This Brasileirão must be a nightmare for gamblers. The results are completely unpredictable, seldom following the logical expectation.

A clear example of this was Cruzeiro x Fluminense in the 33rd round. Cruzeiro was the clear favorite, being fifth and having the best campaign of the second half of the tournament against Fluminense, the last placed team on the tournament. In the first half, Cruzeiro scored two goals, missed a penalty kick and completely dominated the game.

Come second half, Cruzeiro payed a heavy price for its arrogance. Confident that the game was over, it was completely caught unawares by Fluminense’s fighting spirit. Led by Maicon (not that one) and the stoic Fred, Fluminense scored one, two, three goals, turning the tide against Cruzeiro with magnificent elán. Final score Cruzeiro 2×3 Fluminense.

And then Botafogo went down south, and scored a goal against Internacional right in the beginning. Then the Botafogo’s goalie decided that the game would end there and simply closed the goal against the Internacional’s bombardment. Final score Internacional 0x1 Botafogo.

São Paulo won, Palmeiras tied and they are both at 58 points. Atlético Mineiro won an away game in the last minute, and comes in third. And Flamengo…

All the while, in Flamengo…

0,,31942127-DP,00“The fear of losing takes away the will of winning.”

These were the sage words of Santos coach Vandelei Luxemburgo (and probably the only good things to come out of that man’s mouth). They reflect a malaise that afflicts most of today’s football: teams play to not lose, instead of to win.

For a while, it seemed that Andrade had cured Flamengo from this disease.  The team played offensively, trusting Maldonado as the only defensive midfielder and Pet as the brain that moved the team forward. The team defended and attacked as a unit.

Then in the derby against Botafogo, the team scored and stopped attacking, trusting in the defense to guarantee the paltry 1×0. Mid-week, without Petkovic, the team was absolutely scrambled and lost its first game after 11 games undefeated, to the inglorious team of Barueri.

Saturday was supposed to be the redemption. With Maracanã overflowing with 80.ooo people in it, Adriano scored a goal in minute 6 of the first half. But then the team stopped, and showed clear signs of being tired. Adriano and Petkovic (who, recovering from a leg injury, hadn’t trained all week and was visibly out of shape) literally walked on the field. And Santos, this poor excuse of a squad, kept on coming, without any objectivity, surely, but offensively nonetheless.

So the ref decided to help, and gave two penalty kicks to Santos that, if taken out of context, only one would have been a penalty, but considering what happened in the game, were completely untrue. And their best player went to kick both of them, but he noticed that he was facing Bruno The Wall, and quaked. Bruno defended both. Final score Flamengo 1×0 Santos.

Next weekend we face Atlético Mineiro in their stadium, and all tickets have already been sold out. This is as close to a final that it gets; whoever loses is out of a title shot. It’s time to get back to the spirit of football, to the spirit of Flamengo’s anthem: vencer, vencer, vencer…*

* to win, to win, to win…