Sao Paulo's historic tussle

Corinthians' Jucilei vies for the ball with Márcio Araújo and Lincoln of Palmeiras
© Getty Images

Throughout 90-plus years of shared history, the rivalry between Corinthians and Palmeiras has grown to such an extent that every meeting can justifiably be described as pivotal. However good or bad the teams' form heading into the clash, a derby win can change everything for the fans. Ahead of the duo’s upcoming clash, set to take place on 24 October in the Estadio Pacaembu, FIFA.com brings you a closer look at the past and present of this most traditional of Sao Paulo clássicos.

Adding an extra dose of intrigue to Sunday’s showdown is the contrasting form and coaching situations at the two clubs, with Corinthians - firm Brasileirao championship contenders for much of this campaign - currently without a win in seven matches. Newly appointed boss Tite is the man charged with stopping the rot and the clássico against Palmeiras will be his first game at the helm. In the opposite dugout will be Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided Brazil to FIFA World Cup™ glory in 2002 and has revived O Verdão’s fortunes after his return in June. Unbeaten since mid-September, Felipão's charges will be in no mood to end that run against their bitter rivals.

The originsEnglish outfit Corinthian Football Club could surely not have conceived the impact their 1910 tour of Brazil would have on the game in the South American nation. Yet after a series of three friendlies in Sao Paulo, including a 2-0 victory over a team ironically called Associação Athlética das Palmeiras (no connection to Palmeiras), “The Corinthians” impressed enough for a five-strong group of blue-collar workers from the city’s Bom Retiro neighbourhood to found Sport Club Corinthians Paulista the very next day: 1 September 1910.

While members of Sao Paulo’s sizeable Italian community were setting up a club of their own called Palestra Itália in 1914 – whose name changed to Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras in 1942 during the Second World War – Corinthians were busy claiming their first Paulista title. The two sides met for the first time on 6 May 1917 shortly after O Timão’s second Paulista crown in 1916, with the reigning champions, despite a 25-match unbeaten streak, being dealt a comprehensive 3-0 reverse at the Estadio Palestra Italia thanks to a hat-trick from Caetano.

After Corinthians were made to wait until 3 May 1919 and the pair’s sixth encounter to finally beat their local bête noire, the seeds were sown for the biggest rivalry in Sao Paulo state football and one of the fiercest in Brazil.

Facts and figuresSince that first game in 1917, Corinthians and Palmeiras have met on no fewer than 333 occasions. Os Palmeirenses have marginally the better record with 120 victories to Os Corintianos’ *113, with 100 games ending in draws. In addition, the former have also scored 489 goals to their rivals’ 446. *O Verdão also boast the derby's biggest winning margin, an 8-0 thumping on 5 November 1933, which came about during the lengthiest unbeaten run by either side in this clássico: a 12-game sequence between 4 May 1930 and 5 August 1934.

Palmeiras too can point to club legend Ademir da Guia, a veteran of 57 derbies, as the player to make most appearances in this clash. However, it is Corinthians who have the upper hand in terms of derby goalscorers, with the four leading marksmen - Claudio Christovam de Pinho (21 goals), Baltazar (20), Luizinho (19) and Teleco (15) – all wearing the Alvinegra shirt. Trailing in their wake is Hector, whose 14 clássico strikes are a record for* Os Palestrinos.*

Tales of derbies pastIntriguingly, Corinthians had already bagged eight Paulista titles and Palmeiras (still under the name Palestra Italia) six before the heavyweight duo met in a title decider. That occasion arose in April 1937 in a three-game series designed to settle the previous year’s Paulista trophy after each team had won one of the championship’s two phases. Two wins for Palestra Italia secured the honours on the first time either club clinched the title directly at their arch-rivals’ expense.

It would take some time before O Timão could return the favour, though it did come in an encounter that has gone down as highly symbolic in the history of the club and Paulista football. Throughout the year 1954, the city of Sao Paulo held celebrations to mark its 400th year, all of which added even greater prestige to being crowned that season’s Paulista champions.

