By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Copa do Brasil is the country’s second biggest soccer competition, shadowed only by the Series A, and this week heralds the quarter-final stages. The winners will get the chance to play in the South American club tournament Libertadores das Américas, the champion of which then competes in the FIFA Club World Cup against the champions from the rest of the world’s continental cups.
As the tournament reaches the quarter-final stage, three Carioca teams are still standing: Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama, with each tie comprising a home and an away leg. Only top teams make it this far, and the matches will be fiercely competitive.
Flamengo face Internacional, who recently won the Rio Grande do Sul state championship. Based in Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul, the team has one of the country’s largest fan bases and a rich footballing history having been the last Brazilian team to win the FIFA Club World Cup, defeating Barcelona in 2006. Flamengo will play the first leg at The Maracana on Wednesday May 13th, and the second the following Thursday (May 20th) at the Beira Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre.
Fluminense face the current São Paulo state champions Corinthians in their home, Pacaembu Stadium, also on May 13th. The Paulistas are on a high after their promotion-winning season last year and the return of Ronaldo ‘Fenomeno’ (FIFA World Player of the Year in 1996, 1997 and 2002) to top form after a long period of injuries and personal scandals has been a huge boost. He scored an astounding 10 goals in 13 matches after his return from Europe, and was rested at the weekend in preparation for the game against Fluminense. The second match will be held at the Maracanã Stadium on May 20th.
Vasco da Gama have perhaps the easiest tie of the three against Vitória of Bahia who, like Flamengo, Internacional and Corinthians, were also crowned state champions last month. Vasco are in need of a boost of their own having suffered relegation last year for the first time in the team’s history, and a cup run would certainly help soothe the pain of Serie B football. The home tie also falls on Wednesday evening, with the away leg on May 20th.
The last of the four quarter finals is Ponte Preta versus Coritiba. Neither side has threatened to land a title in the last few decades so will be seeing their tie as an excellent opportunity to reach the semis of this prestigious tournament. The first match will be on May 12th, in the Moisés Lucarelli Stadium in Campinas, and the second one on May 19th at the Couto Pereira Stadium, Curitiba.