Santos Futebol Clube
After a little over two years of documenting my thoughts on Santos on this platform, I will be moving to my own blog for the new year. When I made my first post I was a novice in every sense of the word. Now I can look back and smile at my awkward first steps – not that the awkwardness is gone by any means.
I’m going to miss this old place, but, for a number of reasons, I believe it’s time to move on. My new Santos blog is located here and it will be up and running in a couple of days.
I want to end this post by thanking Leonardo Marques for giving my an opportunity to run this blog with him when it was first started. It if wasn’t for him, it’s highly unlikely that the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met through this blog would have happened.
I think that’s it. There’s nothing more to say. Tchau!
The Club World Cup Final marked the end to yet another eventful year as a Santos fan. It was with great successes, immense failures, beautiful attacking, and the – almost inevitable- comedy acts at the back. With the players on holidays and Brazilian football in a temporary lull, it’s time for a recap of the past twelve months that produced the most successful year since the time of Pelé.
The Campeonato Paulista
Cast your minds back to January and the winds – very cold winds in my experience – of change were blowing around the Vila Belmiro. The new president and his retinue were clearing out the old adminstration’s furniture. In came Adilson Batista to take Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s vacated coaching seat. His first task was to retain the State Championship title that had been won in such an entertaining fashion the year before.
Batista didn’t do a good job of it. The most prominent memory I have of the team during this period was a lot of boring, ineffective football, and Elano masquerading as a dynamic, goal-scoring midfielder.
Coupled with poor results in the Libertadores, it wasn’t long before Batista got his pink slip. In came Muricy Ramalho to steady the ship. The latter stages of the Paulistão saw the football improve as the new man in charge managed to get everything clicking on the field. In the end Ponte Preta, São Paulo and Corinthians – in that order – were dispatched in the playoffs to seal a second consecutive Campeonato Paulista trophy.
Good times. It was going to get even better a couple of months later.
The Copa Libertadores
Who would have thought that three games into the group stage, with the abyss of elimination just beneath the team’s feet, that the end of the year would bring the sight of another Libertadores cup in the trophy cabinet?
The change of coach was the catalyst. Muricy brought structure and purpose to the team following Adilson Batista’s mediocrity. The win away to Cerro Porteño was the first domino started the revival. From then on the journey was long and arduous, but, in spite of the mishaps and close calls, the team managed to pull through.
I will never forget that night in the Pacaembú. That night when Santos were once again crowned kings of South America.
The campaign had a slightly palindromic nature. The beginning and the end of the league season were marked by an air of indifference as a result of the later stages of the Copa Libertadores and the preparations for the Club World Cup respectively. What these two sections proved mostly was the general ineptitude of the reserves.
However, the middle of the campaign – counting from about the home game against Flamengo up to round 30 – was almost the same story even with the first team being available for the most part. There are many reasons – some would say excuses – that can be cited for the poor performances in this portion of the season. There were injuries, suspensions, international call-ups, complaints of mental and physical tiredness, and the most popular one of all, looking forward to the Club World Cup.
All of that being said, the eight game winning run apart, the showings were far below expectations, even with the reasons listed above. The players shoulder a large part of the blame for this, but Muricy was equally culpable. His tactics and team selection – Diogo starting over Felipe Anderson being the most repeated unforgivable sin – were often risible at best.
Still, there were some positives to take from the league season. Since most of them are listed below in the awards so I won’t speak about them here. Others include the aforementioned eight game winning streak. impressive wins over Botafogo and Vasco, and the incredible comeback from 3×0 down to draw with Internacional.
In the end our tenth place finish with a record of 15-8-15 was as much as the team deserved for the effort put in.
The Club World Cup
Ultimately, although the bid to become World Champions was unsuccessful, the aura that surrounded the tournament itself was great. The great three goals against Kashiwa will live long in the memory. Hopefully the thrashing at the hands of Barcelona does as well. It will serve as a good learning experience, especially for Muricy.
Here’s to being back at the tournament next December.
The End of Season Awards
Here are the top three in each category:
Game of the Season
3. Corinthians 1×3 Santos
This was one of those games that verified the adage that form is irrelevant going into a derby game. The fact that we were in the dumps and Corinthians were flying high made the victory that much sweeter.
