Copa São Paulo fixtures preview (4 January)
The Copa São Paulo de Futebol Júnior kicks off on Friday with a feast of footballing action, as three of Brazil's giants get their campaigns underway.
First to get their tournament started will be Santos, in the second game of the day. The Paulista (São Paulo state) champions of 2012 always possess a squad capable of challenging in this tournament and that will once more be the case in 2012.
Forward Givanildo was the star of their state championship campaign, while midfielders Lucas Otávio, Pedro Castro and Leandrinho are all relative veterans at this level and decent prospects.
Left-back Emerson played for Brazil Under-17s at the 2011 World Cup, while central defenders Gustavo Henrique and Jubal are solid in defence, while providing a goal-threat in attack.
The club's too biggest stars eligible for the competition, Victor Andrade and Gabriel Barbosa, have been left out in order to focus on pre-season.
Later in the evening, Under-20 Campeonato Brasileiro champions Cruzeiro get their campaign underway against Série B side São Caetano. The Paulista underdogs endured a torrid state championships in 2012, but will be hoping for improvement to start 2013 on a positive note.
Cruzeiro for their part are weakened from their recent title success, with five players moving up to the senior squad, but will still expect to go far in the tournament.
Attacking midfielder Lynneeker (pictured) enjoyed a fine tournament in the Brasileiro, excelling from the right-flank, while central midfielder Bruno was also widely praised for his performances at the heart of the team. Attacking midfielders Cristian, Juninho and Daniel are also all veterans of the 2012 edition.
In attack, the side boast one of Brazil's better centre forward prospects in Pedro Paulo, a pacy forward who often plays from the left for his side. While, likely off the bench, they can count upon the services of Judivan—star of the club's Under-17 side.
Goalkeeper Charles is another veteran of the 2011 Under-17 World Cup and yet another fine young keeper coming through the Cruzeiro ranks.
In the final big match of the day, São Paulo take on União Rondonópolis from Mato Grosso state. Although the visitors will not be expected to challenge, anything can happen in youth football—particularly at the Copinha.
Taking a look at the São Paulo side, then, the midfield looks particularly strong. Rodrigo Caio has played a fair number of first-team games over the past year and is a highly-rated defensive midfielder, while João Felipe enjoyed a good showing at the Copinha in 2012. Lucas Evangelista, linked to Manchester United, is the side's stand-out player, currently on loan from Desportivo Brasil.
Full-backs Lucas Farias and Henrique Miranda are both veterans of 2012 also and come with burgeoning reputations, while Luiz Eduardo will hope to stake a claim for senior football at centre-back. Likely substitutes Daniel and Diego are both also Desportivo loanees and will be desperate to impress their new club.
Finally, the team's wildcard comes in the form of striker Adelino—who will play off centre-forward Tiago, star of the Taça Belo Horizonte. Adelino was tracked for a long-time by the club while at Guarani and has signed a five-year contract at the Morumbi. Much is expected. Tall centre-forward Joanderson could be a threat off the bench.
Veteran of 2012, attacking midfielder Mirrai is recovering from a serious knee injury, but will hope to play a part later in the competition. João Schmidt is tipped for first-team football and may also start in midfield, while likely substitute Eduardo is another loanee, joining with Adelino from Guarani.
Friday's fixtures (Serie A/B in bold):
- São Carlos x Guaicurus 21.00 GMT
- São Paulo x União Rondonópolis 23.00 GMT
- São José-SP x São Francisco-BA 19.00 GMT
- Cruzeiro x São Caetano 21.00 GMT
- São Mateus x Corinthians-AL 16.00 GMT
- Santos x Remo 18.00 GMT