Before this year Corinthians had won virtually every competition there was to win, with five Brazilian championships to their name, along with three Brazilian cups, dozens of Sao Paulo state titles and a FIFA Club World Championship, secured on home soil in 2000. All that was missing from their collection was the Copa Libertadores, a title that every one of their regional rivals had won and yet which had eluded the club for years. All that changed in 2012, however, when O Timão mirrored Chelsea’s achievement in Europe by becoming continental champions for the very first time. They did so in style, going unbeaten throughout the competition and ousting rivals of the calibre of Emelec, Vasco da Gama, Santos and Boca Juniors in the knockout rounds.
Coach Tite is now in his second spell at Corinthians, having made his return in the second half of 2010. That continuity has enabled him to lay a solid foundation and impose a clearly defined system. His side are known for their ability to close down opposing teams whenever they lose possession and for launching fast, direct attacks when they regain it. It was that recipe which made Corinthians, one of Brazil’s best and most fervently supported clubs, Copa Libertadores champions and also helped them land the Brazilian league title in 2011.
Only three players have left the side that won the continental crown: centre-half Leandro Castan, midfielder Alex and front man Liedson. Signed to replace them were three seasoned internationals in central defender Anderson Polga, a Sporting Lisbon idol and a member of the Brazil side that won the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002™; Argentinian attacking midfielder Juan Martinez, formerly with Velez Sarsfield; and Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero. The trio have bedded down during the Brazilian league season and are now ready to help Corinthians on their quest for a second world title in Japan.
Facts and figures
Neco, Teleco, Domingos da Guia, Claudio, Baltazar, Luizinho, Gilmar, Rivellino, Ze Maria, Wladimir, Socrates, Cagrande, Viola, Neto, Marcelinho Carioca, Carlos Gamarra, Dida, Vampeta, Freddy Rincon, Carlos Tevez, Ronaldo.
Cassio, Ralf, Paulinho, Danilo, Emerson.
Corinthians were the Copa Libertadores’ first unbeaten champions since 1978, recording eight wins and six draws on the way to the title. The last team to go undefeated before them were Boca Juniors, this year’s runners-up. Os Alvinegros proved especially strong at their Pacaembu fortress, where they won six of their seven games and drew the other.
The numbers game
4 - The number of goals the Brazilian outfit conceded in 14 Copa Libertadores games. With Cassio excelling in goal, O Timão let in just two goals in their eight knockout matches: one in the semi-final with Santos and the other in the final against Boca Juniors.