If England is the home of football, most people regard Brazil as the soul but while England has some pretty big derbies, Brazilian games take it to another level. The South American country is one of the sport’s biggest powerhouses and their passion for the game runs deep through the streets of every town and city. Unsurprisingly, some of the world’s most intense derbies can be found in Brazilian football. On any given derby day, bustling metropolises like Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro are brought to a standstill to watch their teams clash and the best youngsters in Brazil strut their stuff. Brazilian fans will fight for their teams no matter the cost as they base their livelihoods around the actions of their heroes. So which Brazilian football matches are regarded as the countries biggest derbies? We look at the top seven.
7 biggest Brazilian football matches
Choque-Rei (Palmeiras vs. Sao Paulo)
Two of the biggest teams in the nation, the clashes between Palmeiras and Sao Paulo are often heated affairs. Both of the clubs have large support bases within the city and are often vying for championships raising the stakes even further when they clash on the pitch.
The intensity between both sets of fans often spills over into unruly fracas. The tension runs into the junior teams as well with an infamous incident in 1995 during the Junior Sao Paulo Supercopa clash where fans invaded the pitch and rioted with 102 people getting injured and 1 person dying. A hot-headed affair no matter which form of the sides are competing, definitely one of the biggest grudge matches in Brazilian football.
Classico do Saudade (Palmeiras vs. Santos)
Another heated clash between two of Sao Paulo’s big four sides. Matches between Palmeiras and Santos are always headline-grabbing affairs and the pair have clashed everywhere from state championships to Copa Libertadores finals.
Having met at all stages of competitions, the teams are generally well-matched with less than five wins separating the two sides in head to head meetings spanning over a century. Although it isn’t a game that spills over into violence as often, it remains one of the biggest matches in Brazilian football.
Classico dos Milhoes (Flamengo vs. Vasco da Gama)
Known as ‘The Derby of the Millions‘, matches between Flamengo and Vasco da Gama are always tight affairs involving two of the biggest sides in Rio De Janeiro. It’s a peculiar rivalry as it started between two rowing sides in the late 19th century before spilling over into the football world as both teams became national powerhouses in the sport.
Flamengo’s position as one of Brazil’s most successful sides has added an extra edge to games involving Vasco da Gama who have struggled to stay with their cross-town rivals. With plenty of colour and passion in each match though, it is not a derby to be missed.
Classico Mineiro (Atetico Mineiro vs. Cruzeiro)
Over the last 50 years, very few rivalries have lived up to the same intensity as clashes between Atletico Mineiro and Cruzeiro. The matches between the two top sides in Belo Horizonte are often dramatic and have decided multiple titles ranging from state championships to the final of the national cup.
The 2014 Copa Brasil final was a particularly close affair as both sides had never met in the last round of the competition before. Atletico won the tie 3-0 on aggregate and it has a result that gone on to define the fate of the Brazilian teams ever since particularly with Cruzeiro getting relegated to Serie B just a few seasons later, meaning there have been fewer football matches between the pair since.
Grenal (Gremio vs Internacional)
The clash between Gremio and Internacional is one of the oldest rivalries in all of Brazilian football stretching back to the early 1900s. The two Porto Alegre teams have one of the fiercest rivalries anywhere in Brazil due to the divides between classes – Gremio representing the upper classes and Internacional supporting the working-class immigrants.
Based on a large social divide, the clashes have been fierce both on and off the pitch with tensions almost always at boiling point. Fortunately, the football matches have almost always passed without major incident, even during the “Grenal of the Century” in 1989 when Internacional edged their Brazilian rivals 2-0 to book a spot in the Brasileiro finals and a spot in continental competition at the expense of Gremio!
Fla-Flu (Flamengo vs. Fluminense)
Don’t let the name fool you, the Fla-Flu is one of the most intense rivalries anywhere in football. Played between Flamengo and Fluminense, these matches pit the two biggest sides in Rio against one another. They are often fraught affairs with noisy fans and flares streaming onto the pitch as tensions rise.
It’s not surprising as the matches originated from a bunch of Fluminense players leaving to start Flamengo’s football team back in 1911. Since then, the teams have faced each other in every South American competition with Flamengo edging out their rivals in a head to head record. Indeed, the 1963 edition between both sides drew 194,000 people to their clash at the Maracana – a world record for a club match that stands to this very day!
Paulista Derby (Corinthians vs Palmeiras)
Undoubtedly the most heated rivalry in Brazilian football is the clash between two of Sao Paulo’s biggest names – Corinthians and Palmeiras. The two sides have traded blows with each other for over a century and draws interest from all over the world, especially when the stakes are at their highest.
Matches are often pivotal to the success of both teams’ seasons and no other pairing in Brazilian football has clashed over trophies at all levels. Given the pressure involved, there will often be incidents involving both players and fans. None more so than in 2018 in the Paulista Championship finals where the match was suspended for 8 minutes due to fighting on the pitch.
The fighting was marred further with excessive crowd violence after Corinthians won 1-0 and Palmeiras fans rioted causing significant damage to local metro stations and other facilities. A match that stops the city no matter what level it is taking place at.
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