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Sambafoot Sunday: Where’s Wallyson? Botafogo find their new hero post-Seedorf

Reuters
Coach Hungaro attempts to steady the Botafogo ship, whilst Wallyson looks for treasure.

Sambafoot Sunday by James Nalton. The beat goes on...

Botafogo lost more than a player when Clarence Seedorf left the club. They lost a leader – a player who was a coach on the pitch as well as off it. The Dutchman was studying for his coaching badges during his time in Rio, and brought this with him to his Botafogo training sessions as he handed out guidance to the younger players.

At the same time they lost their coach Oswaldo de Oliveira to Santos. He’d been the father figure who guided the team to fourth place in the league, and even mounted a title challenge early in the season.

These departures meant there there were big shoes to be filled at the club, and you wouldn’t envy those who attempt to fill them. Coach Eduardo Hungaro stepped up to the first team, having previously been in involved in the various youth categories at the club, facing criticism almost immediately as they fell to defeat in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores qualifier in Quito.

The team looked devoid of ideas, cutting edge, composure, and leadership in their first Libertadores game since 1996, but if you judge the tie over the two legs you begin to see some reasoning behind the events in Quito.

At an altitude which gives the home team a big advantage, Hungaro set his team up to limit the damage. With two holding midfielders and only one striker, they looked similar in shape to the Botafogo we saw under Eduardo de Oliveira, but missed Seedorf playing in his wandering role behind the striker. After an unconvincing and lethargic performance they escaped with just a one nil defeat, and prepared for the return leg at the Maracanã.

The famous stadium in Rio de Janeiro saw a master-class of attacking football. Not necessarily from the team as a whole, as many players were panicky, rushed, and lacking composure as they were in the first leg, but from one individual playing in a free role off the striker, a la Seedorf.

Wallyson ran the Deportivo Quito defence ragged for the entire game. His direct running was similar to that of young former Botafogo player Vitinho, who left the club for CSKA Moscow last season, but the 25-year-old new signing looks to be a more complete package.

His display of trickery, guile, creativity, and good finishing led to a hat-trick for himself and a several chances created for others, as he guided Botafogo to a 4-0 win on home soil. This made the dull first leg look like part of a wider master-plan, as the Rio side altered their formation to include Wallyson in the starting line-up at the expense of one of the holding midfielders.

Former Brazil U20 star Henrique replaced Wallyson on the 82nd minute, as the new hero exited to raucous appreciation from the fans. Henrique was the top scorer in Brazil’s triumphant 2011 U20 World Cup campaign, but has struggled since. To come on as he did, scoring Botafogo’s fourth goal in this big occasion, should give him a huge boost in confidence.

Botafogo now face tougher tests as they enter the group stages where they play San Lorenzo of Argentina, Independiente of Ecuador and Chile’s Unión Española. The time for true heroes may be still to come, but for now, Wallyson has gone some way to filling the void.

 
 

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