Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Brazil: Keeper Ceni scores historic 100th goal (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on March 28, 2011

It is quite unusual for any goalkeeper to score so much as one goal in his career, let alone one hundred of them. South American goalkeepers have, more often the not, been blessed with having great ability inbetween the posts and some have even been known to venture much further out in order to score goals. The likes of José Luis Chilavert, René Higuita and Jorge Campos were great keepers with a tendancy for goalscoring but none of them can come close to current São Paulo FC custodian Rogério Ceni. The Brazilian notched up his 100th goal in football this weekend in the Campeonato Paulista fixture between his club and arch-rivals Corinthians with his strike proving to be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory. Both teams are lying in the top three having played 16 of their 19 regular season games in the current state championship and are already through to the knockout rounds. Alas, that didn’t take any of the shine away from what was a beautifully struck free-kick from Ceni, who is the first goalkeeper ever to hit an historic century of goals.

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Copa Libertadores: semi-finals remain tight after first leg (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on July 29, 2010

The first legs of the Copa Libertadores have been played and both fixtures are finely poised ahead of the second legs which will be played next week. The all-Brazilian contest in Porto Alegre on Wednesday finished with 2006 champions Internacional grinding out a slender 1-0 win against four-time winners São Paulo in the Estádio José Pinheiro Borba. The goal came midway through the second half for Inter after some good work around the box led to the ball finding its way to the feet of Giuliano whose shot from just inside the 18 yard box hit the inside of a post before hitting the back of the net. On Tuesday Chileans Universidad de Chile and Mexicans Chivas Guadalajara finished in a 1-1 draw with both goals being scored early in the second half. Rafael Olarra gave the visiting Universidad side the lead after he took advantage of Chivas’ inability to clear a free-kick but la U, as the Chileans are more popularly known, barely had five minutes to enjoy the lead as the home side equalized in the 52nd minute when Omar Arellano tucked the ball home from a couple of yards out after Omar Bravo’s header was saved by Universidad keeper Miguel Perez. The second legs take place next week with Universidad de Chile hosting their second leg with Guadalajara on Tuesday, August 3rd whilst the all-Brazilian second leg takes place in São Paulo two days later.

Watch Internacional – São Paulo highlights HERE:

Watch Chivas Guadalajara – Universidad de Chile highlights HERE:

Copa Libertadores: Semi-Final Preview

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on July 26, 2010
Internacional v São Paulo

The 2006 Copa Libertadores final saw Internacional beat São Paulo. Will the same outcome occur in this year's semi-finals?

Following the exit of Estudiantes de La Plata from the competition at the quarter-final stage the Copa Libertadores will have a new champion this year. In the semi-finals there will be an all-Brazil affair ensuring that the country supplies a finalist in the tournament for the sixth consecutive year. In the other semi-final two surprise teams from Chile and Mexico will face off in the hope that they can go all the way to the final. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews both matches, which are played over two legs.

The first semi-final is an all-Brazilian contest which also happens to be a repeat of the 2006 Copa Libertadores final. On that occasion Internacional of Porto Alegre got the better of defending champions São Paulo winning 4-3 on aggregate and a similar result is what Inter will be after this time if they are to maintain hopes of winning the trophy for a second time. São Paulo, however, have much experience in this competition and are hoping to be triumphant in this tournament for a fourth time. A look at the Campeonato Brasileiro table at the moment shows Internacional going well in 4th place, five points behind leaders Corinthians whilst São Paulo are languishing in 15th place after an inconsistent start. However one shouldn’t take the Tricolor lightly as they have made a habit in recent years of starting slowly in the Brazilian championship in order to concentrate on South America’s biggest prize before ultimately improving at the business end of the domestic season to secure a top four finish and qualify for the following season’s Libertadores. São Paulo also have one of the top scorers in this year’s tournament in the form of Washington who has scored five times and who is determined to make up for the defeat he suffered with Fluminense at the hands of LDU Quito in the 2008 Copa Libertadores final.

