier continental competition Copa Libertadores whilst the next eight teams qualify for the secondary tournament Copa Sudamericana. The bottom four, meanwhile, go straight down into Serie B with famous clubs such as Grêmio, Corinthians and Vasco da Gama having seen the drop at some point over the last decade which is an indication as to how competitive this league has become.
Four clubs – Corinthians, Santos FC, Vasco da Gama and Fluminense – may lose some of their focus in the first few weeks of the season as they play out the latter stages of this year’s Copa Libertadores competition, which is currently at the quarter-final round, but should feature prominently as the Brasileiro season progresses. Out of that quartet, Santos and Fluminense have had state championship success to celebrate over the past seven days; the former defeated Guarani in the Paulista final to win their 20th São Paulo title whilst the latter got the better of Botafogo to claim their 31st Carioca state crown. Amongst the other state title winners in the Brasileiro include Internacional of Porto Alegre (Campeonato Gaúcho), Coritiba (Paranaense), Atlético Mineiro (Mineiro) and EC Bahia (Baiano) with those clubs have varying degrees of potential for success in this year’s national championship. Famous clubs such as São Paulo FC and Cruzeiro will have their eyes on one of the South American spots with the former hoping to win their first title since the famous “Tri-Campeão” season of 2008 in which they won the Brasileiro for the third successive year, the first time a club had accomplished that feat in the modern era.
This season’s Brasileiro begins this weekend and is due to finish in early December. In the first round of matches Corinthians will begin their title defence with a home tie against Fluminense, Vasco da Gama welcome Porto Alegre giants Grêmio whilst Santos FC, champions in 2010, must travel to face EC Bahia. Other stand out fixtures on the opening weekend sees São Paulo FC play host to losing Carioca state finalists Botafogo, three-time champions Internacional face off against Coritiba and 2003 champions Cruzeiro play against Atlético Goianiense. The four teams that were promoted from Serie B last season will also begin their campaigns. Portuguesa, promoted as Serie B champions, begin with a difficult away tie against Palmeiras whilst Club Náutico also find themselves on the road with an away day at Figueirense. Ponte Preta and Sport Recife, on the other hand, will begin the new season with home fixtures, the former against Atlético Mineiro and the latter face up to the challenge of Flamengo CF.
WATCH THE CONCLUSION OF THE 2011 BRASILEIRO SEASON HERE:
Vasco da Gama finally got their hands on the Copa Brasil with an away goals victory over Coritiba. In a hard fought two-legged contest Vasco had prevailed with a 1-0 win at home in the first leg before travelling to Coritiba for last night’s return fixture.
Vasco took the lead after just 11 minutes when Alecsandro, who scored the only goal in the first leg, scored from six yards out to give his side the lead. Coritiba fought back and had turned the second leg around by half-time with goals from Bill (29 minutes) and Davi (44) giving the home side a 2-1 lead on the night. Vasco, however, would gain another away goal just before the hour mark after Éder Luís’s long-range effort wrong footed the Coritiba keeper Edson Bastos to restore parity. Coritiba’s fighting spirit returned midway through the second half with Willian scoring a beautifully struck goal from distance to make it 3-2 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate.
With twenty five minutes left there was still plenty of time for Coritiba to upset the odds and score a fourth but, sadly for the home side, it wasn’t to be as Vasco da Gama held out to finally claim a maiden Copa Brasil triumph. The title win means that Vasco have booked a place in the 2012 Copa Libertadores.
WATCH SECOND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The first leg of the Copa Brasil final took place last night with Vasco da Gama winning by a narrow 1-0 victory over Coritiba. Alecsandro scored just five minutes into the second half to give Vasco the advantage in front of a sell-out crowd at their home Estádio São Januário. Neither club has ever won the Copa Brasil before in their history and with Coritiba playing host in next Wednesday’s second leg one thing that is guaranteed is that there will be a new name on the trophy whoever comes out on top.
SEE ALECSANDRO’S WINNING GOAL HERE:
There will be a new name on the Copa Brasil trophy this year as Vasco da Gama and Coritiba secured semi-final, second leg wins on Wednesday night.
Vasco da Gama, one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, have surprisingly never won this tournament but have a great chance to add their name to the list of winners following their 3-1 aggregate defeat of Avaí FC. The first leg between the two sides finished 1-1 and with Avaí having home advantage in the return fixture it seemed that a shock could be on the cards. However a 3rd minute own goal from Avaí’s Revson soon settled any nerves in the Vasco team. A Diego Souza goal ten minutes before the break sealed the deal for Vasco whose only appearance to date in the Copa Brasil final came in 2006 where they lost out to arch-rivals Flamengo CF.
