Campeonato Brasileiro 2008 end of season round up

December 12, 2008 at 08:51 6 comments

All smiles for Muricy Ramalho and São Paulo

All smiles for Muricy Ramalho and São Paulo

The Brasileiro is over for yet another year and now the dust has settled it’s time to reflect on the outcome and take a closer look at some of the league’s statistics.

On the face of it, we couldn’t have asked for much more from a championship. The league title, two Libertadores places and two relegation places were decided on the final day. Five clubs were in the running for the title from the start and any four from ten could have dropped into Série B.

As it turned out, it was no surprise Portuguesa and Ipatinga went. Five different coaches couldn’t help Figueirense. But one has to feel a little sorry for the Santa Catarina club who have produced some reasonable teams on a shoestring budget. Vasco crashed into Série B for the first time in their history. They had teetered on the brink a number of times since the turn of the century but also managed a couple of decent finishes under Renato Gaúcho (2008 excepted). In hindsight, the sale of Morais to Corinthians was a mistake. Likewise, the gamble of bringing in old boys such as Edmundo (who earlier in the season was picking and choosing the game he played in), Pedrinho, and Odvan also failed. Palmeiras, Botafogo, Grêmio and Corinthians have all suffered the same fate since 2000. All bounced back at the first time of asking and in better condition. Vasco have got off to a positive start by appointing Dorival junior who produced some good football with São Caetano, Cruzeiro and Coritiba in recent seasons. Will Vasco be missed? If former president Eurico Miranda had still been in charge, the answer would have been a resounding ‘no’. Under Roberto Dinamite, Vasco’s demise has generated a lot of sympathy. Vasco played a significant part in the history of Brazilian football and in all probability they will do so once again.

São Paulo, as we all know, made it three in a row. But were they worthy champions this time? Even São Paulo fans admit their team rarely produced great football and had luck on their side on more than one occasion (the ‘offside’ goal vs Goiás on the last day was a case in point).

The Morumbi club took the trophy after spending just 6 rounds at the top. Grêmio led for 17 rounds and Flamengo 9 (not including round one). São Paulo were neither the league’s top scorers (Flamengo 67) or had the best defence (Grêmio 35) but came a close second in both departments. They weren’t even the best home side. Cruzeiro took that honour with a total of 47 points but again São Paulo came second alongside Grêmio with 46. The Tricolor, however, were the most successful away team; winning 7, drawing 8, losing 4 and in the process amassing 29 points. Grêmio came second with 26 points on their travels.

São Paulo’s start to this campaign led many to believe that their days as champions were over. Things were so bad that they even found themselves in the bottom four for two rounds (3 and 4). For a time it looked like the tactics (ten man defence, hoof the ball forward to one of the large players, earn a free-kick on the edge of the opposition area) that Muricy Ramalho had used so effectively over the previous two seasons had finally been sussed. Calls for the coach’s head grew and Ramalho was on the verge of getting the boot.

So how did São Paulo turn their seasons around? With the departure of their big target men Adriano and Aloísio, Ramalho was forced to adjust his team’s playing style. This enforced change was to prove significant. São Paulo had to abandon the high ball into the area and instead began to play it into the feet of the more mobile pair of Borges and Dagoberto.  

At the back, there were also changes. Alex Silva’s move to Hamburg caused problems. Old boy Rodrigo returned and things began to tighten up. But the transition process took time. São Paulo remained out of contention and were at one stage 11 points behind Grêmio. The tricolor finally broke into the top four in round 18. But their position there was short-lived and they soon slipped back down the table. It wasn’t until round 29 that they clawed their way back to the Libertadores places. 4 matches later, São Paulo went top after beating Internacional 3-0 on the 2nd of November.

Pure dogged persistence took the Morumbi club to pole position.  But it was their ability to avoid defeat that was key to clinching the title. The top three all won 21 games. Cruzeiro lost 13, Grêmio 8, and São Paulo 5 and finished the season just 3 points clear of the Celso Roth’s team.   