2. Santos 4×5 Flamengo
The result stung a lot at the time, but even then I could still appreciate the spectacle that I had witnessed. Now, months later, the encounter stands out like a beacon. What a game that was.
1. Santos 2×1 Peñarol
The game that carried the Libertadores trophy back to the Vila Belmiro for the first time since 1963 will live long in the memory.
Goal of the Season
2. Borges vs. Botafogo
The turn and finish that broke Serginho Chulapa’s record.
2. Danilo vs. Cerro Porteno
The goal that saved our Libertadores campaign in the group stages.
1. Neymar vs. Flamengo
Was there any doubt?
Flops of the Season
Might have been higher if he hadn’t been injured for the last three months of the season.
He came in with a big price tag and a huge reputation but has shown nothing to warrant either.
Should consider a career in football comedy.
Special mentions for Zé Eduardo and the two transfer flops, Rhychely and Roger.
Revelation of the Season
3. Renan Mota
I was originally going to give this place to Felipe Anderson, but I already knew what he was capable of. However, Renan Mota came from literally nowhere to give a ten minute performance in the loss to Figueirense that made me take notice. Sadly, yt was his only first team appearance of the season. I’m eagerly waiting to see more of him in 20122.
The former São Paulo man was good in 2010 but in the first half of 2011 he was monstrous. His ability to dominate the game in midfield with his power and drive was awe-inspiring. The latter part of the year brought a huge dip in form, but I”m sure he will regain his powers soon.
The former youth product spent six years being farmed around on loan before getting his chance in the first team under Muricy in March. He took it with both hands. I would put forward the case that he was the most pivotal part of the entire team. Neymar and Borges scored goals and Rafael saved them, but only Adriano was the component that both balance to both phases of play. He accomplished this simply by doing his job as midfield shield well. His nullifying Martinuccio in the final was one of my highlights of the Copa Libertadores.
Adriano will make his return from the injury that kept him out of the Club World Cup in March. I’m sure he will re-establish himself as a first team regular.
Young Player of the Season
3. Felipe Anderson
Felipe still has a lot to work on in is game but he showed flashes this year of why he is considered to be Ganso’s heir. The Man of the Match performance away to Avaí was superb.
His poor second half of the season at rightback is the only reason why he’s not number one. As a midfielder in the first half of the campaign, Danilo was consistently one of the team’s best players.
The young goalkeeper was Mr. Consistency for the year. Aside from a couple of weeks where he was a bit underpar, Rafael showed why he is one of the top custodians in Brazil. He is only going to get better really.
Player of the Season
See Young Player of the Season.
Borges may have missed the Libertadores and Paulista campaigns, but he certainly made up for it. Twenty-three goals in the league season accounted for just under 50% of Santos goal total, and was enough to win the golden boot for the 2011 Brasileirão. Borges also broke Serginho Chulapa’s record for most goals in a season for Santos. He already has one of the best goals to games ratio in the history of the club.
The Borges Facts that his goal scoring prowess spawned was one of my highlights of the year.
This wasn’t even a contest. In 2011 Neymar went from exciting talent to force of nature. Once he hit his stride during the Libertadores campaign, every came battle between him and the opposing defense became akin to a skirmish between Achilles and some nameless Trojan soldiers in The Illiad. He slowed down as the year went on but saying that drop is comparable to a Category 5 hurricane becoming a Category 4. It was no surprise when he won the Craque do Brasileirão prize for the best player in the league.
What’s even more scary is the room for improvement that Neymar’s game. At only 19 years of age, the world is at his feet. Brazil has certainly already been conquered.
Funny Moment of the Season
3. Neymar and Renteria Dance
2. Durval’s Stare
1. Durval Freestyle
Now for a collection of stats from the past year.
Games Played:77; Record: 37-20-20
Goals For: 121; Goals Against: 74
Most games played: Rafael (68)
Most goals scored: Neymar and Borges (24)
Until Next Time
That’s all from me on 2011. I’m really looking forward to 2012 and all the experiences – good and bad – that it will bring. One thing I’m know for sure is that he centenary celebrations will be fantastic. To bring this post to a close, here’s a video of the best moments of the year:
For the final time in 2011, vai pra cima deles Santos!
P.S. My next post will be my last on this blog. More details will be forthcoming.
