It’s that time of the year again when local pride is at stake in the numerous state championships which are prevalent in the opening months of the Brazilian football calendar. From Amapá in the far north to Rio Grande do Sul in the south, from Acre in the west to Paraíba in the far east of the country, twenty seven regions of Brazil will be involved in their own local championship, mixing the big boys with the smaller village teams, with each club hoping to win their respective title and qualify for a place in next year’s edition of the national cup, the Copa Brasil.
The Rio State championship, more popularly known as Carioca, will begin next weekend with the first of the two component tournaments which make up the competition. The first of these is the Taça Guanabara (from 19th January – 10th March) which sees sixteen teams split into two groups. Each club will play the eight teams in the opposite group only once, culminating in a straight knockout between the top two of each group comprising of single leg semi-finals and final. Almost as soon as the action in the Taça Guanabara is finished the second half begins with the Taça Rio (16th March – 5th May). Each team will, in this competition, play the other seven teams in its own group once only with the top two in each group going through to a knockout stage just like in the Guanabara. If the same team wins both competitions then they are instantly crowned Carioca champions for the year. If the Guanabara and the Rio competitions see different winners then they will face off in a two-legged final to decide the overall champion of Rio State on May 12th and 19th. In 2012 Fluminense claimed the Guanabara title whilst Botafogo were victorious in the Rio Cup, thus both clubs met in an overall title decider which was won by Fluminense 5-2 on aggregate. “Flu” therefore took the Carioca title for the 31st time, leaving them just one behind old rivals Flamengo, and went on to enjoy national glory in the Campeonato Brasiliero later that year to complete a remarkable double.
WATCH 2012 CARIOCA FINAL, 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The other major state championship in Brazil is in São Paulo state, known as the Paulista. The duration of this tournament is the same as the Carioca beginning on January 19th and running until May 19th. The format of this competition is rather more straightforward than its Rio counterpart with a twenty team league, each team playing the rest once only. After 19 rounds of games the top eight go through to the knockout stages with the quarter-final and semi-final rounds played over one leg followed by a two-legged final. In the 2012 competition Santos finished in third place in the regular season table but managed to win their way through each of the knock-out rounds to take their 20th Paulista title, their third consecutive success at state level, by getting the better of Guarani in the final with a 7-2 aggregate victory.
WATCH 2012 PAULISTA FINAL, 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS:
There are some other notable state championships outside of the big two but many of these will contain an outstanding rivalry which has been the focus for many a tournament over the years. In the Mineiro championship, played in the state of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte giants Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro have won 77 of the 95 tournaments that have been played to date and their dominance is expected to continue this year. Atlético sealed their 41st title success last year with a 4-1 aggregate win over América in the final. Similarly, the Gaúcho championship will no doubt see the Porto Alegre rivalry between Grêmio and Internacional light up the campaign. Internacional will be hoping to reclaim the title they’ve won for the last two years, in 2012 courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate over Caxias in the final, but arch-rivals Grêmio are expected to put up a fight this time around. There’s more than just local bragging rights at stake for two clubs who have won all but two Gaúcho championships that have been played since 1954.
The Campeonato Paranaense was won in 2012 by Coritiba FC for the fourth time in five years as they faced off against eternal foes Atlético Paranaense in the final. Coritiba won out the penalty shoot-out which followed the second leg following an aggregate tie of 2-2 to claim the club’s 36th state title. It was back to business as usual in the Campeonato Baiano in 2012 as the big two of EC Vitória and EC Bahia fought out a tense final. Following Bahia de Feira’s shock maiden title win in 2011, the big two took it upon themselves to re-establish the old order in 2012 by reaching the final. Ultimately it was EC Bahia who emerged triumphant as they won the Baiano for the 44th time; the two-legged final against EC Vitória ended in a 3-3 aggregate draw but, due to the rules of the competition, Bahia’s superior record in the regular season won them the championship.
At this time of year we usually mention the Potiguar championship, held in the Rio Grande do Norte region, because of the dominance of ABC FC. The record champions at state level, ABC FC have won their local championship 52 times but they were unable to add to this total last year. América de Natal won their first Potiguar for nine years in 2012 by defeating ABC FC 4-1 in the final to claim their 34th overall win. Both of last year’s Potiguar finalists will sit it out during the first phase of this year’s championship, having a bye until the competition reaches its second phase in March.
