Palmeiras out of Brazil’s Serie A captured the 2020 Florida Cup by beating New York City FC 2-1 and rival Corinthians’ 2-1 loss to Atletico Nacional in front of 11,569 fans at Exploria Stadium. Despite Corinthians taking an early lead and needing only a shootout win or a regulation win to take the tournament, it was Palmeiras taking the trophy.
It was the first Florida Cup championship for Palmeiras — in the team’s first appearance in the event. Palmeiras became the tournament’s sixth different winner in the event’s six years of existence, and the fourth different Brazilian club to win it, joining Atlético Mineiro (2016), São Paulo (2017), and Flamengo (2019).
In the opener, New York City FC started mostly veterans against Palmeiras after going with a youthful lineup on Wednesday in a 2-1 loss to Corinthians. Maxi Moralez had the game’s first shot from the right side but fired his shot high and wide. Palmeiras’ Bruno Corsini appeared to pull up with a groin or quad injury and was subbed out before the ensuing goal kick, replaced by Ramires Santos Nacimiento.
Moralez himself subbed out in the sixth minute as he never appeared comfortable after taking that early shot and was stretching out on the field periodically before coming off. Andres Jasson replaced him in the lineup. NYCFC Head Coach Ronny Deila said he didn’t think Moralez’s injury would be a longterm problem.
“Hopefully this is not a pulled muscle but I think it just starting cramping in his calf,” Deila said. “So I think he just wants to be cautious and went off before it gets any bigger.”
Palmeiras should have scored twice in the early going but squandered a pair of chances. Luiz Adriano sent a free header over the bar in the seventh minute and Dudu was all alone in the box but saw his shot well saved by Brad Stuver in the eighth minute.
In the 14th minute the Brazilian side worked a beautiful play in the penalty area but Ramires’ shot was blocked by the defense. Seconds later, Lucas Lima drew a free kick in front of goal from about 30 yards out but Victor Luis sent his shot right at Stuver.
The teams settled in a bit defensively after that and there were plenty of fouls both directions. Alexandru Mitrita nearly opened the scoring for NYCFC in the 30th minute with a free kick from the left but he sent it wide. Nine minutes later, Palmeiras squandered another opportunity as Raphael Veiga took a pass in the NYCFC area and then sent his left-footed shot wide.
Gary Mackay-Steven sent a shot right at Palmeiras goalkeeper Weverton in the 45th minute as the half began to near its conclusion. A minute later, Gabriel Menino sent a good free kick on frame but Stuver was there to make the save. Then the game finally got its breakthrough.
Andres Jasson shook free late in stoppage time on the right side and sent in a cross to Osaze De Rosario, who was working one-on-one against a Palmeiras defender. De Rosario won the aerial battle, getting inside Palmeiras midfielder-turned-defender and captain Felipe Melo, and heading the cross inside the far post to open the scoring just as the first half was about to end.
If De Rosario’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the son of former MLS All-Star Dwayne De Rosario.
NYCFC entered the break up 1-0 and Palmeiras could only think about the numerous early wasted opportunities.
The Pigeons nearly doubled their lead on the first chance of the second half. Palmeiras turned the ball over at midfield and felt a foul should have been called. None was, and Juan Pablo Torres got a clean look at goal but fired just wide. Gustavo Gomez was booked for arguing with the referee in the aftermath.
Five minutes later, Palmeiras equalized. Lima sent in a cross from the left side that was deflected and Willian initially appeared to get a touch on it but didn’t, and the ball trickled inside the right post to make it 1-1 in the 56th minute. Lima got the goal.
Willian had an opportunity to put his team in front in the 60th but smashed his shot just wide. Five minutes later, a sliding Gabriel Veron nearly got onto a cross in front of an empty net but it was just out of reach as Palmeiras searched for a go-ahead goal.
Palmeiras took the lead in the 74th minute. Zé Rafael stole the ball in the attacking end, then headed a cross that Willian ran onto and smashed home to make it 2-1.
GOAAAAAL! @Palmeiras takes the lead!@NYCFC 1 x 2 @Palmeiras— Florida Cup (@Florida_Cup) January 18, 2020
Willian nearly scored an insurance goal in the 88th minute but sent a wicked shot just over the bar. Palmeiras saw out the remaining time and captured the victory, finishing the tournament on five points and needing a Corinthians loss to take the 2020 Florida Cup title. New York City FC finished 0-2-0 with no points after a pair of 2-1 losses. The Palmeiras win also eliminated Atletico Nacional from championship contention.