This post comes almost a week after the game due to my busy schedule, but it had to come eventually. As anyone reading this already knows, the challenge for the third world title failed at the last hurdle with a 4×0 defeat to Barcelona. In the aftermath of the Spanish team’s comprehensive victory, I’ve seen a number of reactions, most of which have one thing in common. There was a general disappointment at the way that Santos lost i.e. playing defensively, letting Barcelona control the midfield by standing off them, and Muricy’s use of a 3-5-2 – among other things.
Firstly, I must say that the line of thought that we should have attacked Barcelona because that was our “normal game” is risible. The team has played reactive football under Muricy 95% of the time. Personally, I agreed with Muricy’s decision to park the bus. Some sides can go at Barcelona by pressing high up the pitch, but that would be suicide for Santos’ current team. The players fail to play that way successfully in Brazil. I don’t see how that would work against the best team in the world with the same men on the pitch.
However, the rest of the points made are completely valid. The players looked shell-shocked and timidly went about trying to stifle Barcelona. The whole aura around the side was summed up by Neymar missing a 1v1 with chance against Valdes. He normally buries those opportunities. A superhuman performance necessary this venture to be a success, but the eleven men on the pitch weren’t up to it. Actually, that’s being a bit harsh. Rafael had a pretty good game.
Looking towards the bench, a lot of the blame falls on Muricy’s shoulders. The decision to play a 3-5-2 against a team like Barcelona that often plays without a recognizable striker was ludicrous. Then there was his telling Neymar, Borges, and Ganso to play ahead of the ball instead of helping the team to win it back. The defeat on Sunday let Muricy with quite a bit of pie on his face. I especially loved Tim Vickery’s sarcastic response to his tactical decisions.
I think that’s all I have to say about the game. The squad now has a well-deserved rest after a long, tiring, and fulfilling year. The players who have been playing all year will be back in training on January 23, but those who were contracting during the middle of the year – Ibson, Renteria, Henrique, etc. – will have to return on the fifth of January for the start of 2012’s Paulista campaign.
Ganso sold 10% of his rights to the DIS group further increasing the rumors of a move away from Santos. The board now wants to table an offer that will increase his salary five fold to keep him.
I don’t remember mentioning this before, but the club has almost wrapped up the signing of Jonas from Coritiba. That’s the rightback spot fortified for next season. Hopefully this is the first of many good signing to come in the off-season.
Until Next Time
A season review will be up in the next couple of days. Farewell until then.
This is what all Santistas have been waiting for since the night of the Copa Libertadores win. All the build-up and expectation has finally come to a climax. On Sunday, Santos will face Barcelona in the final of the Club World Cup for a chance of glory against all odds.
I was going to use a significant part of this post to discuss the performance in the semifinal against Kashiwa – most notably the disgraceful second half display – but after catching up on the the sleep I lost this week, I didn’t see the point. We got the win courtesy of three beautiful goals and advanced to the final. That’s all that matters.
I’m not pulling a rabbit of a hat when I say that we will be hard pressed to succeed in the final. Barcelona are without a doubt the best team on the planet, with possible links to some sort of extraterrestrial inspiration. They would beat most teams on the planet 95% of the time. It is the remaining 5% that is important.
That 5% percent is what Sunday is going to be all about. Santos has the ability to access that realm of possibility. It’s going to take a performance greater than any other that the team has produced this year, but it can be done.
Sunday’s encounter will be the last in a year filled with great highs and some terrible lows. Whatever happens, all I want to see is a display worthy of the Santos shirt from the eleven men on the field. If we lose, so be it. If we win…the word elation can not encompass the wave of emotion a victory would bring.
I still believe in the third star. I still believe that we can beat Barcelona. Vai pra cima deles Santos!
The Brasileiro campaign may have ended on a bad note with the heavy loss to São Paulo two weeks ago, but that has quickly faded from memory with the Club World Cup shining in the horizon. Now the time has finally come for Santos to begin the hunt for the world title. Kashiwa Reysol of Japan present the first hurdle in tomorrow’s semifinal.
