Thanks for finding your way to Part 3. If you haven’t read the first couple, catch them here;
So the first shock of being involved in Brazil was the fixture list. The season involves the Campeonato Paulista, the state championship of São Paulo followed by the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, the national championship with some continental business tossed in. Our final position at the end of last season meant we were required to play all of the preliminary rounds of the Cope Libertadores. Then there is also the Brazilian Cup.
With approx 13m to spend, we were able to go shopping to build out the squad. Lucas Silva (DM, Real Madrid) and Rodrigo Mora (ST, River) were pre-arranged by the previous manager but both fit system and talent wise. We were able to make three signings which ended up being critical to the season. Renowned wonder kid, Maxi Romero joined from Vélez for 5.5m, lesser known central defender Gabriel moved across from AVA for 1.6m and a long search for a keeper ended with David Soria coming across from Sevilla for 1.7m.
With so many fixtures here’s the run down competition by competition
The board’s aim for us was to reach the final. We went one better and achieved the first piece of silverware for the save. Only a couple of blips in league play didn’t cause us too many issues. A 4-0 victory in the first leg of the final meant we could essentially relax going into the second leg.
The hardest part to manage was David Soria arriving too late to be registered, so we got games into back up Vagner. He kept 8 clean sheets to lead the compeition whilst, Lucas our first team right back ended the season with the highest average rating of 7.61 in 9 starts with 4 assists.
In many ways this league is a pre-season for the more competitive National Division.
The board were happy with a semi-final and again we went one better managing to get into a final. Unfortunately, we lost the final to second division club Nautico. With the cup final first leg landing in between a couple of crucial end of season league fixtures we rolled out a weakened team. In the end, a competition down the list of priorities used to keep fringe players fit.
Despite starting very early in the competition, the board wanted us to reach the semi-final of the largest continental cup available. We cruised through the prelim stages, hardly getting out of first gear.
The group was slightly more challenging with holder Gremio being the biggest rival in topping the group. By the end of the group games we were level in wins and goal difference. The third tie breaker of goals scored went our way by one and we moved through top of the group.
The first two knockout ties were handled comfortably. Universidad San Martin scored their second goal in the 87th minute so we were never really in trouble in that tie.
Unfortunately we ran into a buzzsaw Boca Juniors team that ended up winning the cup in the final against Corinthians. Boca went 4-0 up within 35 minutes as Carlos Tevez tucked away two penalties and pulled the strings. Two away goals gave us some hope going into the second leg. In that leg we had 12 minutes at the end to push for the third goal which would put us through on away goals. It never came and we bowed out.
Maxi Romero finished equal second on the goal scorers chart knocking in eight goals in 12 starts with left back Victor Luis getting a 7.69 average rating in 10 starts to lead the squad.
Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
Not bad for season one! The board expected us to be around the top of the league but with the size of the club winning the league should be the annual expectation. It was the tenth national title for the club.
It was a slow progression up the table, getting no higher that fifth for nearly the first half of the season. The turning point in the year was the 4-1 loss on Botafogo. The team then went nine unbeaten to drag themselves up the table.
The last nine games were also unbeaten with top spot taken with four to go. With a two point gap going into the last game, we took on Coritiba whilst title rivals Cruzerio had Atletico Paranaense who were basically relegated going into the game. It was critical for us to win as a draw was unlikely to be enough.
And that proved out, Cruzerio scored three in the first half an hour which we matched with one. As the clock ticked over to 80 minutes, Evandro slammed in a 25 yarder that appeared to rip the title from our grasp.
We pushed the team forward, hoping for one last goal. And it came. We won the second ball of the corner, moved the ball around until Dudu picked up 30 yards out and matched Evandro’s strike – right into the top corner. Scenes. The culmination of a very enjoyable year.
The two standouts were Lucas and Tche Tche. In the 4-2-2-2 formation, the fullbacks were critical and Lucas down the right was significant. He led the team in assists with seven, had four player of the match awards and had an average rating of 7.27. Tche Tche played in midfield and very occasionally at right back. He didn’t catch the eye initially but forced his way into the team scoring goals and setting up teammates at critical times. 5 goals and 5 assists with an average rating of 7.27.
Upfront the goals were spread with Erik, Rodrigo Mora and Maxi Romero notching 11, 10 and 10 respectively. Maxi Romero tore a calf in mid October, missing the run in and would have led the team if not for the injury.
A satisfying year but a long one. 80 games across all competitions and with a league won in the first year. Was it time for another challenge in Europe with a new-found respect in world football?