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Bayern reign as history made in Qatar 
  • Bayern München are Club World Cup champions for second time
  • Tigres UANL make history in reaching the final
  • Satisfaction for Al Ahly and Al Duhail, disappointment for Ulsan and Palmeiras
The first FIFA tournament to be staged in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ended once again with European champions. FC Bayern München claimed their sixth trophy in a year, a feat only achieved once before, by Barcelona in the 2008/09 season. This was also Bayern’s second FIFA Club World Cup™ triumph following their . The Germans proved their supremacy in their , progressing to the final with a brace from Lewandowski, voted the tournament’s best player. The European champions showed quality and physical strength against their African counterparts, who played admirably, especially in the second half, but were powerless to prevent Bayern closing in on their sixth title of the year. Tigres proved worthy opponents in the final but once again the Bavarians triumphed. The club’s quest for six titles was both relentless and impressive. First, they wrapped up the Bundesliga on June 16 with a 1-0 win against Werder Bremen, four rounds before the end of the season. With a 30th league title in the bag, they then won their 20th DFB Cup on July 4 at the expense of Bayer Leverkusen. On August 23, they proved too good for Paris Saint-Germain and won the UEFA Champions League for the sixth time, following that up with victory over Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup on September 24. Then came their DFB Super Cup triumph against Borussia Dortmund on September 30, before they made it six from six in Qatar on 11 February 2021. As for Tigres, who owed their Club World Cup debut to a maiden Concacaf Champions League triumph in 2020, they can be justifiably proud of becoming the first Mexican and Concacaf team to reach the final after impressive wins against the respective Asian and South American champions: Ulsan Hyundai and Palmeiras. Thirty five-year-old Andre-Pierre Gignac, who for many years was a prolific scorer in his native France, became one of the biggest names in the Concacaf region following his move to Mexico in 2015. The striker unsurprisingly emerged as one of the stars of Qatar 2020, scooping the top scorer award for his three goals.

Accomplishments and disappointments

The tournament witnessed fine performances from Africa’s representatives Al Ahly, who beat Qatar’s Al Duhail in their first game to set up a semi-final meeting with the Bavarian giants, which they lost 2-0. In the play-off for third place against Brazil’s Palmeiras, the Egyptians showed their resilience and eventually won on penalties. It was the club’s second bronze medal in this competition, following their first in 2006. As for Palmeiras, they clearly fell short of their lofty expectations for the tournament. Widely tipped to contest the final against Bayern, they were undone by a strong Tigres side with an unyielding defence. Nor could they find any consolation in their play-off against the Red Devils, losing again and having to settle for fourth place. For their part, Al Duhail tried valiantly and put in a strong second-half display against Al Ahly, but the Egyptians blocked their path to the last four. In their second fixture, they avoided the same mistakes and scored three goals against Ulsan, finishing fifth in their first participation at the tournament. As for the Korean club, they were not up to the expectations of their fans and lacked fire power without their star striker Junior Negrao, who left the club shortly before the tournament. Despite being used to Qatar’s stadiums, where they played the latter stages of the 2020 Champions League, they could not replicate the movement and finishing that made them continental champions.

Final Ranking:

Stadiums:

Goals scored:

  • 12 (average 1.7 per game)

Top scorers:

  • Andre-Pierre Gignac (3)
  • Robert Lewandowski (2)

Awards:

  • adidas Golden Ball: Robert Lewandowski
  • adidas Silver Ball: Andre-Pierre Gignac
  • adidas Bronze Ball: Joshua Kimmich
  • FIFA Fair Play Award: Al Duhail SC
FC Bayern Muenchen v Tigres UANL - FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 (from FIFA.com News)

