Welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter. Brazil are champions! A tense 3-1 win over Peru on Sunday earned Tite’s men the Copa America trophy, and we take a look at where the national team goes from here. We also have our Copa America Best XI for you to agree or disagree with. Elsewhere, there are the latest developments in the saga of the 2016 Chapecoense air disaster, and Olympic corruption investigations. Happy reading!
Copa America champions. Now what?
After Brazil’s 2-0 semi-final win over Argentina midweek, reputable sources within the Brazilian press reported that regardless of the result in the Copa America final, head coach Tite was seriously considering his future in charge of the national team.
The reason would be the dismantling of his coaching staff, with Edu Gaspar taking an executive role at Arsenal, Sylvinho taking charge at Lyon, and analyst Fernando Lázaro set to join him at the French club.
Now, the Copa América is in the bag, and Tite has a decision to make.
This scenario is quite a turnaround from earlier in the year, when it was rumored that if Brazil failed to win the Copa America on home soil, Tite would be sent packing. Now, the manager is holding all of the cards.
Since taking the reins of the national team in mid-2016, Tite has led Brazil in 42 matches, 23 of them competitive. His record has been solid: 17 wins, five draws, and only one defeat—coming at the hands of Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Despite the consistent record, the team has gone through some changes in this three-year period, revolving around the 2018 World Cup.
Tite took over a Brazil side which had just been eliminated from the Copa America at the hands of Peru and were struggling woefully in World Cup qualifying. He rallied them to nine straight qualifying wins and they ended up topping the group comfortably. Going into the big stage in Russia, they were among the favorites to win the whole thing.
A crucial point along this journey was a friendly match against a second-string England side in November 2017. Brazil expected to record a convincing win against a top—yet weakened—European side, but their opponents defended deep and resiliently and came away with a 0-0 draw. Brazil just didn’t have what it took to break the English resolve.
This struggle to break down organized defenses popped up again and again. They made hard work of their three World Cup group games, and against Venezuela and Paraguay in the Copa America the same problems were evident. Their attacks weren’t varied enough and they were unable to make their dominance count.
In previous jobs, Tite often suffered in similar situations, and it appears to be a managerial nut he has yet to crack. His Corinthians teams of the early 2010s were least effective the more ball possession they had. Brazil almost always see more of the ball than their opponents, so this is an area Tite will have to focus his attention on.
That is, of course, if he decides to stay.
Copa América Best XI
Picking a best 11 from this year’s Copa wasn’t the easiest of tasks. We had few outstanding individual performers, and the tournament’s top goalscorer ended up with a measly three goals. With that said, here are my choices.
Goalkeeper. We had a few good goalkeeping performances throughout the tournament, with Venezuela’s Wuilker Faríñez gaining many admirers for his group stage displays, and Peru’s Pedro Gallese more or less single-handedly putting his country through to the final against Uruguay. Alas, we couldn’t overlook Brazil’s Alisson. He conceded only once in the entire tournament (from a penalty) and performed impressively throughout.
Defense. Conmebol’s player of the tournament, Dani Alves, rightfully earns a spot in our XI. At center-back, Uruguay’s Jose Maria Giménez and Brazil’s Thiago Silva got the nod. Left-back was probably the hardest pick of all, with no outstanding options. Colombia’s William Tosillo had a decent tournament, so let’s go with him.
Midfield. Chile, Paraguay, and Colombia with mentions here, as we’re going with Charles Aránguiz, Miguel Almiron, and James Rodriguez.
Attack. Two more entries for champions Brazil. Everton was the undoubted breakout star of the tournament, while excellent performances in the last two matches got Gabriel Jesus the nod (unfair red card in the final notwithstanding). On the right wing, we went with Peru’s Andre Carrillo, who provided a consistent creative threat and pushed his country to the final.
Chapecoense forced to pay compensation after air disaster
In November 2016, the footballing world ground to a halt with the news that a plane carrying the squad of Brazilian club Chapecoense had crashed in Colombia, killing almost everyone on board. The team was on its way to play the final of the Copa Sudamericana in Medellín, a heroic achievement for a team which only four years before was playing in Brazil’s third division. From one day to the next, almost the entirety of their squad and coaching staff were dead.
