Barcelona may have started to shift some concepts around, but some people still praise the style of play that led Paraguay to the Copa America final without winning a single match. Santos and Flamengo performed a feat of magic to show everyone why is it called “The Beautiful Game.”
For the twelfth round, Ronaldinho’s Flamengo went to Vila Belmiro stadium to face the Santos of Neymar and Ganso. The new generation of Brazilian football facing the “old”.
Neymar was extremely inspired. Dribbling, running, being basically unstoppable. At four of the first half, he dribbled two of Flamengo’s defenders and passed the ball to Elano. Elano threw a precise long ball to striker Borges, who didn’t miss. Santos 1×0.
Flamengo played well, creating chances, but the night seemed to be Neymar’s. A ball badly crossed by Renato gave Santos a good counter attack, with Neymar almost scoring but being stopped by Flamengo’s goalie Felipe. Fallen, he was still able to bicycle kick it to find Borges alone in the box. Santos 2×0.
Flamengo still tried, but we the last touch was either bad or defensible. Deivid missed an incredible goal after a cross by Luis Antonio. Luis Antonio and Ronaldinho both had good chances, but their goalie defended it.
There was more from Santos, though. A work of absolute beauty and skill by Neymar. He escapes between two of Flamengo’s defenders, gives and receives the ball from Borges, humiliates Flamengo’s defender Ronaldo Angelim with a disturbing dribble and kicks the ball over Felipe to make Santos 3×0
Santos has the game, but Flamengo is not dead. A cross from Luis Antonio and Santos’ goalie fumbled, and the ball comes soft into the feet of Ronaldinho. Santos 3×1 Flamengo.
There is another cross, a few minutes later, this time by winger Leo Moura, and Thiago Neves heads it in perfectly. Santos 3×2 Flamengo.
The tide seems to be turning. Santos’ fans are apprehensive, Flamengo’s fans are jubilant. But they have Neymar. The kid dashes down the left, with Williams in pursuit and falls inside the box. The ref calls a penalty.
Now, Elano was the first to take a shot in that horrible sequences of penalties that Brazil took against Paraguay. So everyone is a bit skeptical when he grabs the ball to take the penalty. He runs to it and tries to trick Felipe by taking a soft shot in the middle of the goal. Felipe is ready for it, though, defends and then, in a supreme act of irreverence and mirth, starts juggling the ball before releasing for the counter attack.
Then, a corner kick taken by Ronaldinho finds Deivid’s head, and he does not miss. Santos 3×3 Flamengo.
Did I mention this was just the first half?
The second half starts as the first ended, with both teams playing a frank, forward looking football. Santos comes out in advantage again, with Neymar receiving a very good pass from Leo, clearing easily Flamengo’s defender and putting the ball over Felipe’s head. Santos 4×3 Flamengo, in the beginning of the first half.
Santos now played a tad more cautiously, depending heavily on Neymar for attacking but keeping other players back to defend. Neymar almost find the goal a couple of times, but by himself he is not able to conclude.
Roanldinho, who has being playing very well but has been outshone by Neymar, strikes genius twice. Once in the dribble, that left three Santos defenders with no choice but to foul him near the box; and secondly by the masterful way he took the shot, sliding the ball under the jumping defenders.
But it wasn’t over. Deivid recovered a ball in the midfield and passed to Thiago Neves, who dashed towards the goal accompanied by Ronaldinho. He passes the ball to Flamengo’s number 10, who did not forgive. Santos 4×5. Thiago still had a great chance to score the sixth.
Regardless of the winner, this game was a real ode to football, to offensive, well played, beautiful football. Santos and Flamengo showed Brazil that playing football is still the best way to win a game.