“One for all and all for one,” the well-known motto of the Three Musketeers from Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel of the same name, has also often been associated with Brazilian football club Corinthians – to the extent that the club’s mascot has been a musketeer for decades now. And, focusing on the squad that is currently preparing to tackle the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012, the saying could barely be more appropriate given the success of O Timão’s collective approach over the past two years.
There are many coaches that would love to have a team with a similar level of togetherness and team spirit, qualities that Corinthians’ supremo Tite has imbued in his charges to decisive effect. Victors in the 2011 Brasileiro and the 2012 Copa Libertadores, the strategist will now be setting his sights on taking the 2000 champions to a second FIFA Club World Cup crown.
“I think that the best thing about our squad is that we never rest on our laurels, and it’s only logical that 90 per cent of that is down to Tite,” said full-back Fabio Santos. “He knows just how to get through to the players, and we always go into every game full of ambition.”
United we stand
Across the host of interviews that FIFA.com has carried out with several Corintianos stars over the course of this past 12 months, the squad’s unity and belief in their coach has been a constant theme. Nor has their position on the field altered their perspective, with keeper Cassio through to forward Emerson – voted the best player in the 2012 Libertadores – singing Tite’s praises.
“I think that what sets us apart is how committed all the players are,” said Emerson. “The level of focus is immense, and that’s down to our coach,” added the front-man, before touching on a critical moment in the team’s development.
Said moment came in February 2011, with Brazil legends Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos still at the club, when Corinthians went out against Colombia’s Deportes Tolima in the Libertadores’ preliminary round. “Most of this squad was here for last year’s Libertadores campaign, and were hurt by that early exit,” said Emerson. Though the pressure subsequently piled on coach and team was huge, Tite rode out the storm and steadied the ship in style.
This verdict was backed up by Cassio, who only joined O Timão ahead of the 2012 season, after drawing a line under a frustrating spell in the Netherlands. The imposing custodian is another who highlighted the cohesion within the Corinthians squad, a togetherness that shines through on the pitch and is aided by the club having kept faith in a core of key players.
“When I arrived here, I got a real surprise,” said the former Brazil U-20 No1. “In training I saw a team that fought hard for the ball, defended from the front, and in which everyone did their bit. The coach deserves credit for making that happen.”
Faced with such acclaim from both inside and outside the dressing room, Tite naturally returned the compliment by highlighting his players’ commitment, their determination to earn and hold onto a spot in the starting XI, and their acceptance of the sacrifices required to assemble a winning squad.
“It’s one of the real strengths of this team,” said the coach. “If you have a group of players that only look out for themselves, that’s the first step towards failure. But playing as a team doesn’t mean that players won’t stand out. They understand that by all pulling together they’ll create a winning team that’ll give everyone a chance to shine.”
Taking the next step
After the events that marked the team’s departure for Japanese soil, when a crowd of Corinthians fans gave their idols an incredible send-off at the Aeroporto Internacional de Guarulhos, mention must be made of O Timão’s faithful. Playing at the Pacaembu stadium, Corinthians won six of their seven home games in the Libertadores 2012 – scoring 16 and conceding just one in the process. “These fans played a decisive role in our great Libertadores campaign,” said Emerson. “They really spur us on.”
With clashes in Toyota and then Yokohama to come at Japan 2012, you might think Corinthians would have to do without the fierce support of their partisan followers. Yet their faithful fans are not going to let that happen, creating an intense demand within Brazil for tickets to and visas for Japan.
Waiting for the team when they arrived in Nagoya were hundreds of supporters already massed at the doors to the hotel, while the club is expecting thousands of Corintianos in the stands come match time. And having proved “decisive” in continental competition, can they work their magic on the global stage too?