Flamengo 1 Atletico Paranaense 2

Well I think I’ve seen just about everything at a football game now – a woman breastfeeding her child on the terrace. Maybe over here, kids are born at the match.

Rio, weaning itself off the World Cup, was suffering from football-glut – and not hosting games immediately after the Germany-Argentina final. Presumably the police needed a rest.

Or were they worried Argentina might win it and their fans hang around for days, taking in some local football as a post-victory celebration?

Whatever, four days after the final, Flamengo hosted Atletico in this first division clash, at Macae, a coastal oil base 180 kilometres east of the city.

The nondescript town has its own third division outfit but clearly Flamengo’s pull extends beyond Rio – with figures apparently suggesting it is the best-supported team in Brazil.

Flamengo v Atletico PR
Click to enlarge: A waterway in Macae – see if you can spot the egret

But, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, fans were keen to see the most popular club in the country.

Flamengo are based in Leblon, Rio, one of the wealthiest areas of Brazil.

Zico played for them and a statue of him is in the foyer of the club which is close to the inland lagoon not far from the glitzy beach of Ipanema.

Zico statue at Flamengo
This statue of Zico is in the foyer of the Flamengo clubhouse in Leblon, Rio

Macae’s seafront is quite a contrast to Rio’s ritz. It niffs a bit. Twos and threes of slope-shouldered turkey vultures skip across the sand searching for carrion.

Their black shapes make them look shifty and they’re a strange sight in a country that is full of colour.

The city centre is similarly unprepossessing, a tangled mash of shops and fast food outlets.

But the locals were friendly and enjoyed a rare opportunity to see top-flight football.

Drummers and flag-wavers greeted the teams and the 7,000 or so made a pretty good racket, standing on the barrier-free terrace.

Estádio Claúdio Moacir de Azevedo is a stone’s throw from the sea and in the northern part of the town, some way out of the centre.

It has a terrace of giant steps stretching the entire length of the field, with a perspex panel separating fans from the pitch. The need for that became apparent later in the evening.

Flamengo v Atletico PR in Macae
The beat goes on: A drummer keeps up the beat at the Estádio Claúdio Moacir de Azevedo in Macae

Welcome to Brazilian football and the apparently absurd world of strange nicknames and Christian names.

Flamengo had an Everton in midfield, on closer inspection Wallace turned out not to be Scottish – that was his Christian name – and Wheidson Roberto dos Santos who, hailing from the northern city of Recife, was just called ‘Recife’ instead.

The visitors, from the southern city of Curitiba had a keeper called Weverton (real Christian name) but turned up with a trump – a midfielder named Bady. That’s the sort of nickname you want if you play in midfield.

They also fielded the only foreigner in the match – Lucas Olaza, a Uruguayan under-20 international.

The party atmosphere was pooped early on by Atletico PR – a side several places higher in the division than Flamengo, who were in the relegation zone after a horrendous start to the season.

Douglas Coutinho put the visitors ahead on 20 minutes with Flamengo equalising on 35 as centre-half Samir soared high to head in driving Macae mad. A good atmosphere with samba beat and an entire terrace singing and dancing ensued for the rest of the first half.

But on the hour, Atletico centre-half Cleberson scored what proved to be the winner and the mood turned sour.

Former Manchester City player Elano hadn’t played notably badly in a side that had been notably bad all season.

Flamengo v Atletico PR in Macae
Danke Deutschland: Couldn’t quite get this. A fan draws parallels between the World Cup winners and floundering Flamengo

But the midfielder who’s played 40 times for Brazil got one hell a barracking when he was substituted and has barely appeared since.

Brazilian fans’ mood, in contrast to the World Cup defeat which was accepted stoically and without complaint – in fact with stunning good grace – can turn on a sixpence at club matches.

In-your-face barely does it justice. If it hadn’t been for the perspex this would have been in your lugholes, up your nose, down your gullet. Nasty to witness and quite instructive as an insight into the average fan’s mentality.

Elano had it bad but there was more to come on the final whistle and the angriest crowded round part of the perspex screen closest to the players’ tunnel to jeer the Flamengo flops. Take a look:

Pretty much all the best Brazilians play in Europe but that doesn’t mean the country’s Serie A is sub-standard.

But the match – and a Vasco game I saw later in the week – gave a clue as to why Brazil were stuffed by Germany.

There was no marvellous defending to admire – but that was only to be expected once the shock of 7-1 semi-final had worn off.

And there you have it, Brazil’s problem in a nutshell. This game proved it. Players don’t want to defend so they don’t. When required to defend they foul instinctively, which was how they managed to get past Colombia in the quarter-final.

They didn’t pick two of their best defenders – Atletico Madrid’s Felipe Luis and Miranda (since reinstatated by the pragmatic Dunga).

Flamengo v Atletico PR in Macae
Flamengo fans put up a German/Brazilian flag on the perspex fencee

Meaning few bother to learn to tackle properly and when confronted with international-standard refs, they are exposed by lack of technique and experience.

The archetypal Brazilian defender is a wannabe-Beckenbauer – David Luiz and Marcelo love to flit upfield in the hunt for goals. Meanwhile, there’s no one to do the grunt stuff at the back when things get hairy.

The attacking is Championship level or higher. Players are a little sharper and quicker. Also, smaller.

Another reason why Brazilian defenders lack presence is that – from north to south – men are shorter than European counterparts.

This match and the following 4-0 stuffing by Independiente proved a turning point for Flamengo who have since recovered to 14th place out of 20 – after August provided a string of wins. Atletico are a couple of places ahead.




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