WATCH AVAI FC v VASCO DA GAMA 2ND LEG GOALS HERE:
Coritiba will feature in their first ever Copa final after they squeezed past Ceará SC with a 1-0 aggregate win. Following a goalless first leg both teams played out a tense match in which the first goal was always going to be crucial. Anderson Aquino opened the scoring five minutes into the second half and Coritiba never looked back as they put the heartbreak of three previous losing semi-finals behind them to qualify for their maiden final. Check out the footage taken live from inside the stadium below.
WATCH CORITIBA v CEARA GOAL HERE:
The Copa Brasil final will be a two-legged affair with the games played on Tuesday, June 1st and 8th.
Santos FC are the new Copa Brasil winners despite losing Wednesday’s second leg against Vitória by two goals to one. Their 2-0 first leg triumph was ultimately enough to see them home although they could’ve scored as many as ten goals in that game such was their attacking dominance. In the end they were grateful that Vitória ran out of time as they went looking for a third goal which would’ve taken the game into extra-time.
The first half looked to be ending in a goalless stalemate as the seconds ticked away towards half-time but an Edu Dracena header on the edge of half-time gave Santos a 1-0 lead on the night and 3-0 on aggregate to give the São Paulo team a comfortable lead going into the second half of the match. But Vitória weren’t prepared to lie down and they almost pulled off the great escape by scoring two goals thanks to Wallace and Júnior, the latter’s goal coming in the 77th minute to set up a grandstand finish. But Santos were able to hold out for the remainder of the game and secured their maiden Copa Brasil title and with it a place in the Copa Libertadores for the 2011 tournament.
WATCH COPA BRASIL 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Brazilian giants Flamengo were, eventually, made to work hard for the Brazilian national championship (Brasileiro) after they toiled to a 2-1 victory over Grêmio at a sell-out Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The “Rubro Negro” (Red and Blacks) have now won six Brazilian national championships, thus equalling the number already achieved by outgoing champions São Paulo.
At the start of the day there were four teams with a mathematical chance of winning the title: Flamengo, Internacional, São Paulo and Palmeiras. The fact that Flamengo were playing at home to Internacional’s arch-rivals from the city of Porto Alegre, Grêmio, meant that many fans and pundits had written this game off as a certain three points for “O Mengão”. What wasn’t in the script though was Grêmio taking the lead, Roberson turning home a corner in the 22nd minute to stun the home supporters. Thankfully for the Red and Black masses they didn’t have too long to wait before parity was restored. Centre-half David shot from distance to level it at 1-1 on the half-hour mark and it was to remain at that score at half-time. Elsewhere Internacional’s 2-0 lead at home to already relegated Santo André meant that if scores stayed the same after 90 minutes then Flamengo would lose the title that they craved more than any other. They simply had to win.
The second half started quite slowly but Flamengo soon created chances. They were rewarded in the 70th minute when Dejan Petkovic’s left-sided corner was headed home by another unlikely scorer, centre-half Ronaldo Angelim, and the Flamengo fans started to party in the Maracana. Ten minutes from the end the party was very nearly brought to a halt as Adilson wasted a glorious close range effort for Grêmio. After that though both teams just saw the game out and at the final whistle the party really could begin. Adriano, who returned to Brazil after a roller-coaster period at Internazionale in Italy, finished the season as joint top scorer in the Brasileiro (along with Mineiro’s Diego Tardelli on 19 goals) and, more importantly, as a champion.
In the other matches Internacional beat Santo André 4-1 to secure the runners-up spot from São Paulo, whose three year reign as champions ended with a 4-0 win against Sport Recife. Flamengo, Internacional and São Paulo are joined in the 2010 Copa Libertadores by Cruzeiro, who finished fourth after their 2-1 victory against Santos was coupled with a defeat for nearest challengers Palmeiras (2-1 away to Botafogo). Corinthians, home of Ronaldo and recent signing Roberto Carlos, also have a berth in the Libertadores thanks to their Copa Brasil triumph over Internacional in the early months of the season.
Eight teams qualified for next year’s Copa Sudamericana: Palmeiras, Avaí, Atlético Mineiro, Grêmio, Goias, Barueri, Santos and Vitoria. At the bottom of the table a dramatic finish saw Rio giants Fluminense avoid relegation by one point after their 1-1 draw at Coritiba was enough to send their opponents down into Serie B along with Sport Recife, Náutico and Santo André. Those four clubs will be replaced in the 2010 Brasileiro by Vasco da Gama, Guarani, Ceará and Atletico Goianiense.