Thursday, 9 September 2010
Narrow home victories in two leg knockout ties are the footballing equivalent of getting stuck with a 16 in blackjack. You'll never win by sticking pat, but overdo it and your goose is cooked. This is the fresh hell facing Santa Cruz after their epic 4-3 win over Guarany de Sobral on Sunday. The game was the stuff of legend though it would be the kind of legend that would have the Keystone Kops rather than Achilles battling the Trojan hordes. Nearly 55,000 at Arruda were stunned into silence when Guarany went two up inside twenty minutes, languid Tricolor centre half Leandro Cardoso taking it upon himself to score not one but two own goals. Things turned ugly in the stands and I See A Darkness had no option but to berate his fellow supporters for their boos and curses - not always a good idea in a city with the highest murder rate in Brazil.
But it was all smiles twelve minutes later, by which time Santa had scored three - the first from Joelson, the second by Alysson, the third an own goal. More fun in the second half as toothless crone Jackson (ex-Seleçao back in the days when Brazil was still a Portuguese colony) thumped in a fourth. Two goals should be enough away from home, ran the thinking, so obviously life had to be made more difficult. Sleepy defending gave Guarany a third, and now things are balanced just about evenly.
The pre-match baiting started after immediately the game. Brazilian footballing barbarism makes Ferguson-Wenger spats look like two tremulous spinsters passing the sugar at a temperance tea party. It´ll be 40 degrees in Sobral, crowed one of the Trojans, your little Santa are going to melt!
A few days later came stronger stuff still from blowhard Guarany president Luiz Turquato. Santa aren´t even a team! Weak as piss! They could hardly win in front of their own fans, imagine what they´ll be like in our cauldron when it hits 50 degrees! They´re dead!
Santa players and staff have maintained a dignified silence which is something of a rarity in the northeast of Brazil. Almost dignified - midfield bulldog Goiano has responded in a style best described as Alan MacDonald Post Wembley 85.
Only three days and 1,000 kms to go. I See A Darkness knows that he shouldn´t go, because who the hell goes from Recife to Sobral in the north of Ceará for a football match, and there are dogs, relationships, jobs to be maintained. But really, honestly, truly - how can he not go?