Monday, September 9, 2013

Semi-finals – classic cup format. Palmeiras overcome Internacional rather confidently – 2-0 at home and 1-1 away. Guarani continued their strong run – Vasco da Gama suffered two losses. Not by much, but losses – 0-2 and 1-2. The first match was bad enough – Orlando scored in his own net, thus giving the lead to hosts. Guarani went to the final with excellent record in the last stages.

The final at last – played in August, a week after the ½ finals. Palmeiras vs Guarani. Palmeiras hosted the opening leg on August 10th. It ended 0-1, Zenon scoring for the visitors. Guarani suddenly had the edge. Three days later they squeezed a second 1-0 victory. A rising star called Careca scored in the 35th minute. He also got the highest rank for the game – 10 points out of 10. Perhaps a bit too much, but winners are always ranked high. The only player of Palmeiras getting 8 was the goalkeeper Gilmar. Two players got measly 2, when the lowest Guarani player ended with 5. Overwhelming victory?

Perhaps not so, but very surprising one.
Rosemiro surrounded by Guarani players – but he and Palmeiras are defending, not attacking.

Equal game?

Palmeiras desperately in attack – too late, too little...

Guarani scored. Gilmar was able to block Bozo's shot, but the ball went to Careca and he did not miss, despite the attempt of Alfredo to clear from the goal-line.

Careca greeting the fans after the goal.

Palmeiras settled for silver.

Standing from left: Rosemiro, Leão, Beto Fuscão, Alfredo, Pires, Pedrinho.

Crouching: Silvio, Jorge Mendonça, Toninho, Escurinho, Toninho Vanusa.

Not the team which played the final, but close... the big absence was Leao. Why he did not play is a bit unclear – Gilmar was rising, but Leao was very good at the World Cup and captained Brazil. May be his absence – if not because of injury – was the clue for the lost final: Palmeiras was building a new team. From the great winners of the first half of the 1970s only Leao and Alfredo remained – the rest either retired or moved elsewhere, including Europe. The new squad was too young and perhaps unfinished. It was promising, but only promising at the moment. Jorge Mendonca was the best they got - at least judging by his strong performance at the World Cup, which he started as deep and unknown reserve. It was a team for the future really – and eventually did not come to greatness. In the long run even Mendonca did not realize his potential. As for Leao, this was his last year with Palmeiras – and may have been the reason for his absence at the final. His character was difficult, to say the least. Palmeiras seemed to be the favourite at the final – but largely on paper.

Guarani were the surprise champions, yet, well deserved victory – they won every match from the ¼ finals to the end. They allowed only one goal in their net. Strong... but how strong? No doubt, it was great year – the greatest indeed. The club was founded in 1911 in Campinas, typically, by schoolboys. For years the Bugre ('the Indians' as the club is nicknamed) had little to brag about – dwarfed by the big clubs from Sao Paulo and Santos, their role was small. Mostly, the local derby with Ponte Preta. To avoid mockery they had to even change their foundation date – which happened to be April 1st, the Fools Day. It was doctored a bit to April 2nd, but after 1978 there was no longer need for a false date. Not much before 1970, but the club seemingly benefited from the introduction of the national championship. They were regular participants, preserving what in other countries amounts to midtable position. Not bad, not great , but solid – and they burst in 1978. First title – and so far – last. Better than whatever Ponte Preta achieved, so at least in Campinas they were not April fools. No longer jokes about their name either – which comes from the opera written by the great 19th century Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Gomes: 'Il Guarany'. The team was more than worth it in 1978: after all, they survived the assault of 100 000 mostly hostile fans at Morumbi. At home such numbers were impossible to match – their own stadium had 30 000 capacity and was not even full: 27 000 attended.

Good looking squad, but who was in it?

The regulars were: standing, from left: Neneca, Edson, Mauro, Gomes, Miranda, Ze Carlos.

Bottom: Capitao, Renato, Careca, Manguinha, Bozo.

This is the squad of the second final leg in Campinas – the boys who really won the title. Not anonymous, but hardly stars outside their own city. Truly surprising winners – at the final even their biggest star was missing. The 'big names' were

the defender Ze Carlos and perhaps the only player with national fame – Zenon.

Zenon was the key player of the team and prolific goal-scorer. May be he was a bit unlucky or underrated, for he rarely was called to the national team, but still was one the top Brazilian players at that time. He scored the winning goal in the first match against Palmeiras at Morumbi. The two goals against Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro. Add another away goal, scored in the away match against Sport (recife) in the ¼ finals. All important away wins of Guarani were practically due to him. He missed the last match in Campinas, but there was no doubt about his importance.

The third player was young and rising star – one Antonio de Oliveira Filho.

Careca tormenting Palmeiras in the last match – and becoming the new idol of Guarani's fans. The best player of the final. Young centreforward, who debuted for Guarani in 1976 barely 16 years old. Now, not even 18 yet, he was a champion of Brazil and rapidly rising star, which Guarani was clearly unable to keep for long. As for the world... just wait for the 1980s, when Careca was very, very familiar name everywhere.

With so few stars, Guarani inevitably depended on carefully made team and collective play. Perhaps the most important figure was the coach, who managed to organize and inspire relatively modest players into winning team.

Just like his players, Carlos Alberto Silva, was entirely unknown young coach in 1978. He graduated in physical education at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, was 39 years old, and seemingly this was his first year as professional coach. Which ended with the title, so it was a debut with a bang. He depended on 24 players during the season, 6 of which played almost every match, and the rest more or less rotated, depending on the opponents. Thus, neither Zenon, nor Careca were the top scorers of the season, but Renato – scoring 10 goals in 31 games played. Whatever his tactics were, they worked.

Worked well enough for Guarani. Worked well enough for another blow for the big Rio and Sao Paulo clubs, who again played second fiddle to 'provincial' club. As great and well deserved the victory of Guarani was, it was unable to hide the crisis of Brazilian football. Teams played 'European schemes', fearing losses and depending on defensive tactics. Stiff, often ugly matches, low scoring, no show. This year an attempt was made to open the game a bit, to restore something of the great old days – until the ¼ finals three points were given for a win by 3 or more goals. Clearly, a desperate measure, reminding of the futile efforts to artificially boost attacking football in USSR. Guarani won, but... the thought that in the good old days of 'football samba' the game was fun and now was not was inescapable. Ten years earlier a team like Guarani would not have been a champion. Go back 15 years and Guarani entirely disappears from mind... it was very clear the big clubs were no longer strong. But they had clout and affected the structure of the championship, deepening the crisis. At the end, a final table was produced – meaning nothing in practical terms, but showing clearly the fantastic state of Brazilian football. An elephantine table... worth only for thing: frugal and careful clubs were more likely to succeed. In the overall seasonal table Guarani, with most matches played, had also the most points, but Palmeiras, the losing finalists, earned less points than 5 clubs. Their 44 total points equaled the points of the 9th placed Botafogo, who played 6 games less than Palmeiras. The Gargantuan 'final table' included a whole bunch of 'exotic' clubs, meaning nothing abroad and little in Brazil (Chapecoense, Uberaba, Uberlandia, Itabuna, just for a little taste), ending with Segipe, 73rd with 5 points from 16 matches played, and Nacional, 74th, with 4 points also from 16 matches. Were the lowest of the low to play next year? Naturally... If anything, there was the possibility one of them to become new Guarani. It was getting difficult to think that the next champion of Brazil will be called Botafogo or Fluminense.