By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – On last Sunday, April 5th, Rio de Janeiro stopped. Taça Rio, the state’s soccer tournament had its last round before the semifinals. Eight simultaneous matches started at 4PM and virtually anything could happen. Almost every one of the 16 teams had a decisive game. Some were struggling for a spot in the semifinals, and others fighting not to be dropped from the first division. Each group’s top two teams would go to the semifinals.
In Group A, Vasco and Fluminense were already in the semifinals, since they had more than twice as much points as their group 3rd placer, Tigres. The group’s other 6 teams were fighting for their survival in the 1st division, Rio de Janeiro’s soccer elite.
In Group B things were a little more complicated. Apart from Mesquita, who was already dropped from the first division, Flamengo, Botafogo and Friburguense were chasing a spot in the semifinals, and the other four teams in the group could end up in the last but one position, and be kicked from the 1st division. Because of that, all of the games were filled with expectations and every player was willing to give their best.
Vasco da Gama destroyed the Bangu squad, with a 4-0 victory in the São Januário stadium, with Rodrigo Pimpão scoring twice, and two other goals: one by Allan Kardec and the other one by goalkeeper Tiago, in a penalty kick.
Botafogo probably had the best performance of the round. The team’s players had an inspired evening that guaranteed the team in the semifinals of Taça Rio. The match against Resende ended up 4-0, and the goals were scored by Reinaldo, Victor Simões, Maicosuel and Jean Carioca. If the team had a loss or draw, Friburguense would get the semifinal’s spot.
But there’s no doubt this evening’s biggest event was held at the Maracanã stadium: this year’s first FlaFlu match. FlaFlu is a folcloric showdown between Flamengo and Fluminense, arguably the biggest rivalry case in all of Brazilian soccer.
The exciting match was filled with great performances, and the final score was decided literally the last minute. Fluminense was winning 1-0 with a goal scored by Alan until the end of the match. In the injury time, when all seemed to be over, Flamengo’s new striker Emerson (debuting in that evening), tied the match, with a header.
The other matches were Tigres winning 3-2 against Macaé, Boavista winning 4-1 against Americano, Duque de Caxias tying 1-1 with Volta Redonda, Friburguense winning 2-0 against Madureira and Mesquita losing 2-1 for Cabofriense.
With these results, the bigger teams guaranteed their place in the semifinals. Flamengo, 1st place in Group B, will face Fluminense, 2nd place in group A on another FlaFlu showdown, while Vasco, Group A’s 1st place will face Botafogo, Group B’s 2nd place. The tournament’s promoters didn’t reveal when and where the matches will be played, but they will happen next weekend.
Even though the round and the first stage of the tournament are over, Cabofriense and Volta Redonda ended up with the same amount of points in the lower positions of their groups, and will have to face each other in two matches to see who will be dropped from the first division. The tournament’s promoters didn’t reveal when and where these matches will be played either.