As fate would have it, Corinthians and Palmeiras found themselves in direct opposition for the ‘título do quarto centenário’ (fourth centenary title), though Os Corintianos needed just a draw in the match on 5 February 1955 to come out on top. And draw they did, despite enduring a scare after Palmeiras’ Nei had cancelled out Luizinho’s opener, thus triggering exuberant celebrations for Alvinegro followers the length and breadth of the city.

It is fortunate that Corinthians’ fans thoroughly enjoyed that triumph, given that day sparked a 22-year trophy drought (ending with victory in the 1977 Paulista state championship) which is the longest in the club’s history. Moreover, during that lengthy fallow period came a vital encounter on 22 December 1974, a match witnessed by a record derby crowd of 120,522 in the Estadio Morumbi – most of whom were fans of O Timão.

Yet with the state title at stake, Palmeiras spoiled the party to take the honours and consign Corinthians to yet another year of hurt. Rubbing salt in the wounds was the fact that the defeat triggered the exit of club icon and fans’ favourite Rivellino, unable to bear the burden of missing out on silverware once more.

What goes around comes around, however, and Palmeiras would soon get a taste of their neighbours’ pain, with O Verdão’s 1976 Paulista victory the start of a trophy drought that would last some 17 years. And just as Palmeiras had crushed Corinthians’ hopes in 1974, the latter dismantled their rivals 5-1 on their way to winning the 1982 Paulista crown. This display, featuring a hat-trick from recent signing Casagrande, would prove one of the defining moments of the historic “Corinthian Democracy” era, spearheaded by legendary figures such as Wladimir, Biro-Biro, Zenon and Socrates and which coincided with political upheaval across Brazil.

Without a trophy since that 1976 success, Palmeiras’ dry spell finally came to an end in 1993 with a team boasting a fearsome forward line of Edmundo, Evair, Edilson and Zinho. Beaten 1-0 by Corinthians in the first game of a two-match series to decide the Paulista state title, Viola’s goal separating the sides, according to competition regulations Palmeiras needed to win the second match by any score to force extra time.

Once in the additional period, O Verdão’s superior record meant that a draw would be enough so, after a 3-0 normal-time success achieved via goals from Zinho, Evair and Edilson, the men in green made doubly sure of victory after Evair struck his second of the game, this time from the penalty spot. This was the first of a series of triumphs for Palmeiras in the years to follow, with the highlight being victory in the two-legged final of the 1994 Brasileirao championship, thanks in large part to three goals from Rivaldo over the two games.

Therefore, having already been crucial in determining the destiny of city, state and national titles, the rivalry surrounding the Paulista derby grew still fiercer after the events of the 1999 Copa Libertadores. Latin America’s biggest club competition had long been coveted by both Palmeirenses and Corintianos, particularly as fellow regional powerhouses Sao Paulo and Santos had already each lifted the Copa twice.

Fate determined that Corinthians and Palmeiras would meet in the quarter-finals of that edition, with the latter emerging victorious on penalty kicks after a 2-2 aggregate draw and going on to claim their first ever Libertadores crown after beating Colombia’s America de Cali in the final. Furthermore, the pair found themselves head-to-head in the semi-finals of the following year’s Copa, when Palmeiras once again won through on penalties – iconic keeper Marcos denying* Alvinegro *star Marcelinho Carioca from the spot – only to lose to Boca Juniors in the final.

The rivalry todayHistory is always in the offing when these two sides meet and Sunday’s game also has every chance of throwing up something special. Firstly because of the influence a good result could have on the rest of their seasons, with third-placed Corinthians determined to drag themselves back into title contention in the eight matchdays remaining, and Palmeiras in fine recent form both domestically and in the Copa Sudamericana.

Secondly you have the Ronaldo factor, with the Corinthians No9 returning from a lengthy injury absence in the team’s previous game against Guarani and reigniting fans’ hopes of Brasileirao success in their centenary year. A positive omen is that the ex Barcelona and Real Madrid striker scored his first goal in the Alvinegra shirt against none other than Palmeiras in 2009. The all-time top scorer at FIFA World Cup final tournaments, will the veteran be the answer to Corinthians’ prayers come Sunday?

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