Brazilians Abroad: Goals Galore Inc. Rafael Stunner
It's been a good week for our European contingent of Brazilians with significant goals being scored around the continent's major leagues.
Manchester United full-back Rafael and Real Madrid's Kaka lead the way with two wonderfully struck goals to inspire their sides. However, they were far from alone on this occasion as the South American nation once more contributed heavily to European football's rich tapestry.
Valencia's Jonas was crucial in his side gaining a point in Spain, while in France both Brandao and Lucas Moura scored for their sides in important wins (even if Lucas' was eventually credited as an own goal).
We have much to discuss this week, so let the Brazilians abroad roundup commence!
Rafael Stunner Helps Man Utd to Victory
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Manchester United full-back Rafael has a habit of scoring special goals. Past highlights have included a sweetly struck volley against Arsenal and a curled effort into the far corner against Liverpool. This week's effort, though, was the best of the lot.
After what was a solid parry clear by Queens Park Rangers keeper Julio Cesar midway through the first-half, the danger looked to have subsided temporarily for the home side; Rafael had other ideas.
With the ball bouncing clear, the young full-back surged forward to beat his opponent to the ball and launched a first-time 25-yard volley into the top corner of Cesar's net.
It was simply unstoppable.
Not content with having given his side the lead against a stubborn QPR side, Rafael would then help maintain the parity with a clearance off the line from a Christopher Samba header just minutes later.
Just to add to his impressive display he would then immediately help propel his side upfield with a 40-yard diagonal pass to pick out Robin van Persie who would have scored his side's second, but for Cesar's timely intervention.
It was a good day all around for the Brazilians at Loftus Road, but just another indication of the rise of Rafael.
Kaka Issues Polite Reminder of His Talents
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It's nice to be writing something positive about Kaka for a change and, this week, the Brazilian has truly earned his positive reviews.
His goal aside, the Brazilian was far more influential for his Real Madrid team than he has been in recent games this year. He was keen to get involved, attempting to help the ailing duo of Luka Modric and Michael Essien assert control on the game.
He wasn't perfect, losing the ball from time-to-time, but pass completion statistics of 91 percent (via Whoscored) indicate that he was not showing too many signs of rustiness given his comparative inactivity.
It was the former World Player of the Year who would serve as inspiration for his side as they sought to come back from a 1-0 deficit. His equalising goal in the 73rd minute was sublime in its execution.
Kaka has always been an elegant figure on the pitch, and there is something very soothing about watching him play at his best. His goal on this occasion was delivered with trademark caress from just outside the box, curling just inside the post to leave goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia helpless.
The fallen star hinted after the game that he hoped he had earned himself a place in the upcoming Clasico fixture Barcelona. That remains to be seen, but it was a timely reminder to manager Jose Mourinho of just what he still has to offer this current Real Madrid side.
Jonas Strikes Twice to Rescue Valencia
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As Brazilians in Europe go, Valencia forward Jonas is one of the most frequently overlooked by those at home and abroad. Despite a slow start to this season, though, he remains a very useful striker at the top level.
With his side falling 2-0 down after 31 minutes, observers would have been forgiven for assuming that the game was virtually over as a contest.
The former Gremio striker, though, had other ideas.
Within minutes, he had clawed a goal back for his team. Full-back Aly Cissokho's low cross came in from the left and the Brazilian was the first to react and fire the ball home as the ball threatened to evade everybody.
Not content with that, early in the second half he drew his side level. Victor Ruiz rose tallest at the back post to head a free-kick back across goal to where Jonas had found space. The Brazilian then took his volleyed finish from a tight angle with aplomb. A fine equalising goal.
The striker may not always get the credit he deserves, but he is in double figures for the season once more. He will doubtless be an important figure if Valencia are to recover in their Champions League tie with PSG.
Lucas Helps Settle Beckham-Dominated Derby
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Lucas Moura has been simply magnificent since arriving in Paris last month, taking many by surprise with the speed at which he has adapted to the European game. Indeed, he was voted PSG's player of the month for January.
On Sunday night, as his side overcame a tough Marseille side 2-0 in the latest iteration of Le Classique, it was the Brazilian who once more played a key role in their success.
The early passages of play saw PSG playing mainly on the counterattack with the pace of Lucas and Ezequiel Lavezzi key to the side's game plan. Lucas, on the right flank, was enjoying particular success.
It took just 11 minutes for Lucas to make his mark. Cutting in off the right, the young Sao Paulo graduate skipped past one challenge before firing a shot at goal. Two fortunate deflections later, the 20-year-old was left celebrating as the ball eventually making its way over the goal line.
The goal may not be credited in his favour, but it was Lucas who made the difference on his return to the starting lineup from a brief injury absence.
The late introduction of Monsieur David Beckham took the headlines, but it has been the arrival of Lucas that has added real impetus to the Parisiens' Ligue 1 campaign.
Brandao Helps Maintain Saint-Etienne Run
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Brandao, pictured in his days at Marseille, has proved to be an effective free-transfer acquisition for Saint-Étienne this season, and his fourth goal in five league games helped set Les Verts on course to a 3-0 win over Nancy on Saturday.
The powerful striker was well regarded in his time at Shakhtar Donetsk but found life at Marseille difficult despite decent goal returns. In Saint-Etienne, though, he appears to have found a suitable home.
Gabonese strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to grab the plaudits, scoring a brace on this occasion, but the club's record this season is significantly improved with Brandao installed at the tip of the attack.
Now with his seventh league goal of the season, the former Sao Caetano man is looking at a double-figure return and possibly a place in European competition for the 2013-14 campaign.
With five wins from an unbeaten run of seven league games, Saint-Etienne lie just two points from Marseille in third place. Champions League football is still a realistic possibility for the Stephanois.
Marquinho and Marquinhos Help Roma to Important Away Win
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Roma have not be meeting expectations this season, but a hard-fought 3-2 away victory over Atalanta gives new manager Aurelio Andreazzoli a second consecutive win and momentum to build upon.
While they fell behind early on to the first of two goals from Marko Livaja, Roma showed courage to twice take the lead later in the game after recent Gremio target Marquinho scored a quick equaliser.
However, it was his fellow Brazilian and nigh-on namesake Marquinhos who was one of Roma's most impressive performers once more.
In a fairly tumultuous season in the Italian capital, the 18-year-old has emerged as one of the best teenage defenders in the world with a string of highly impressive performances.
This week was no different, with the Corinthians academy product putting in a string of important blocks and clearances to aid his side's defensive effort in testing conditions.
Marquinhos has been heavily linked (via The Daily Mail and numerous other sources) with Manchester City in recent weeks and, having watched him emerge from youth football to take Serie A by storm, it comes as little surprise. He is a simply phenomenal talent and appears to be improving by the week in Italy.