Good morning and welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter. This week, we’re previewing the Copa America which kicks off on Friday, we have a profile of a true legend of the Brazilian game, and we look at the bizarre world of shirt sponsorships in Brazilian football. Happy reading!
Everything you need to know about the Copa America
The Copa America kicks off this week, with Brazil facing Bolivia on Friday night in São Paulo. This will be the first time Brazil has hosted the tournament since 1989, and the country has never lost a Copa America on home soil.
Those unfamiliar with the competition may be confused to see Qatar and Japan among the participants. No need to check your atlases, folks, Qatar and Japan haven’t actually been in South America this whole time. As the continent only has ten footballing nations, and there is no competition format which works with such a small amount of teams, since 1993, the South American football confederation always invites two countries from outside the continent. In 2015, Mexico and Jamaica got the nod, this time it will be Qatar and Japan.
Split into three groups of four, the top two from each pool (along with the two top third-placed teams) qualify for the quarterfinals. The grand final will take place on July 7, in Rio’s Maracanã stadium.
As always, we have a strong field in this year’s tournament. Lionel Messi will be going for his first ever senior trophy for Argentina, and his country’s opener against Colombia on Saturday night is the highlight fixture of the week.
For Brazil, things are a bit up in the air. After elimination from last year’s World Cup, the Copa America trophy—on home soil—was seen as an obligation rather than an objective. The Brazilian FA has stated that coach Tite will keep his job regardless of the result, but that is easier said than done.
The mood in the camp took a significant dip last week with the news of criminal allegations made against Neymar. But after the forward was cut from the squad with an ankle injury on Wednesday, there is some (perhaps vain) hope that Brazil’s focus can go back to performances on the pitch.
In anyone’s terms, Brazil have a strong squad—with or without Neymar. The defense is solid, backed up Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson. The midfield is creative and dynamic, with Barcelona’s Arthur fast becoming a crucial piece of Tite’s system and Philippe Coutinho providing an attacking threat at the head of the triangle.
The front three is less certain, even more so in Neymar’s absence. Tite rarely plays Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus in the same team, meaning one (probably Gabriel) will likely remain on the bench. Everton’s Richarlison is looking increasingly comfortable in the yellow jersey, cutting in from the left flank. Without Neymar, Ajax’s rising star David Neres could get the nod on the right.
The Formula 1-ization of Brazilian shirt sponsors
Among the most romantic aspects of Brazilian football are the iconic shirts on display. From Santos’ legendary all-white kit to Fluminense’s bewildering (but oh-so-classy) maroon, green, and white stripes, jerseys form a key part of the unique aesthetics of the Brazilian game. However, a disease is plaguing the beauty of Brazilian football shirts: sponsors.
Above is a recent example of a Corinthians shirt, a traditional and stylish white top with black pinstripes, flooded with no less than 10 separate jersey sponsors. If the sheer number of advertisements isn’t enough, the design aspect is also way off, with the main culprit being the bright orange balloon lettering of the main sponsor, Minas Gerais bank BMG.
It’s ugly, right? What foreign fan would want to buy a shirt like that, which looks more like something a Formula 1 driver would wear?
Some of the sponsors themselves are ridiculous. In 2015, major club Botafogo took to the field advertising a hairdryer on sale for BRL 49 (around USD 12.50). At half-time, with Botafogo losing to rivals Fluminense, the price dropped and the players came out for the second half advertising the same hairdryer for BRL 39.
The reason for this flooding of sponsors is simple: in a struggling economy and with teams drowning in millionaire debts, Brazilian clubs aren’t an attractive proposition for advertising. Gone are the days where a team could take on a single shirt sponsor and receive enough revenue to keep themselves afloat.
Sadly, even with this excessive number of adverts on Brazilian shirts, revenue from sponsorships is falling. A study from Sports Value showed that clubs’ income from sponsors fell 18% in 2018, and are set to fall even further this year.
Formiga: Brazil’s stalwart
Who? Miraildes Maciel Mota, known as Formiga (the “Ant”), is the most-capped player in Brazilian national team history, counting women’s and men’s football.
Record-breaker. Yesterday, Formiga’s appearance in Brazil’s 3-0 win over Jamaica made her the first player to play in seven World Cups. She made her debut for the Brazilian national team in 1995 at the age of just 17 years old.
Career. Formiga has played for some 15 different clubs across three different continents. With such a long career in the game, she is practically an ever-present in women’s football. Of the two most prestigious tournaments in the sport (the World Cup and Olympics), Formiga has only missed out on one edition—the inaugural World Cup in 1991.
Retirement? Every year, there is talk of Formiga hanging up her boots. She actually did have a farewell game at the end of 2016, but was coaxed out of retirement this year by coach Vadão. “He kind of brainwashed me,” she joked.
Brazil v Jamaica. Brazil’s women’s team got their World Cup campaign off to a solid start, beating Jamaica 3-0 with a hat-trick from center-forward Cristiane. Star player Marta missed out through injury, but should return for the match against top seeds Australia on Thursday. Australia lost their opening match against Italy, potentially making things more complicated for Brazil’s qualification hopes.
Série A. Reigning champions Palmeiras won their fifth straight league match after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Athletico-PR. The team hasn’t dropped a point at home in the league since June 2018. Elsewhere, Santos rose to second with a 3-1 win over Atlético-MG.
Copa do Brasil. The last 16 of Brazil’s domestic cup came to a thrilling conclusion last midweek. Cruzeiro dispatched Fluminense on penalties, Flamengo muscled out Corinthians in a packed Maracanã stadium, and Atlético-MG came from behind to eliminate Santos away from home. The quarter-final draw will take place later today.
NBB. Flamengo were crowned Brazilian basketball champions after an 81-72 away victory against Franca. Flamengo were 2-1 down in the best of five series, but big wins in games four and five mean the trophy is going back to Rio de Janeiro for the first time in three years.
UFC. Brazil’s Marlon Moraes was knocked out by the new bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo in the main event of UFC 238 on Saturday evening. The Brazilian started strong by going after his opponent’s legs, but flagged in the third round, losing by a technical knockout.
Botafogo. After ordering the freezing of BRL 2.8m in assets from giant Rio football club Botafogo, state courts found only BRL 33.22 in the club’s coffers. That’s a little over USD 8.50. The money is related to a court case against the club for the sale of defender Igor Rabello to Atlético-MG in January.
Goal of the Week
In a bonkers cup tie, Fluminense’s 17-year-old João Pedro scored this obscene last-minute bicycle kick. He missed his penalty in the shootout, but we’ll let him away with that.
Women’s World Cup
- Brazil 3-0 Jamaica
- Brazil 2-0 Qatar
- Brazil 7-0 Honduras
Copa do Brasil
- Flamengo 1-0 Corinthians (Agg. 2-0)
- Cruzeiro 2-2 Fluminense (Agg 3-3, 3-1 on pens)
- Santos 1-2 Atlético-MG (Agg. 1-2)
Palmeiras 1-0 Athletico-PR
Santos 3-1 Atlético-MG
- Brazil vs Bolivia (Fri. 21:30)
- Argentina vs Colombia (Sat. 19:00)
- Uruguay vs Ecuador (Sun. 19:00)
Women’s World Cup
- Australia vs Brazil (Thu. 13:00)
- Santos vs Corinthians (Wed. 21:30)
- Atlético-MG vs São Paulo (Thu. 20.00)
- Palmeiras vs Avaí (Thu. 20:00)