Thursday, 19 May 2011

Brasileirão In Focus: América-MG

A traditional team with a big history in Brazil, o Coelho ("the rabbit") has returned to the Série A for the first time in ten years. This is all the more impressive when you consider that in two years ago they finished in 20th position in the 2008 Série C. After achieving back-to-back promotions, and with the return of top division football to Minas Gerais’ third club, spirits could not be higher amongst the Coelho faithful.

During the off-season, América were fairly quiet in the transfer market, but managed to recruit some useful squad players, signing centre-back Anderson and goalkeeper Neneca (both from Santo André) and repatriating defensive midfielder Amaral who had spent a season at Cerezo Osaka in Japan.

Their squad looks good, they have cover in key positions, and they have a good balance of experience, potential and influence. In goal, 40 year old Flávio is still expected to be the first choice goalkeeper after being the man between the sticks ever since that 20th position finish in Série C. He is a very accomplished goalkeeper, and he performs an important role in the team, organizing the back line well.

Top scorer Fábio Júnior will be key for o Coelho this season.

In defence, they have several options at centre-back, Gabriel Santos and Otávio should be the preferred starters. Otávio is one to watch out for this year, one of the most impressive youngsters in this year’s Campeonato Mineiro, I certainly hope we will be seeing a lot of him. The laterais (or full-backs) will be Sheslon on the right, and Carleto will most likely be the first choice on the left after signing on loan from São Paulo. Both are typically Brazilian in style, so do not expect them to sit back in their own half much, especially with the ample cover they will have behind them.

The midfield has many possibilities, but I can be certain that we will see new signing Amaral in a defensive midfield role and 35 year old Irênio in a more advanced position. There are quite a lot of other players at América’s disposal for the middle of the park, but Irênio’s experience and technique will be key to o Coelho’s survival. A wonderful passer of the ball, great vision, and with the ability to dictate the pace of a midfield, he is of so much value to this side.

América manager Mauro Fernandes does not have too much experience in the top league, but he has shown his potential and tactical prowess since taking command of o Coelho. They are a fluid team, they can be seen playing formations with three, four or five defenders, they have plenty of different options in midfield, and this unpredictability could certainly work in their favour.

However, despite previously adventurous tactics, it is expected that América will play most of this season in a 4-5-1 formation with three defensive midfielders, two narrow attacking midfielders, and Fábio Júnior up front on his own. Their first match is at home against fellow promoted side Bahia, and I would expect this compact and cautious 4-5-1 in what is a very important encounter for both sides.

Regarding keeping América up this season, Mauro Fernandes has a massive task ahead of him. They will no doubt be amongst the favourites to go down at the end of the day, due to having a team without any real stars. But if they manage to group together as a team, become hard to beat and pick up the important points (starting with their first game against fellow relegation candidates Bahia) then they should be able to keep themselves above ground.

Expected formation:
football formations


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