The starting XI should be (4-1-2-1-2): Rafael; Danilo, Edu Dracena, Bruno Rodrigo, Durval; Elano, Henrique, Arouca, Ganso; Borges, Neymar;
It will be difficult since Kashiwa are a good team, but if the guys play well, we should have a place in the final on Saturday. Anything less will obviously be a disappointment. This is the first step to potential immortality.
Vamos ser tri Santos!
With the end of the semester coming up the blog is quite busy but I wanted to do a small update. I’m going to skip over the 1×1 draw to Bahia from the weekend since, Neymar’s goal aside, it really wasn’t that interesting. The 23 man squad for the Club World Cup was released this week, and there were no surprises. The men on the plane to Japan are:
Goleiros: Rafael, Aranha, Vladimir
Zagueiros: Bruno Aguiar, Bruno Rodrigo, Durval, Edu Dracena, Vinicius Simon
Laterais: Danilo, Léo, Pará
Volantes: Anderson Carvalho, Arouca, Henrique
Meias: Elano, Felipe Anderson, Ibson, Paulo Henrique Ganso
Atacantes: Alan Kardec, Borges, Diogo, Neymar, Renteria
Adriano (injured), Crystian, Eder Lima, Leandro Silva, Possebon, Breitner and Tiago Alves were the ones who were cut.
Now for other news. Pelé has signed a contract with Santos for to be the face of the centenary celebrations next year. On the transfer front there are rumors floating around about possible returns for Robinho and Zé Roberto for next year, and a move to the Vila Belmiro for a rightback from Goias called Douglas.
The last game of the season is against São Paulo on Sunday and the reserves will be rolled out. Well, most of them anyway. Elano is expected to start to gain some match fitness. Muricy should have included Ganso in that box as well.
Until next time, vai pra cima deles Santos!
I can count the number of futsal matches that I’ve watched on one hand, but last night I caught the last part of Santos’ amazing win over Carlos Barbosa in the Santos Arena to become the first Paulista champions of the Liga Futsal. Neymar, Ganso, and Falcão were all watching from the stands with the last name being of particular importance, since he should have been on the
pitch court. A suspension meant that the maestro had to experience the deciding game vicariously.
A 3×2 scoreline at the end of normal combined with the first leg result sent the pulsating game into extra time. Neither team was able to break the deadlock in the additional ten minutes so penalties were in order.
It was a nervy couple of minutes as both sides battled it out in those feared 1v1 duels. After five shots a piece the score was tied at 4×4. I thought that there was a real chance that the game would continue for a long time, but sudden death only lasted for three rounds. Pivô’s cool penalty followed by Paulo Vítor’s great save secured the trophy for Santos and sent the crowd into raptures.
Aside from the result, that was the people in attendance were the best part of the game. At times, you could have easily mistaken the noise for the atmosphere at a large football stadium. They were amazing.
Here are the complete highlights of the game.
Well done, guys!
The Kids Got It Done
Continuing on the celebratory note, congratulations are in order for the Pre-Mirim (U11’s) for winning the Paulista. They beat Corinthians 3×2 on Sunday to seal an emphatic 5×2 victory on aggregate.
Now the rest of the youngsters need to mirror this achievement.
Back To First Team Matters
I’d rather not talk about the last Sunday’s game to be honest. The mental scaring that I received from watching the dross that the reserves produced in the 1×0 loss Coritiba still has not healed. Only Aranha put in anything close to a good performance. I’ve nothing else to add.
The penultimate game of the season is next Sunday at the Vila Belmiro against Bahia. The first teamers will be back in action. Borges needs to score a couple more goals to secure the golden boot because Fred decided to go enter demi-god mode. The Fluminese striker made up seven goals in the top scorer’s table in the last two rounds so Borges’ lead is now down to only three goals.
I have to end the discussion of first team news on a down note. It has finally been decided that Adriano has to have an operation on his ankle which will rule him of the Club World Cup. This development is devastating. The squad has no true replacement for the stability that he brings. Arouca and Henrique do not play at their full potential in the holding role, and Anderson Carvalho is still too green to make the role his own. I’m not even considering playing Rodrigo Possebon there. I don’t know how Muricy is going to compensate tactically but it has to be sound.
Until Next Time
It’s a blast from the past this week with a video of the 1984 Paulistão winning campaign.
Vai pra cima deles Santos!
