Welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter. After a week of low-scoring quarterfinals in the Copa America, we are looking forward to two mouth-watering clashes in the semifinals on Tuesday and Wednesday. There is also the latest on the Brazilian F-1 GP and plans to move it from São Paulo to Rio, and we look at the latest Brazilian drafted into the NBA. Happy reading!


Poor Copa America quarterfinals set up final four grudge matches

While certainly tense, the quarterfinals of this year’s Copa America were a huge letdown in terms of entertainment value. Only two goals were scored across the four matches, with three ties being decided on penalty shootouts after stalemates in 90 minutes.

Brazil edged past a resilient Paraguay on Thursday night, winning 4-3 on penalties. The hosts dominated the match, with Paraguay far more comfortable sitting as deep as possible and relying on their spectacular last-ditch defending. However, throughout the 90 minutes, Brazil couldn’t find a way through, struggling to vary their attacks and score the elusive opening goal.

Goalkeeper Allison was the standout performer, making some important saves during normal time and saving a penalty in the shootout. Curiously, in the 2015 and 2011 editions of the Copa America, Brazil faced Paraguay in the knockout stages and were eliminated, both times, on penalty kicks.

With Argentina, Chile, and Peru also making it through, the semifinals of this year’s tournament will see the latest editions of the continent’s two fiercest international rivalries. Chile take on Peru on Wednesday evening, in the so-called Clásico del Pacífico, and before that, we have no less than Brazil v. Argentina.

Football fans outside of South America may be shocked to know that the Chile-Peru rivalry is such a strong one, but history buffs will not be surprised. At the end of the 19th century, Chile fought the War of the Pacific against a Peru-Bolivia alliance. The former ended up victorious, and significantly expanded its territory in the process, making Bolivia a landlocked country and annexing the Peruvian departments of Arica and Tarapacá.

The countries have been at each other’s throats ever since, making football encounters between Chile and Peru some of the tastiest South America has to offer.

Brazil and Argentina is a different kind of rivalry. Unlike the majority of international football grudges, Brazil-Argentina involves no military history, political disputes, or even any genuine animosity between the two countries. They are rivals in the traditional sense, fighting for South American dominance, on and off the pitch. While Chile v. Peru could easily descend into fisticuffs and red cards, Brazil v. Argentina rarely goes down the same path and is about winning, as opposed to settling scores. 

Both matches promise fireworks, albeit for different reasons.


The battle for the Brazilian F-1 Grand Prix

The Brazilian Grand Prix has been a part of the official F-1 circuit since 1973, and since 1990, it has been held at the Interlagos race circuit in the south of São Paulo. However, this could be about to change, with President Jair Bolsonaro claiming there is a “99% chance” the race will move to Rio de Janeiro as of 2021.

The contract with Interlagos is up next year, and Mr. Bolsonaro is adamant that either the race will be moved to Rio de Janeiro, or it will leave Brazil entirely. 

Rio de Janeiro used to host the Brazilian Grand Prix between 1977 and 1989 at the now demolished Jacerapaquá circuit, and there are plans to build a new motorsports complex in Deodoro, to the north of the city, which would be able to fit 130,000 fans—as opposed to Interlagos’ maximum capacity of 60,000.

The plan has drawn the ire of São Paulo governor João Doria, who himself has guaranteed that the Grand Prix will remain in the city, talking of signing a new contract valid until 2040.

There are also doubts around the proposed Deodoro circuit, on which construction has yet to begin. One of the companies of the Rio Motorsports consortium (the sole bidder for the Deodoro contract), is Golden Goal Sports Ventures, which has recently been targeted by the Federal Police for overpricing contracts connected to the national football stadium in Brasilia. Prosecutors say Golden Goal paid then local governor Agnelo Queiroz some BRL 374,000 in bribes.

However, the dispute between Mr. Bolsonaro and Mr. Doria is less about sport and more about politics, which we will cover on The Brazilian Report later this week.


