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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Tim Vickery column
Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

While Brazil's women were hitting the headlines for their splendid campaign in the World Cup, back home the players of Botafogo were greeted with a shower of women's underwear on their arrival at Rio airport.

Former Botafago manager Cuca
Botafogo's ex-manager soon paid the price for his team's lapse

The club's supporters chose such a display to protest at an extraordinary defeat in Argentina.

Contemporary club football in Brazil can at times be played out in an atmosphere of wild mood swings.

String a couple of wins together and a club, boosted by the local media, are likely to announce their 'project Tokyo' - their intention to qualify for the Copa Libertadores, win that and then go to Japan to take on the victors of Europe's Champions League.

Then come a couple of defeats, the signal to sack the coach and for the fans to decide that the players are a shameless rabble who have no right to wear the shirt.

Botafogo have lived both sides of the coin within little more than a week.

Over the past year under coach Cuca, their tactically bold, fluid and attacking football has been a pleasure to watch.

The supporters have enjoyed it and have been in fine voice.

Almost two weeks ago the club had a special night when they inaugurated their new home in style.

Botafogo are moving into a brand new stadium that was built for the Pan-American Games, which Rio staged in July.

The place is not perfect; it is something of a compromise between the needs of athletics and football.

But, in terms of spectator comfort, it represents a considerable advance over existing Brazilian grounds - and the fans certainly thought it was worth celebrating.

A full house of some 40,000 came out for the debut match, the visit of Argentine giants River Plate in the first leg of a tie in the South American Cup, the continent's equivalent of Europe's Uefa Cup.

A group of supporters hit the lingerie department before going to the airport to express their contempt for what they denounced as a team of 'dolls'

They went home happy after Botafogo won an attractive game by a single goal.

Last Thursday came the return match. In truth, the pressure was already building.

For all Botafogo's pleasing football, Cuca's side had yet to win anything and titles are of paramount importance in the culture of the Brazilian game.

Early contenders for the national championship, they were slipping down the league table and it also seemed that Cuca's command of the group was not as strong as it had been.

So there was plenty hanging on their qualification for the quarter-finals of the South American Cup - and inside the last 20 minutes in Buenos Aires their place seemed assured.

Botafogo led 2-1 and although they had had a man sent off, River had lost two.

The River Plate fans were making their displeasure very clear and their remaining nine players needed to score three goals. They got them.

With thoroughbred young Colombian striker Radamel Falcao Garcia in devastating form, River rose to the occasion and Botafogo collapsed to an unthinkable 4-2 defeat.

Cuca quit, club directors lambasted the players and a group of supporters hit the lingerie department before going to the airport to express their contempt for what they denounced as a team of 'dolls.'

On Saturday there were scenes of violence between fans and security guards at the training ground and on Sunday just over 7,000 turned up to their next game - and they had come to protest rather than to support.

They soon had plenty more to protest about. New coach Mario Sergio is seen as a defensive specialist.

But Botafogo were a hideous hotchpotch - neither attacking like a Cuca team or defending like a Mario Sergio one - as they crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Goias, a side who also went into the game short of form and confidence.

So it might be a while before Botafogo fans start talking again about going to Tokyo - unless, of course, they win away to Atletico Paranaense on Wednesday night and kick-start the dream all over again.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at vickerycolumn@hotmail.com

I have been following the career of Jo of CSKA Moscow, and I think he is best player now to play up front for Brazil. Do you think he could be the next big hit for Brazil?
Omar, Oslo

I'm also a big fan and have followed him since he came through with Corinthians. I rate him highly - a tall striker, you can play up to him or slip him past the line and he has a lovely left foot.

Centre-forward is a tricky position for Brazil at the moment, with the three leading candidates Ronaldo, Adriano and Fred all going through problems.

Afonso Alves and Vagner Love were again called up last week when Brazil announced their squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Coach Dunga had a look at Jo a few months back when he had him in the squad for the friendlies against England and Turkey.

Then Jo went off to the World Youth Cup, where he didn't do himself any favours by not scoring in the four games he played.

So he needs to force his way back up the queue and will probably need a good campaign in the Champions League to get back in quickly.

In the longer term, perhaps the 2008 Olympics will give him another chance in a Brazil shirt.

Does Martin Palermo's recent goal haul for Boca Juniors prove what a good striker he actually is and that he might have suited the British game more than the Spanish, where he had an ill-fated spell?
Steven Stuart

I tend to think that his lack of pace would have proved just as big a problem in British football.

Maybe because he never had any pace to lose there is no sign of decline, even as he approaches 34.

In fact, I think his collective play has improved with age.

People often make fun of him for missing three penalties in one match (Argentina v Colombia in the 1999 Copa America) but I think it misses the point entirely.

The fact that he was prepared to take them - he had no fear of looking ridiculous - helps to explain why he has scored so many goals and got the most from his limited talent.



SEE ALSO
Tim Vickery column
24 Sep 07 |  Internationals


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