Opinion, by Robbie Blakeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – What is for certain is that Botafogo are enjoying their finest season for several years, arguably since they lifted their only Campeonato Brasileiro title in 1995. Coach Oswaldo de Oliveira must be lauded for building an excellently balanced side which won the Campeonato Carioca back in May.
The club followed this up with a promising start to the national championship. Since the first round they have been amongst the front runners, and as the Brasileirão nears the halfway stage the Glorioso sit in fourth spot, which would be good enough to qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores.
They are also through to the quarter-finals of the Copa do Brasil and are favorites to progress to the semis at the expense of Carioca rivals Flamengo. Winning this trophy is also rewarded by Libertadores qualification. Things are bright for supporters.
But the club have suffered some recent setbacks. Jádson, Fellype Gabriel and Andrezinho have all left the club to alleviate finances whilst the team still lacks a real killer instinct up front.
A dangerous pattern is emerging which could end up costing Botafogo a first national title for almost two decades. Over the last six weeks the club have drawn five games they should have won.
Most recently, Sunday’s goalless draw with a relegation threatened São Paulo was a kick in the teeth. And on four separate occasions the team have conceded a late equalizer, dropping two points on each occasion.
The club drew 3-3 at home to Internacional, 1-1 with Goiás, 2-2 with Atlético-MG and 1-1 with Flamengo, all matches true championship winning teams see out to collect three points.
The lapses of concentration amount to ten dropped points in a little over a month. Rather than sitting six points clear at the top of the table they are four points off leaders Cruzeiro.
Last week the club lost their most promising youngster, Vitinho, to Russian outfit CSKA Moscow. The goalscoring onus rests almost entirely on Rafael Marques’ shoulders, who, despite sixteen goals this year does not always convince.
Sunday’s apathy was testament to that fact. The directors continue to sell players but a lack of focus inside the four white lines has been just as damaging to the club’s title challege.