Didi: Brazil in the NBA

  • Who? Marcos Henrique Louzada Silva, better known in Brazil as Didi, is the latest Brazilian player to be drafted to the NBA.
  • Draft. At just 19 years old (he turns 20 tomorrow), Didi was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans in this year’s NBA draft, going in the second round as the 35th overall pick. The Pelicans have been commended for their moves in the draft and free agency, with Didi being among their intelligent moves. With several players under contract already, however, the Brazilian may be used as a “draft and stash” pick, meaning that the Pelicans will hold on to the player’s rights and sign him outright next year.
  • Playing style. Didi is a wing who has played mainly as a shooting guard this year at Sesi Franca, in Brazil’s leading basketball championship. He scored an average of 10.8 points per game, with a shooting accuracy of 50%. Peachtree Hoops did an excellent breakdown on his attributes in May.
  • Career. Born in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, in the state of Espirito Santo, Didi began as a futsal player, before he got into the Urban Basketball League program in his hometown and was picked up by Franca, one of the most important teams in Brazil, when he was just 15 years old. He is a certain presence in the Brazilian national team and will play this year’s basketball World Cup in China.
  • Brazil in the NBA. Didi is set to become the 18th Brazilian player to play in the NBA, following in the footsteps of Nenê, Anderson Varejão, and Tiago Splitter.

Domestic football still king in Brazil

Sport Track, a research company specializing in the Brazilian sport industry, surveyed football fans in Brazil to find out which tournaments are most important in the country. As expected, the wave of European football fandom is still some way from knocking domestic competitions of their perch, with the Brazilian Serie A being cited by 73% of respondents, and the UEFA Champions League taking only fifth spot.

Also worth noting that not even the World Cup can unseat the Brazilian league in terms of popularity. The leading international tournament comes third, behind the Serie A and the Copa Libertadores, the continent’s answer to the Champions League.

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Also worthy of your time

Mumps in the Brazil squad. The Brazil team was dealt a curious bit of news at the beginning of last week when it was found that forward Richarlison had come down with a case of the mumps. He was cut from the squad for the quarter-final against Paraguay, and quarantined for fear of infecting the rest of the team, but has since returned to training. 

Neto at Barça. Valencia’s 29-year-old goalkeeper Neto has signed for Barcelona in a transfer worth EUR 26 million plus add-ons, with Dutch stopper Jasper Cillessen going in the opposite direction. Neto is likely to serve as backup for Barcelona’s first choice Marc-André Ter Stegen, and becomes only the second Brazilian goalkeeper to play for the Catalan side, after the lesser-known Jaguaré Bezerra de Vasconcelos in the 1930s.

UFC Minneapolis. Brazil’s Demian Maia recorded his 21st UFC win on Friday night, defeating Anthony Rocco Martin in Minneapolis. This gives Maia the all-time record for the most UFC victories for any Brazilian fighter, and takes him up to 2nd place overall, only behind Donald Cerrone’s 23. Maia has one fight left on his UFC contract.

Nations League. Brazil’s men’s volleyball team qualified for the Nations League finals with a near-perfect campaign this week, top of the leaderboard and with the most sets won out of any team. Brazil will now face Iran and Poland in Group B of the finals, which will take place in Chicago. 

Beer in stadiums. The state of São Paulo is close to sanctioning a law to allow beer in football stadiums. A bill has been approved by the state legislature and now just awaits the signature of Governor João Doria. São Paulo’s four big teams—Corinthians, Palmeiras, São Paulo, and Santos—have joined forces to push for the measure, claiming that the “only place it is illegal to drink beer in São Paulo is football stadiums.”


Goal of the Week

With very little goals being scored in Brazil itself, we had to go further afield for this week, but it was well worth it. In China, former Grêmio and São Paulo winger Fernandinho scored an absolute wonder goal for his side, Chongqing Lifan, in their 1-0 win over Tianjin Teda. Channeling Lionel Messi or a young Neymar, Fernandinho breezed past the entire defense, rounded the keeper and scored in what is one of the best goals you’ll see in a while. 


Results

Copa America

  • Brazil 0-0 Paraguay (4-3 on pens)
  • Venezuela 0-2 Argentina
  • Colombia 0-0 Chile (4-5 on pens)
  • Uruguai 0-0 Peru (4-5 on pens)

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Fixtures

Copa America

  • Brazil vs Argentina (Tue. 21:30)
  • Chile vs Peru (Wed. 21:30)

SportsJul 01, 2019

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.