Sao Paulo won the 2017 Florida Cup FC Playoff championship without scoring a goal in regulation time. After a scoreless 90-minute draw with Corinthians, Sao Paulo took the penalty shootout, 4-3, to win the trophy in front of an announced crowd of 7,500 at the University of Central Florida’s Bright House Networks Stadium.
The champions advanced to the final with an 8-7 penalty shootout win after a goalless draw against Argentinian giants River Plate.
Goalkeeper Sidão was the hero of the penalty shootout, stopping two Corinthians shooters with diving, one-handed saves. His counterpart, Cassio of Corinthians, made one save in the shootout.
Despite the dearth of regulation goals, it was an entertaining final with chances on both ends, but neither side could break through what was a sometimes contentious match. Each team had a man sent off in the first half as pushing and shoving was a part of the game. Forget the word “friendly.” Both teams played like they wanted the Florida Cup.
The first half was more scrum than soccer game. Seemingly every play was punctuated by shoves, grabs, shirt pulls, hands in an opponent’s face, and, in one instance, a kick to the head. Referee Jonathan Weiner handed out yellow cards to three Corinthians players, in addition to sending off a player from each team in the opening 45 minutes. There were more cards than shots.
Sao Paulo got the first good opportunity of the game with a free kick in the third minute. Captain Maicon got his head to the cross but sent his shot just wide of the target. Sao Paulo may have been unlucky not to be awarded a penalty with two legitimate-looking complaints in the opening six minutes. A Corinthians player threw an arm out to catch the face of one player in the box in the third minute, and striker Chavez was taken down in the box in the sixth minute on what appeared to be nothing but contact with the player by the defender.
Those early plays set the tone for the chippy match, which resulted in the two red cards after an 18th-minute scrum. Marquinhos Gabriel of Corinthians and Bruno of Sao Paulo tangled after Bruno dispossessed Gabriel to thwart a counter-attack. As both players went to ground, the Sao Paulo defender appeared to intentionally kick the Corinthians attacker in the head. That surely would have meant a red card if seen, but it wasn’t, despite Weiner being in good position.
Both teams came together in the wake of the altercation and both benches emptied. In the ensuing melee Maicon threw hands to the face of a Corinthians player. Both Maicon and Corinthians striker Kazim were sent off, leaving both teams with 10 men on the pitch. I’ll cop to not seeing what Kazim did to earn his red card.
From that point on, there were a lot of failed Sao Paulo free kicks and corners but little else to highlight the first half. Wellington Nem sent a 45th-minute shot over the bar in what was really only a half chance, and the teams marched to the locker rooms knotted at 0-0.
Five minutes after the break, Nem had a half chance, elevating to get his head on a cross between two defenders but his shot was well wide. Sao Paulo came much closer in the 57th minute on a training-ground free kick. Nem took the corner short to Bruno, who crossed to the back post for Cueva. The cross was perfect but Cueva’s header was deflected behind for a corner thanks to alert defending from Corinthians.
In the 62nd minute, Gilberto ripped a shot from the top of the box but it was right at Cassio for the easy save.
From that point, Corinthians began to get the better chances. In the 63rd minute, Marlone got in behind the Sao Paulo defense but fired his shot just wide. In the 66th minute, Marlone was again involved. He sent a curling free kick that was punched out by Sidão and a second ball into the box was sent just inches wide of the far post by a diving Romero. In the 74th minute a beautiful long ball from Fellipe Bastos sent Giovanni Augusto in alone on Sidão but he fired over the bar as Corinthians wasted another outstanding chance.
In minute 80, Gilberto got his head on a cross from Buffarini but the Sao Paulo man sent his shot wide of target and really should have done better as he was unmarked for a free header. That was the last good opportunity for either side and the final whistle blew and the teams headed to penalties, where Corinthians shot first.
Sidão set the tone by stopping Bastos on the very first spot kick, diving to his right and denying the Corinthians midfielder. Here’s how the shootout unfolded:
- Corinthians: Fellipe Bastos (saved), Sao Paulo: Joao Schmidt (goal).
- Corinthians: Giovanni Augusto (goal), Sao Paulo: Cicero (goal).
- Corinthians: Marcel (saved), Sao Paulo: Araruna (saved).
- Corinthians: Paulo Roberto (goal), Sao Paulo: Junior (goal).
- Corinthians: Marlone (goal), Sao Paulo: Gilberto (goal).