The São Paulo fans packed Morumbi on the afternoon of this past Sunday (09/24/2023) to witness the draw against Flamengo.
Thanks to the result of the first match, São Paulo secured their first-ever Copa do Brasil title, adding even more to their trophy collection.
Join us as we review how this great match unfolded.
São Paulo’s History in the Copa do Brasil
The Copa do Brasil was the only major title missing from Morumbi’s trophy room.
The competition began in 1989, with Grêmio being its first champion by defeating Sport Recife in the final.
One significant fact to note is the format of the tournament during its earlier years. From its inception until 2013, only teams that hadn’t qualified for the Copa Libertadores were eligible to participate in the Copa do Brasil.
São Paulo, during this time frame, was one of the, if not the, top Brazilian teams. They had won the Copa Libertadores three times, as well as the Brasileirão and even the Club World Cup. Therefore, they rarely participated in the Copa do Brasil.
Even with fewer appearances than their competitors, that was no excuse for São Paulo’s subpar performance in the Copa do Brasil, especially after 2013.
But the “Football Gods” had been dropping hints since the beginning of this edition that São Paulo’s first title would come.
São Paulo started the tournament with Rogério Ceni still in charge of the team, entering in the third round due to their 9th-place finish in the previous year’s Brasileirão. He was the coach for São Paulo’s debut against Ituano at home, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
For the return leg in Itu, Dorival Jr. had taken over as head coach.
Under Dorival, São Paulo won the tough match 1-0, advancing to the Round of 16.
In the Round of 16, they faced Sport Recife. Believe it or not, this was by far the toughest match for São Paulo in the competition. Ironically, it was in this round that their title journey began to take shape.
The first leg was relatively straightforward. São Paulo won 2-0 away at Ilha do Retiro without much trouble.
The extremely positive result made São Paulo’s players relax, especially when Michel Araujo scored at the 26th minute, extending their lead to 3-0 on aggregate.
Sport, valiantly, tried to equalize, turning the match around and scoring their third goal in injury time of the second half.
Despite Sport’s efforts, it wasn’t enough, and São Paulo advanced on penalties.
In the quarterfinals, they faced an old foe, Palmeiras, who had been eliminated by São Paulo in the Copa do Brasil the previous year, in 2022, in the Round of 16.
Even though Palmeiras was one of the favorites to win the title, São Paulo showed their strength and unity, not giving their rivals a chance. São Paulo won the first leg 1-0 at Morumbi and followed it up with a 2-1 victory at Allianz Parque.
Image: Miguel Schincariol/Getty Images
Next up, another rival: Corinthians. The first leg was already loaded with controversy. In a match where Renato Augusto played like the star he is, Corinthians won 2-1 with two goals from him.
On São Paulo’s side, Luciano scored a goal with a bit of luck. He unleashed a long-range shot that hit the post, then deflected off Cássio, Corinthians’ goalkeeper, and went in. In his celebration, Luciano ran over and kicked the corner flag at the Neo Química Arena, which had the home team’s emblem on it.
The home fans, as well as the players and even ball boys, were furious, creating great tension for the return leg.
São Paulo’s tension quickly dissipated when they opened the scoring at the 13th minute with a spectacular goal from Rato. At the 32nd minute, Lucas Moura added another. With a stellar performance, São Paulo had a sufficient lead to advance to the final.
They could have scored more goals, especially considering the first half was a true onslaught by the home team. The match ended 2-0, and São Paulo faced Flamengo in the final, which we’ll now follow.
Image: Karen Fontes/AFI/iShoot/Gazeta Press
The Second Leg of the Final
Morumbi was in celebration. São Paulo fans were cautious but confident, especially after the positive result they achieved at Maracanã.
On the other hand, Flamengo was coming off a defeat in their own stadium, combined with the completely destructive and turmoil-ridden atmosphere within the club, as mentioned in previous articles.
Although all of this surrounded the game, Flamengo surprised by starting the match strongly. With Gabigol on the bench and Arrascaeta as a starter, returning from injury, the Rio club pressed São Paulo’s build-up play and prevented the home team from creating opportunities.
Just 25 seconds into the game, Pedro had a chance to score, but Rafael made a good save.
Gerson, at the 18th minute, made a great run into the opposing penalty area, eluded the defender, and found himself one-on-one with Rafael. Once again, São Paulo’s goalkeeper made an impressive intervention to deny the goal.
São Paulo’s first dangerous opportunity came only at the 36th minute, with a long-range shot from Rato that went over Rossi’s goal.
Flamengo seemed to be getting closer to a goal. Rafinha couldn’t keep up with the speed of Bruno Henrique on the wing.
At the 43rd minute, Pulgar entered the penalty area and unleashed a beautiful curling shot. Rafael made an incredible save, tipping the ball onto the post. However, Bruno Henrique was racing in like a rocket. He made no movement except staying still and allowed the ball to hit his knee and find the back of the net.
Image: Reprodução Twitter
Flamengo took the lead, and it was a massive shock.
It would have been even more significant if the response hadn’t been immediate.
In the last play of the first half, at 45+4′, São Paulo had a free-kick to be delivered into the box. Rato played the ball into the confusion. Rossi came off his line poorly and punched the ball, sending it toward the edge of the box.
There, Nestor was positioned and struck a shot with extraordinary accuracy. A thunderous left-footed strike, no need to control. The ball spun and found the corner of the net.
In the celebration, there was plenty of emotion from Nestor and the entire Morumbi stadium, which erupted with joy at the saving goal.
Image: MAURÍCIO RUMMENS/FOTOARENA/FOTOARENA/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO
Flamengo, on the other hand, returned for the second half with the same intensity with which they had started the match. Pressing down the wings and using aerial balls, the Rio club even had opportunities to score.
However, as time passed, the Flamengo players couldn’t maintain their pace, especially considering the scorching 37°C (99°F) heat in the São Paulo capital.
Pulgar had the chance to win it for Flamengo at the 90+2′. In a cross from full-back Wesley, the ball fell kindly to the Chilean midfielder at the penalty spot, but he skied the shot.
São Paulo managed to control the game well after the 65th minute.
In the final play of the game, the referee blew the whistle, ejected São Paulo’s midfielder Gabi Neves, and concluded the match!
São Paulo, the 2023 Copa do Brasil champions.
Image: Rubens Chiri/São Paulo
The first fact is that, a day after losing another title, Flamengo’s board is considering the dismissal of Jorge Sampaoli, which is gaining momentum by the minute.
The most likely replacement is none other than Tite, the coach of the Brazilian National Team in the last two World Cups.
However, there are rumors that Tite may not be willing to take over the position during the ongoing Brasileirão season and would only do so at the start of the 2024 season.
Another point to note is the prize money for the championship. With the title, São Paulo would have accumulated about R$ 90 million (€17.1 million) throughout the competition, demonstrating the not only sporting but also financial importance that the tournament has acquired over the years.
Congratulations to São Paulo, the 2023 Copa do Brasil champions!
Escrito por Vitor F L Miller.