Bronze and gold up for grabs Al Ahly SC v FC Bayern Muenchen - FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020
  • Bayern Munich are out to emulate Barcelona's historic achievement of 2009/10
  • Tigres are out to ruin their hopes in the Club World Cup final
  • Al Ahly and Palmeiras will do battle for bronze
FC Bayern München will go into Thursday’s showdown with Tigres UANL hoping to make it six out of six. Having won the Bundesliga, German Cup, UEFA Champions League, German Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup, the Bavarian giants now want to put the icing on the cake by lifting their sixth trophy of an historic season. For their part, Tigres, who have become the first Concacaf club to make the global decider, head into it with the benefit of an extra day's rest. The Mexican side will be counting on in-form striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, one third of a formidable attacking trident completed by Carlos Gonzalez and Luis Quinones. Indeed, two of the three have won an en route to the final. In the day’s curtain-raiser, Al Ahly SC of Egypt will take on Brazil’s SE Palmeiras in the play-off for third place. Both sides will be keen to make the podium, especially the Brazilians, who came to Doha targeting a final berth but will now have to settle for the bronze medal at best on their tournament debut. Al Ahly will be aiming to replicate their feat of finishing third at the Club World Cup. Having qualified as CAF Champions League winners, that Red Devils side, under Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, took third-place at the expense of Mexico’s Club America after losing to SC Internacional in the semi-final.

The matches

Play-off for third place Al Ahly SC - SE Palmeiras Thursday, 18:00 local time, (Education City Stadium) The final FC Bayern München - Tigres UANL Thursday, 21:00 local time, (Education City Stadium)

What they said

"We can play better than we did in the semi-final. The final is certainly more important, and we want to win the title. We can make history, but it’s still a big challenge. We’re so close to winning our sixth title this season, something that would historically be quite significant." Robert Lewandowski "No other Mexican team have gone this far, but now we want more. We came here hoping to lift the trophy and now that we’re close, we’re encouraged and motivated that we can achieve our goal." Carlos Gonzalez (from FIFA.com News)

Lewandowski: Bayern can complete one of football's biggest achievements Robert Lewandowski of FC Bayern Muenchen reacts during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Sport-Club Freiburg at Allianz Arena on January 17, 2021 in Munich, Germany. 
  • Robert Lewandowski discusses Bayern’s shot at global glory
  • He reflects on winning The Best FIFA Men’s Player award
  • “I try to be the best Lewandowski every season.”
The Best is in the building. Robert Lewandowski touched down in Doha yesterday for the FIFA Club World Cup™. His 24 goals in 19 appearances have FC Bayern München top of the Bundesliga, and now he’ll look to put Al Ahly SC to the sword in Monday’s semi-final. The Qatar 2020 trophy would complete a historic sextuple for the Bavarian behemoths and equal the feat of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2009/10. Lewandowski chatted to FIFA.com about that mission, their UEFA Champions League triumph, being crowned and whether he’s at his peak.

FIFA.com: This will be your first Club World Cup. Do you think it will be special?

Robert Lewandowski: Yeah, I think so. It will be really special for us, not only for me. It’s the best team in Europe playing against the best teams from other [continents]. It will be, for us, a new challenge. We want to win this title, for sure.

Will playing against teams from different parts of the world, with different styles, be a challenge?

It will be nothing new for us. We play a lot of games in our national teams against teams from all around the world. It will be special, but we are ready for this. We’re ready to try and win the next title. We’ve won everything that we could have won from [2020]. This is the last title we can win. We know we’re playing against the best teams from continents all over the world. It’s our next challenge and we’re ready for it.

First up you have Al Ahly in the semi-finals…

If you’re here at this competition, it means you’re a strong team. But it doesn’t matter how good they are – we have to be better. We have to fight for this win. We have to push from the first minute. We have to show our best skills, give our best football and then we have the chance to beat them.

Are things more challenging this season?

Now, because of COVID, we have to play almost every three days. It’s a big, big challenge for every team, not only for us. Usually you get one week, sometimes two weeks between games, and this is huge. We also know that we have the European Championship after this season. We have to be ready, we have to stay in form the whole season. This is the big challenge, but we are ready for it because we knew before the season started something like this could happen. If we have the chance to win something, we have to be strong, we have to be focused.

How did it feel to win the Champions League?

It was an amazing feeling, an amazing night for us. The whole day of the final was so memorable. The first few seconds after the final whistle, what I felt was something special. I didn’t exactly know what it meant, but I can say that the dream had come true.

