In the third edition of the Brazil Sports newsletter, we take a look at the subdued start to the Copa America, the plans for next year’s tournament (yes, you read that correctly), and look back at missed opportunities for Brazil in the Women’s World Cup. Happy reading!
A muted opening for the Copa America
The 2019 Copa America began on Friday, with Brazil dispatching Bolivia 3-0 in São Paulo. But despite being another major international tournament held in Brazil (which has hosted the World Cup and Olympics already this decade), public excitement has been somewhat subdued.
Take the opening fixture, for example. Brazil kicked off their campaign in front of a near-silent crowd in São Paulo, with the hosts actually being booed off the pitch after a goalless first half. While fans in Brazil’s biggest city are already notorious for being the most demanding and least convinced when it comes to the national side, there is a suggestion that another factor may have played a part in the drab atmosphere: ticket prices.
An average ticket for the match at the Morumbi stadium was an astonishing BRL 485—around USD 125. Being just under half of the Brazilian minimum wage, huge parts of the population are priced out of the Copa America. Considering that the traditional singing sections in Brazilian stadiums are always in the cheapest seats, Friday’s opener was full of the country’s answer to the prawn sandwich brigade—fans who remain seated, don’t sing, and love a good moan about their own team.
The organizers, however, must have been delighted. A sellout crowd meant the gate receipts came in at an astonishing BRL 22 million—more than the total ticket sales of all but three Brazilian clubs in 2019 so far.
The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) was less delighted on Day 2, however. Venezuela and Peru played out a 0-0 draw to only 13,000 people in the 60,000-seater Arena do Grêmio, in Rio Grande do Sul. On Sunday, 19,000 saw Paraguay vs Qatar in the 79,000-capacity Maracanã. Worse is yet to come, as less than 5,000 tickets have been sold for both Ecuador vs Japan and Bolivia vs Venezuela in the final round of the group stage.
Conmebol president Alejandro Domínguez said he wasn’t bothered about the low number of tickets sold, insultingly putting it down to the “South American culture” of “leaving things to the last minute.” I don’t know, maybe selling tickets at three times the price of the 2015 tournament could have more to do with it.
Second-half collapse puts Brazil qualification at risk
Brazil were not the favorites for their Women’s World Cup match on Thursday against Australia. The Matildas had already eliminated Brazil in the last World Cup, and sit four places above them on Fifa’s rankings table. However, Brazil left the field after their 3-2 loss with a feeling of a missed opportunity.
With the intelligent strategy of sitting deep and soaking up Australian pressure before bursting forward in counterattacks, Brazil took an unsuspected 2-0 lead in the first half. Marta converted a penalty—making her the first footballer to score at five World Cups—and Cristiane turned home a superb header. Australia kept the game alive with Caitlin Foord pulling one back on the stroke of half-time. Holding on to this scoreline would have seen Brazil assure qualification to the next round—but it was not to be.
Two half-time changes left Brazil disjointed and vulnerable. Marta and Formiga were both hooked, with Ludmila and Luana coming on in their place. Brazil lost their grip on proceedings, and two Australia goals turned the match on its head.
While Brazil could feel hard-done-to by not getting a penalty late in the match when Andressa Alves was dragged down inside the box, their failures appeared to be self-inflicted. Speaking after the game, center-forward Cristiane had no doubts about who was to blame: “We lost out when we made the changes, we switched off … we should have kept it the way it was!”
Each of head coach Vadão’s substitutions could have been justified in isolation—Marta had just returned from injury and was not fit to play 90 minutes, while Formiga received a yellow card and will miss Brazil’s next game, the coach may have felt he had to test alternatives. However, changing both at the same time was unnecessary, and caused Brazil to struggle.
All hope is not lost, but Brazil’s task is clear for their final group game against Italy on Tuesday. With the Italians having beaten Jamaica and Australia likely to do the same, anything but a convincing victory is likely to see Brazil eliminated.
Conmebol’s plans for next year’s Copa America
For observers from abroad, the confusing decisions of Conmebol can often be comical. For those who cover the sport in the continent, the novelty wore off a long time ago.