Ganso may be some way off his optimum level at the moment at the moment, but he is still able to produce moments of brilliance. Santos were moments away from defeat on Sunday when the gangly playmaker produced a magical spark. In the fifth minute of added time his thunderous shot from just outside the box finally beat Atlético Goianiense’s goalkeeper Marcio to salvage a point.
Like a lightning bolt from a clear sky. Que golaço.
I only saw the second half of the game, but from the reports that I’ve read, the first forty-five was of the same ilk. The events at the Pacaembú constantly reminded me of those Middle Age sieges that you see in movies or on the History Channel. Atlético Goianiense built a wall in front of their goal, set up a couple of lounge chairs at the summit, and invited Neymar and co. to knock themselves out.
Evaluating the team’s response is a bit complicated. We created some good chances which were wasted as a result of wayward finishing – I include numerous poor freekicks in this – and some excellent saves by Marcio in goal. Most of these opportunities originated from the work of Neymar’s excellency play. He was the only player who was able to consistently pop Atlético Goianiense’s defensive bubble. The only criticism that I have is that he often wanted to do everything by himself. In spite of the lack of ideas from the rest of the team, some more passing from the mowhawked one would have been more productive.
This is where the complication in the analysis of the display comes from. To what extent should the rest of the team be criticized for a lack of ingenuity and guile? It’s hard to say given that only Ganso out of the remaining nine outfield players innately possesses these traits. Speaking of the Goose, he didn’t play particularly well in his second game back from injury. It’s a race against the clock to get for him to get up to speed until the Club World Cup.
Looking at the other players, I can pick out three who were distinctly underpar. Bruno Rodrigo was shaky in the center of defense for the first time since his entry into the first team picture. That being said, it’s a credit to how well he has been playing since this criticism is based on roughly two or three mistakes. The other two I want to pinpoint are Borges and Alan Kardec. The former missed at least three chances that he would have put away with his eyes closed nine times out of ten. The latter has dropped off considerable since his good start at the club. Benfica are looking to offload him and I’m not too sure I want him to stay at Santos.
Kardec was a first half substitute in the game for Adriano who had to come off injured. The defensive midfielder collided with Thiago Feltri and suffered a painful sprained ankle from the resulting fall. He had a thorough medical evaluation last night to fully assess the injury. The results should be released later today. I’ve talked a lot about Adriano’s importance to the team in recent weeks. Losing him for the Club World Cup would be a disaster.
A trip to Curitiba to face Coritiba (I enjoyed writing that) awaits in round thirty-six on Sunday. Muricy will once again be sending the reserves out to do his bidding. Actually, I should say Tata’s bidding. The assistant coach will once again be holding the reigns as Muricy takes the weekend off to rest because of his problems with back pain.
The starting XI will be the same as the one against Ceará:
Aranha; Leandro Silva, Bruno Aguiar, Vinícius Simon, Éder Lima; Anderson Carvalho, Possebon; Ibson Felipe Anderson; Diogo, Alan Kardec
The bench will be Vladimir, Gustavo (from the U20 team), Crystian, Breitner, Alan Santos, Renan Mota and Tiago Alves, all of whom are less than twenty-two years old. Renan Mota is the one that stands out the most for me. He caught my eye in his ten minute cameo earlier in the year, but I haven’t seen him since then. I hope Tata gives him some minutes on Sunday.
Now to those who will be missing out. Léo played in the later stages of the game on Thursday night, but he will be training with Elano to regain full fitness. I should also note that Pará and Rentería are also injured after I inexplicably ignored the fact in my last couple of posts. A timetable for their return hasn’t been revealed.
So, what will it be? Will there be another shootout like the match against Ceará? Will Diogo score again and destroy the space-time continuum? All will be answered on Sunday afternoon.
The draw for the Club World Cup was revealed yesterday and Santos will face the winner of the quarter final between Monterrey and Auckland City/the J-League champions.
The kickoff date is creeping up slowly but surely. I can feel the excitement building already.
The club is reported interested in signing defensive midfielder Williams from Flamengo. Ibson is likely to be a make-weight if the deal materializes.
Until Next Time
Santos TV went to Japan to get some thoughts on the club from the Japanese people. The video is in Japanese with Portuguese subtitles.
Vai pra cima deles Santos!