Would winning the Club World Cup put the icing on the cake for Bayern?

Yeah, exactly. I think if we win this Club World Cup it would complete one of the biggest historical achievements in all of football. We know we are so close, but we have to stay 100-per-cent concentrated. It would be really special. Not just for Bayern or for Germany, but it would be one of the biggest historical achievements from all over the world.

How much did winning The Best FIFA Men’s Player mean to you?

A lot, a lot. In the first moments you don’t realise exactly what it means, but over the next days and weeks you realise that you’ve won maybe the most important title in your life. It was amazing. But I know that what I won was because of what we won as a team. I hope we can continue winning titles.

You’re scoring goals relentlessly. Do you think this is the best version of Lewandowski we’ve ever seen.

I’m trying to keep doing these things. For years I’ve been hearing that this is the best Lewandowski. It doesn’t matter how old I am. I can still get better, improve my skills. But I know that I’m feeling good. I try to be the best Lewandowski every season. (from FIFA.com News)

Centre stage for star-studded semi-finals Players and Staff of Tigres UANL pose for a team picture during a Stadium Familiarisation
  • All Latin-American duel between Palmeiras SE and Tigres UANL
  • FC Bayern München take on Al Ahly as they bid to complete sextuple
  • Ulsan Hyundai and Al Duhail face off with fifth place at stake
Al Rayyan will become the focal point of the football world on 7 and 8 February as it plays host to the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™. The last-four action gets under way on Sunday, with Palmeiras of Brazil taking on Mexico’s Tigres UANL. FC Bayern München and Al Ahly SC of Egypt will contest the second semi-final, to be played on Monday. Palmeiras and Tigres are both newcomers to the competition and have never played each other before. Despite their recent Copa Libertadores triumph, the Brazilian side have been struggling in their domestic league of late, having drawn their last two matches and lost the two before that. That winless run has left O Verdão sixth in the table and they will be hoping to turn their form around fast in Qatar and secure a place in next Thursday’s Club World Cup final. Their Mexican opponents beat Ulsan Hyundai in their opening match of the tournament and are banking on the goalscoring prowess of Andre-Pierre Gignac. The French front man scored both his side’s goals in that match and is in excellent form. European champions Bayern will go into their semi-final meeting with Al Ahly without the services of Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez, who both have contracted COVID-19, and goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel, who is out with an injured ankle. As for Al Ahly, they are plotting an unlikely upset after beating Al Duhail in the previous round. Coach Pitso Mosimane will be looking to Mohamed Magdy, better known as Afsha, to fire his team’s challenge. Player and coach have been talking extensively in training this week.

Fixtures

Match for fifth place
  • Ulsan Hyundai - Al Duhail
Sunday, 18:00 local time (Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium) Semi-finals
  • Palmeiras - Tigres UANL
Sunday, 21:00 local time (Education City Stadium)
  • Bayern Munich - Al Ahly
Monday, 21:00 local time (Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium)

The words

“We know Al Ahly. They won the African Champions League so we’re aware that it won’t be easy, just as it wasn’t in 2013. It’s hard to play teams you don’t know much about.” Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer “Bayern are a big side with a lot of stars. I’d like to play against [Thomas] Muller. I like him as a player and I like his style of play." Al Ahly forward Hussein El Shahat "We know what Palmeiras represent and that they’re Libertadores champions, which I know all about, being a Brazilian. We'll confront them like we did Ulsan. With respect; no more, no less." Ricardo Ferretti, Tigres coach “This is a very important tournament for all Palmeiras fans and we are looking forward to testing ourselves against some of the leading teams in the world." Palmeiras coach Abel Ferreira Abel Ferreira, Manager of SE Palmeiras looks on during a walk of the pitch ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup

The stat

3 - The number of times Bayern and Al Ahly have played each other, all in friendlies. The first of those meetings came in 1977, when the Egyptian side won 2-1 courtesy of goals from Mahmoud El Khatib and Sherif Abdel Moneim. The German giants gained revenge in the second of the two encounters, played in Cairo, winning 2-1 thanks to goals by Dieter Hoeness and Lothar Matthaus, with Samir Fawzi on target for Al Ahly. Bayern won by the same scoreline in the third game in 2012, in Doha. Their goals came from an Ahmed El Sayed own goal and Mario Mandzukic, while Mohamed Barakat was on the scoresheet for Al Ahly.

