Santa Cruz v Sao Paulo
In our daily dose of mildly condescending know-it-all preview of a random football match, we travel to Brazil where the Copa Do Brasil very slowly lumbers on with no-one paying a huge amount of attention to it. Brazil’s national cup competition has finally reached the second round stage and the wait has been extra long for Santa Cruz and Sao Paulo thanks to winning the away legs of their first round ties by two or more goals – a result which triggered a competition rule that means a second leg isn’t necessary.
The short comparison is Santa Cruz are like the Leeds of Brazilian football, but without the widespread hatred of their methods and that hilarious story about Seth Johnson’s contract negotiations. The 60s and 70s were halcyon days for the club, but in recent years they’ve vanished off the scene quicker than VHS cassettes. Having spent a good deal of their history in the top flight of Brazilian football, they amassed relegations at a rate of knots throughout the naughties and now find themselves in Serie D, which – as even a brief watching of Sesame Street will tell you – is the 4th tier of the Brazilian league pyramid. They’ve still managed the occasional successful in their state championship, the Campeonato Pernambucano, and although that’s not to be sniffed at, it’s more like winning Cumbria’s Got Talent rather than Britain’s Got Talent. The Hoff had better watch out, because Santa Cruz are leading the way in the state championship as it nears completion and they’ll take that confidence into their giant-killing assignment on the national stage.
Meeting Sao Paulo gives the club a chance to take a stroll down memory lane to the days when rubbing shoulders with the big guns was the norm rather than the novelty. Although it’s only a cup competition, Sao Paulo won’t be giving a run-out to too many of their bench-warmers because at the end of this road, there’s the big juicy carrot of a place in next year’s Copa Libertadores – a competition the Tricolor Paulista had become accustomed to by virtue of a hat-trick of Brazilian league titles, but missed out on this year thanks to a disappointing campaign last term. If you’re a fan of Brazilian football or you’ve been bored in work over the last couple of days, then the chances are you’ve heard about the exploits of Rodrigo Ceni somewhere on the vast interweb. The Sao Paulo goalkeeper is a dead ball specialist and notched up his 100th career goal over the weekend. He’s club captain and a hero to the fans, but if you’re the type of person who likes to rate goalkeepers by more traditional methods i.e. their ability to stop the ball going into their net, he’s nothing special. With that unnecessary piece of negativity over with, his team are doing well in the Paulista and that’s considered one of the most important state championships.
“I heard my name mentioned so I came along”
This year is a very important one for the club. They’ll feel they’ve got the pieces of the puzzle in place to return to the top of the Brazilian game. Rivaldo has spent the last few years hovering up the cash wherever someone was willing to hand over money for a barely mobile household name. The odyssey took him to Greece and Uzbekistan, but he returned to Brazil this year with the intention of playing for the club he’s now president of, Mogi Mirim – a relative minnow of the Sao Paulo football scene. After effectively loaning himself out, he’s unexpectedly back in the top flight. He’s not one of the aforementioned pieces of the puzzle, but he is likely to chip in with the odd goal – most likely when the goalie lets him have a free-kick. The optimism comes from the fact the club beat a lot of top European clubs – and Spurs – to the signing of Luis Fabiano. They paid Sevilla around €8 million for his ability to score goals and get away with handballs and he’ll be expected to provide a whole heap of goals – dubious or otherwise. Hopefully supplying the bullets will be Lucas Piazón. He has yet to make an appearance for the senior team, but Chelsea felt he was worth stumping up around £5 million for. Time is of the essence because he’ll be heading for the Bridge at the end of this season.
Santa Cruz v Sao Paulo takes place at 1.45am tonight and it’s being streamed live on PaddyPower.com. We can’t promise that it’s going to be a fantastic game, but there’s a strong chance you’ll see a goalscoring goalie and in the end, isn’t that all anyone wants in life?