Welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter. This week, we are looking at the revolving door of coaching appointments in Brazil, as four top division sides sack coaches in under 24 hours. And, there’s a look forward to the highlight fixture of the midweek, as Grêmio and Flamengo face off in the Copa Libertadores semi-finals. Happy reading!
Brazil’s managerial merry-go-round
In the space of under 24 hours last midweek, four coaches lost their jobs at Brazilian first division clubs, with three of the vacancies being filled on the same day. Since the beginning of the national league season in May, there have been an astonishing 27 changes in management among Brazil’s top 25 clubs, according to a survey by Globoesporte.
Musical chairs. The latest shuffling of the deck came on Thursday, with two clubs—São Paulo and Cruzeiro—getting rid of their bosses. After five months in charge, Cuca left São Paulo, while Rogério Ceni lasted only 46 days as Cruzeiro coach. The following morning, Oswaldo de Oliveira was sacked as Fluminense’s boss, and Fortaleza’s Zé Ricardo—are you still paying attention at the back?—was binned in order to allow for Rogério Ceni’s return.
Quick on the trigger. On average, coaches at Brazil’s top clubs last a paltry six months before getting the sack, dramatically affecting any chance of development and medium- to long-term planning. Fortaleza, who binned their coach to bring back Rogério Ceni, have had an astonishing 66 managerial changes since 2003. Their longest-serving coach is Rogério Ceni himself, having led the club for 21 months before taking the Cruzeiro job in August.
Cruzeiro. We have covered Cruzeiro a few times in recent months, and the firing of Rogério Ceni comes as the latest chapter in the club’s crisis. Despite having the support of the fans, the former goalscoring goalkeeper did not win over the club’s senior players or members of the board. Reported fallouts with squad leaders Thiago Neves and Dedé led to his removal, with Abel Braga—a close friend of Thiago Neves—being given the job. Cruzeiro remain in the relegation zone.
Fluminense. Once again, fallouts between coach and squad led to managerial change at Fluminense. In the team’s 1-1 draw with Santos midweek, Fluminense midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso took exception with being substituted by boss Oswaldo de Oliveira. Leaving the pitch, Ganso was picked up by television cameras calling his coach “an idiot” and telling him to resign, while Oswaldo replied by calling the midfielder a “bum.” The next day, the coach was out of a job, and Ganso was made club captain.
Libertadores: Renato Gaúcho v. Jorge Jesus
In what is Brazil’s biggest fixture of the year so far, Grêmio and Flamengo will face off on Wednesday evening in the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s biggest club football competition. Anticipation for the tie is such that the build-up has dragged on for weeks now, including a couple of public disagreements between the two coaches.
In another tiresome segment of Brazil’s football punditry, TV channels and news websites have holding heated debates on who, out of Grêmio and Flamengo, is playing “the best football” in Brazil at the moment. Despite sounding like school playground chat, the press has managed to get the coaches of both clubs involved, particularly Grêmio’s Renato Gaúcho.
Renato Gaúcho. With the rare honor and odd serendipity of being a club idol for both Grêmio and Flamengo from the success of his playing days, Renato oozes confidence and cocksurety. On a number of occasions, he has declared he was a better footballer than Cristiano Ronaldo, pointing to his World Club Cup winners medals as proof.
On his Libertadores adversary, Flamengo’s Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus, Renato has been straight to the point and more than a little disrespectful. “He’s 65 years old and he’s only ever trained Portuguese teams, he’s never won anything,” he claimed in one interview, conveniently ignoring Jesus’ three Portuguese league titles with Benfica.
With a nod toward Flamengo’s big spending in the off-season, Renato Gaúcho suggested Jorge Jesus has the obligation to be successful in charge of the Rio de Janeiro club. “Flamengo looks like a European club. Grêmio spent around BRL 8 million on signings, Flamengo spent BRL 200 million. If you gave me that money, I’d be obliged to have the best team in the country.”
The Big Match. Childish tiffs about whose dad could beat up the other’s dad aside, Grêmio v. Flamengo is set up to be an excellent tie. Flamengo are clearly the best team in Brazil at the moment, leading the league and playing some scintillating football in the process. However, Grêmio are one of the most dangerous sides in the country when it comes to knockout play, being widely regarded as a top “cup team.”
It’s been a while. As we explained last week, Flamengo are the biggest side in Brazil without necessarily being the most successful. In fact, the last time the club reached the semi-final stage of the Copa Libertadores it was 1984 and Brazil was still under military rule.
As the tournament hadn’t adopted a straight knockout format by that point, the “semi-finals” were in fact a six-team phase with two round-robin groups, the winners of each qualifying for the final. Flamengo were pipped to the final by Grêmio that year, who had a 22-year old Renato Gaúcho among their ranks.
Goal of the Week
In his side’s 1-1 draw away to Internacional, Palmeiras striker Willian pulled off this wonderful volley from the left side of the area, leaving goalkeeper Marcelo Lomba with no chance. After a half-hearted clearance from a Palmeiras cross, Willian watched the ball drop from height and caught it perfectly on the volley, looping over the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
What else you should know
Série A. With two rounds of league play since we last spoke, surprisingly little has changed in terms of league standing. The midweek card was one of thumping home wins, Palmeiras and Grêmio each put six past their opponents, with Flamengo having to make do with three.
At the weekend, the gap at the top narrowed slightly, with Flamengo and Palmeiras (first and second-placed) drawing their matches. Corinthians are steadily creeping up the table, rising to fourth position, three points behind Santos with a game in hand.
Copa Sudamericana. It was a week of disappointment for Brazilian sides in the Copa Sudamericana—South America’s equivalent of the Europa League. Both going into their semi-final second legs at a disadvantage, neither Corinthians or Atlético Mineiro were able to overturn the aggregate score and the final will have no Brazilian representatives for the first time since 2015.
Women’s football. After a historic season, going unbeaten for a record 37 matches, Corinthians were defeated in the final of the women’s Série A. The title went to Ferroviária, a traditional force in the women’s game, after a tense penalty shootout at Corinthians’ home stadium. Ferroviária is the first Brazilian champion to be led by a female coach, with 39-year-old Tatiele Silveira hoping that this win would “serve as inspiration for other women.”
MMA. A mixed bag for Brazilians at UFC Copenhagen. Gilbert “Durinho” Burns got his fourth victory at welterweight, overcoming Gunnar Nelson by unanimous decision. Meanwhile, Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira lost his bout to Danish welterweight Nicolas Dalby, going for an armlock in the third round and being caught out. Over in Bellator, Lyoto Machida lost out to Gegard Mousasi, while Patricio “Pitbull” Freire cruised past Juan Archuleta to defend his featherweight title.
Basketball. After the women’s team won the bronze in the Copa América, defeating Puerto Rico in a play-off, Brazil’s men and women have now guaranteed their places in the Olympic qualifiers next year. 24 men’s sides and 16 women’s sides will battle it out for the remaining spots for Tokyo 2020.
Volleyball. Brazil’s women ended their World Cup campaign with a solid win over Russia, guaranteeing them fourth place in the global competition. The victory allowed the team to round off the tournament on a high, with a 7-4 record. China came away with the trophy, win an impressive 11-0 streak.