Did you know?

Brazilian clubs dominated the Club World Cup in its early years, winning the trophy in 2000, 2005 and 2006. Europe’s representatives have held sway since then, however, with Corinthians the only South American side since then to win the trophy, beating Chelsea in the 2012 final. Santos went down to Barcelona in the 2011 final, while Flamengo lost to Liverpool in the 2019 showpiece match. (from FIFA.com News)

La Liga Teams News


Flick savours historic World Cup double The players of FC Bayern Muenchen throw their coach Head coach Hansi Flick of FC Bayern Muenchen in the air.
  • Hansi Flick has led FC Bayern München to FIFA Club World Cup glory
  • 2014 World Cup winner as assistant coach, 2020 triumph as head coach
  • Hugely influential in 2014 World Cup success
By winning the FIFA Club World Cup™ final, Hansi Flick not only made history with FC Bayern München by matching Barcelona's record of six titles. He also set an individual best-mark: the 55-year-old became the first person to win both the Club World Cup (since 2000) and the FIFA World Cup™ as coach, having done so in 2014 as Joachim Low's assistant. "Congratulations to my team," Flick said after the final. "They have completed a historical feat, they have won six titles in one season. Even for the successful club that is FC Bayern München, this was the most successful season ever. The team played outstandingly. The win was never in danger, we dominated and deservedly won the final. "It was very difficult for me as well, we were all at the limit, the same goes for me at the touchline. The match against Tigres was on eye-level, even though we dominated. They deserved to be in this final." Although Flick, a midfielder in his playing days, lifted the Bundesliga title four times with Bayern and represented Germany at youth level, he never earned a senior cap for his country. After the 2006 World Cup he was recruited as assistant to Low, himself newly appointed as head coach. The pair formed a harmonious duo from the outset, and although Flick kept a low profile in public, within the Germany set-up he worked independently in many areas. To the outside world, this became particularly clear at the 2014 World Cup: whereas Low had previously afforded set-piece training little priority at earlier tournaments due to time restraints, Flick insisted on making it a central topic in Brazil. "We wanted to emphasise the value of set-pieces again, especially at such an extreme tournament," said Flick at the time, having sought advice from dead-ball experts in the Bundesliga. Low jokingly bet his assistant an evening meal that Germany would not score any goals from set-pieces at Brazil 2014. Yet en route to the country’s fourth world title, Low’s charges ultimately scored four times from free-kicks or corners, including the equalising goal at 2-2 in the group game against Ghana, the only goal of the match in the quarter-finals against France, and the all-important opener in the semi-finals against Brazil. "We practiced it intensively, sacrificed training time for it,” said Flick at the time. “Jogi will pay, so I'm looking forward to this meal." It was an expense Low would certainly have been happy to incur. Following that triumph, Flick worked as an official at both the DFB and Bundesliga side 1899 Hoffenheim before joining Bayern as Niko Kovac's assistant for the 2019/20 season. When he succeeded Kovac as head coach in November 2019, it was the prelude to an unprecedented period of success, that included a 32-match unbeaten run in all competitions, as well as glory in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, DFL Supercup and now the FIFA Club World Cup. FC Bayern München coach Hansi Flick with the UEFA Champions League trophy 2020 This success was no coincidence, with Flick radically changing Bayern's game after taking over. He implemented far greater intensity when pressing, a higher defensive line and, together with his staff, prepared his team in the best possible way for the final phase of the Champions League during the suspension of play caused by the pandemic. In doing so, he was always mindful of the need for loyalty from his players, and proved himself to be an empathetic and even-handed man-manager. "Right from the start, he created a very good atmosphere in the team and gave us a lot of confidence. We had the feeling we were unbeatable," said Joshua Kimmich. Brazil’s Tite won the Club World Cup in 2002 with Corinthians and, as Brazil’s head coach, could lift the World Cup title in 2022. Zinedine Zidane was triumphant at France 1998 as a player, and won the Club World Cup with Real Madrid in 2016 and 2017. It is by no means out of the question that he could take charge of France one day and steer them to another World Cup triumph. However, this evening, it was Flick who did it first. (from FIFA.com News)