Last Sunday’s clash away to Ceará served up the expected temporary bouts of madness and moments of brilliance from the unlikeliest of sources. Bruno Rodrigo contributed to the later with a brilliant freekick which leveled the score at 2×2. The goal was the second of the night for the centerback. However, the most surprising moment of the match was yet to occur. The most criticized man on this blog did what people had forgotten that he could do. He scored.
Yes, that’s right. Diogo scored. I’m going to let that sink in for a moment. The man whose previous goal happened last year – October 27, 2010 to be precise – when he was still playing for Flamengo actually found the back of the net. What’s more, his goal was the winner, and it was brilliant. I still can’t believe it, and from his reaction, I think his reaction mirrored mine. I’m sure somewhere in the back of his head he has been wondering if he would ever score in his career ever again – I certainly was. Enjoy your moment in the sun, Diogo.
So, the reserves managed to do the job, but the result itself wasn’t of much importance. The purpose of using these players – aside from allowing the first teamers to get some rest – was to see who could adequately slot into the primary starting XI and who was worthy of getting a spot on the plane to Japan among those in the second string. The results weren’t very promising, especially with respect to the first aim.
The game had only two positives. The first is that Aranha is a goalkeeping monster. Ceará would have won the game comfortably if he hadn’t been on his game. Aranha made save after save after save, including stopping a penalty only a minute before Diogo scored what would be prove to be the winner. He was undoubtedly the Man of the Match. The other is that Bruno Rodrigo is a good centerback who is fairly useful at the other end. The problem with these points are that they were already established facts.
Predictably, the list of negatives is much longer. Here’s the short version. Most of the other nine players weren’t worth the seat on the plane to Japan that they were fighting for. Felipe Anderson and Anderson Carvalho (perhaps they should be jointly referred to as Felipe Caravalho in the future, just a random thought) came out of the encounter with a grade that was slightly above average but everyone else failed.
The other members of the back four; Eder Lima, Vinicius Simon, and Leandro Silva, were comical. Ibson and Rodrigo Possebon were woeful. Alan Kardec looked like a lost puppy, and the only thing Diogo did right was to score that stunner. The game effectively reinforced another well established fact about the team. The reserves aren’t very good.
I think it was a small miracle that we managed to win when seven members of the team were mediocre. The worst thing is that a significant number of these players will be on the plane to Japan. I hope those selected individuals improve considerably before then.
Now for the (long) highlights:
The two players who were nursing minor injuries are now fit. Léo is back in training with the squad while Elano is doing some more solitary recuperation before he rejoins the squad.
Felipe Anderson signed a new contract until 2016.
More than 1,200 members have registered to vote in the upcoming presidential elections. This is a 40% increase when compared to the number of voters who participated in the elections in 2009.
Luis Alvaro has put himself up for the presidency again for the upcoming elections. He had originally said that he would only serve one term when he ran in 2009, but he has reneged on that position. LAOR is the favorite to win after his part in Neymar signing that a new contract until 2014.
Until Next Time
This week sees the last midweek round of the season as we play Atletico-GO at the Pacaembu tomorrow. Muricy is back after sitting up the game against Ceará and he will field the strongest team possible against The Dragons. The starting XI will be:
Rafael; Danilo, Bruno Rodrigo, Edu Dracena e Durval; Adriano, Henrique, Arouca, Paulo Henrique Ganso; Neymar, Borges.
Another step to the Club World Cup. Vai pra cima deles Santos!
In the last four games Santos has faced three title hopefuls. Two of them were dispatched with remarkable efficiency (the other game was a draw against Flamengo). Vasco were the latest team to have a dent put in their title challenge as first half strikes from Neymar and Borges gave Santos a 2×0. Like the game against Botafogo from three weeks ago – another 2×0 win courtesy of goals from Neymar and Borges – the team’s performance echoed this season’s main catchphrase, i.e The Spirit of the Libertadores. The showing wasn’t as dominant as it was against Elkeson and co. – Vasco were actually up for the game – but it was certainly just as impressive. This Club World Cup preseason is going quite well so far.
