By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Vasco da Gama are the last Carioca team left in the Copa do Brasil, and in this Wednesday’s second leg match against Corinthians they will have their shot at a place in the finals.
The two teams’ recent history couldn’t be much further apart. 2008 was an awful year for Vasco with the side relegated to Serie B for the first time ever, while Corinthians took first place in the second division, coming straight back up to Serie A in 2009 as one of the favorites.
This year, the Corinthians Paulistas have already won their state championship and the legendary striker Ronaldo has performed one of the great comebacks in soccer history, recovered his fitness and returned to Brazil.
In the Copa do Brasil, however, the teams’ situations, and indeed their chances, aren’t so different.
Last Wednesday, May 27th, the two sides tied 1-1 in the Maracanã stadium in the first match of the semi-finals. Both teams were unable to count on their biggest stars – midfielder Carlos Alberto was absent for Vasco following a booking in the previous round, and for the Paulistas Ronaldo was sidelined, recovering from a calf injury. Regardless of who was or wasn’t playing, the first leg attracted approximately 72,000 people to a packed Maracanã stadium.
Corinthians dominated in the first half, and Vasco’s goalkeeper Fernando had trouble keeping them out. There was a certain inevitability when in the 30th minute a failed offside trap ended up giving the ball away to Corinthians’ striker Dentinho, who was perfectly placed to score, making it 0 x 1 at half time.
In the second period the Carioca team rose to the occasion and were constantly looking to attack, with only some poor finishing prevented a game equalizer. Finally in the 19th minute Vasco’s striker Rodrigo Pimpão entered the area, and under challenge from defender William, somehow the ball ended up in goalkeeper Felipe’s net. Few inside the stadium cared how it happened, all that mattered was that Vasco were back in the game with the tie, although they were unable to find that crucial second goal and the match finished at 1 x 1.
Now the Carioca team travels to São Paulo to play the second match of the semis as visitor. The game will be held in the Pacaembu stadium this Wednesday, June 3rd, at 9:50PM, and promises to be a thriller, with both Ronaldo and Carlos Alberto back in the team and a place in the final at stake.