Thursday 10 February 2022, 10:00

Superheroes in green

  • Palmeiras face Chelsea in the FIFA Club World Cup final

  • We look back at some of their best-ever sides

  • Ademir, Edmundo, Rivaldo, Djalminha and Marcos feature

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 recently hosted the FIFA World Cup™. 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 Italy 1990 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 recently told 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 Korea/Japan 2002 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