Gignac v Lewandowski: A shootout between legends Andre-Pierre Gignac and Robert Lewandowski
  • Bayern Munich face Tigres in Thursday’s FIFA Club World Cup final
  • Robert Lewandowski and Andre-Pierre Gignac were semi-final heroes
  • Stats, quotes and golazos feature as we profile the two strikers
Can FC Bayern München emulate the 2009/10 Barcelona and complete one of the greatest achievement’s in football history? Can Tigres UANL cause the biggest shock in FIFA Club World Cup™ final history? We’ll find out on Thursday, but one thing we know for certain is that both teams are indebted to 30-something, foreign goal machines. On the eve of the showdown, we spotlight Robert Lewandowski and Andre-Pierre Gignac.

The quotes

"I think if we win this Club World Cup it would complete one of the biggest historical achievements in all of football. Not just for Bayern or for Germany, but it would be one of the biggest historical achievements from all over the world." Robert Lewandowski “Andre-Pierre Gignac is fundamental for Tigres. He dictates the pace of the game. Technically he dazzles me. He leads the team. [He knows] when to speed up and slow down play. He’s decisive. It’s not easy to stop him scoring penalties.” Kaka

They almost didn’t make it

Lewandowski

“His legs were so thin. I kept telling him that unless he ate more bacon sandwiches and put some weight on he may never make it, but the years passed and his legs remained like sticks.” Those were the words of Krzysztof Sikorski, the coach of the youth team Lewandowski played for from the ages of eight to 16. It was perhaps the reason the forward started out in only the Polish fifth flight and, even though he was subsequently added to Legia Warsaw’s youth ranks, he was released without ever making the first-team squad for being too skinny (he’s certainly ripped up that notion). Lewandowski was told to give up football but he “just loved watching Thierry Henry and was determined to be like him”. So, he worked his way up from the Polish third tier to the second to the first, where he established himself as its standout performer and inspired Lech Poznan to their first Ekstraklasa crown in 17 years. Oh, and he's no longer skinny!

Gignac

“I was told that if I couldn’t make it at a club that was heading for the [fourth division] and whose financial problems meant they couldn’t buy any players, then I had no future in football.” Gignac was released from small-time, hometown club Martigues as a 16-year-old and urged to invest in his academic education. But he desperately clinged to his footballing one and, two years later, made a dream professional debut for Lorient in Ligue 2, rising from the bench and quickly scoring the winner. It didn’t help establish him at the club and he duly found himself on loan at Pau in the French third tier. After a forgettable first season at Toulouse, however, his second term saw him finish as Ligue 1’s 24-goal leading marksman, comfortably clear of closest challengers Karim Benzema and Guillaume Hoarau.

Tigres' all-time top scorers

Bayern's all-time top scorers

Spot-kick specialists

Gignac has now scored 13 consecutive penalties for Tigres. Curiously, the last three penalties he missed came in the Augusts of 2017, ’18 and ’19. Robert Lewandowski had successfully converted 17 successive spot-kicks until his last attempt was saved by Hertha Berlin’s Rune Jarstein. The Norwegian became only the second goalkeeper to save a penalty from the Pole in the Bundesliga after Manuel Neuer, who denied the then-Borussia Dortmund player in 2013.

We meet again

Gignac was part of the Marseille squad – one coached by France 1998 and Russia 2018 winner Didier Deschamps and featuring the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, Mathieu Valbuena and the Ayew brothers – that faced Bayern Munich in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. He came off the bench in the first leg, while Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Thomas Muller helped the Bavarians to a 4-0 aggregate victory. Gignac did score a bullet header past Neuer as France beat Germany 2-0 in a 2015 friendly.