The other semi-final features two teams never to have won the Copa Libertadores and are looking to make their own bit of club history by reaching the final of the competition for the very first time. Universidad de Chile have only reached the semi-final stage on two other occasions, the most recent being in 1996 when they went out to eventual winners River Plate. Their opponents Guadalajara were semi-finalists as recently as 2005 but they were defeated 5-2 on aggregate by Atlético Paranaense and have had limited success at international level, only winning a CONCACAF Champions’ Cup title as far back as 1962. In this year’s tournament Guadalajara didn’t have to compete in the group stage due to accepting an invitation to return to the competition after they were forced to withdraw from the 2009 tournament because of the outbreak of swine flu. Universidad got through their quarter-final tie against Brazilian giants Flamengo by defeating the Rubro-Negro on away goals while Guadalajara just got the better of Paraguayan team Libertad coming through with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline. Domestically Universidad de Chile are in good form at the moment lying in second place just two points behind Colo-Colo whilst Guadalajara’s first match in the 2010 Torneo Apertura finished in a goalless draw at home to Puebla FC.

COPA LIBERTADORES SEMI-FINALS 2010

1ST LEGS

Guadalajara v Universidad de Chile (27/07/10)

Internacional v São Paulo (28/07/10)

2ND LEGS

Universidad de Chile v Guadalajara (03/08/10)

São Paulo v Internacional (05/08/10)

Brazil: Corinthians leading the way (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on May 31, 2010

Corinthians are leading the way in the Brasileiro (Brazilian championship) after five games leading by two points from nearest challengers Ceará. The Timão have only dropped two points from their first five games and kept up their near perfect start to the campaign at the weekend with a 4-2 home defeat of São Paulo city rivals Santos FC.

Jorge Henrique gave the home side the lead after just two minutes after tapping home from close range after Santos’ keeper Felipe failed to keep out an earlier effort. Santos restored parity eight minutes into the second half after André shot from just inside the box to guide the ball into the bottom corner but the joy was short-lived as Corinthians went back up the other end almost immediately when Bruno César took advantage of some poor defending to shoot home from short range. From this point on Corinthians began to take charge of the game and extended their lead further after 67 minutes when Ralf created some space for himself to run into and shoot low past Felipe in a well executed individual move. Paulinho made it 4-1 with five minutes to play heading home after a beautifully crafted Corinthians move down the left hand side. Marcel pulled one back for Santos with two minutes to play but the damage was already done and the home side ensured that their unbeaten start to the season remained intact. Watch match highlights HERE:

Little Ceará Sporting Club have started well and trail the league leaders by just two points in the table after their 1-0 home win against Cruzeiro. A solitary strike from Lopes was enough to ensure that the surprise challengers, promoted from Serie B last season, are the only team other than Corinthians to have an unbeaten record after five games having won three and drawn two of their fixtures so far. Rio giants Fluminense have started this campaign well and now lie in third place having disposed of Atlético Mineiro by three goals to one on Sunday. Goals from Gum, Alan and Fred in the final thirty minutes of the game turned it around for the Flu who had trailed from the second minute to a goal from Muriqui. Below Fluminense a whole host of teams were involved in stalemates including fourth place Avaí (0-0 against Vitória), fifth place Botafogo (1-1 v Vasco da Gama), whilst sixth and seventh place clubs Palmeiras and São Paulo were also involved in goalless draws against Grêmio Prudente and Guarani respectively.

