Player discontent may be rife in Brazilian football, but nothing was going to stop Cruzeiro and their fans from enjoying a third national championship on Wednesday in Salvador.
As it happened The Foxes and a vocal traveling contingent of supporters learned of their victory at the half of their 3-1 win at the Barradao.
Second-place Atletico Paranaense—13 points adrift of the league leaders heading into the 34th matchday—required a win away to Criciuma in order to stave off Cruzeiro’s celebrations, and when they were beaten 2-1 in Santa Catarina the title, so long expected, became a formality for the Belo Horizonte side.
Perhaps poetically it was Wellington Paulista, on loan at Criciuma from Cruzeiro, who scored the winner against Atletico—the goal that delivered the trophy to the Mineirao.
But with or without the result at Estadio Heriberto Hulse the 2013 championship was destined for Cruzeiro, and had been for some time.
A 12-match unbeaten run in which they picked up 34 of a possible 36 points between mid-August and the first week of October established what would prove to be an insurmountable lead atop the standings, and even last month’s run of three losses from four wasn’t enough to bring them down to the rest of the pack.
As far as performances are concerned, attacking midfielder Everton Ribeiro picked up where he left off following a breakout 2012 campaign at Coritiba, Borges set the goalscoring pace and goalkeeper Fabio was exceptional behind a defensive unit that included Leo and Dede, the latter of whom joined the club in April following a €5 million move from Vasco da Gama.
Willian, Julio Baptista and Ricardo Goulart—all of whom found the back of the net against Vitoria—were also acquired by Cruzeiro this calendar year, as were Dagoberto and the aforementioned Everton Ribeiro.
Cruzeiro will next attempt to reclaim the state championship they haven’t held since 2011 before turning their attention to the Copa Libertadores, which they won in both 1976 and 1997.
But the fixture pileup created by those competitions—particularly the state championship as well as the Copa do Brasil—has become a point of protest for many players and other stakeholders, and on Wednesday matches in many grounds began with the players, standing arms crossed, refusing to contest the opening 30 seconds.
Their actions are being backed by the Bom Senso F.C. organization that has become a representative body for Brazilian footballers, the goal of which is to reduce the strain caused by so many matches.
Vitoria and Cruzeiro began their encounter in this manner, although by the final whistle none of the blue-shirted players or their supporters could conceive of standing still.