From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Guess who's the only team to achieve a perfect haul of 18 points from the first six games in Liga Sagres.
No, not them. No, not them either. Or them.
That fact that SC Braga top the league is even more surprising when one takes into account the fact that the Arsenalistas already played two of the Big Three – Sporting away and Porto at home.
They're certainly high on confidence and while it might still be too early to label them as ‘title contenders’, it's impossible to overlook their encouraging performance.
Interestingly, Braga didn’t enjoy the best start to the 2009/10 campaign, being knocked out of the new Europa League by Swedish outfit Elfsborg.
They had high expectations after reaching the last 16 of the competition last season and with their current squad they should have done better.
However, they were quick to recover from such an early bump by putting in several good performances in the league. So let's analyse their squad.
Starting XI: Eduardo; João Pereira, Moisés, Alberto Rodriguez, Evaldo; Mossoró, Hugo Viana, Vandinho; Alan, Meyong, Paulo César.
After a breakthrough season on loan at Vitória de Setúbal in 2007/2008, Eduardo returned to Braga to claim a starting place in the team and his consistent performances were rewarded by Carlos Queiroz: the 27-year-old is now Portugal's No.1.
Braga’s defence is better than Sporting’s. João Pereira may still have his concentration lapses every now and then, but he has improved since leaving Benfica a couple of years ago and looks much more assured in the right-back position.
It was a big surprise that nobody tried to sign Alberto Rodríguez in the summer. Ever since his arrival, the Peruvian international has been a rock-solid presence in the backline, lending his experience and maturity to the side. If he reproduces his past performances, then he’s a top candidate to leave next season.
Lately, however, Rodríguez has been injured and against FC Porto, André Leone partnered Moisés in the centre. The duo kept the Dragons’ attack at bay and Rodríguez's return may give coach Domingos Paciência a selection headache.
Evaldo is another reliable performer for Braga. The Brazilian left-back is fast, strong and can cross. Having missed only one game last season, he’s an integral part of the back-line.
Paciência has been using a three-man midfield consisted of club captain Vandinho, Hugo Viana and Mossoró. While none of them is a real holding midfielder, their combined workrate ensures there’s no lack of steel in the middle of the park.
Vandinho has been at the club since the 2004/05 season and is an all-round box-to-boxer; capable of tackling, dribbling and passing. He has been an ever-present for the Arsenalistas and worth scouts taking a look at, even at 31.
Hugo Viana’s career was going nowhere in Spain and the decision to return to Portugal was a good one. Viana is still a good player with a delightful range of passing and silky technique, but people expected too much from him.
Upon moving to Newcastle United in 2002 he was hailed as the “best young player in the world.” He will prove himself at Braga and maybe catch the eye of the national coach if he manages to play week in week out.
Mossoró resembles the Atom Ant in his size and movement. The pint-sized offensive midfielder never stops, constantly opening up spaces and linking up with the forwards. Against FC Porto he was among the stand-out performers.
The mercurial Albert Meyong is Braga’s main weapon up front. The prolific Cameroonian has a respectable record in the league, having been top scorer in 2005/06 and having played for Setúbal and Belenenses.
But while Meyong will no doubt net some goals, Braga lost on-loan star Wason Rentería and opted to loan out Austrian international Roland Linz.
They brought in FC Porto outcast Adriano Louzada, but it still remains to be seen whether the Brazilian forward can regain his form, after not playing a single game in the 2008/09 season.
They’ll have to rely on Paulo César, who – going by his goalscoring ratio – is perhaps the weakest link in Braga’s attack.
Alan – yes, Alan – has been receiving more attention lately after scoring the winning goals against FC Porto and Olhanense.
The Brazilian winger is one of those players that may be too good for the small teams but not good enough for the top teams – the Darren Huckerby of the Portuguese League.
His speed is enough to trouble most of Liga Sagres’ defences and he’s been playing with confidence. Watch his goal against Sporting CP, an early contender for goal of the season.
Can they do it? Can Braga last the distance and join the elite group of teams that have won the league? It would be nice, but to do so they have to beware three main threats.
First, teams will pay attention to them and employ more negative tactics. You can't be a surprise package forever.
Second, Meyong and Vandinho are irreplaceable. It will be hard to replace them if they get injured or suffer burn-out.
And finally, as expectations rise, so will pressure – and some players won’t be able to cope with that.
Nevertheless, they will benefit from the fact they don’t have to worry about continental competition. That will keep their key performers fresh and increase their chances in the league.
It would be great for Portuguese football and for the club if they could break through the glass ceiling.
With such a magnificent stadium and a talented squad, let’s hope they keep up with their good job.
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I thought Leixoes would do it last year...but just like the SPL here in Scotland, the big teams just accummulate more points inevitably.
I wouldnt mind going to Braga's stadium though, carved into the mountains...very cool.