Amid all the excitement of this year’s Copa America, you may be delighted to know that there will be another edition held in 2020. Yes, that’s right, next year. Conmebol decided to change its tournament cycle in order to sync with the World Cup and European Championships, holding their continental competition once every four years, directly in the middle of the space between World Cups.
There are merits and problems with this plan, but the simple fact that the confederation didn’t simply delay the 2019 Copa America by one year, and instead decided to organize a whole new tournament in mid-2020, should tell you everything you need to know about one of football’s most confusing governing bodies.
As if that’s not enough, the plan for the 2020 tournament itself is just as mind-boggling. Next year’s Copa America will be hosted by Argentina and Colombia—two countries on the opposite end of the continent which do not share borders. The idea is to have a “north” and “south” conference, before the grand final to be held in Colombia. There was even talk of a two-legged final, which has thankfully been scrapped. But don’t worry, Qatar will be invited to play again, as will Australia.
In footballing terms, however, the change to the tournament date could harm countries’ World Cup preparation. As things stand, the cycle of South American international football is perfect. Coming out of the World Cup, countries begin their preparation for the next four years with the Copa America, before the grueling World Cup qualifying campaign starts the following year. Moving the Copa America back a year would upset this balance, with no competitive games in the post-World Cup year.
Also worthy of your time
Brazil 3-0 Bolivia. Brazil passed their first test in the 2019 Copa America, beating Bolivia 3-0 in São Paulo. While the scoreline was overwhelmingly positive, the hosts did not have it all their own way on Friday. The first-half performance was apathetic, eliciting boos from the otherwise silent home crowd. Two goals from Philippe Coutinho and a third from Everton (see below) wrapped up the points in an improved second-half display. Brazil now play Venezuela on Tuesday night, a prospect likely to be trickier than common sense would suggest.
Série A. Palmeiras won again, keeping themselves two points ahead at the top with a game in hand. Santos grabbed a crucial win in the derby against Corinthians, while São Paulo are now seven games without a win in all competitions after they tied with Atlético-MG. The league will now enter a month-long pause during the Copa America, returning to action on July 14.
Ramires. On Thursday afternoon, reigning champions Palmeiras announced the signing of former Chelsea and Brazil midfielder Ramires on a four-year deal. The 32-year-old had been without a club, after terminating his contract with Chinese side Jiangsu Suning. While clearly a further injection of quality into an already strong squad, there are worries about the fitness and longevity of Palmeiras’ midfield. Last week, the club signed a two-year contract extension with Felipe Melo, who is already 35 years old.
Volleyball World Cup. The draw has been made for this year’s Men’s and Women’s Volleyball World Cup, to be held in Japan in September and October. The women will face off against Serbia, Argentina, and Holland, before taking on Kenya and the U.S. The men start their campaign against Canada, before taking on Australia, Egypt, Russia, and Iran.
Split allegiances. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro decided to bring his embattled Justice Minister Sergio Moro along with him to watch Flamengo play CSA in Brasilia. The two posed for photographs wearing Flamengo shirts, despite claiming to support other teams. Imagine someone who says he’s a “Liverpool and Tottenham fan,” and another who supports Newcastle, showing up to a Chelsea match, pulling on the jersey and kissing the badge. The mind boggles.
Bellator. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida recorded his second win since moving to Bellator, beating Chael Sonnen with a second-round TKO on Friday night. 42-year old Sonnen announced his retirement after the fight, making him the third big name Machida has “retired” in the cage, after Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort.
Goal of the Week. Four minutes after coming off the bench, Grêmio winger Everton scored this peach to round off Brazil’s 3-0 win over Bolivia in the Copa America opener. Darting in from the left, he jinked along the 18-yard line before smashing the ball into Carlos Lampe’s far post.
- Brazil 3-0 Bolivia
- Argentina 0-2 Colombia
- Uruguay 4-0 Ecuador
Women’s World Cup
- Australia 3-2 Brazil
- Santos 1-0 Corinthians
- CSA 0-2 Flamengo
- Atlético-MG 1-1 São Paulo
- Palmeiras 2-0 Avaí
- Brazil vs Venezuela (Tue. 21:30)
- Argentina vs Paraguay (Wed. 21:30)
- Peru vs Brazil (Sat. 16:00)
Women’s World Cup
- Italy vs Brazil (Tue. 16:00)