When Chris Darwen landed in Brazil, went straight to the stadium and led his new Internacional team to a 3-1 win against Sao Paulo few would have expected the turnaround in fortunes that followed.
Internacional were sitting second bottom before that game, just nine games into the Serie A season. Today they have lifted the championship trophy, their 4-1 victory against Vitoria meaning they finish the season two points ahead of Corinthians. Corinthians will be heart-broken, they led the table until the final two rounds. Darwen’s men quietly and efficiently went about beating all before them. They had lost six of their opening nine games. They ended the thirty-eight game season having lost just eight times.
Darwen has not achieved this by rolling out the tactical framework that brought him great success at Wolves. By his own admission, this season was always going to be a season of trying different things, looking at different players within the squad and seeing what framework would get the best out of them. We have seen 433’s, back three’s, strikerless set-ups, an Argentinian style 4132 and then finally, the traditional Brazilian 4222 box.
Darwen said, “I came to Brazil with the ideal end goal of showing the Brazilians how to play their game their way once more. I, like many my age, grew up watching videos of the famous 1970 side and then the ultra sexy 1982 squad, easily the best team not to win the World Cup. For me Brazil have lost that style to their game over the last twenty years or so, and my long term aim was to bring it back. I am delighted that we ended the season playing with the 4222 shape that the 1982 side played. It is still played a lot in this league, but I am proud to say not with the same element of flair and entertainment we showed in the run in.”
There are rumours, however. It is believed Darwen has been massively disappointed by the ease of the challenge in Brazil. To take a side virtually bottom of a table a quarter of the way in and take them to the title is virtually unheard of, and says a lot about the lack of quality in the sides Internacional were playing. Sure, Inter were underperforming at the start of the season, but we are not talking about a Santos of the 60’s waiting to be set free. European clubs are thought to be monitoring the potential disenchantment closely, and with the Premier League season nearly half way through it is thought that a sensational return to England could be on the cards. Sources close to the Englishman, the first man to win the Premier League in England and Brazil, suggest that he might be tempted if the right offer came along in Argentina.
Readers, I guess we have to watch this space. Either way, what has been achieved in winning Internacional’s first Championship since 1979 will go down in history as one of the finest comeback’s in Brazilian football.