Bolivian charter airline LaMia was responsible for operating the flight, and reports show that the crew set off from Santa Cruz de la Sierra with insufficient fuel to make the trip to Medellin. When the craft went down in the mountains, the engine was completely empty.
Three years on, the courts are still looking for who is to blame. While LaMia was quickly stripped of its license and soon went bankrupt, Chapecoense themselves are beginning to come under the microscope.
Last week, a labor court in Rio de Janeiro ruled that the club must pay BRL 130,000 in compensation to the family of Thiaguinho, the young forward who died in the crash.
The club has been able to come to settlement agreements with some other players, but there are still 54 cases to be trialed in labor and civil courts, potentially resulting in a significant liability for Chapecoense.
Bribes at the Rio Olympics
After his hometown of Chicago lost out to Rio de Janeiro for the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games, former U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that the bidding process was “cooked.” According to recent testimony from jailed former Rio governor Sergio Cabral, it would appear Mr. Obama was right.
Mr. Cabral, who is currently serving over 100 years in jail for a string of corruption and money laundering offenses, told federal judge Marcelo Bretas that he paid USD 2 million to Lamine Diack, the then president of the IAAF, at the behest of former Brazilian Olympic Committee head Carlos Nuzman.
Mr. Cabral stated that part of the money went to Olympic greats Serguei Bubka and Alexander Popov, which they deny. Mr. Popov claims he didn’t even vote for Rio de Janeiro.
The story here regards the admission, and not the fact itself. With thorough investigation, you would be hard pressed to find any host selection process for the Olympic Games or World Cup that didn’t involve some form of vote-buying, and the suspicions surrounding the Rio Games were always high.
Also worthy of your time
Serie A returns. With the Copa America circus leaving town, domestic football starts up again this week, with league and cup games to enjoy. Local rivalries will be revisited in both tournaments, with Cruzeiro and Atlético-MG facing off in the Copa do Brasil on Thursday, and São Paulo hosting league leaders Palmeiras in the pick of the weekend’s fixtures.
Wimbledon. Brazil’s participation in the singles events of this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament were short-lived, yet notable. Twenty-three-year-old Bia Haddad caused an upset by eliminating former world number one Garbiñe Muguruza, but fell to homegrown Harriet Dart in the second round.
UFC 239. Amanda Nunes successfully defended her bantamweight title for the fourth time, beating former champion Holly Holm with an impressive first-round TKO. The 31-year-old also holds the featherweight belt. In the main event, Thiago Santos came desperately close to defeating light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, losing on a split decision. Elsewhere, Claudia Gadelha grabbed an important win in the strawweight division.
Volleyball. Brazil’s women had a two-set lead in the Nations League final against the U.S., but ended up falling short and winning second place. The men’s event will take place this week, with Brazil drawn alongside Poland and Iran.
NBA. After being cut from the Utah Jazz, solid point guard Raulzinho was picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers on a one-year contract. After struggling with injuries this year, he is hoping to bounce back strong in the Eastern Conference.
Goal of the Week. In Brazil’s convincing win over Argentina in the Copa América semi-final, the opening goal was one befitting the magnitude of the fixture. First, Dani Alves juggles and weaves his way through the midfield before stroking a nonchalant pass to the right with the outside of his foot. Roberto Firmino, without taking a touch of control, picks out a perfectly judged pass into the penalty area (calling it a cross would be doing it a disservice), and Gabriel Jesus turns it into the net. Brazil at their exciting and lethal best.
- Brazil 2-0 Argentina
- Chile 0-3 Peru
- Argentina 2-1 Chile
- Brazil 3-1 Peru
Copa do Brasil
- Grêmio vs Bahia (Wed. 7:15 pm)
- Athletico-PR vs Flamengo (Wed. 9:30 pm)
- Palmeiras vs Inter (Wed. 9:30 pm)
- Cruzeiro vs Atlético-MG (Thu. 8 pm)
- Grêmio vs Vasco (Sat. 5 pm)
- São Paulo vs Palmeiras (Sat. 7 pm)
- Flamengo vs Goias (Sun. 11 am)
- Athletico-PR vs Inter (Sun. 4 pm)