By Louis Smith.
The 2022 Copa do Nordeste final will have a different feel to the previous two years when Ceará and Bahia contested both finals.
Ceará lifted the trophy in 2020 thanks to a 4-1 aggregate victory before Bahia earned revenge the following year in a (4-2) penalty shootout victory.
This time around, the defending champions put in a weak defence of their crown, not even making it out of the group stages.
Ceará, meanwhile, aiming for a third straight final, enjoyed a comfortable passage to the knockout stages but suffered penalty shootout heartbreak once again, this time in the quarterfinal against Clube de Regatas Brasil, leading to the dismissal of manager, Tiago Nunes.
Taking their places in the ‘Lampions League’ showpiece event in 2022 are Fortaleza and Sport Recife.
HOJE TEM LEÃO! 🦁
— Fortaleza Esporte Clube 🦁 (@FortalezaEC) March 31, 2022
Fortaleza were the last team to lift the Copa do Nordeste with fans inside the stadium which will be another welcome return to this year’s event. Goals from Wellington Paulista in both legs of the final were enough for Leão to see off Botafogo Paraíba in 2019.
That year, Fortaleza had just returned to the top flight following back-to-back promotions, but this time they come into the final with even greater challenges on the horizon.
Juan Pablo Vojvoda was hired for the 2021 season and turned Fortaleza into a side that was fighting at the top of the Brasileirão instead of the bottom.
A remarkable campaign saw them finish fourth and means they will compete in the Copa Libertadores for the first time in the club’s history.
A perfect springboard for an exciting campaign ahead would be to lift what would be only their second Copa do Nordeste title and could spark them on to even greater things in 2022.
Not only are Fortaleza enjoying consistent form in the Nordeste, but they are also in the final of the Campeonato Cearense, where they will be hoping to defend their crown.
Vojvoda has worked wonders already with Fortaleza, not only are they consistent with results, but are also pleasing on the eye due to their high intensity attacking brand of football.
Ones to Watch –Fortaleza
The 26-year-old forward joined Fortaleza in February from Athletico Paranaense and brings with him the experience of winning a continental title having lifted the Sudamericana last year, as well as a handy goal scoring record.
Kayzer has started his Fortaleza career on the right pathway, with two Nordeste goals in just three matches. He will be eager to add to that tally.
Converting left-backs into attacking threats is something Vojevoda has done since joining Fortaleza and Juninho Capixaba seems like the perfect fit for the Argentine’s style.
He can defend as well as attack and could be one of the signings of the season.
Glaybson Yago Souza Lisboa gained his nickname ‘Pikachu’ due to his size and rapid pace. He was a prominent fullback for Vasco da Gama but since moving to Fortaleza, Vojvoda has helped him become more of an attacking asset, something which the aforementioned Capixaba will be hoping to emulate.
SPORT CLUB DO RECIFE
Na final da Copa do Nordeste! 🏆🦁 pic.twitter.com/q7xyFRldlS
— #EmBuscaDoTetra (@sportrecife) March 27, 2022
The underdogs coming into the final, Sport Recife, will be hoping to spring a surprise after 2021 was a year to forget.
In May of last year, a penalty miss from Marquinhos meant Náutico Capibaribe were Campeonato Pernambucano State champions.
Further misery would continue for Sport as they suffered relegation to the second tier of Brazilian football.
They looked set for further disappointment in the first two months of 2022 after they failed to win any of their seven matches between February 8 and March 2. This saw them knocked out of the Copa do Brasil by third-tier side, Altos, leading to the sacking of Paraguayan manager, Gustavo Florentín.
Gilmar Dal Pozzo was hired following Florentín’s departure and has made an instant impact.
Sport have won all four of the games he’s taken charge of (one being in a penalty shootout), scoring ten goals and conceding just one.
Fortaleza will be Del Pozzo’s biggest challenge but he will be more than confident he can cause an upset.
Sport’s last Copa do Nordeste title came eight years ago when they were victors against Ceará with a 3-1 aggregate win.
Ones to Watch – Sport Recife
Mailson has made several key saves already in this season’s Copa do Nordeste.
His reflexes and ability to save from close range will be needed over the two legs if Sport are to become kings of the Northeast.
Mailson on a mad one.🧤🧤🧤 pic.twitter.com/DimLcgCLUg
— Louis Smith (@louissmith22) February 16, 2022
Luciano Juba is the top scorer for Sport in this season’s Nordeste and will be eager to add to his tally.
Not only is the 22-year-old strong going forward, but his defensive contribution is also quite handy.
Rafael Thyere has played every minute of Sport’s Nordeste campaign this season. He will be hoping to keep the Fortaleza strike force at bay.