A century of Gre-Nais

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Gremio and Internacional fans seldom agree. The former champion Renato Gaucho as the greatest player in the history of Porto Alegrense football; the latter adamantly declare it to be Falcao. One faithful believe a youth academy that has unearthed Ronaldinho, Anderson, Lucas, Carlos Eduardo and Douglas Costa in recent years has no regional equal; the other cites the revelations of Daniel Carvalho, Rafael Sobis, Nilmar, Alexandre Pato and Taison in vehement opposition. Gremistas claim their striking combination of blue, black and white makes for a more beautiful jersey; Colorados prefer their classic red.

There is, however, one thing both sets of supporters agree upon: that Gre-Nal is the biggest derby in Brazil. Unlike the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which have four big clubs apiece, it is one that divides Rio Grande do Sul entirely. It is also one that will turn 100 years old on Saturday.

*Origins *When football enthusiasts Henrique, Jose and Luis Poppe swapped Sao Paulo for Porto Alegre in the early-20th century, they found the existing teams were exclusive to those with German ancestry. Consequently, the brothers founded Internacional in April 1909, and duly challenged Gremio to be their maiden opponents.

O Tricolor accepted on the condition they could field a reserve team; a request that was denied. Inter would regret that decision as on 18 July, in front of an impressive, impassioned crowd of around 2,000, Gremio's German forward Edgar Booth scored five goals en route to a 10-0 victory - one that remains the biggest in clássico gaúcho history.

Gremio won the first six Gre-Nais, before Internacional arrested this statistic with a 4-1 success in 1915. Kluwe, Nação Vermelha's first icon, missed that game and the following year, at just 26, quit football with one deep irritation: that he had not realised his promise of being on the winning side in the fixture. However, ravaged by injuries, Inter offered the imposing, two-footed midfielder a chance to come out of retirement to face O Imortal in 1919. Against medical advice, he accepted, before starring and scoring in a 2-0 triumph. "It irked at me not to have beaten Gremio. Now I can retire fulfilled," Kluwe said afterwards.

Facts and figures Gre-Nal has unfolded on 376 occasions, with Internacional winning 141 to Gremio's 118. Carlitos holds the record for games and goals in the fixture, having scored 40 times in 63 outings for O Colorado between 1938 and 1951.

Gremio have seized one Toyota Cup, two Copa Libertadores, two Brasileirao and four Copa do Brasil crowns. Internacional have lifted the FIFA Club World Cup, Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana once apiece, conquered the Brasileirao thrice and won a Copa do Brasil. The Beira-Rio side have secured 39 state golds; four more than their Olimpico enemies, who lifted the now-defunct city championship 26 times to their arch-rivals' 24. Gremio top of the CBF's ranking of Brazilian clubs. Internacional occupy eighth position.

Tales of derbies past
Tesourinha, Villalba, and Carlitos propelled Internacional to their record Gre-Nal victory, 7-0 in September 1948. Six years to the month later, the encounter was supposed to belong to Gremio when they hosted the maiden derby in their new Estadio Olimpico. However, Larry, who had scored twice on his Inter debut, just two months earlier, to inspire a 3-1 defeat of O Tricolor, refused to adhere to the script and was on target four times in a 6-2 upset.

The Campeonato Gaucho 1977 final is unforgettable for two reasons: Andre Catimba firing the only goal in the 87th minute to abort Internacional's record of eight straight state crowns, and the bizarre celebration that followed. The forward attempted to perform a somersault, yet, from a height, fell viciously to the ground and injured his hip. "It hurt badly but it was worth it to score the winner in the Gre-Nal," he would later recall.

There was a place in the Campeonato Brasileiro final and the Copa Libertadores at stake when the sides squared off in February 1989. Close to 80,000 fans packed the Beira-Rio for Gre-Nal do Século (Gre-Nal of the Century) and at half-time, the majority looked set for despair as Internacional trailed 1-0 and had had Casemiro sent off. However, Nilson emerged from the dressing room in his hero's cloak and, despite having aggravated an injury during the first 45 minutes, scored twice to snatch the hosts a 2-1 win and its grand rewards.

Ten years later and it was the turn of a player in blue, white and black to headline the derby - and that Ronaldinho did emphatically. Tormented by the vision of the 19-year-old phenomenon running riot, Internacional coach Paulo Autuori assigned FIFA World Cup™-winning captain Dunga, the most indomitable of players, to mark him. Ronaldinho nevertheless humiliated the veteran midfielder with an arsenal of tricks - including a breathtaking elástico - and scored a brilliant, solitary goal, following a nutmeg and a one-two, to earn Gremio victory.

*The rivalry today *Internacional have won the derby ten times since 2004, with Gremio only managing three victories in the process. The sides have only contested one Campeonato Gaucho final during this period - the first Gre-Nal decider in seven years - in 2006, when Pedro Junior's 78th-minute equaliser in the Beira-Rio snatched the Olimpico side gold on away goals. However, Inter exacted revenge by eliminating Gremio on away goals en route to winning last year's Copa Sudamericana.

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