Famous relatives

Lewandowski’s father played in the Polish second flight but had greater success as a judoka, becoming a national champion. The Bayern No9’s mother was a volleyball player, while his sister plays the same sport. Lewandowski’s wife Anna is a karateka who won multiple medals at the Karate World Championship. Gignac Is cousins with Panathinaikos winger Yohan Mollo and former Marseille defender Jacques Abardonado.

Did you know?

Lewandowski is one of only two footballers to win the 86-times-awarded Polish Sports Personality of the Year. 1982 recipient Zbigniew Boniek had been the only one, but the Bayern Munich striker triumphed in 2015 and 2020. Gignac became, when being summoned for UEFA EURO 2016, the first player based outside of Europe to be called up by France. He made six appearances in the tournament, hitting the post in the last minute of normal time in the final.

Golazos

(from FIFA.com News)

Superheroes in green Palmeiras in 1996
  • Palmeiras face Tigres in the FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals
  • We look back at some of their best-ever sides
  • Ademir, Edmundo, Rivaldo and Marcos feature
“I think it’s been incredible, but we want to make it historic,” Gabriel Menino of Palmeiras’s 2020 season shortly before the Copa Libertadores final. “I want to go down in the history of this club. When I’m at the club [headquarters] I look at the photos of legends who have made history at the club and I think, ‘I want to see my photo there’.” As O Verdão get set to shoot for FIFA Club World Cup™ glory, we look at five of the legendary sides whose photos are emblazoned across the walls of their green house.

Global glory for 'The Big Green'

Year: 1951 Superhero: Liminha Heroes: Fabio Crippa, Waldemar Fiume, Canhotinho, Jair Rosa Pinto, Rodrigues. Coach: Ventura Cambon A world championship had been dreamed of and discussed for years by some of football’s foremost shot-callers – Jules Rimet, Ottorino Barassi and Stanley Rous among them – and was finally scheduled for 1951 in Brazil, which had . The eight-team competition involved some of Europe’s top teams, Uruguayan behemoths Nacional and Brazilian duo Vasco da Gama and Palmeiras, who qualified as Rio-Sao Paulo Tournament winners. The favourites were Juventus, who boasted an exceptional attack featuring Karl Aage Hansen, Karl Aage Praest, John Hansen and Giampiero Boniperti, and Vasco, who supplied eight members of Brazil’s World Cup squad the previous year. The duo’s status as favourites was strengthened in the group stage, with the Carioca colossuses thrashing Sporting Lisbon and Austria Vienna 5-1 and the Turin titans thumping Palmeiras 4-0. The Paulista powerhouses, however, had other ideas and, brushing aside injury blows, beat Vasco 2-1 over 180 minutes in the semi-finals and stunned Juve 1-0 in the first leg of the final. Rio de Janeiro was packed on the day of the decider, with a reported 10,000 Italians cramming into its hotels, certain Juventus would emerge triumphant. Yet Liminha, a 21-year-old who had began the tournament on the bench, helped set up the first equaliser and scored a late, title-clinching goal in a 2-2 draw in front of over 100,000 at the Maracana.

The Football Academy

Years: 1960-73 Superhero: Ademir da Guia Heroes: Julinho, Djalma Santos, Djalma Dias, Dudu, Cesar Maluco, Luis Pereira, Emerson Leao, Leivinha. Main coaches: Filpo Nunez, Aymore Moreira, Mario Travaglini, Osvaldo Brandao Despite the presence of Pele’s Santos, and other magnificent sides, Palmeiras incredibly won six Brazilian titles during those halcyon days, as well as reaching two Libertadores finals. Extraordinarily, their entire squad – as well as their coach, his backroom staff and the club’s physios and masseurs – represented Brazil in a 3-0 victory over Uruguay in 1965. Ademir da Guia, ‘The Divine One’, is incontestably the greatest player in Verdão history and one of the greatest Brazilians of all time, while ‘The Football Academy’ is considered one of South America’s finest-ever teams. “People raved about Guardiola’s Barcelona. That’s what we did decades earlier. We kept the ball for four, five minutes. Every touch was impeccable, every pass was perfect. We enchanted even opposition fans.” Dudu