Love him or loathe him, you’ve got to hand it to Muricy Ramalho for driving his team to the title yet again. But it is São Paulo’s excellent infrastructure that provides the backbone for their success. The youth team training centre in Cotia and São Paulo’s state-of the-art medical centre, Reffis, are the envy of every other club in the league and will serve them well for seasons to come.

So what happened to São Paulo’s main contenders?

Palmeiras sold Henrique and Valdívia early on. Kléber picked up way too many suspensions. And Vanderlei Luxemburgo could do nothing to correct Palmeiras’ inability to perform away from home.

Cruzeiro lacked consistency. They would beat Grêmio 3-0 one week and lose to Goiás by the same score the next round. Selling Marcelo Moreno, Jonathas, Kerlon, and Charles showed a lack of ambition from the club directors who once again were content to settle for a Libertadores place.

Flamengo let three important players (Souza, Renato Augusto, Marcinho) go when they were top of the league. The Rio side were also guilty of throwing away points. In the recent home game vs Goiás, Fla were 3 goals up but finished the match 3-3.

Caio Júnior demonstrated his inadequacies time and again. Fortunately for Flamengo they’ll be a new man in charge next season.

Even die-hard Grêmio fans will admit that their club surpassed all expectations in 2008. With a relatively small squad and without any big names, Celso Roth worked wonders to get Grêmio to a second-place finish. Roth had (and still has) his critics and was roundly booed by a contingent of Grêmio fans at the start of the campaign. The coach, though, did enough to impress the Porto Alegre club’s board and has just been given a one-year extension on his contract. Grêmio fell away with the injury to frontman Perea but if he had stayed fit, the outcome of this Brasileiro may have been different. 

Everyone agrees that the championship was the closest and most keenly fought for years. True, the Brasileiro is an open and unpredictable league, and for the first time in a couple of seasons, there was no absolute favourite for the title. But as it turned out, there was no outstanding team in the tournament. In the end, there was little to separate the top five. What is worrying is the growing tendency to try to emulate Muricy Ramalho’s and São Paulo’s playing style because for now at least, it appears to be the way to success in the league. Palmeiras under Vanderlei Luxemburgo were perhaps the exception. However, had the Palestra Itália team been a little more like São Paulo in defence, they would have posed a greater threat in the run-in.

So, did São Paulo deserve to be champions? The answer is, yes. Did I enjoy commentating on most of their games? You’ve got to be kidding! But the 1-1 draw away at Atlético Paranaense was thrilling and showed everyone what the kids at the club can do if given the freedom to express themselves. The 4-2 win at Flamengo and the 2-1 home win against Palmeiras weren’t bad. I also enjoyed immensely the two games vs Grêmio. Haha.  

Now some stats.

The goal average was a respectable 2.7. Our televised games averaged out at 2.5 (four 0-0s in 53 matches).

Flu’s Washington, Coritiba’s Keirrison and Santos’ Kléber Pereira grabbed 21 each.

Top scorers were Flamengo with 67. Ipatinga bagged just 37.

The biggest thrashing was Figueirense 1-7 Grêmio.

1-0 was the most common score (69 times)

Grêmio had the best defence letting in 35. Figueirense conceded 73.

Botafogo received 12 red cards. Santos got 2. Fla’s Diego Tardelli, Grêmio’s Léo, Botafogo’s Andre Luís and Palmeiras’ Kleber, were the bad boys with 3 reds each.

Goiás picked up 117 yellows. Atlético Mineiro, Cruzeiro and Ipatinga got 86. Palmeiras’ Martinez, Goiás’ Ramalho and Ipatinga’s Augusto Recife were carded 15 times.

