Unfancied sides prevail in Brazilian FA Cup too

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Brazil’s version of the FA Cup - the Copa do Brasil - will come to an end this Wednesday when Corinthians and Sport do battle in Recife in the second leg of the final.

Unlike its English equivalent, the Copa do Brasil is an extremely new tournament - first contested in 1987 - so it lacks the tradition and charm of older competitions. But if its trophy isn’t that glamorous, its prize is – a guaranteed ticket to the Copa Libertadores.

This year, however, there’s more at stake than unknown silverware and a Libertadores spot. Corinthians and Sport are playing for redemption.

Yes, it sounds cliché – and it is – but there’s no other way of putting it.

Slain by off-pitch scandals and on-pitch shame last year, Corinthians were relegated to the second division. And a bad campaign in the São Paulo State Championship earlier this year seemed to asure them a stock of laughs for the entire campaign.

With an average team without stars – their best players have been young midfielder Dentinho and obscure Argentinian Herrera – coach Mano Menezes’ squad have quietly advanced through the Copa do Brasil. Noone betted on them.

Dentinho celebrates giving Corinthians first-leg lead 

Next thing you know, 70.000 proud Corintianos were jam-packing the Morumbi Stadium from the quarter-finals on. The t-shirt “I will never abandon you” became this season's top selling football product and the flags of the club returned to the São Paulo streets.

Sport, on the other hand, have had plenty of success lately. The team from Recife have won the last three Pernambuco State tournaments. But, as with most North East teams, they have gone nowhere at national level for almost two decades, and this harmlessness led them to be discarded in advance by the press.

So the clashes against the powerhouses from the South were seen by their players as pride battles. And they indeed knocked out three Brazilian football giants: Palmeiras, Internacional and Vasco. A win against Corinthians, they think, would place Sport definitely amongst the greats.

In the first leg of the final last Wednesday Corinthians started at full throttle, scoring two goals in less than 20 minutes through Dentinho and Herrera. Uruguayan Acosta added a third in the second half and it seemed the tie was over. Until Enilton’s goal in injury time made it 3-1 giving Sport half a chance for the second leg.

The team from Recife still need a 2-0 home win to lift the Copa do Brasil, but their fans are excited. Considering Sport’s fantastic record in the Ilha do Retiro Stadium throughout the tournament – 4-1 vs Palmeiras, 3-1 vs Internacional and 2-0 vs Vasco – they are allowed to be.

And then use the clichés as if there was no tomorrow.