Sambafoot Sunday: Cruzeiro cruising at the top of the Brasileirão
Sambafoot Sunday by James Nalton. The beat goes on...
Cruzeiro have gone eleven games unbeaten as they go into this weekend’s game against Náutico, with their only dropped points coming in their 0-0 draw away at Corinthians.
Unlike Botafogo, Cruzeiro have gained momentum from being in the number one spot, going on an impressive run and opening up a lead of eight points on their nearest rivals. And speaking of their nearest rivals, Botafogo and Grêmio played last night with the points going to a ten man Grêmio, as Botafogo’s slump continues.
There haven’t really been any stand-out individuals for Cruzeiro during this run, as it’s been more of a team effort. The spine of the team has performed consistently during the past month or so, and the goals are spread around the team with defenders and midfielders chipping in to help out the strikers.
This isn’t to say there haven’t been moments where individuals have shined, but they’ve all done it at different points in the season, which could be the key to the recent Cruzeiro dominance of a league which is running on packed fixture schedule.
Where other teams have dropped off once individual players left or dipped in form, Cruzeiro have always had someone who will step up to give their team a boost.
Probably the most extreme example of this would be Júlio Baptista and his two goal match winning cameo against the then title hopefuls, Botafogo.
The former Real Madrid, Sevilla, and Arsenal player has only played five games for Cruzeiro, and came on for just over 25 minutes in this fixture.
During his short time on the pitch he managed to score the two goals which cemented Cruzeiro’s 3-0 victory and left Botafogo in the dust. Botafogo’s talisman, Clarence Seedorf, missed a penalty when his side was just 1-0 down.
This set the tone for both club’s subsequent form. Botafogo haven’t won a game since, Seedorf has faded, and Cruzeiro have gone from strength to strength.
Another goal-scorer in this game was midfielder Nílton, who opened the scoring with an impressive volley which he blasted acrobatically into the goal directly from a corner kick.
This will go down as one of the goals of the season and the fact that Nílton, a deep lying midfielder, leads their scoring charts with seven goals is a good indication of how this team operates.
Nílton has managed to climb to the top of his club’s goal-scoring charts with just 7 goals, but there are 8 players in the squad who have 4 goals or more for the season.
20-year-old striker Vinícius Araújo, is the obligatory outstanding home grown youth player which many successful teams seem to posses.
But the young forward who has five goals in nine appearances this season isn’t the only Cruzeiro developed player making an impression.
Young right back Mayke has also been impressive, grabbing himself a goal as well as chipping in with a few assists in his 16 impressive appearances this season.
Volante Lucas Silva has also contributed to the cause with two goals, and in his twelve appearances this season he’s also shown that he could be a big part of the club’s future.
Attacking midfield duo Alisson and Élber have contributed a handful of minutes here and there, but still wait in the wings for their chance to have a serious impact on the side.
Dedé Finding Form
As with any run of form consistency is the key, and a player previously criticised for his lack of it has begun to find some form.
Cruzeiro’s highly rated centre back Dedé looked to have made the wrong decision when he made his big money move within Brazil, rather than jetting across the continents to Europe.
He seemed to drop further back in the pecking order for international selection, and his performances became unpredictable to the point that he could be as much an hindrance as he was a help to his team.
However, as his side have stormed to the top of the Brasileirão, Dedé has been going about his business in a more consistent manner, and has steadily become one of the more reliable players in the side.
As a reward for this form, Dedé has finally been called up for the national side again for the October friendlies against South Korea and Zambia.
This is the first time he’s been called up since April 2013 when he played in a side made up of Brazilian domestic based players against Chile, and is the first time he’s been called up since moving to Cruzeiro.
Best of the best
As previously mentioned the Cruzeiro rise has been down to a team effort, so it’s tempting to go through every player in the side and note down what they bring to the team... Instead, here’s a selection of the more regular contributors, and their statistics for the season so far:
Cruzeiro continue their title quest with a game tonight away to Náutico, who lie at the bottom of the league table.