The average gate remained a disappointing 16,966. Flamengo’s average was a reasonable 40,694, Grêmio had 31,725 and Cruzeiro managed 24,245. League champions São Paulo came in 5th with 21,331. No prizes for guessing that the lowest average was Ipatinga who performed to around 3602 (three thousand) per match. 77,387 turned up for Flamengo’s 3-0 home loss against Atlético Mineiro. 153 (yes, one hundred and fifty three) were there in the Vila Belmiro for Santos 4-0 Atlético Paranaense in round 28.

12 clubs changed coach – Atlético Paranaense, Figueirense and Náutico went through five different managers each.

The 2009 Brasileiro gets underway on May 3rd. But we’ll be back transmitting games from Brazil on Saturday January 24th with the Campeonato Paulista (though the competition starts on the 21st).


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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Colorado Matt  |  December 16, 2008 at 06:31

    Excellent round up of the Campeonato Brasiliero. It was unpredicatable at both ends of the table throughout the year.

    I’m already looking forward to next years championship and hope that Inter will break into that top four in 2009.

    I hope you write a preview for the start of the next years championship!

  • 2. pitacodogringo  |  December 16, 2008 at 20:58

    thanks Matt

    never sure about Inter. it all depends on who they sell (they will sell their best they always do!)

    i’m pretty certain they’ll be a guide/preview for the next Brasileiro. i’m already working on a quick guide to the Campeonato Paulista, which kicks off in January

  • 3. Martin  |  December 18, 2008 at 22:50

    My thanks too for the excellent review of the season. I think we should stop being surprised that Sao Paulo keeps winning championships. It is as pitacodogringo writes based in large part on the club’s superb organization. The names may change but the final results don’t for Sao Paulo. Watch out for them in the first half of 2009 in the Copa Libertadores.

    Two quick questions, what happened with Daniel Carvalho at Internacional? I didn’t see him these last few months, so I wasn’t sure if he’s been injured or returned to Europe. But I have always liked his play.

    How did Sao Caetano do in Serie B? I had the impression they were a pretty well run club but they have fallen on hard times these past few years. I hope they can make their way abck up to the first division.

  • 4. pitacodogringo  |  December 19, 2008 at 10:22

    thanks Martin

    i have to admit to having a soft spot for São Caetano – a nice little club that have achieved great things in such a short time. they were well run (until they went down) – can’t imagine how they survive on the tiny gates they get though.
    SC finished 9th in Série B this season

    Carvalho was an unmitigated failure at Inter this season (not sure why – maybe Matt can answer that – see his Internacional blog in my links) . He is still on-loan from CSKA Moscow until the end of December this year but is looking for another club and was linked with Santos in November. Carvalho still has another two and a half years to run on his contract with the Russians.

  • 5. Jonathan  |  December 20, 2008 at 03:55

    An enjoyable round-up 🙂
    Was that Flamengo 0-3 Atletico Mineiro game the highest attendance of the season then? Glad I was there to see it then!

  • 6. Martin  |  December 21, 2008 at 04:32

    Thank you for the reply, I too have a soft spot for Sao Caetano and hope they can someday soon find a way to climb out of their 2nd division purgatory.

    Maybe Daniel Carvalho was a flash in the pan or as we say in Spanish, a flower for a day. When Dunga first took over Brazil, Daniel Carvalho was pretty effective for the team but it sounds as if his form has really dropped since then.

    Perhaps Colorado Matt can answer this but I was watching the pre match broadcast before the Copa Sudamericana Final and there was talk of how popular Pablo Guinazu is with Inter’s fans. No surprise as he is one of those players who leaves it all on the field of play. I’ll be curious if Inter can hold on to Nilmar, D’Alessandro, Alex and Guinazu for the first half of next year. If they can then they have the opportunity to become a very good team.

    In Ecuador there is talk that Getafe may loan Joffre Guerron, the star of Liga de Quito’s Libertadores triumph, to Santos. Guerron has a big ego and that is one reason why he has not settled with Getafe.


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Jon Cotterill. Commentator/expert/eyes on South American football. São Paulo/Buenos Aires. Trying to shout more.

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