At the bottom end of the table poor Atlético Goianiense are the only team in the Brasileiro so far without a win in five games. Things went from bad to worse for them on Sunday when they lost 3-1 at home to local rivals Goiás which gave the away side their first victory of the campaign. A brace from Romerito and a goal on the hour mark from Bernando gave Goiás a come from behind victory after they had trailed to an 11th minute Elias penalty. Watch match highlights HERE:

There are two more rounds to play before the championship takes a break for the FIFA World Cup. The pick of the matches sees league leaders Corinthians face up to Internacional on Matchday 6 and Botafogo on Matchday 7 whilst Ceará will hope to keep up their good run of form against fellow surprise package Avaí FC on Matchday 6. There are a couple of “Clasico” matches to look forward to with Palmeiras facing up to defending Brazilian champions Flamengo, who currently lie a disappointing twelfth in the table, and Cruzeiro playing against Santos FC on Matchday 6. The following round of games sees six-time champions São Paulo play at home to Grêmio Porto Alegre, Santos FC against traditional club and newly promoted Vasco da Gama and Internacional play Palmeiras. The championship will then take a break from June 7th and resume after the FIFA World Cup on July 13th.

Brazil: Campeonato Brasileiro Preview

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on May 7, 2010
Adriano

Adriano's goals proved crucial in Flamengo's title success last season.

Such is life in Brazilian football that there is hardly any time left to get your breath back after the completion of the various state championships before the national championship (Brasileiro) gets back into action from this weekend. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” previews the big kick-off in South America’s most competitive football league:

It is hard to imagine that the most successful nation in world football has only had a national championship since 1971. This makes the Brasilero much younger than its counterparts in other footballing superpowers such as England, Italy and even Germany whose Bundesliga is pretty young by European standards having only been created in 1963. For many years the Brasileiro suffered from political meddling and ever-changing tournament formats but the 2003 season heralded a whole new way of thinking in Brazilian league football; a home and away, round-robin, first-past-the-post system with points accumulated throughout the season determining the winner. This has eventually proven popular with supporters and it is appropriate that the league should enjoy such stability as it celebrates its 40th championship this year.

Flamengo are the current defending champions having seen off Internacional and São Paulo on the last day of the season pipping their two nearest challengers by just two points. This was all the more remarkable given that O Mengão were a full twelve points behind the league leaders with just ten matches of the championship left. Striker Adriano, who was suffering a personal torment in Italy, was brought back to his homeland by Flamengo and he repaid their faith in him by scoring a joint best 19 goals in the Brasileiro to help his team climb the table and secure a sixth national title. It is perhaps fitting that they are involved in the pick of the ties on Matchday 1 of the new season as they are playing fellow six-time Brazilian champions São Paulo. Will Sunday’s game signal the start towards potential seventh heaven for either club?

Two Copa Libertadores teams face-off on Sunday with Internacional from Porto Alegre hoping to go one better than last season’s second place by starting off with a victory over Cruzeiro from Belo Horizonte. Corinthians, who cannot win the Copa Libertadores having been knocked out of the competition on Wednesday, will hope that they can win the Brasileiro in their centenary year and plays at home in their opening fixture against Atlético Paranaense. There’s an intriging tie on Saturday with the state champions of Rio and São Paulo facing off against each other. Botafogo and Santos FC will be heavily fancied after their local exploits but the Brasileiro has a habit of catching up on teams who have a good start to a season and squad rotation could prove to be important. This weekend also sees the welcome return to the top league of Vasco da Gama who comfortably won Serie B last season after suffered the ignominy of relegation in the 2008 season. The Rio-based side are hoping to signal their return with a welcome three points but they will have their work cut out away at Atlético Mineiro who will be on a high having won yet another state championship last weekend.

As well as Vasco da Gama three other teams – Guarani, Ceará SC and Atlético Clube Goianiense – will also enjoy their first matches back in the top flight as they compete against Goiás Esporte Clube, Fluminense and Grêmio Porto Alegre respectively. Palmeiras, four-time Brasileiro champions, have a home tie against EC Vitória, whilst Avaí, who finished a respectable sixth place last season, play against Grêmio Prudente to complete the weekend’s matches.

