So Paulo (WNN) — A small Brazilian football team from the rural areas of So Paulo state that nearly went bankrupt several years ago has reached the final of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s second most prestigious tournament.
Red Bull Bragantino beat Paraguay’s Libertad 3-1 on Wednesday to register a 2-0 home win in the first leg. His opponent will be revealed on Thursday when Brazil’s Athletico hosts Uruguay’s Pearol in the decider on November 20 at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo.
The historic night for Red Bull Bragantino saw two goals scored by Argentina’s Tomas Cuello; The first in the ninth minute and the second in the 57th minute. Arthur, one of the team’s top goal scorers, scored the third goal in the 82nd minute.
Lorenzo Melgarejo’s goal for Libertad wasn’t enough to stop the festivities in Braganca Paulista, a city of 170,000 residents, which is more famous for its house-made sausages – sold everywhere in Brazil – than soccer.
Red Bull Bragantino goalkeeper Clayton blocked a penalty taken by Diego Viera in the first half.
Clayton and striker Arthur, the team’s protagonists in the semi-finals, often stated that they joined because of the club’s business-like mentality.
“We often say this is an international project with a European mindset,” Arthur told the media last week. “Things don’t change here because of two poor performances. We are all going down the same path, with the same perspective.”
Bragantino is a 93 year old club with some tradition. A year after winning the then prestigious So Paulo state league, it was the runner-up in the 1991 Brazilian Championship.
It was once counted among top players such as midfielder Mauro Silva, who was the starter for Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winning team. He was Selecao’s coach, Carlos Alberto Pereira. But they were the last years of glory for the countryside club until 2019, when energy drink maker Red Bull arrived as a sponsor.
The company took over in 2020 and the club reached the top tier of Brazil’s division. The Bragantino was renamed and its traditional black and white colors changed to red and white.
Red Bull’s football strategy for its other teams, including Germany’s Leipzig, appears to be settling in Bragantino. The Brazilian club focuses on bringing in young players who know how to keep the ball to themselves.
One of the team’s main players is 19-year-old playwright Bruno Praxades, whose transfer from The International cost 6 million euros ($6.96 million). This is the same amount she paid for 21-year-old Arthur from Palmeiras. Some Brazilian clubs can afford to sign players for that amount.
This year was Bragantino’s first major outgoing transfer. Brazil national team midfielder Claudinho, who was voted the best player of last year’s Brazilian Championship, moved to Zenit Saint Petersburg for about 1.5 million euros ($17.4 million).
Red Bull Bragantino are fifth in the Brazilian Championship with 33 points after 21 matches.
Red Bull arrived in Brazilian football through another team, RB Brasil, which was based in the city of Campinas and played in the So Paulo state league in 2019. The partnership looked promising, but then Bragantino appeared with another interesting feature; Place in the second division of Brazil.
RB Brasil and nearly all of its coaching staff moved to Bragantino once the energy drink company had chosen to focus their efforts on the team that would become Red Bull Bragantino on January 1, 2020.
The infrastructure for the players also changed. Instead of training at the old Bragantino training ground, they moved to a modern training facility rented by the company outside So Paulo. Similar plans could turn the club’s modest Nabi Abi Chedid Stadium into an arena, whose pitch and lighting have already been improved this year.
Club chief executive Thiago Scoro compared the ambitions of Red Bull Bragantino to Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea.
“Within three years Bragantino will fight at the top of the table. It’s for a number of reasons, because of all the things we’re doing now,” Scuro told Globoesporte in early 2020.
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