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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 09:36 GMT
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery

There is just one round to go in the Brazilian Championship and Corinthians have one hand on the title.

Or maybe a hand-and-a-half. For a few minutes on Sunday they had both.

Corinthians' Marinho celebrates with team-mate Carlos Tevez
Corinthians have the Brazilian title within their sights

In the closing minutes they went ahead against Ponte Preta while rivals Internacional were being held by Palmeiras.

But Inter found a late goal to keep the race alive until next Sunday.

Corinthians lead by three points, have a better goal difference and have scored more times.

So, it will take a very bad day at the office to take the title away from them.

The conquest, though, will inevitably lose some of its glitter because this championship will be remembered as much for the refereeing scandal as for anything Corinthians did on the field.

Bribed by betting syndicates, referee Edilson Pereira de Carvalho was manipulating results of the games that he handled.

He was caught, and all 11 matches he had officiated were replayed, whether or not he had tried to produce, or succeeded in producing, the result his paymasters wanted.

Many neutrals would love to see Internacional win the title

By coincidence, this was a decision which benefited Corinthians.

It allowed them to pick up points they had dropped earlier in the campaign, when their form was patchy.

Had the matches not been replayed, Internacional would be a point ahead.

The scandal has put Brazilian referees under scrutiny. Human error is an inevitable part of their job, but, nervous and under pressure, the errors have increased.

Unfortunately for the championship, there was a much publicized mistake just over a week ago when Corinthians met Internacional in the match that would practically decide the destination of the title.

The game was tied at a goal apiece when Tinga of Internacional was brought down by Corinthians keeper Fabio Costa.

It was a blatant penalty. Not only did the referee not give it, he also gave Tinga a yellow card for diving - his second, meaning that he was sent off.

Refereeing in Brazil is a thankless task.

Players are always looking to go down and win fouls. It is hard not to feel some sympathy for the man in the middle. But this decision really was a howler.

It has been highlighted because many neutrals would love to see Internacional win the title.

Like almost all South American clubs, Inter are constantly forced to sell their best players. Corinthians, on the other hand, are buyers.

A controversial partnership with a group of foreign investors gives them spending power their rivals can only dream of.

Carlos Tevez (left) warms up alongside team-mate Betao
Corinthians star man Teves (left) trains with rising star Betao

They have bought in talent from Argentina, such as the supporters' idol Carlos Tevez, and brought back Brazilian internationals from Europe.

A Corinthians director recently gloated that his team was a Mercedes while Inter was a bus.

But that's not the whole story. Corinthians might be a Mercedes, but some of its expensive components have been playing up.

They have had to deal with a horrific run of injuries, including to some of their big money acquisitions.

A key part of their campaign has been the performance of youngsters who are either home grown or snapped up from other clubs at a very early age.

Centre-back Betao (22), right-back Eduardo Ratinho (18), midfield dynamo Rosinei (22) and striker Jo (18) have all made an excellent contribution, and they are by no means the only ones.

Perhaps the lesson of the 2005 Brazilian Championship is this: refereeing scandals and foreign investors may come and go, but the country's production line of talent goes on and on.

Search for more Vickery columns
12 Jul 05 |  World Football


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