A double-double

Years: 1993-94 Superheroes: Edmundo, Rivaldo Heroes: Cleber, Roberto Carlos, Cesar Sampaio, Flavio Conceicao, Mazinho, Zinho, Edilson, Evair Coach: Vanderlei Luxemburgo Palmeiras began 1993 having gone 17 years without a state championship and 20 without a Brazilian one. A stunning, Zinho-inspired 4-0 win over arch-enemies Corinthians, in front of 105,000 in the Morumbi, ended the drought with the Paulistao trophy, before the assists of Roberto Carlos and brilliance of Edmundo propelled them to Brasileirao glory. O Verdão comfortably defended their regional crown before signing Rivaldo in August 1994. He formed a devastating double act with Edmundo, which helped Palmeiras finish the regular season as easily the top team and defeat Corinthians in the Brasileirao final. “Playing against Edmundo meant you were already starting 1-0 down. But Edmundo and Rivaldo together, it made you feel sorry for opponents.” Cleber

The ultimate thrill ride

Year: 1996 Superheroes: Djalminha, Rivaldo Heroes: Velloso, Cleber, Cafu, Flavio Conceicao, Muller, Luizao. Coach: Vanderlei Luxemburgo Gone were several stars of their 1993 and ’94 conquests. Back at the controls, however, was ‘Luxa’. He would form one of the most spellbinding sides the sport has ever seen. A frightening threat of that intent came in the January. Borussia Dortmund were the reigning Bundesliga champions, were leading the race to defend their crown, and would soon be European champions when they travelled to Brazil for the Copa Euro-America, a competition jointly organised by CONMEBOL and UEFA. Ottmar Hitzfeld sent out winners Stefan Reuter, Andreas Moller and Karl-Heinz Riedle, as well as Stephane Chapuisat and that year’s Ballon d'Or winner Matthias Sammer, to seize the trophy. Instead, they were stunningly decrypted by video-game dribbles, one-twos and piercing through-balls. Cafu, who he was curious to know what would have become of his career had he remained an attacking midfielder, exhilarated in that position, while Rivaldo hit a hat-trick in a 6-1 demolition. With Djalminha, one of the most intoxicating talents Brazil has ever produced, Rivaldo and Muller ripping teams apart, Palmeiras preposterously scored 102 goals in 30 games – 27 were wins – en route to the Paulistao title, registered 21 successive victories and finished as Copa do Brasil runners-up. Amazingly, they averaged 3.06 goals per game over the six months before Rivaldo was sold to Deportivo La Coruna. “Few teams in football history have struck panic into opponents like that Palmeiras team.” Cafu

The patience of a saint

Year: 1999 Superhero: Marcos Heroes: Junior Baiano, Francisco Arce, Cesar Sampaio, Zinho, Alex, Paulo Nunes. Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari Marcos joined Palmeiras in 1992 and waited for his chance. And waited. And waited. He had, against the advice of all and sundry, refused repeated offers to leave to serve as deputy to club legend Velloso. Finally, in 1999, an injury to the club legend afforded Marcos his chance. Within months he had been canonised as ‘Saint Marcos’. The Oriente native produced extraordinary performances over two legs against Corinthians in the Libertadores quarter-finals, emerging as the hero of the shootout. He followed suit against a River Plate side including Marcelo Gallardo, Javier Saviola and Juan Pablo Angel in the semis, and helped Palmeiras sink Deportivo Cali on penalties in the final. The free-kicks and invention of Arce, goals of Junior Baiano – he was their five-goal leading marksman from centre-back – and playmaking of 21-year-old Alex were also vital, but there’s no doubt that O Verdão’s maiden continental conquest was most indebted to Marcos. ‘Felipão’ and ‘Saint Marcos’ combined again to help Brazil to glory, and the latter would ultimately spend almost two decades at his only club. “The only thing that Marcos didn’t do during that campaign was make it rain.” Luiz Felipe Scolari (from FIFA.com News)


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