Only wins by Palmeiras and Vasco would ruin Corinthians’ day. Vasco had the upper hand on Flamengo and so did Palmeiras on Corinthians before some 40.000 spectators, but in the end neither of the results materialised, giving Corinthians their fifth Brazilian Championship title (1990, 1998, 1999, 2005 and now 2011).
There’s a lot of palmeirenses complaining today: Corinthians are a weak team composed of cowards; the long season and the competition’s format benefited a team that had few/no other obligations (especially at the beginning of the year); the competition’s format is soulless, as it deprives supporters from the classical “grand finale” against the soon-to-be champion and the runner up. In addition and in relation to yesterday’s clash, Palmeiras was robbed by the judge (Valdivia received a questionable red card); Corinthians player Jorge Henrique was disrespectful (imitating Valdivia’s “vacuum shot” at the end of the second half) and the fight between players that followed was a logical and necessary progression of events.
You will find the game highlights at the very end of this post; make up your own mind in regard to the arguments above. Personally, I disagree of every single one of them. I don’t find Corinthians particularly weak, although they did get lucky on several occasions during the championship, wining matches by the smallest of margins. I also stand by the format chosen for the Brazilian Championship and think that the adopted formula – with derbies in the last two rounds – was a particularly good idea; it’s been many years since we had such excitement and team disposition, all across the board.
In regard to the Corinthians vs Palmeiras derby, I didn’t find the referee at all biased. True enough: Valdivia might not have deserved the red card, but neither did Corinthians player Wallace, sent off some 15 minutes later. I didn’t find Jorge Henrique disrespectful; he made sure to keep the clock ticking as he exercised control of the ball and was clipped by a frustrated João Vítor. Such is Brazilian football mentality of today: everything just a little out of the ordinary is considered an offence, a provocation, something disrespectful. We’ve come to the point where a player during an interview can’t say “we’re confident of winning” without being accused of “lacking respect for the opponent”.
It’s a long championship, the Brasileirão. Corinthians was the most consistent team and in the lead for 27 of the 38 rounds. Palmeirenses should get over it, reload, re-aim. 2012 is around the corner.
2011 being a year we’d rather forget, at least the last few rounds proved that Palmeiras already hit bottom and are again moving in the right direction. Palmeiras finished the championship at 11th place with 50 points. Beating São Paulo in the penultimate round was important, not least for depriving the enemy of participation in next year’s Libertadores Cup; the last spot went instead to Internacional.
Four teams will find themselves in the second division next year: Avaí and América/MG were joined by Ceará and Atlético Paranaense. Cruzeiro saved themselves by applying an unbelievable 6-1 on Atlético/MG in the local derby.
Finalising, I’ll take the opportunity to pay my respects to Vasco da Gama, current South America Cup champions and a team with plenty of garra, i.e. guts and stamina. They took a risk by going full throttle in all three competitions in pursuit of the grand slam, the so prestigious “triple crown”. They fell short, but they did it with undeniable style.