CAMPEONATO BRASILEIRO – MATCHDAY 1

Botafogo v Santos FC

Goianiense v Grêmio Porto Alegre

Palmeiras v EC Vitória

(All matches played on Saturday, May 8th)

Atlético Mineiro v Vasco da Gama

Corinthians v Atlético Paranaense

Flamengo v São Paulo

Internacional v Cruzeiro

Avaí v Grêmio Prudente

Ceará SC v Fluminense

Guarani v Goiás

(All matches played on Sunday, May 9th)

Copa Libertadores: Round of 16 Review (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on May 7, 2010

The Copa Libertadores has concluded its round of 16 stage and “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” highlights the events of a compelling and, at times, controversial first knockout round:

The first games were completed on Tuesday night and there was one upset and one near upset as big boys from Argentina and Brazil struggled against teams from Mexico and Peru respectively. Vélez Sársfield, whose only Libertadores triumph came in 1994, were expected to go through against Mexican team Chivas especially as the Guadalajara based side were resting players ahead of a crucial Mexican championship match. Sadly for Vélez their opponents hadn’t read the script as Chivas won the first leg in Guadalajara by three goals to nil thanks to a brace from Omar Bravo and a penalty kick from Héctor Reynoso struck in second-half stoppage time. This spot kick proved to be the difference between the two sides as the Argentines pulled two goals back in the return fixture but could not equalize late on. Penalties were also crucial in deciding the match between three-time champions São Paulo FC and Peruvians Universitario Lima who were unable to score a goal between them over two games so had to decide the fixture in a shoot-out. São Paulo missed their first spot kick but converted the rest of their four attempts whilst Universitario reversed that pattern to lose the shoot-out 3-1. Watch the shoot-out here:

The all-Brazilian clash between Flamengo and Corinthians was arguably the most anticipated tie of the round when the draw was made. Flamengo, who won their sixth Brazilian championship last season, haven’t won the Libertadores since their sole triumph back in 1981 but their opponents Corinthians were hoping to win the big one for the first time in their centenary year, hence bringing players of the calibre of Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos back to their homeland. However Flamengo had a couple of quality strikers of their own in Adriano and Vágner Love, the latter’s second leg goal proving crucial. After Adriano had given Flamengo a 1-0 home win in the first leg O Mengão travelled to São Paulo for the return and were behind after 28 minutes thanks to a David own goal. Corinthians then took the lead overall in the tie when Ronaldo scored against his boyhood club six minutes before half-time. Flamengo were not to be denied and struck back just four minutes after the restart thanks to Vágner Love whose away goal proved the difference between the sides as the tie finished 2-2 on aggregate. Watch second leg match highlights here:

In Wednesday night’s other games defending Libertadores champions Estudiantes de La Plata eased through to the quarter-finals after wrapping up a 3-1 home victory against Mexican side San Luis who, along with Chivas Guadalajara, were invited back to the competition this year due to their forced withdrawal from last season’s tournament due to the swine flu epidemic. Leandro González, who scored the only goal in the first leg for Estudiantes, opened the scoring after just four minutes for the Argentines but Diego de la Torre replied for the visitors just three minutes later. The game was sealed in the second half with two goals in five minutes from Leandro Benítez giving Estudiantes a 4-1 aggregate victory. Brazilians Cruzeiro also eased their way through against three-times Libertadores winners Nacional of Montevideo with Thiago Rebeiro scoring four times in a 6-1 aggregate win for the Belo Horizonte side who will play against compatriots São Paulo in the next round.

