Serie B: A run-down
It has been said that, in England, the football games with the biggest prize are those that determine promotion to the English Premier League. This is because the value of winning promotion far exceeds any trophy that can be won.
While the value of promotion may not be as great in Brazil, it still is an enormous benefit for a club to promote to the top level. For this reason, it should not be a surprise that this year’s Serie B looks to be one that will be fiercely competed with both well-funded clubs and larger traditional clubs battling for the four promotion spots.
Experienced followers of Brazilian football will know that it has been only ten short years since the Campeonato Brasileirao involved 26 teams. The current 20 team structure has only been in existence since 2006 and many clubs in Serie B will feel that their rightful place is at the top level. In fact, there are four clubs (Goias, Guarani, Atletico Paranaense, and Vitoria) that rank among the all-time top 20 Brazilian clubs (as ranked by the Brazilian federation) competing in the 2012 edition of Serie B. In addition, there are a total of eleven of this year’s 20 participants at the Serie B level have participated in the Brasileirao at least once over the past ten years.
At the same time, Serie B is a treacherous competition financially with revenue sources limited and costs relatively high. Financial budgets need to match the talent required. On top of that, the difference between success and failure is slim. For example last year, the difference between promotion and relegation was just 14 points. It is common that some clubs face tight financial constraints on their potential performance. Consequently, a few clubs are likely to see bad luck and some injuries to key players turn them from a serious challenger for promotion into a relegation candidate.
This year’s Serie B should have its thrills and spills. For those readers who like to look for something more alternative than the standard big club battles in the Brasileirao, here is a brief description of each of the participants.
The Main Competitors
These teams would have to suffer badly to fall out of the top half of the league standings. They also represent the likely candidates for promotion.
Atletico Paranaense: Atletico-PR is this year’s fallen big club whose fans would feel this competition is beneath them. They have a good youth structure and a solid roster. The club is currently in the quarterfinals of the Copa do Brasil.
Vitoria: This is another big club that narrowly missed promotion last year. The club has solid a youth system and continues to perform well in this year’s Copa do Brasil.
Goias: Goias is a relatively big club in with some financial issues. The club is performing well in the Copa do Brasil and looks solid. The question is do they have the staying power?
America MG: A finalist in the Mineiro state tournament. The club appears to have been able to hold onto some of its talent. It also has a strong youth system.
Avai: Winner of the Santa Catarina state title. Relegated last year, it looks to recover this year.
Gremio Barueri: Regarding how much club investors can spend, it’s more likely a question of willingness. Let’s just say there are probably card games in the wealthy neighbourhoods of this Sao Paulo suburb where the pot occasionally exceeds the club’s current annual salary budget. They have already bought a lot of talent; but do they have enough?
Ceara: A relegated club from Serie A. Ceara is a traditional club that may still have enough to put up a solid campaign. It also was a state champion this year.
The Wild Cards
With this group of clubs, there are some indications that they could succeed but also each has issues that could haunt. The end result is likely some surprisingly successful results mixed with some surprisingly weak results.
Guarani: This club may take a turn at the roulette wheel. It could be promotion or bust for Guarani. If it can hold its team together after reaching the final of the Paulistao, it should be in the hunt. However, the club has serious financial challenges and if the financial accounts begin to unravel, it could also be fighting relegation like 2011.
Criciuma: This is a club that had a taste of the top level in the past 10 years and it may be hungry enough to take a shot. But it is likely too much to expect them to challenge for promotion.
Sao Caetano: With a little luck and some surprise talent finds could put them in lead group; but, it will be tough for them to get there.
Boa Esporte: This club will most likely end up falling to the bottom half of the league standings but if it gets the right combination of talent and luck, it could become a spoiler.
Bragantino: Bragantino had a good run in the Paulistao but the question remains whether it has the financial resources to compete with big budgets and big clubs. Still, it could make some noise.
Parana Clube: This club has had financial troubles but could be prepared to take a shot at the roulette wheel. It has performed well at the top level in the past and may feel the pull of past glory. In the end, Serie B is likely where they will stay.
There are too many unknowns to give a good assessment of this group of clubs. However, they tend to have smaller budgets to work with and as a consequence; they will likely find it difficult to climb above the bottom half of the league standings. Still, some could surprise.
Joinville: Of the promoted sides, Joinville is curious. The club will likely avoid relegation but not much more.
ABC–RN: ABC will be challenged to stay in Serie B. However, with a little luck, it could surprise and end up in the middle of the pack.
Ipatinga: This club has had some success in the past and has played in the Brasileirao too. I suspect it will be happy to stay in Serie B and simply avoid relegation.
Guaratingueta: The club is not off to a great start this year with it being relegated to the A2 at the Sao Paulo state level. While the club has had some good years, one wonders if this might be the year it falls back to Serie C.
America-RN: America has also experienced competing in the Brasileirao in the past. The question is do they have the budget for a run. They are, however, a state champion.
ASA: Budgets are tight and results may be just as difficult.
CRB: CRB is another state champion; but, it still could be a difficult year. The battle will likely be to avoid relegation.
Art Zantinge (@azantinge)