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2018 Florida Cup Preview, Part 2: The Veterans

Find out more about returning tournament clubs Atlético Mineiro, Corinthians, Fluminense and Barcelona.

FBL-BRAZIL-CORINTHIANS-ATLMINEIRO Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

Last weekend we published the first part of our 2018 Florida Cup Preview, presenting four of the eight teams that will compete in the Sunshine State in less than a week. Now it’s time to better know the other four clubs that will play in the fourth edition of the tournament from Jan. 10-20.

The tournament will have eight matches over the course of 10 days, with the first two held at Orlando City Stadium. There will also be four matches at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium, and one each at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg and Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill. The full schedule is available here.

While the first half of the preview had teams that are set to make their debuts in the annual tournament, Brazil’s Atlético Mineiro, Corinthians, and Fluminense, and Ecuador’s Barcelona have all competed in at least one edition of the Florida Cup before.

Here is all you need to know about them:

Atlético Mineiro (Brazil)

Santos v Atletico Mineiro - Brasileirao Series A 2017 Photo by Ricardo Nogueira/Getty Images

Popularly known as ‘Galo’ (the Portuguese word for rooster) because of its mascot, Atlético is one of the most traditional clubs of South America, having won the Brazilian Championship (1971) and the Copa Libertadores (2013). It also holds the record for state championships of Minas Gerais, with 44, including the last one, in 2017. The club has competed in Florida Cup in 2016, when it won the tournament, and last year.

Despite the local glory, though, last season was not very prolific to the club as it finished ninth in the Brazilian Championship and was knocked out in the Round of 16 in Copa Libertadores and in the quarterfinals of the Brazilian Cup. Veteran forwards Fred and Robinho, who played for Brazil in two FIFA World Cups, left the club in the off-season as did talented right back Marcos Rocha.

Three players to watch:

Elias A dynamic box-to-box midfielder, the 32-year-old player amassed 35 caps for Brazil’s National Team between 2010 and 2016 and had stints with Spain’s Atlético Madrid and Portugal’s Sporting.

Juan Cazares (pictured) Lethal on counter-attacks and extremely accurate in dead-ball situations, the diminutive 25-year-old Ecuadoran attacking midfielder joined the club in 2016 to become one of its most important players.

Ricardo Oliveira A former player for Italy’s AC Milan and Spain’s Valencia, Betis, and Zaragoza, the 37-year-old striker led all scorers in the 2015 Brazilian Championship for Santos, the club he left last month after an injury-plagued season to sign for Atlético.

Corinthians (Brazil)

Sao Paulo v Corinthians - Brasileirao Series A 2017 Photo by Miguel Schincariol/Getty Images

Corinthians is the reigning Brazilian champion, having won the league for the seventh time in 27 years in 2017 (it also prevailed in 1990, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2001, and 2015). Based in São Paulo, the club has also two FIFA Club World Cup titles (2000 and 20012) and one Copa Libertadores (2012) to its name. Corinthians is a regular at Florida Cup, having competed in each of the past three editions, finishing third in 2015, fourth in 2016, and second in 2017.

Last season, besides the national title, the club also won the São Paulo State Championship for the 28th time and was knocked out of the Brazilian Cup in the fourth round. Internationally, ‘Timão’ fell in the Round of 16 of Copa Sudamericana. The national championship-winning roster is not intact, though, as center back Pablo, left back Guilherme Arana, and forward Jô — the best player of Brazilian Championship — are all gone.

Three players to watch:

Cássio (pictured) The towering 30-year-old goalkeeper has been a stud between the posts for the club since he returned from the Netherlands’ PSV Eindhoven in 2012 and is in contention for a spot in Brazil’s roster for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Fábian Balbuena Signed from Libertad in 2016, the 26-year-old Paraguayan international is one of the best center backs in the country, being selected for the Brazilian Championship’s Best XI in 2017.

Rodriguinho The dynamic 29-year-old attacking midfielder is the engine behind Corinthians’ well-organized system, working hard on both sides of the ball and contributing offensively with goals and assists.

Fluminense (Brazil)

Fluminense v Palmeiras - Brasileirao Series A 2017 Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

One of the most popular clubs of Rio de Janeiro, Fluminense has topped the Brazilian Championship four times (1970, 1984, 2010, and 2012), won the Brazilian Cup once (2007), and the State Championship an impressive 31 times. The club has played four Florida Cup matches between 2015 and 2016 but has yet to record a win.

Fluminense fans had a disappointing year in 2017, seeing the team finish 14th in the Brazilian Championship, leave the Brazilian Cup in the Round of 16, and the Copa Sudamerica in the quarterfinals to rivals Flamengo. Struggling financially, the club has let several of its most experienced players go in 2018, such as former Liverpool goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri and former FC Barcelona defender Henrique.

Three players to watch:

Gustavo Scarpa With his laser-accurate left-foot, the 23-year-old attacking midfielder, who is very efficient on long shots and free kicks, led the 2017 Brazilian Championship in assists with 12 and scored two goals.

Henrique Dourado (pictured) A journeyman who has played for 13 teams in 10 years, the 28-year-old striker was the top goal scorer of the 2017 Brazilian Championship with 18 goals and is almost perfect from the penalty spot.

Douglas A product from Fluminense’s academy, he is a 20-year-old hard-nosed defensive midfielder who covers a lot of ground and has already been linked to some European clubs since 2015, when he was promoted to the first team.

Barcelona (Ecuador)

FBL-LIBERTADORES-GREMIO-BARCELONA Photo credit should read JEFFERSON BERNARDES/AFP/Getty Images

Founded by a Spanish immigrant who named the club after his home city, Barcelona is the most popular team of Ecuador. It has won the Ecuadoran League and was a Copa Libertadores finalist twice, but was defeated both in 1990 and 1998. The club competed in the 2017 Florida Cup, but lost both of its two matches.

The 2017 season was a mixed bag for Barcelona as the team was a big surprise in Copa Libertadores, advancing to the semifinals and losing only to eventual champions Grêmio, but finished in an unimpressive fifth place in the National League.

Three players to watch:

Jonathan Álvez (pictured) A product of Nacional’s academy, the 29-year-old Uruguayan forward signed with the club in 2016 and scored 39 goals since then, including six in the 2017 Copa Libertadores campaign.

Máximo Banguera A veteran from Ecuador’s roster at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 32-year-old goalkeeper is a popular figure in South American soccer not only for his skills between the posts but also for the fact that he wears a hat when he plays.

Segundo Castillo A 2006 FIFA World Cup veteran with 88 caps for Ecuador’s National Team, the 35-year-old defensive midfielder returned to his native country in 2016 after stints in Serbia, England, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.