On Thursday Brazilian success in the tournament continued with the progression of Internacional at the expense of Argentinian Apertura champions Banfield thanks to away goals. Inter were beaten 3-1 in the first leg but their away goal proved crucial once Alecsandro and Walter had given the Porto Alegre outift a 2-0 lead in the second leg. With the game tied 3-3 on aggregate the Brazilians just squeezed past El Taladro who were participating in only their third ever Libertadores. In Paraguay Club Libertad were involved in a struggle against 2008 champions Once Caldas from Colombia. Dayro Moreno gave the Colombians the lead after 55 minutes meaning that Club Libertad had to score twice without reply in order to go through. Roberto Gamarra stepped up to the occasion by converting a 73rd minute penalty and a last-gasp 89th minute winner to give the Paraguayans a 2-1 win on the night and on aggregate. The final match of the round was played in Chile and it turned out to be very controversial. One nil down from the first leg, Peruvians Alianza Lima were leading the second leg 2-1 on the night and going through on away goals when, a couple of minutes into stoppage time, Seymour’s shot gave Universidad de Chile a third goal of the tie to give the Chileans the advantage. However there appeared to be three players in an offside position but the linesman and the referee deemed the goal valid much to the annoyance of the Alianza players who surrounded the referee after the game, forcing the officials to be given a police escort from the field. Watch highlights here:

COPA LIBERTADORES QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

Universidad de Chile v Flamengo

São Paulo v Cruzeiro

Estudiantes de La Plata v Internacional

Club Libertad v Chivas Guadalajara

(1st Legs May 11-13; 2nd Leg May 18-20)

Campeonato Paulista: will Corinthians be on fire again?

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on January 17, 2010
Corinthians

The Paulista trophy caught fire during the bizarre presentation after Corinthians won the 2009 tournament.

Following on from yesterday’s preview into the Carioca championship taking place in neighbouring Rio de Janeiro, the Paulista championship of 2010 begins this weekend in São Paulo where defending champions Corinthians go in search of their 27th title.

There are hopes among everybody involved in Sport Club Corinthians that 2010 will be a truly memorable year. Having won the 2009 Paulista state championship and the Copa do Brasil, the Timão will be hoping to do better in their centenary year, winning either the Campeonato Brasileiro (national championship) or a maiden Copa Libertadores (South American Champions League). But first they will concentrate on winning the Paulista tournament for a second successive year, starting today away at Monte Azul.

The Campeonato Paulista has a different format to the Carioca (indeed, each state championship decides its own format). In the first stage the twenty clubs play each other once only and the top four go through into the two-legged semi-finals followed by a two-legged final with teams playing at each other’s stadiums in contrast to the Carioca, where teams play the final games at the Estadio Maracanã. The first stage of last year’s competition was topped by Palmeiras (44pts from 19 games) followed by São Paulo FC, Corinthians and Santos FC. Out of the top four though only Corinthians managed to maintain an unbeaten record, the others losing at least one game. In the semi-finals Corinthians came from behind in the first leg to beat São Paulo FC 2-1 before seeing off their arch-rivals with a 2-0 return leg victory at the Estadio Morumbi to clinch the tie 4-1 on aggregate. The final proved to be more comfortable for Corinthians as they defeated Santos FC 3-1 away from home in the first leg with newly-returned Brazilian legend Ronaldo scoring twice. In the second leg at home Santos FC scored early on through Kléber Pareira on 28 minutes before an equaliser six minutes later from André Santos restored the overall two goal cushion of the tie and the match petered out into an easy triumph for Corinthians who won 4-2 on aggregate to seal their 26th title, the fifth Paulista championship which they had won with an unbeaten record (they did likewise in 1914, 1916, 1929 and 1938). The trophy presentation that took place after the match proved to be the abiding memory of the championship. Upon receiving the trophy on a raising platform the Corinthians captain William had an almighty scare as the fireworks and streamers going off around him flew on to the trophy which promptly caught fire, forcing him to drop the cup. Thankfully neither he nor any of the presentation party were hurt in what proved to be a comical episode (watch the video clip here).

Not only will Corinthians have Ronaldo on their roster but another Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos comes back to play in his home country having spent many years at Real Madrid and the last two and a half seasons at Fenerbahçe Istanbul. The pair will hope to bring domestic and international success to the club having won many titles together with the Brazilian national team. If the Corinthians team can catch fire in a similar manner to the Paulista trophy then one expects that they will be celebrating again at the end of the competition.

