Opinion, by Robbie Blakeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Not for nothing are Fluminense known as the Time dos Guerreiros (Team of Warriors). Since their epic survival against all the odds against relegation in 2009, the Tricolor have been awarded their battling nickname.
And Sunday’s victory, a scrappy 2-1 success over Goías, epitomized what this Fluminense outfit are all about. They were reduced to ten men at the end of the first half when Rhayner picked up two needless yellow cards.
They went a goal down with just twenty minutes remaining and with three players – Diego Cavalieri, Jean and Fred – all on duty with the Brazilian national side. The side looked set for a second successive loss following Thursday’s 2-1 reverse against Coritiba.
But always lurking in the background is a refusal to bow down, a willingness to fight to the bitter end that is instilled in the Laranjeiras club. Rafael Sóbis, who so often has to play second fiddle to Fred, seized his moment to show his worth.
Beating two men he curled a trademark long distance effort into the far corner before 17-year-old Denilson, on as a substitute, marked his dream debut with the winner.
The result and performance screamed Fluminense. It was the byline for their title success last year.
Solid, at times downright ugly football, but the job gets done in the end. Despite not being pleasing on the eye Flu should be there or thereabouts come the season’s closing stages, despite rumors they could lose up to three players during the European summer transfer window.
Botafogo, meanwhile, are amongst the pacesetters in the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro, following on from their state triumph at the beginning of May. Coach Oswaldo de Oliveira deserves all the plaudits coming his way, and then some.
Booed and vilified by parts of the Glorioso faithful last term, he has patiently and expertly built a balanced, exciting side. The spine of the team is one of the strongest in the land and it will depend on keeping the side together as to whether they can maintain their momentum.
Jefferson is an international class goalkeeper and the defense is well marshaled by the experienced Bolívar and the potentially world-class youngster Doria.
Marcelo Mattos is effective as midfield enforcer, allowing the pair of Seedorf and Lodeiro to build the attacks. The only area where the side lacks is in a predatory center-forward.
Rafael Marques is too inconsistent to finish the majority of chances sent his way by the two playmakers. Improvement in this area – talk of the arrival of Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz has gone quiet of late – and Botafogo really will be a force to be reckoned with.