WATCH 2012 POTIGUAR FINAL, 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The 2011 Recopa Sudamericana (South American Super Cup) was won by Brazilian side Internacional on Wednesday night. The 2010 Copa Libertadores champions were 2-1 down from the first leg to 2010 Copa Sudamericana winners Independiente before they turned it around in the return fixture with a 3-1 win.
Leandro Damião gave the Brazilians a 2-0 half-time lead in last night’s second leg, played at their home ground in Porto Alegre, thanks to a brace scored in the first half but the Argentinians equalized through Maximiliano Velázquez just four minutes after the break. With the aggregate score tied at 3-3, and with the clock ticking away, any late goal would be almost certain to win the contest. The Porto Alegre side’s prayers were answered when they won a penalty kick in the 82nd minute which was converted by Kléber. Internacional saw out the rest of the game to hold on to the 4-3 aggregate victory to claim the club’s second Recopa triumph in four years.
2010 Copa Sudamericana champions Independiente got the better of 2010 Copa Libertadores winners Internacional de Porto Alegre in the first leg of the Recopa on Wednesday. In the South American equivalent of the Super Cup, there are two legs as opposed to the one-off fixture which is prevalent in Europe.
The first leg was won by Independiente with a 2-1 score line despite Leandro Damião giving the Brazilians the lead after 36 minutes. The Argentinians clawed their way back just four minutes later through Maximiliano Velázquez and the first game was sealed with Marco Pérez scoring the winning goal on 72 minutes.
Both of these teams have won this competition on one occasion, Independiente in 1995 and Internacional in 2007, and the second leg to be played on August 24th will decide which one of these great clubs will win the trophy for the second time.
Here is Stoppage Time – International Football Blog’s Team of the Year 2010 shortlist
FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN: Secured their 22nd championsip title in the 2009-10 season after seeing off nearest challengers Schalke 04 to the Meisterschale by five points. Also secured the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) by hammering Werder Bremen 4-0 in the final in Berlin’s Olympiastadion, securing the club’s sixth such ‘double’ in the last decade. However their fortune ran out in Madrid where they lost out to Internazionale FC in the final of the UEFA Champions League.
SC INTERNACIONAL: The Porto Alegre based side won their second Copa Libertadores (South American Champions League) title in four years topping a group with Deportivo Quito, CA Cerro and CS Emelec before getting past CA Banfield, previous champions Estudiantes de La Plata and São Paulo in the knockout rounds before beating Chivas Guadalajara 5-3 in the two-legged final. Finished 7th in the Brazilian domestic championship and a losing semi-finalist in the FIFA Club World Cup.
FC INTERNAZIONALE: After seeing many titles winging their way to their bitter enemies AC Milan over the years it was finally time for the Nerazzurri to have some glory of their own. Jose Mourinho led the club to an unprecedented treble with success in Serie A (pipping AS Roma to the title on the final day), Coppa Italia (also beating AS Roma) and UEFA Champions League (beating FC Bayern 2-0) whilst Rafa Benítez has led the club to further glory with wins in the Italian Super Cup (again AS Roma) and FIFA Club World Cup (3-0 v TP Mazembe).
SPAIN: The Spanish national team is riding on the crest of a wave after winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Following a less than impressive start against Switzerland, against whom La Selección lost 1-0, the Spaniards went on to defeat Honduras and Chile in the group stage before getting past Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and the Netherlands to lift football’s biggest prize for the very first time. This meant that Spain are the third team after West Germany and France to hold the European and world titles at the same time. Spain also top the FIFA World Rankings at the end of the year.
TP MAZEMBE: The Congolese side were desperately unlucky not to win their domestic title, losing the championship to rivals AS Vita Club only on the back of goal difference. But it’s for the club’s international exploits that they reach our shortlist; a second consecutive CAF African Champions’ League beating Esperance ST 6-1 on aggregate followed by a maiden appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup final becoming the first non-European/South American team to reach that stage of the competition.
African champions TP Mazembe have made history defeating Copa Libertadores champions SC Internacional by two goals to nil to secure a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup final, the first time a team from outside Europe or South America has achieved such a feat.
