By Louis Smith.
On Thursday evening, Sport Recife took on Fortaleza in the first leg of the 2022 Copa do Nordeste final at the Arena de Pernambuco.
The game was limited in chances and it looked like things were going to end goalless until a thunderbolt from Fortaleza’s Zé Welison, who spent last season on loan with Sport, put the away side 1-0 up, sending the well-travelled visiting fans into jubilation.
Their delight wouldn’t last long as a Luciano Juba free-kick found the head of 5ft 9in Bill to level things. The man on loan from Ukrainian outfit Dnipro-1, sent the home crowd wild, setting up Sunday’s return leg perfectly.
What is the mood like among Sport fans going into the Copa do Nordeste final?
“Sport Recife started the season in disrepute and is under the command of coach Gilmar Dal Pozzo, recently hired, and who came under criticism at the club.
“Even so, the crowd embraced the cause of Rubro-Negro. In the semifinals, they put more than 22,000 people in the stadium — almost at the limit determined by the government, still with stadiums still at 50% capacity due to Covid-19.
“In the final, in the middle of Thursday night, it was the first game with 100% of the public stadium capacity at the Pernambuco.
“And the crowd made it all worth it. The tickets sold out in less than 24 hours, still managed to get an extra allocation — negotiated with the visiting club — and broke the attendance record between clubs at the Arena de Pernambuco.
“There were 42,544 people. The crowd pushed the team during the 90 minutes on the field and promises to arrive for the second game as well, in Fortaleza. The club even chartered a plane for fans to follow the final.”
— Sport Club do Recife (@sportrecife) April 2, 2022
What would it mean for Sport to lift the Copa do Nordeste for the first time since 2014?
“It would represent a key turning point for Sport. It’s been eight years of fasting and the club still has the chance to equal Bahia and Vitória as the biggest champion of the Copa do Nordeste, if it wins the fourth championship.
“There is a great representation this year, after the beginning of coach Gilmar Dal Pozzo and the team itself as discredited.
“But there is more to it than that because the last few years have accumulated many frustrations and disappointments.
“In the Copa do Nordeste, he fell in the first phase last year. In the Copa do Brasil, he dropped in his debut in the last four years. So the conquest of Nordestão, this time, as well as in 2014 until, would at least represent the beginning of the club’s rebuild.”
What impact can the result of the final have on Sport entering the 2022 Serie B season?
“Sport is still playing in the quarter-finals of the Campeonato Pernambucano, on Wednesday, before the Série B.
“But definitely winning a title makes the team debut differently in the Brazilian Série B. It would give an injection of confidence that the job is being done right, or at least better than at the beginning of the year.”