Campeonato Paulista: will Corinthians be on fire again?
Following on from yesterday’s preview into the Carioca championship taking place in neighbouring Rio de Janeiro, the Paulista championship of 2010 begins this weekend in São Paulo where defending champions Corinthians go in search of their 27th title.
There are hopes among everybody involved in Sport Club Corinthians that 2010 will be a truly memorable year. Having won the 2009 Paulista state championship and the Copa do Brasil, the Timão will be hoping to do better in their centenary year, winning either the Campeonato Brasileiro (national championship) or a maiden Copa Libertadores (South American Champions League). But first they will concentrate on winning the Paulista tournament for a second successive year, starting today away at Monte Azul.
The Campeonato Paulista has a different format to the Carioca (indeed, each state championship decides its own format). In the first stage the twenty clubs play each other once only and the top four go through into the two-legged semi-finals followed by a two-legged final with teams playing at each other’s stadiums in contrast to the Carioca, where teams play the final games at the Estadio Maracanã. The first stage of last year’s competition was topped by Palmeiras (44pts from 19 games) followed by São Paulo FC, Corinthians and Santos FC. Out of the top four though only Corinthians managed to maintain an unbeaten record, the others losing at least one game. In the semi-finals Corinthians came from behind in the first leg to beat São Paulo FC 2-1 before seeing off their arch-rivals with a 2-0 return leg victory at the Estadio Morumbi to clinch the tie 4-1 on aggregate. The final proved to be more comfortable for Corinthians as they defeated Santos FC 3-1 away from home in the first leg with newly-returned Brazilian legend Ronaldo scoring twice. In the second leg at home Santos FC scored early on through Kléber Pareira on 28 minutes before an equaliser six minutes later from André Santos restored the overall two goal cushion of the tie and the match petered out into an easy triumph for Corinthians who won 4-2 on aggregate to seal their 26th title, the fifth Paulista championship which they had won with an unbeaten record (they did likewise in 1914, 1916, 1929 and 1938). The trophy presentation that took place after the match proved to be the abiding memory of the championship. Upon receiving the trophy on a raising platform the Corinthians captain William had an almighty scare as the fireworks and streamers going off around him flew on to the trophy which promptly caught fire, forcing him to drop the cup. Thankfully neither he nor any of the presentation party were hurt in what proved to be a comical episode (watch the video clip here).
Not only will Corinthians have Ronaldo on their roster but another Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos comes back to play in his home country having spent many years at Real Madrid and the last two and a half seasons at Fenerbahçe Istanbul. The pair will hope to bring domestic and international success to the club having won many titles together with the Brazilian national team. If the Corinthians team can catch fire in a similar manner to the Paulista trophy then one expects that they will be celebrating again at the end of the competition.