Brazilians Internacional, who won this tournament in 2006, had plenty of chances to score in the game but they found Mazembe’s keeper Muteba Kidiaba in inspired form as he made many saves throughout the game. But the team from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have won back-to-back African Champions Leagues in the last two years, made plenty of chances of their own and it was they who managed to find the net on two occasions in the second half. Milota Kabangu opened the scoring in the 53rd minute, executing a fanstastic shot from outside the Inter penalty box with his right-foot shot curling into the top right corner, leaving Inter keeper Renan flat footed. The game was sealed in the 85th minute when Dioko Kaluyituka ran with the ball from deep inside Inter’s half and drilled a hard and low shot into the bottom corner to send the TP Mazembe fans into ecstasy in the stands whilst those of Internacional were absolutely stunned. TP Mazembe keeper Kidiaba may also win a prize for the best celebration of the tournament after shuffling along the ground on his backside after each goal.
TP Mazembe, having knocked out Mexicans Pachuca in the quarter-finals on Friday as well as Internacional today, will hope that they can go all the way. First they must find out tomorrow who they will face in Sunday’s final as European champions Internazionale FC take on Asian winners Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the second semi-final.
The quarter-final stages have passed in this year’s FIFA Club World Cup with African champions TP Mazembe and Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma having made it through to the final four of the competition where they will meet South American champions Internacional and European champions Internazionale FC respectively.
TP Mazembe, champions of Africa for the past two seasons, faced up to the North & Central American champions Pachuca in their quarter-final match-up this weekend. Having defeated the Mexicans by a goal to nil, Mbenza Bedi scoring the only goal in the 21st minute, the Congolese side have already bettered their performance in last year’s tournament. Last time out Mazembe were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Pohang Steelers so this year represents further progress on the international stage although the club were disappointed not to win their domestic championship this year, losing out to AS Vita-Club by virtue of goal difference. Nonetheless for coach Lamine N’Diaye Tuesday’s encounter with this year’s Copa Libertadores champions Internacional of Porto Alegre will be an historic match for the club and they will want to upset the odds by becoming the first club from outside Europe or South America to participate in the final of this tournament.
The same goes for Asian club champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma who defeated United Arab Emirates representatives Al-Wahda by a much more comfortable scoreline of four goals to one. Mauricio Molina, Saša Ognenovski, Choi Sung-Kuk and Cho Dong-Geon scored the goals for the South Korean club who will compete in the semi-finals in their maiden appearance in this tournament. Their opponents on Wednesday are UEFA Champions League winners Internazionale FC who have struggled domestically in recent weeks having taken only five points from their last six Serie A games, their only victory coming against AC Parma a fortnight ago. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have completed their K-League season, losing in the 2nd round of the Championship play-offs and have only played in one competitive fixture since November 24th. For Seongnam’s coach Shin Tae-Yong Wednesday’s game is a real chance to upset the odds and they will hope that the Italians will have another off-day. Inter coach Rafael Benítez, however, has unfinished business in this tournament having been a runner-up with Liverpool FC in 2005 and success in this year’s competition could be the difference between keeping or losing his job.
For the second year running the FIFA Club World Cup will be held in the United Arab Emirates and it looks like being yet another thrilling competition. Last year saw 2008-09 UEFA Champions League holders FC Barcelona narrowly edge out 2009 Copa Libertadores winners Estudiantes de La Plata with the Catalans needing extra-time to defeat their illustrious Argentinian opponents. This year it is expected that this truly “international” tournament will prove to be so with 2009-10 UEFA Champions League winners FC Internazionale Milano face off against their South American counterparts Internacional of Porto Alegre. But there are five other teams who hope to have their shot of glory and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks at all seven contenders.
INTERNAZIONALE FC – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10
The José Mourinho era may be over but Internazionale FC still go into this tournament as favourites despite some initial teething problems under new coach Rafael Benítez. Inter haven’t been crowned world champions since 1965 when they defeated Argentinian side Independiente in the old Intercontinental Cup and the Nerazzurri are desperate to add the new trophy to their list of achievements. Internazionale became European champions for the third time in their history having beaten German giants FC Bayern München 2-0 in Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, ironically where their former coach now works. Their current coach Benítez has been in the final of this tournament once before but saw his Liverpool FC side lose to a Brazilian side in the final. Will history repeat itself for the Spaniard? Inter first have to dispose any of Hekari United, Al-Wahda or Seongnam Ilhwa Chuma at the last four stage before they can think of the final.