FIFA Club World Cup preview

FIFA Club World Cup

Seven teams will fight it out in the UAE for the trophy

Love it or loathe it the FIFA Club World Cup is going to remain a staple part of the football calendar. To some observers it’s a chance to win a trophy and add more prestige to their club. To some others it’s a competition that turns up in the middle of a long hard season, getting in the way of domestic progress. Either way there will be seven teams in the United Arab Emirates from December 9-19 who will be giving everything to win the cup. Here is Stoppage Time’s guide to the participants:

FC BARCELONA – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

FC Barcelona became European champions for the third time in May after beating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome. It is surprising that a massive club such as “Barça” has never won the FIFA Club World Cup or its predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup. After twice being crowned European champions in 1992 and 2006 the Catalans have been defeated by Brazilian clubs in their attempts to be crowned the world’s best. In 1992 a São Paulo side inspired by Rai beat Barça 2-1 and then, three years ago, Internacional scored a late goal to deny Barcelona again. This time the ‘Blaugrana’ hope to make it third time lucky in this tournament and add the FIFA Club World Cup to the other five trophies they’ve won under their coach Pep Guardiola.

ESTUDIANTES DE LA PLATA – COPA LIBERTADORES WINNERS 2009

Estudiantes won their fourth Copa Libertadores with a 2-1 victory over two legs against Brazilian side Cruzeiro. The Argentinian side had a mixed record in the Intercontinental Cup during their heyday in the late 1960s and early 70s. Their solo victory came in 1968 after a 2-1 aggregate win over Manchester United (before 1979 the champions of Europe and South America played home and away matches to win the cup). Their next two efforts, however, ended in failure; in 1969 Milan won 4-2 on aggregate and in 1970 Feyenoord Rotterdam claimed their only world title with a 3-2 aggregate win. Can Juan Sebastián Verón emulate his father Juan Ramón’s achievements and become a world champion with his boyhood club?

ATLANTE CF – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Mexican side secured their second CONCACAF Champions League title after an all-Mexican affair with Cruz Azul ended up 2-0 after a two-legged final. Atlante’s other title win was back in 1983 when they defeated Surinam’s Robinhood FC (yes, really!) 6-1 over two legs. Atlante’s Club World Cup campaign will kick-off at the quarter-final stage against either Al Ahli or Auckland City, who meet in the first match of the competition.

POHANG STEELERS – AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The three time Asian champions have not always dominated the domestic scene in South Korea but tend to thrive in Asian club competition. After previous successes in 1997 and 1998, Pohang Steelers won a third title this year by defeating Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Tokyo’s National Stadium. Pohang will play against TP Mazembe at the quarter-final stage, the winner of which faces Estudiantes in the semi-finals.

TP MAZEMBE – CAF AFRICAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The Congolese side have been African champions on three occasions after their most recent success was decided on away goals against Nigerian team Heartlands FC. After the Nigerians won the first leg 2-1 at home, Mazembe won the second leg 1-0 to secure a passage to the Middle East. A meeting with Estudiantes de la Plata awaits if they can overcome Pohang Steelers in the quarter-final.

AUCKLAND CITY – OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009

The New Zealanders will be participating in the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time, after their previous appearance in 2006, following their 9-4 win over Soloman Islands’ club Koloale FC in the two-legged OFC Champions League final. In 2006 Auckland City lost in the opening play-off match to Al Ahly of Egypt 2-0. Can they avoid a repeat against a similarly named Al Ahli of UAE in this year’s tournament?

AL AHLI – UAE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2009

Representing the host country in this year’s tournament, Al Ahli have never been Asian champions but are the current UAE League champions after winning the title by one point from nearest challengers Al Jazira Club. Last season’s attempt at continental glory came to an end in the group phase of the AFC Champions League competition. Will meet Atlante CF in the quarter-final if they beat Auckland City in the play-off match.

Unlikely heroes end Flamengo’s 17 year title drought

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on December 7, 2009
Dejan Petkovic

Dejan Petkovic celebrates Flamengo's Brasileiro triumph

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.