Santiago Saints lift the inaugural Copa Cabana in Rio de Janeiro
Friday, June 26 2009 @ 07:10 am ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
A beautiful sunny day on Saturday 20th June in Rio de Janeiro, with a backdrop of Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer and a few curious local onlookers, saw the first ever Australian football match in Brazil.
Up against the Santiago Saints from Chile was the region's newest team, the Brazil Carnaval. At stake was the inaugural Copa Cabana with the winner entitled to claim South American supremacy.
In the first 5 minutes the Carnaval exploded out of the blocks and had 3 goals on the board before the Saints knew what was happening, and for a moment it looked like an upset was well and truly on the cards. But the well-drilled Chileans slowly pulled themselves back into the game and went into the quarter time break with a 7 point. With the breeze at their backs in the second quarter the Carnaval hoped to capitalize, but the Chileans' fitness and pinpoint ball use saw them extend the lead to 21 points at the main break.
The 3rd quarter was a great contest and even though the 26ºC conditions were taking their toll, the skills and tackling were making for a great contest. Late goals to Santiago saw them a comfortable 33 points up at the last change.
The Carnaval came out firing with the breeze and gave themselves a sniff of victory with some great long goals, but the Saints steadied and held on for a well-deserved 24 point win. Best for the Saints was Sam Gearing who provided tremendous run from the back and kicked 3 goals, and for the Carnaval Travers McNaught who was inspirational with his drive in the centre and kicked 4 goals.
A fantastic game and coaches Pablo Mejias (Santiago) and Greg Wallis (Brazil) can be very proud of their players, who celebrated well into the night in Rio!
The next international action in South America is a planned 3-way tournament in Buenos Aires later this year, between the Saints, the Carnaval, and Argentina's representative squad Las Aguilas.