INTERNACIONAL SC – COPA LIBERTADORES WINNERS 2010
The last South American team to win this trophy, Internacional are hoping to create history by becoming the first team to win the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time since the tournament was re-branded in 2004. Their first triumph in this competition came in 2006 in Tokyo where they defeated an FC Barcelona side who were expected to turn up and win the trophy but Inter had other ideas and Adriano Gabiru’s 82nd minute strike remains the club’s finest moment. Internacional would’ve qualified for this year’s tournament even had they have lost the Copa Libertadores final to Mexican side C.D. Guadalajara but a 5-3 aggregate victory for the Porto Alegre based side means that they travel to the UAE with the champion status they deserve. Internacional will face the winners of TP Mazembe and CF Pachuca in the semi-finals.
CF PACHUCA – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10
The champions of North and Central America are competing in this tournament for the third time which is a competition best along with Egyptians Al Ahly. Pachuca’s two previous appearances saw them exit at the quarter-final stage in 2007 before losing to Gamba Osaka in a 3rd/4th place play-off twelve months later. The Mexicans saw off the challenge from compatriots Cruz Azul in the two-legged CONCACAF Champions League final winning courtesy of the away goals rule. Following a 2-1 away defeat, Pachuca were only seconds away from disappointment as the second leg reached its dying moments. However Édgar Benítez’s last gasp goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave Pachuca their fourth continental title and another shot of glory at the world stage. They will face off against African champions TP Mazembe in the quarter-finals.
TP MAZEMBE – CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2010
The Congolese side are back-to-back African champions and undoubtedly the strongest team on the African continental at the moment. Tout Puissant Mazembe, to give their official name, have come back to prominence in the last couple of years and have put four decades without the top African trophy firmly behind them. Following what was an unexpected CAF Champions League win in 2009 TP Mazembe proved their critics wrong by thrashing Tunisian champions Espérance Tunis 6-1 on aggregate and will hope to better their performance in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 where they failed to beat Asian champions Pohang Steelers and OFC Champions Auckland City. Coach Lamine N’Diaye has to negotiate his team’s way through the quarter-finals against CONCACAF champions CF Pachuca before they can meet Internacional SC in the last four stage.
SEONGNAM ILHWA CHUNMA – AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS 2010
The South Koreans may not have won a domestic trophy in four years but that didn’t prevent them from winning Asian football’s elite club competition this year. Coming from the city of Seongnam, this team qualified for the 2010 AFC Champions League as losing finalists from the 2009 K-League final which they lost to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup having defeated Iranian side Zob Ahan Isfahan in the AFC Champions League winning 3-1 in the National Stadium, Tokyo. Their reward is to play against the winners of the qualifying match between Ocenaia champions Hekari United and UAE League champions Al-Wahda in the quarter-finals. Should they be successful in their opening match a semi-final against European champions Internazionale FC awaits.
PKR HEKARI UNITED – OFC O-LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 2009-10
The rise of Papua New Guinea’s biggest club has been something of a fairytale in world football’s smallest confederation. Having only picked up just one point from their opening two group matches in the 2009-10 O-League, Hekari United then won all of their four remaining games against group opponents Lautoka FC, Tafea FC and Marist FC before going on to meet strong favourites Waitakere United in the final. The New Zealanders, twice O-League champions in the previous three years, came unstuck in the first leg in Port Moresby losing 3-0 before going on to gain some pride with a 2-1 second leg win. The 4-2 aggregate victory for Hekari signalled the first time that a club from outside Australia or New Zealand had won Oceania’s top tournament and rewards them with a qualifying match against UAE champions Al-Wahda which they’ll hope to win in order to meet Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.
AL-WAHDA – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES PREMIER LEAGUE WINNERS 2009-10
In order to gain some local interest FIFA has decided to include the national champions of the host nation in the last four tournaments. The middle eastern state of the United Arab Emirates hosts this tournament for a second consecutive year and it is 2009-10 Premier League champions Al-Wahda who will hope to do their country proud. Al-Wahda qualified for the tournament after winning their national championship by seven points from nearest challengers Al Jazira and they will hope to better the performance of last year’s representatives Al-Ahli who lost 2-0 to OFC Champions League winners Auckland City in the play-off round. Should Al-Wahda defeat Hekari United in this year’s play-off they will face off against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the quarter-finals.
