Clássicos, part two

Footballers have various ways of dealing with pressure on match day. Some are able to use the increased adrenaline in order to produce higher levels of substances in the brain that enhance performance, like emotional doping. Others succumb to the nerves and often try to hide on the field to avoid making high-profile mistakes.

Pressure can manifest itself in other, more visceral ways. In a derby match, when full of adrenaline, some players commit over-zealous fouls and get themselves into trouble. Violence can spoil a good game of football, and this happens so often with fierce rivalries.

A perfect example of this was yesterday’s clássico between Grêmio and Internacional in Porto Alegre. The first half was exciting, with some interesting tactical battles and good play from either side. Grêmio took the lead from a penalty kick, before Inter equalised through Leandro Damião.

Renato Gaúcho’s Grêmio surprisingly went for a 3-4-1-2 system, bringing in new signing Rhodolfo as a sweeper in the back three. This switch from their usual 4-4-2 was to give more freedom to the wing-backs, who pushed up the field and occupied Internacional’s full-backs, leaving their opponents light and narrow in attack. Deep-lying forward Kléber played an important role, drifting wide and creating 2 on 1 situations on either flank.

 
grenal

With pressure levels turned up to eleven, the second half turned scrappy and play was repeatedly stopped for violent fouls. The referee lost control of the players and red cards soon followed. We were robbed of a suitable ending to what began as an intriguing match.

Some people relish this type of game. However while violence is clearly a source of entertainment for many (you just need to look at the popularity of sports like mixed martial arts and boxing), football doesn’t need it.

Clássicos aren’t all bad, though. Sometimes they get it right.

Vasco x Botafogo was a good example of why derby matches can be so enthralling. Spurred on by the pressure, both teams played with higher intensity while staying within the rules. As a result, we were treated to some excellent Sunday evening entertainment.

Botafogo is currently the best team in the Brasileirão. Head coach Oswaldo de Oliveira has built a wonderful 4-2-3-1 system that revolves around veteran midfielder Clarence Seedorf. They work extremely well as a unit, pressing high and with superb movement in attack.

Seedorf got on the score sheet once again, his 18th goal in 29 appearances for Botafogo. Before moving to Brazil, Seedorf had scored less than 100 goals in a club career that comprised over 700 appearances. This sudden surge of goal scoring form has nothing to do with a gap in quality between the Brazilian league and any of Europe’s finest, it comes as a result of Botafogo’s playing style, which has the Dutchman at the centre of everything.

With Botafogo leading 2-1 at half-time, Oswaldo de Oliveira had a decision to make. Last weekend, leading at the break in another clássico against Flamengo, Oswaldo changed his team’s approach for the second half, bringing off attacking midfielder Vitinho and replacing him with defensive midfielder Renato in an attempt to “administer the game”. All that did was remove Botafogo’s only deep threat and invite Flamengo to attack. Botafogo conceded a late equaliser, and Oswaldo was a victim of the clássico pressure.

Though Brazilian coaches and commentators love to use the phrase, it is extremely difficult to administer a football match. There are so many factors to administer in a game, and attempting to do so is futile and often counter-productive.

Excellent coaches learn from their mistakes, and Oswaldo did just that. Yesterday, instead of trying to administer the game, Oswaldo kept Botafogo in their usual system, which is strong enough to beat any team in Brazil at the moment. They went on to win 3-2, and are deservedly at the top of the league.

Advertisements

Game of the Week: Vasco 1×2 Nacional

It’s back! That’s right, Game of the Week has returned for 2012 to bring you plenty of in-depth analysis of some of South America’s biggest matches each week. An early warning is in order however, as during the first half of the year this section will be very Copa Libertadores-heavy. Focussing on this wonderful tournament gives you all a chance to have a look at a variety of the continent’s best clubs and observe the fascinating tactical battles between them.

Apologies for the delay in this particular Game of the (last) Week, but from now on I will be striving to post these up on the day after the match (usually Wednesday/Thursday/Friday).

Also, I’ve changed the design of the tactical diagrams, I thought that this style looked a bit cleaner considering the colour-scheme of the blog. I would greatly appreciate it if you let me know what you think in the comments section below. Continue reading Game of the Week: Vasco 1×2 Nacional

Manure-handlers, projectiles and Hamilton Ricard: South America update

For the past few months, you would be forgiven for thinking that ILFM solely focused on football here in Brazil and nowhere else. However, the fact is that I aim to write about all types of South American football, Argentine, Uruguayan, Venezuelan… You name it, I have a passion for it.

The remarkably exciting 2011 Campeonato Brasileiro season certainly took centre stage here on this blog, but now that it has been concluded, allow me to bring you up to date with everything else that’s going on in this beautiful continent. Continue reading Manure-handlers, projectiles and Hamilton Ricard: South America update

Game of the Week: Vasco 1×1 Universidad de Chile

The Copa Sul-Americana (or Sudamericana in the Spanish-speaking majority of South America) is a rather odd tournament. It is highly under-valued all over the continent, but particularly in Brazil, where the midweek games at key points in the tournaments are seen as little more than unwelcome distractions. For example this year, when São Paulo, Botafogo and Flamengo were eliminated in the space of 24 hours at the last-16 stage, there was some immediate surprise, but it was very quickly forgotten.

Think of it as the South American version of the Europa League, but with considerably longer travel times.

The tournament got a little boost in the past few years after CONMEBOL decided to award an extremely valuable place to the following year’s Copa Libertadores group stage. As a result, a number of the continent’s ‘lesser’ sides shifted their focus towards the Copa Sul-Americana and away from their own tough domestic campaign, in search of an ‘easy’ route into the Copa Libertadores.

However a close look at this year’s semi-finalists reveals an intriguing anomaly. All four of the teams still alive in the competition are already guaranteed (or almost guaranteed in Liga de Quito’s case) qualification to the 2012 Copa Libertadores through their own respective domestic successes. Does this mean the Copa Sul-Americana is becoming more and more important to South America’s big guns? Quite possibly. Continue reading Game of the Week: Vasco 1×1 Universidad de Chile

New Mirror Football post

Just a little reminder that my most recent post on the Mirror Football website was published today, a little look at the crazily competitive season we have had in the Brasileirão, with a mind-blowing stat to back it up.

You can find the post here, have a read, and if you have any opinions or anything you’d like to discuss, drop me a comment on the site, or here at the end of this post.

I’ll be back in mid-week (probably Thursday, Wednesday is a national holiday) with the Game of the Week from this weekend, and I will also have another Twenty to Watch profile going up. Stay tuned.

Game of the Week: Santos 2×0 Vasco

Upon choosing which game to feature in this Game of the Week section, I am more often than not left with a tricky decision. Each week I intend to cover the most ‘significant’ match, but with so many exciting games going on, naturally some decent candidates get ignored. What I prefer to do with these weekly articles is to cover a particular team(s)’s system, and to do so in a match which showcases the qualities and/or flaws of said system. The best examples of that are from October 15th when I covered Atlético Goianiense in their demolition of São Paulo, and just last week when I took a close look at Grêmio in their 4×2 victory over Flamengo. Following on in that style this week, I decided to study Santos’ home win against Vasco, and to delve in to the inner tactical workings of the 2011 Copa Libertadores champions. Continue reading Game of the Week: Santos 2×0 Vasco

Brasileirão 2011: Let’s go round again

So with last weekend’s unprecedented ‘dia dos clássicos’ in which we had no fewer than eight derby matches (nine if you count Ceará x Bahia), we have now reached the half-way point of the 2011 Campeonato Brasileiro season. With most clubs having played eachother once (Santos and Grêmio are still to play in a match that was postponed) the league standings have taken shape and we have a good idea who the championship contenders will be. Continue reading Brasileirão 2011: Let’s go round again