Comerical v Palmerias
Wasn’t it great to see the poor little downtrodden multi-millionaire Barry Hearn get his day in the sun with a draw against Arsenal? And it was thoroughly heart-warming to witness the multi-millionaire players from Everton stick it to the slightly wealthier multi-millionaires of Chelsea. Oh the romance of the cup is alive and well and its stories like this that make it the best loved knockout competition in the world.
Ok, clearly we’ve been listening to too much Clive Tylsley, but the nostalgia was sort of restored courtesy of two things rarely associated with romance – Ashley Cole and the gap between Manuel Almunia’s legs. Oh how the cynics may say all Leyton Orient did was earn themselves a trip to Las Vegas and a hammering at the Emirates and others may point out one struggling Premier League team beating another struggling team on penalties is a shock of the ‘OMG – Whoda thunk George Michael likes the fellas?’ variety, but when you can casually drop £75 odd million in the space of 48 January hours, pretty much any time you lose can be counted as a shock – no matter how often it’s been happening of late.
In Brazil, they’ve accepted the fact that their national cup competition isn’t a priority and rather than deluding themselves into thinking otherwise, have taken steps to make it more interesting. Firstly, there’s a Copa Libertadores place up for grabs for the winners. A similar proposal has been floated as the big juicy carrot to get most Premier League team playing their strongest teams in the FA Cup, but the fact that under that system Portsmouth would have been in the Champions League as cup winners in 2008-09 and then again in 2010 thanks to Chelsea qualifying courtesy of winning the league may have put it to rest for good. In addition, any team already in the Copa Libertadores that year are exempt from entering which goes a long way to alleviating the cup related fixture congestion and in turn, large swathes of Arsene Wenger’s moans.
The meeting of Comercial and Palmeiras in the 1st Round of the Copa do Brasil is a strange type of ‘David versus Goliath’ lazy label. Palmeiras are one of the biggest teams in the country whilst Comerical are the undoubted minnows but at the same time are kind of are a big deal in their local state championship – the Campeonato Piauiense. There are however 27 individual state championships in Brazil and being the best team in the state of Piauí doesn’t count for a whole lot on a national stage. It’s kind of Brazilian football’s version of being the best singer in the Spice Girls – laudable, but no great sign of quality in the wider scheme of things.
Playing the role of the evil big club are Palmeiras, but in recent years they haven’t hovered up the silverware in the manner normally expected from an evil big club. Despite one relegation, one quick-fire promotion and several false dawns, they haven’t got close to a league title for a number of years and their last major trophy came when they won the Copa Libertadores of 1999. The man at the helm for that triumph was Luiz Felipe Scolari and after years of getting easy money from managing in Uzbekistan and getting sacked prematurely by Chelsea, he is now back at his former employers in a desperate bid to revive the glory days. He’ll have his work cut out because whilst other sides have had the cash to be used as a semi-retirement home for Brazilian players returning home from Europe, they’re relying heavily on youngsters coming up through the ranks. That’s not necessarily a barrier to success. Alan Hansen’s claim that ‘you don’t win anything with crianças‘ wasn’t true in England and it’s even less accurate in Brazil. A league title is a huge ask for Big Phil, but he’ll fancy his chances of a cup run.
Big Phil Scolari – possibly mid-trump
There is one more useful feature of the Copa do Brasil. Although this tie is scheduled for two legs, if the home team loses the first leg by 2 or more goals then they don’t bother with the formality of the second leg. What we lose in Lazarus-like comebacks we make up for in a smaller carbon footprint and fewer pointless dead rubbers. A convincing win tonight would save them a return leg and book their place in the next round. It’s the type of stuff Arsene Wenger dreams off.
Comerical versus Palmeiras kicks off and 12.45am tonight/tomorrow morning and it’s being streamed live on PaddyPower.com. We would say something about insomnia, but that implies it might be a rubbish game, which it might not be. We just don’t know yet.