Internacional clinched their second Copa Libertadores title in Porto Alegre last night getting the better of Chivas Guadalajara 5-3 on aggregate. There was an expectant 56,000 crowd for the match held at Internacional’s Estádio Beira-Rio home ground and they were hoping that there wouldn’t be further Brazilian disappointment after second-leg home losses to Grêmio, Fluminense (albeit after a penalty shoot-out) and Cruzeiro in the last three finals. The signs were positive after Inter had defeated Chivas 2-1 in the first leg in Guadalajara and O Colorado wanted to reclaim the title they’d won for the first time in 2006 in a dramatic final against compatriots São Paulo.
The Mexicans, however, were prepared to make a bit of a fight of it in the first half and Chivas would eventually make their breakthrough two minutes before the half-time interval when Marco Fabián was on hand to score the opening goal of the game with a splendid overhead kick and, thus, make the home support a little edgier going into the second half. Inter’s experience meant that they would eventually have a say in the match and once Rafael Sóbis equalized in the 61st minute there was no turning back for the hosts. Strikes from second half substitutes Leandro Damião (76 mins) and Giuliano (89 mins) ensured that the party started early in the stands with Patricio Araújo’s consolation goal in stoppage time proving academic. When Colombian Oscar Ruiz blew the whistle for full-time the celebrations were already in full flow but moments later a fight broke out after Chivas’ goalscorer Fabián alleged that he’d been punched by an Inter supporter which then started an altercation between the two teams. After the teams had been separated the stage was set for Internacional captain Bolívar to hoist the trophy into the heavens and signal the club as Bi-Campeão (two-time winners) and secure a place at the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup in which they’ll expect a truly “international” contest against European champions Internazionale FC in the final.
WATCH COPA LIBERTADORES FINAL 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The opening leg of the 2010 Copa Libertadores final took place last night in front of a capacity crowd at the Estadio Omnilife in Guadalajara. The local team Chivas took to the field against 2006 champions Internacional of Porto Alegre hoping to become the first Mexican side in history to win the coveted trophy after their compatriots Cruz Azul failed in 2001. It looked good for the Mexicans after 45 minutes as Chivas went into the dressing rooms at the break with a 1-0 lead thanks to Adolfo Bautista’s heavily looped header on the stroke of half-time. Chivas had a grip on the game and the Brazilians found it difficult to break them down but Inter didn’t give up and got their reward in the 72nd minute when Giuliano also scored with a header to restore parity. Just four minutes later and the Brazilians had taken the lead thanks once again to somebody using their head, quite literally, this time it was Bolívar who directed home to give Internacional a crucial lead which could prove decisive in next week’s second leg in Porto Alegre.
Watch CHIVAS GUADALAJARA V INTERNACIONAL 1st leg goals HERE:
The first legs of the Copa Libertadores have been played and both fixtures are finely poised ahead of the second legs which will be played next week. The all-Brazilian contest in Porto Alegre on Wednesday finished with 2006 champions Internacional grinding out a slender 1-0 win against four-time winners São Paulo in the Estádio José Pinheiro Borba. The goal came midway through the second half for Inter after some good work around the box led to the ball finding its way to the feet of Giuliano whose shot from just inside the 18 yard box hit the inside of a post before hitting the back of the net. On Tuesday Chileans Universidad de Chile and Mexicans Chivas Guadalajara finished in a 1-1 draw with both goals being scored early in the second half. Rafael Olarra gave the visiting Universidad side the lead after he took advantage of Chivas’ inability to clear a free-kick but la U, as the Chileans are more popularly known, barely had five minutes to enjoy the lead as the home side equalized in the 52nd minute when Omar Arellano tucked the ball home from a couple of yards out after Omar Bravo’s header was saved by Universidad keeper Miguel Perez. The second legs take place next week with Universidad de Chile hosting their second leg with Guadalajara on Tuesday, August 3rd whilst the all-Brazilian second leg takes place in São Paulo two days later.
Watch Internacional – São Paulo highlights HERE:
Watch Chivas Guadalajara – Universidad de Chile highlights HERE: