Spyin' Kop - Braga Away - 10 March 2011 - 18.00

Posted by Slick_Beef on March 7, 2011, 10:49:03 PM

 

S.C. Braga vs Liverpool FC, Europa League, last 16, 10th March 2011

Spyin' Kop

Although it's tempting to bask in the warm glow of Sunday's humiliation of the mancs, it's important that we don't take our eye off the ball for our next challenge. Thursday sees us return to the Europa League, the only competition that we can still win, and it's important we keep our momentum going. For the first time ever this week, Liverpool will face Sporting Club Braga, whose rise has seen them qualify for european competition in each of the past few years.

What do we know about S.C. Braga? The answer is probably not a lot. In fact, despite living in Portugal for the past few years, I don't know very much at all about Braga, or at least didn't, until the great bunch of lads and lasses over at www.superbraga.com gave me the lowdown on their team. I have to say, from what I have learnt, I am impressed. We are facing a team whose record highest transfer fee paid is 700k Euros. Yes, their most expensive ever player cost less than Andy Carroll's left bollock. To say they are operating on a shoestring budget would devalue shoestrings, and yet they should provide a tricky opponent. In the last few years they have notched up some impressive achievements, including:

   - Taking the 2010 title race down to the last game of the season, finishing runners up to Benfica (that's the same Benfica that beat us in Estadio de Luz, remember)
   - Qualifying for the CL, at Celtic's expense (which included a 3-0 home win)
   - Doing the same to Sevilla, sending them out 5-3 on aggregate
   - Beating Arsenal 2-0 at home in the CL Group stage.

Which for a team competing in Portugal, where the three giants of Porto, Benfica and Sporting historically dominate thanks to their huge fanbases and massive financial clout, is pretty special. This is not a team that have risen to the top by "financial doping", anything but. This is a well run club, reaping the benefits of shrewd management.

The Past

The club were founded in 1921 and there isn't exactly a wealth of information floating around about the early days. One interesting fact is that their red and white kit, adopted in the fourties, is deliberately based on Arsenal - indeed, one of the nicknames for the club still in use is the "Arsenalistas". Some success followed with their new look, as they club won the Portuguese 2nd division in 1947 and then 1964. They also won the Portuguese cup in 1966. A barren spell followed, but they did recently become the final ever winners of the intertoto cup in 2008.

The Stadium

Built for Euro 2004, Estadio Axa, or a pedreira ("The Quarry") as the fans affectionately call it was built for 2004, and the club moved there from their previous home in Estadio 1 de Maio. It sometimes takes a while for a new stadium to gain the fans affections and develop its identity, but this doesn't really apply to The Quarry, which is is undoubtably one of the most beautiful and unique stadiums in the world. For those who haven't seen it, the clue is in the nickname. The stadium was built in a quarry, which is very much evident to anyone who sees it. A huge rock face stands behind one of the goals, the other end offers a panoramic view of the city. It's fair to say that visiting reds are in for a treat.



Ace.

The Present

In Europe, a good effort in the Champions League saw Braga finish third. Domestically, despite their impressive form over the past 6 or 7 years, Braga find themselves struggling a little this year - having had several key players poached and replaced by more freebies, whilst competing in the Champions League for the first time, has seen the team slip down the league a little. Sunday evening's victory over Benfica sees them in a position that many reds can empathise with - 6th place, some way off the leaders but with a decent chance of nabbing third, which would see them back in the Europa League.



The current manager is former Porto player Domingos Paciência, who took over from Jorge Jesus (current Benfica manager) in 2009, and is a young manager building a good reputation for himself.

The Fans

As mentioned, Braga has a relatively small fanbase compared with the "big three" they compete against, but they are a passionate and - I'm happy to report - extremely friendly bunch. At the invitation of some of their fans who had signed up to rawk, I arrived at Superbraga armed with some questions. Here are a selection of the answers they gave:


1. What are your opinions about this season in the Portuguese Leage up to now?

Fidelis: Up to now, it's been a bit frustrating considering what we did last season. Anyhow, we still have time to achieve a position that, at the least, gets us into Europe, but the team's displays have been what we like to see.

GverreirodoMinho: if Braga can achieve european qualification, in my opinion, it's a (very) good season for us.

on the topic of the Portuguese league, i decided to ask a little more about Braga's chances of competing with the traditional big three..

BRAGA.COM: The Portuguese league is a disgrace, and Benfica and Porto are always benefiting. This year when everyone believed that BRAGA could fight for the first two positions, we've had one player sent off in all of our away games (five successive games and all red cards were in the first half). This league has good teams and good players, but it's shite because the referees are all corrupt. The mentality in the country is to support Porto, Sporting and Benfica - very few people support their local club. Braga is an exception!

spinto: what we have are two teams that have huge budgets and run up huge debts to be chapions, and no one brings them to order. It's hugely unbalanced, compare the 60€m budgets of Benfica and Porto with the 10€m budgets of Braga and Guimarães, and 3€m budgets of teams like Rio-Ave, portimonenese etc.

Hemped: As others have said, it's a disgrace and circus of epic proportions. The "Small clubs" are treated worse than dogs. The majority of games are friday and monday nights, whilst the big three play on the weekends. [..] You will have noticed that people rarely support the club from their own town, it's just the big three. The only exceptions to this are in Guimarães and recently, Braga. It's dissapointing that our club is having it's most successful years in it's history and the stadium still isn't full, but what matters is that the people who are there love the club truly.


2. What position do you think Braga will finish in?

Marta Daniela: Hopefully in the top 4

spinto3rd or 4th. Silvio [#28, Braga's wing back] said yesterday that it would be impossible for Braga to finish outside of a european spot. I believe this and to hear it from a player relaxes me. He also said, "We are ready to die on the pitch to reach this objective."

Gui10: 3rd or 4th.


3. last year Braga finished in second and almost won the league. This year isn't going so well. What happened?

barinho: Many games that meant we couldn't keep the players fresh. Lots of injuries have prevented stability in the team, and we lost some good players in January. It's a good dose of bad luck.

Kriticus: The squad isn't the same. The defence is much more unbalanced and this was our main strength last year. Now we score more goals, but we conceed a lot more too! Last year we were knocked out earlier in Europe - in fact, I think that so far this season we've already played more games that we did in the whole of last season. We've also had more injuries, suspensions, amongst other things!

Cici: Perhaps a lack of ambition in some players. Domingos also should stop rotating so much, but the injuries have forced this a bit. The referees have also not helped. All these things together have created this situation.


4. And what's your opinion on Braga's debut in the champions league this year? Pride? Or do you think the team could have done better?


hello69: It's obvious that we ould have done better, but without doubt it was a proud moment to be in the C.L.

Bragamo-te: Pride. We were the Portuguese team with the best debut in the Cl. We won 9 points and we couldn't pass through to the knockout stage - whereas Milan, for example, got 8 points and did get through. For the city it's also important. Braga is the Capital of Youth - the city with the most young people in Europe. These young people will be "tomorrow's fans" of the team, and hope for a good future for Braga. I think that also it was good for the oposition's fans, they have the opportunity to get to know a beautiful city, where you can eat marvellous food, and to be present in "the quarry" (Estadio axa) which has been awarded for it's originality.

Sergio Gonçalves: Immense pride. To knock out Celtic was a great achievement. To knock out one of spain's famous teams was historic. To finish with 9 points and a victory against Arsenal was fabulous.


5. Who would you say has been Braga's best player this year

rnmc: Since the start of the season, maybe Lima. He's always played, and put in good performances. At present, Artur or maybe even Custódio who joined the team late have been able to cover some holes left by players that left and players who were injured. In addition to this, both have an important role in papering over the cracks in this area.

BragaAtéMorrer: Lima, Alan, Rodriguez. Earlier this year we did have Moises and Matheus, but they left in the January transfer window.

elmatador789:For me, they are all great players.


6. And the worst?


This was almost universally answered with "None of them", or left blank, which is interesting in itself


7. Do you like the English league? What are you opinions of the 10/11 season, and Liverpool FC?


barinho: Without doubt, the best league in the world. We have here a channel that shows lots of english games every week, and there is no better football than that. Incredible rythm, great games, strong competition and full stadiums. Liverpool are below of what they can, like us, but since the arrival of Dalglish they have improved a lot. Meireles is in great form. Even with the club below what they are used to, no one can take away the fact that they are the best fans in England and the best in the world....apart from us.

braga11: I like the football that is played and the atmosphere in the stadiums. I was at the Emirates for Arsenal v Braga and it was a unique moment. Liverpool is a historic club on a global level. I'd love to have gone to liverpool, but because of work I'll have to watch on tv.

tos: It's a great competition and Liverpool are a club that i've liked since the 84 final in Rome.


8. If Braga could buy one Liverpool player, who would you choose?


elmatador789: Steven Gerrard, a player I've admired for years. For me, he's a world class player-

Joao Perod: Luis Suarez, without a doubt

HQ - BragaManíaco: It's obvious - "The King" Meireles!


9. Your stadium is completely unique. Do you like it? How does it compare to your previous stadium; Estadio 1º de Maio?

O Zé:I love it, of course, but in sporting terms I enjoyed seeing games more in the old stadium

Fidelis: I like it, the fact that it's unique... But for me, as a season ticket holder for 25 years, i still have a lot of love for the old 1º de Maio stadium...

BRAGA.COM: It's unique, but I prefer a closed stadium to feel the support for the team more.... but it's one of the most beautiful in the world, of this I have no doubt.


10. What songs will be here in your stadium?

tiago007: "ALLEZ ALLEZ MÁGICO BRAGA ALLEZ"

hello69: Maybe "'E o golo do Braga" (it's a goal from Braga), and some from the claques (ultras). The one I like most is our anthem, you should hear it at the start of the game

Bragamo-te:

"Desde pequeno eu vou à bola
Largo tudo para te ver
Só quero que sues a camisola
Sou do Braga até morrer!"

(SB: rough translation - Since I was little, I go the game. I drop everything to see it. I just want you to sweat for the shirt, I'm from Braga til I die!)


11. What starting lineup can we expect to see?


enormeBRAGA: I'm hoping for: Artur, Sílvio, Rodriguez, Kaká, Miguel Garcia, Custódio, Hugo Viana, Mossoró, Alan, H. Barbosa e Lima

Gui10:
Artur - Silvio - M. Garcia - Rodriguez - Kaka - Custodio - Hugo Viana - Mossoro - Alan - P. César - Lima


12. And your prediction for the score?


tiago007: In the AXA, Braga 1 - Liverpool 0, in Anfield Road, Liverpool 2 - Braga 1

O Zé: 1st Leg: SCB 2-1 LFC   2nd leg: LFC 1-1 SCB

Kriticus: as long as Braga go through....


Final thought....

jaimec I agree with most of the answers already given. You will probably realise that for us, S.C. Braga is the most important thing. I just wanted to add, beware - even though SCB is a "wounded beast" this year, we are still a danger! I feel the same about the Liverpool colossus. it's an honour to play against this historical and mythical team, and I hope our beloved club with honour the occasion and give us the chance to win the tie. Furthermore, I hope that many people come here from Liverpool - you may want to come back more often, and you would all be very welcome.


Thank you for reading, and once again, I'd like to thank everyone at www.superbraga.com for their great answers and for being so helpful. If anyone wants to chat with them more, they have an english section, and you will be made welcome.

Comments source for lusofones: http://www.superbraga.com/forum/index.php?topic=18204.0

- Ben Nelson

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