Congratulations. On the weekend of the 8th week of the season(7 games played) you finally pay some repect to Braga. Recently you have called Braga the "Archbishops" which has never beena nickname of the club and twice the "Arsenalistas" which is a media created nickname. The correct nickname had you done the proper research is "Guerrieros do Minho" which translates as "Warriors of/from Minho".
Braga's high expectations were put off course by Benfica's alleged tapping of their then manager Jorge Jesus. Benfica paid Braga 700,000€ and Jorge Jesus lost a 300,000€ bonus from Braga. This situation went on for a month until the end of June(It first appeared in the newspaper 6 days before Braga were due to play Benfica in the penultimate game which Braga lost 3-0 at home. This put Braga's pre season into disarray as few matches could be arranged at such a late date.
Your constant underhand attempts at insulting both Sporting and Porto may not be noticed by an unseasoned supporter but are easily noticed by a regular season ticketholder. The Portugeezer "is ot a great fan of Cristiano Ronaldo nor Domingos Pacienca". Why, you may ask? CR played for Sporting which re the Portugeezers main rivals and Domingos Pacienca was an outstanding player for Porto... Makes sense?
And that titanic chasm you spoke about in one of your earlier pieces. The chasm that would never be crossed. Braga have crossed it... But will they stay. You fail to mention that Sporting, Benfica and Porto have all had dubious decisions go in their favour this year, not to mention the on the 5 penalties in 6 games in favour of Benfica.
You said Braga have a better defence than Sporting. Over the past 4 years Sporting have consistently had a better defence than both Braga and Benfica. The season has just begun and Sporting have already played Braga and Porto. It's ridiculous to say these things so early in the season.
Eduardo is the national goalkeeper because he went nearly 700 minutes in europe without conceeding a goal. He also was the keeper with the most clean sheets last season.
J Pereira did not leave Benfica a couple of seasons ago. He left in 2005! he went to Gil Vicente on loan and they bought him 6 months later and then sold him to Braga a year later.
Braga do not play 3 in midfield.. they play four. Vandinho as a defensive midfielder. Mossoro on the left. Alan on the right and Hugo Viana as the number 10. They have played tis formation in all six games this season but Mossoro has only come into the team regularly, starting the last few games.
Roland Linz has not been loaned by Braga. The contract was terminated by agreement of both club and player.
Renteria wanted to stay in Braga but unfortunately Porto were looking for too much money.
Braga are not a surprise package. They were well in the hunt last season until they went to Estadio da Luz and the referee failed to give two clear penalties in favour of Braga and allowed an offside goal for Benfica to win 1-0. Surprise? I think its just your warped image and the treat of another club taking money out of the pockets so called 'big 3' by winning the league and denying them of Champions league places as Guimaraes did to Benfica 2 seasons ago.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks... and here's hoping to a more parcial blog for the future.
Thank you for your input even though there are some things you got wrong.
First of all, nobody calls Braga "Guerreiros do Minho" as that monicker was created for marketing reasons. The fact that "Arsenalistas" is a media-invented nickname pretty much makes it a proper nickname.
Now, I have not given any special attention or praise to Benfica. As for the Cristiano Ronaldo / Domingos deal, you got it wrong again. I really like Ronaldo back on his early days at both Sporting and Manchester United. The reason I am not he's biggest fan is because I feel he's too full of himself and often plays for the cameras and not for the team. As for Domingos, have I said anything similar about Jorge Costa? So, no, I am afraid to say I have not a hidden agenda against FC Porto or Sporting (even though as a Benfica supporter I want my team to win...of course).
I get it, you like Braga. That is good and more people should support Braga, Guimarães and other clubs. But no, Braga hasn't crossed the chasm. Are you actually saying that Braga are genuine title contenders by any chance? They are above Guimaraes and Nacional at the moment in players and conditions, but they are some distance away from the front trio.
"The season has just begun and Sporting have already played Braga and Porto." Braga played against Sporting and Porto. So? I am saying that on paper, I rate Braga's defenders higher than Sporting's.
You're right about Linz though. He was loaned out last season and went to Turkey. Though he had a few problems with managers in Portugal, I think he was a very good striker.
Anyway, I hope you continue to follow this blog, because you seem very knowledgeable and that way I am sure I can improve as well.
I didn't mean it for to sond like a personal attack. After I had reread it. I realised it was way over the top. I have read all your articles and will post after each one. By the ay Freddy Adu played at the weekend and is way overweight. On his twitter(If it really his him) he's always talking about his mother. Maybe he's just never matured enough to become the professional football that everybody had hoped for him.
Could you send me a Private message. I have a few questions I'd like to sk.
I'm half portuguese and currently I reside in Norway. Naturally, the Norwegian newspapers doesn't cover Portuguese football and since I don't speak Portuguese (yeah, it's a shame. I know.) myself, these posts are really helpfull!
Keep up the good work!
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