Despite the two losses, Deila overall was pleased with his team’s progress after having three months off and only a few days of training, and seemed to come away impressed with the Florida Cup as a tournament, as well as Exporia Stadium.
“The stadium is fantastic the facilities down here have been unbelievable good, and you can’t ask for anything more,” he said.
In the nightcap, Corinthians needed to win or a draw with the extra point for a shootout victory to capture the 2020 Florida Cup championship. It turned out to be the most exciting match of the tournament, with plenty of scoring chances both ways.
Atletico Nacional got an early set piece opportunity but sent a free header wide of the net in the fourth minute.
Corinthians took the lead in the seventh minute. Lucas Piton sent a cross from left to right and Ramiro slotted home to give the Brazilian side the early advantage.
Janderson Souza had an opportunity to double the Corinthians lead in the 17th minute. He got in behind the defense but couldn’t quite clear himself for a clean shot. He sent his effort just wide of the right post.
Corinthians had a golden opportunity to score a second when a penalty was awarded in the 25th minute after a big collision in the Atletico Nacional defensive penalty area. Mauro Boselli lined up the spot kick and fired a low shot toward the left post. Nacional goalkeeper Jose Cuadrado guessed correctly and made a huge diving save in the 26th minute to keep the game at 1-0.
Boselli came within inches of atoning for the penalty in the 40th minute when his shot from the left side beat Cuadrado but it smacked off the crossbar. Moments later Boselli popped up on the right side and sent a shot into the outside netting.
Those missed opportunities turned out to be costly for Corinthians as the Colombian side equalized just before the break. A perfect cross from Yerson Candelo out on the left found Gustavo Torres’ head at the back post and he nodded his shot just inside the right post to make it 1-1 in the 44th minute.
@nacionaloficial ties the game! @nacionaloficial 1 x 1 @Corinthians— Florida Cup (@Florida_Cup) January 18, 2020
Corinthians nearly regained the lead in stoppage time. Victor Cantillo sent a rocket on target from 30 yards out but Cuadrado came across to his left with a diving save to keep the game tied at 1-1 and the teams went into the break all even.
Vagner Love should have restored the Corinthians lead just after the restart, but his initial shot was saved by second-half goalkeeper Aldair Quintana in the 46th minute, and Brayan Cordoba made a vital challenge to knock the ball out for a corner before Vagner could reload on the second chance.
Atletico Nacional started getting chances shortly after that. Estefano Arungo sent a shot from the top of the area just wide of the right post in the 54th minute and two minutes later a Sebastian Gomez header crashed off the crossbar.
Corinthians then began getting more chances and missing them by inches. In the 67th minute Richard Coelho fired just wide of the right post from the top of the area. A minute later Sidcley Pereira got forward and went one-on-one with Quintana but slid his shot just inches wide of that same right post. Vagner Love fired to the same spot in the 70th minute as Corinthians continued to waste chances. Mateus Vital saw his shot from the left side deflect off a defender just inches wide of the left post in the 77th minute.
Nacional took advantage of those missed chances and grabbed the lead in the 83rd minute on a counter attack that seemed to break down with a shot/cross that went through the area. The Colombian side recycled the play and second-half Corinthians goalkeeper Walter Artune wandered out of his net to try to get to a through ball, but was beaten to it by Jefferson Duque, who slipped the ball to Gomez for the go-ahead goal.
The late goal sealed Corinthians’ fate, although the Brazilian side came tantalizing close on a stoppage-time corner kick but couldn’t direct a header toward goal. After starting the day in the driver’s seat, Corinthians slipped all the way to third place in the Florida Cup standings and Atletico Nacional climbed to a second-place finish. Corinthians has been in five of the six Florida Cups and has never won it. The team’s best finish was second in 2017, followed by third-place finishes in 2015 and 2020.
That will do it for the 2020 Florida Cup.
2020 Final Florida Cup Standings:
- Palmeiras: 1-0-1 (5 points due to shootout win vs. Nacional)
- Atletico Nacional: 1-0-1 (4 points)
- Corinthians: 1-1-0 (3 points)
- New York City FC: 0-2-0, 0 points
All-Time Florida Cup Champions:
2015: FC Köln, Germany (runner up: Bayer Leverkusen, Germany)
2016: Atlético Mineiro, Brazil (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany)
2017: São Paulo, Brazil (Corinthians, Brazil)
2018: Atlético Nacional, Colombia (Barcelona Sporting Club, Ecuador)
2019: Flamengo, Brazil (Ajax, Netherlands)
2020: Palmeiras, Brazil (Atlético Nacional, Colombia)