By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The 2012 Brasileirão, which started in May, came to a close this past Sunday as the four Rio teams locked horns in two regional classicos. On Saturday, Flamengo and Botafogo drew 2-2 while Vasco defeated champions Fluminense 2-1 the following day.
Yet in truth there was little riding on either game as all Carioca stories had been decided prior to the final round. First and foremost it has been an enormously successful year for Fluminense.
After winning the Campeonato Carioca state tournament earlier in the year, Abel Braga’s expensively assembled entourage launched an assault on the national league title. Their consistency saw them lose just three games of the first 35, when they won the title away to Paulista outfit Palmeiras.
A post-glory hangover has seen the Tricolor collect just one point from their final three games, meaning the side didn’t break the record 78 points won by São Paulo in 2007. The squad will now set their sights on an unprecedented success for Flu; the Libertadores title.
It has been a sour season for São Januário side Vasco da Gama. After an excellent start to the tournament, with the club challenging Fluminense and Atlético-MG at the top of the table, off the field problems began to take their toll on the threadbare squad.
Star player Diego Souza was sold to Saudia Arabian club Al Ittihad to try and balance the club’s books. Due to huge debts salaries weren’t paid on time, or sometimes at all, leading to discontent amongst the players. Coach Cristovão Borges resigned, swiftly followed by Marcelo Oliveira, who took the Vasco reigns for two months and never received a penny of his wage.
After six straight losses at the latter end of the season the club finished the Brasileirão in fifth place and with no coach. Vasco fans will be hoping for a more stable 2013.
2012 brought much of the same for Botafogo. Tipped before the start of the season as possible Libertadores contenders, indifferent form, particularly at home, cost the Alvinegro dear with the side finishing seventh.
A doubtless plus was the signing and fast adaptation of Dutch veteran Clarence Seedorf, whose experience, example and guile can only help the promising youngsters at the club.
Rumors are abound that Botafogo could sign Seedorf’s former Milan team-mate David Beckham, and the pair could give the side a more successful campaign next year.
In short, 2012 was disastrous for Brazil’s biggest club Flamengo. After failing to come to close to winning the Carioca, the dismissal of Vanderlei Luxemburgo, the resignation of Ronaldinho Gaúcho, the hiring and firing of Joel Santana and the dreadful Brasileirão campaign, Flamenguistas are glad to turn their back on 2012.
Breathing a sigh of relief that the nightmare of the past seven months is at an end, the Flamengo directors must start to rebuild in preparation for challenges next year. The squad is low on class and there is little for coach Dorival Junior to work with.
The club needs a new center-half, a new left-back, a new holding midfielder, two playmakers and a striker to take the burden of Vagner Love, who has performed admirably under difficult circumstances. Quite where the players are to come from is another matter but a new sponsorship deal with Adidas means there should at least be some money available for transfers.