The encounter on Sunday marked the return of the 4-3-1-2/4-3-3 hybrid that was inextricably linked to the club’s success in the first half of the year after an extended hiatus. It was no coincidence that the formation’s revival coincided with the return of Ganso from injury. The first XI was the same as the rumors suggest before the match:
Rafael; Danilo, Edu Dracena, Bruno Rodrigo, Durval; Arouca, Adriano, Henrique; Ganso; Borges, Neymar
Arouca was nominally a third central midfielder in the tactical setup, but he often moved up and down the right wing when the team had possession, which, when combined with Neymar’s drift towards the left flank, meant that the 4-3-1-2/4-3-3 became a 4-2-3-1. That was a notable change from Elano’s role earlier this year in the same position.
In terms of the specifics of the team’s exploits, I’ll start with the positives. Neymar was the best player on the pitch once again. Vasco’s defence was sweating nervously for the entire ninety minutes. Dede, in particular, found that he was unable to shackle Neymar like he did in the meeting earlier in the season. The mowhawked one is reaching his Berserker Mode that we saw in the Libertadores.
Another impressive player was Adriano. Except for one or two moments, he had Diego Souza safely nestled in his back pocket which drastically reduced Vasco’s attacking impetus. When he wasn’t shackling Souza, Adriano was thwarting other attempts at attack elsewhere, one of which launched the counter-attack that led to the second goal. One can’t understate this man’s importance to the team. He adds a defensive stability that no-one else in the squad provides. Not only does this make the defence more secure, but it also provides a platform for his midfield partners to express themselves fully. No more is this second point evident than in the case of Henrique who only started playing well after Adriano’s reintroduction to the starting XI.
Another player to single out for praise is Bruno Rodrigo. It wasn’t so long ago that I called him and the other Bruno (Bruno Aguiar) Tweedledee and Tweedledum. In light of his recent performances, I gladly reverse my position on his competence. The bald-headed centerback was monstrous against Vasco. His aggressiveness, especially in the air, has raised the defence to a new level and its looks like Edu Dracena finally has his perfect partner. Of course, this raises a dilemma. What happens to Durval?
Well, as you may have noticed from the lineup, he played at leftback. This game was his fifth appearance in that position. Despite my initial misgivings towards this idea, Durval has played relatively well. He doesn’t provide the attacking drive that Léo brings to the left flank, but he does add a stronger and more imposing defensive presence there.
In summary, Neymar is on fire, the midfield now has its optimum configuration, and the defence is looking solid. Taking this isn’t consideration, you can imagine that there isn’t much to criticize about the team’s display. Borges and Ganso did look a bit off the pace, but they were both returning from injury, so that was expected. Even though he was not as prominent as he is as his best, a smaller version of Ganso’s usual aura was visible as his presence added more fluidity to the passing combinations in attack. Also, there was a minor problem with the defence. Its general solidity throughout the game was disturbed in the moments when Vasco attacked at pace down the wings. That is a crack in the wall that needs to be fixed soon.
Now for the highlights.
On a final note, I found it surprising that Muricy only made one substitution in this match. Fatigue is a major issue in the squad and there needs to be a point where several players are rested before the season is over. Muricy needs to strike a balance between this necessity and the aim to get the starting XI to gel before the Club World Cup.
It’s a bit early for a preview for Sunday’s clash with Ceará, so I’ll going to make a look at the remaining five games as a whole.
São Paulo (A)
It’s an interesting mix of opponents. There are two relegation candidates in Ceará and Bahia (Bahia could be safe before we play them though), two teams with nothing to play for in Coritiba and Atlético-GO, and a derby game against São Paulo. Their status is hard to pin down as this point as odds are that they could equally be in contention for the title or dreaming of holidays on the beach by the last round. Regardless, they will still prove to be stiff opposition given that it’s a derby.
Neymar signs a new deal! This fantastic news!
This past Monday the members of the squad who won the Libertadores were honored with the Mérito Peixeiro which is the highest honor that the club can bestow on a person.
Felipe Anderson signed a new contract until 2016 with a buyout clause of 20 million Euros.
More youth team news this week. The Pre-Mirim and Juvenil are in the final of their respective Paulista Leagues while the Juniores need a win in the second leg of their semifinal to reach their own championship game. Unfortunately, the Mirim team fell at the semifinal stage after failing to overcome a 2-0 first leg deficit.
Until Next Time
Here’s another moment for Neymar’s Book of Humiliation.
Vai pra cima deles Santos!