Oh Wally Wally, Wally Wally Wally Wally Wallyson.
Botafogo qualified for the Copa Libertadores for the first time since 1996, as they beat Deportivo Quito by an aggregate score of 4-1 in the group qualifying phase.
They went into the second leg at the Maracanã needing to overturn a 1-0 first leg defeat in Quito, after failing to live up to expectations in the first game. A defeat in the second leg was unthinkable.
Botafogo’s problems in the first leg stemmed from a lack of organisation, no cutting edge or composure in the final third, and a formation that was set up to neither defend nor attack. The altitude in Quito is a great excuse though, as the stadium lies at over 9000 feet (2780m) above sea level and the thin air can lead to early tiredness and lethargy. It was still a poor performance, whatever the playing conditions, and Botafogo gave themselves a job to do in the second leg.
An expectant and lively Maracanã were subjected to a frantic and nervous opening half an hour or so, with Botafogo displaying a similar lack of composure and calmness in attacking areas as in the first game. One player, however, looked likely to make something happen with his tricky running and intelligent movement in and around the area. A new hero was about to emerge, in the shape of Botafogo’s number 19, Wallyson.
Wallyson thrived in a formation which was more attacking than the one used in the first leg, in which he only appeared as a 70th minute substitute. You could say that it was a master-stroke by Eduardo Hungaro to limit the damage in the tricky first game, and then go all out attack in the second. He sacrificed one of the deep lying midfielders in order to accommodate Wallyson in the starting line-up, and the change worked perfectly.
Wallyson opened the scoring in the 37th minute, with a great volleyed finish from a high, hanging header by Wágner from an Edilson cross. The side were in at half time with the goal they needed to settle the nerves, and came out in the second half firing on (nearly) all cylinders.
Almost two minutes into the half Wallyson set up Botafogo’s new Argentine signing Juan Ferreyra, but the striker tried to make a return pass when it would have been easier to shoot. The number nine has looked unimpressive so far, but to give him the benefit of the doubt he might need more time to settle into his new team.
Wallyson on the other hand needed little time to adapt to his new surroundings. He went on to score two more goals in the game and wowed those Botafogo fans in attendance with a display of flair and responsibility. His second goal came from a great piece of individual skill as he turned Quito defender Martin Bonjour inside out, before shooting through the goalkeeper and his hat-trick was completed when he slotted home having been put through by substitute, Elias.
The new hero was substituted on 82 minutes to rapturous appreciation from the fans, with some of his aura rubbing off on his replacement Henrique who went on to score Botafogo’s fourth. It was a great moment for the former Brazil U20 star, as a bit of extra confidence could really boost his career.
Botafogo now enter the group stages of the competition where they will need results against Chile’s Unión Española, San Lorenzo of Argentina, and Independiente of Ecuador in order to progress to the group stage. On this showing in the qualifying round, they’ll need more than Wallyson’s skill and flair to progress, and other senior players such as Nicolás Lodeiro and the aforementioned Ferreyra will need to contribute more than they currently do.