The Campeonato Brasileiro reached its halfway point this weekend after 19 action-packed rounds. What better moment then to reflect on the action and hand out the IBWM mid-season awards. Over to your host, Jack Lang in Rio.
Best team – Fluminense
A somewhat predictable choice perhaps, given that they lead Série A, but one cannot look past Fluminense. Not expected to be title contenders before the season kicked off, the Rio giants have (with the exception of a recent blip) been a picture of consistency, particularly on their travels. Coupling the trademark solidity of a Muricy Ramalho side with deadly strikers (Fred, Emerson, and Washington) and a mercurial playmaker in Darío Conca, the Tricolor look a good bet to repeat their fine form in the second half of the season.
Best manager – PC Gusmão
Despite not being household name compared to the likes of Ramalho and Luiz Felipe Scolari, Gusmão boasts an enviable record in this year’s Brasileirão; he remains, up to this point, undefeated. The 48 year-old started the season with newly-promoted Ceará, widely tipped to struggle in the top flight. Gusmão, though, had other ideas, leaving the minnows from Fortaleza in second place when the league paused for the World Cup. Since being appointed as Vasco coach in June, he (along with some fabulous signings) has propelled his hometown club from the relegation zone to the top half of the table, winning many admirers along the way.
Best XI (I’ve limited my selection to two players per team)
Goalkeeper – Fernando Prass (Vasco)
Sensational in recent weeks, Prass is a formidable last line of defence for the Gigante da Colina, at times thwarting opposition attacks single-handedly. Honorable mentions go to Rogério Ceni (São Paulo), and Fábio (Cruzeiro).
Right-back – Mariano (Fluminense)
The 24 year-old is rumoured to be close to a seleção call-up thanks to his buccaneering displays down the right flank for Flu. Stable in defence, Mariano has also contributed a goal threat in recent games. Alessandro (Corinthians) also deserves recognition.
Centre-back – Ronaldo Angelim (Flamengo)
Flamengo have been tight at the back despite their poor league position, and this is largely down to the experience and quality of Angelim, one of the club’s longest-serving players.
Centre-back – Fabrício (Ceará)
His side’s form has tailed off of late, but Fabrício has been a fixture in the (joint) meanest defence in Série A. Also worth a mention are Cláudio Caçapa (Cruzeiro) and Bolívar (Inter).
Left-back – Kléber (Internacional)
A constant attacking threat down the left, Kléber has long been one of the Inter’s most effective performers. Vitória’s Egídio has also provided quality service from the left.
Volante – Arouca (Santos)
Despite the plaudits paid to Paulo Henrique Ganso and Wesley (justified in the former case, not at all in the latter), Arouca has been the driving force in the Peixe’s midfield of late. Fearsome in the tackle and a powerful runner, the ex-São Paulo man is unplayable on his day.
Volante – Elias (Corinthians)
Surprisingly not called up for Brazil’s friendly against the USA, it surely won’t be long before the Corinthians stalwart makes the step up to the international stage.
Meia – Conca (Fluminense)
The standout player of the season so far. A nimble, subtle playmaker, Conca provides the ammunition for Fluminense’s heavy striking artillery. Able to pick out breathtaking through-balls, and a threat from set pieces, Conca is central to the Tricolor’s play.
Meia – Bruno César (Corinthians)
The league’s joint top scorer with nine goals, Bruno César has been a revelation since joining Corinthians from Santo André. A smart passer, with the knack of making late runs into the box, the 21 year-old has a bright future. Honourable mentions go to Ganso (Santos), Elias (Atlético-GO), and Caio (Avaí); all of whom provide the creative focus of their respective sides.
Forward – Neymar (Santos)
Brazil’s worst-kept secret, Neymar guarantees excitement. Six goals so far is not a great return for someone of his talent, but his constant trickery, intelligent positioning, and cheeky grin are always a source of enjoyment. Having signed a new contract in the wake of interest from Chelsea, Neymar should continue to light up Série A.
Forward – Jóbson (Botafogo)
Despite only returning from a doping ban in June, Jóbson has established himself as the main man in Botafogo’s attack. With 5 goals in 7 starts, the electric striker looks to have got his promising career back on track. Other strikers worthy of acclaim have been Emerson (Fluminense), Diego Tardelli (Atlético-MG), and Alecsandro (Inter).
The Arsene Wenger Award for Youth Development – Santos
Even without considering Paulo Henrique Ganso and Neymar (of whom you’ll probably be aware by now), the seasiders’ boast an impressive array of young talent. Goalkeeper Rafael has been impressive since making his début, as has Alex Sandro, a skilful and pacy left-back. Midfielders Danilo, Zezinho, and Breitner have showed promise in their rare first team outings, while forward Alan Patrick remains one of the club’s biggest prospects. To that list may be added Zé Éduardo, a lightening-quick support-striker who has done a fine job filling Robinho’s boots in the past weeks.
Well-Named Stadium Award
Guarani play their home games at the Brinco de Ouro da Princesa; The Princess’s Golden Earring. Following closely in second place is the occasional home of Cruzeiro and Atlético Mineiro, the Arena do Jacaré (Alligator Arena).
Michael Schumacher Award for Failed Comebacks
Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras), Renato Abreu (Flamengo), Felipe (Vasco), and Douglas (Grêmio) have all struggled to readapt to the Campeonato Brasileiro after spells in Arabic leagues. The struggles of each have (to a greater or lesser extent) contributed to their teams’ lack of creativity. Maicosuel (Botafogo), Emerson (Fluminense), and Rafael Sobis (Internacional) have had considerably more success since returning from spells abroad.
Sir Alex Ferguson Award for Managerial Stability
Fluminense Botafogo, Santos, Guarani & Atlético-MG; the only five clubs not to have changed coaches so far this campaign. And you were worried about your job security…
So there we have it! The second half of the season promises to be exciting, with a number of clubs aspiring to compete with Fluminense and Corinthians for the title, and relegation battle that will likely involve half of the league.
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