As is usually the case, the mid-week fixtures in the quarterfinals of the Copa Do Brasil were packed full of excitement. Palmeiras jumped to an early lead against Internacional only to watch it evaporate in the second half, but then be saved by an unlikely hero.
São Paulo defeated Vasco da Gama in a game in which Vasco rested major players in an attempt to bolster their chances of remaining in the Brasileirão, while Grêmio and Fluminense battled in a tie that had to be decided by away goals. And that was just on Wednesday. Thursday night saw 19-year old Gabriel Barbosa (also known as, Gabigol) with a bit of a coming out party against Figueirense.
When the dust settled, three Paulista teams had advanced to the semifinals, Palmeiras, São Paulo, and Santos, where they will be joined by Fluminense of Rio de Janeiro. Santos and São Paulo will battle in one semifinal, while Palmeiras takes on Fluminense in the other. The composition of the semifinals will make for an interesting conclusion to the Brasileirão season, as well as the Copa do Brasil.
Palmeiras, São Paulo, and Santos sit in positions 4-6 in the Brasileirão table. Palmeiras, who are currently 4th, are in possession of the final automatic qualifying position to the Copa Libertadores. Outside of finishing in the top 4 of the league, the next best path to the most prestigious in South America is by winning the Copa do Brasil.
However, the winner of the Copa do Brasil will most likely slide down the table, out of the G-4, meaning that if one of the three Paulista teams chose to emphasize the league over the cup, they could sneak into that final top-4 position. However, this strategy also poses a slight risk, as both Chapecoense and Atletico Paranaense remain alive in the Copa Sul-Americana, whose winner also qualifies for Libertadores.
If either of those sides win the tournament, then the fourth position in the league table will no longer be a Libertadores spot, only the top 3, which have effectively been locked down by Corinthians, Atletico Mineiro, and Grêmio, will qualify, along with Chape or Paranaense, if they are to win the Sul-Americana. While it is unlikely either of those sides wins South America’s lesser continental competition, both River Plate and Independente remain alive, it is enough of a chance to deter any of the Paulista sides left in the Copa do Brasil from prioritizing league over cup.
While the math of it all may be overwhelming, the crux of the matter is that we should be in for an exciting conclusion to the Copa do Brasil, with each side looking not only for the glory of a cup title, but also for the security of an automatic berth into next year’s Libertadores group stage.
On display once again were the incredibly talented young players currently playing in the Brasileirão. Gabriel Barbosa was impressive in Santos’ win over Figueirense, and while Palmeiras’ Gabriel Jesus and Internacional’s Valdívia were held in check, Alisson Farias impressed for Inter, and the 20-year old Argentine Augustin Allione was crucial in Palmeiras’ win. But it was Gabigol who stole the show, with a goal and one of the more impressive assists of the season:
(vine via @Goleada_info)
It’s not often that a 19-year old displays so much technique at such a young age. It’s incredibly difficult for a veteran who has been playing at the top level for years to perfectly hit a cross with the outside of the foot, but for a 19-year old? Impressive. There’s no question that Gabigol, and others his age such as Gabriel Jesus and Valdivia, are the future of Brazilian football.