Brazilian team loses 18 players amid pandemic, still wins

National Sports

SAO PAULO (AP) — Tiny Brazilian soccer team Mirassol lost 18 players during the new coronavirus pandemic. And eight of those were starters. But on Wednesday night it still managed to shock local fans by beating Dani Alves’ Sao Paulo FC 3-2 to advance to the semifinals of the traditional Sao Paulo state league cup.

Mirassol plays in the fourth division of Brazil’s championship, which starts in mid-August. Players started leaving during the four-month break caused by the pandemic due to uncertainty about the team’s future. The city of 60,000 residents is 280 miles (455 kilometers) northwest of Sao Paulo.

Striker Zé Roberto, 26, scored a brace for Mirassol after only one training session with the team from the Sao Paulo countryside city. He was among the top goal scorers in Brazil’s second division in 2019 and came back after a five-month spell at Baniyas, of the United Arab Emirates.

“I came here to train, but a Mirassol director that is my second father asked me to play and I ended up accepting,” Zé Roberto told TV Globo after the match in Sao Paulo. “He called me in the middle of the night, I took a flight yesterday, came to practice and played today.”

Mirassol’s adversary will be known after Thursday night’s fixtures. One of its best players before the break, midfilder Camilo, will be playing for Ponte Preta against Santos.

Coach Ricardo Catalá used 11 players from the club’s youth teams to play against Sao Paulo FC. His team had not scored any goals in the two previous matches since the Sao Paulo league restarted.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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