Andre the chess-playing Corinthian finds strategy to checkmate Chelsea

Brazilian outsiders will swap flair for defensive fortitude in bid to stop Europe’s winning run

Yokohama

Brazil versus England, beauty and the beast. If this was the real World Cup final, few observers would expect much beyond rearguard action from one side and an exhibition of flair and panache from the other. No prizes for guessing which way round. 

Where the Club World Cup has an advantage – and there aren’t so many – is that the English team in question can field a surfeit of playmakers and liberos from around the globe. This is why Chelsea’s crop of maverick talents ought to beat their more celebrated rivals at the Yokohama International Stadium tomorrow. Role reversal, call it what you will, but perceptions will be challenged when Rafa Benitez’s side face Corinthians at a venue where Brazil’s national team last triumphed on the world stage, beating Germany a decade ago.

In the aftermath of their defeat here on Thursday, the Monterrey coach, Victor Vucetich, concluded that Central and South American clubs still lag behind the best in Europe, largely due to their respective budgets. “The players [in Europe] are paid a lot, so that’s how they get great players,” he said.

The vast fortune of Roman Abramovich has bought in and spat out enough famous players to fill a Rothmans Yearbook since he arrived at the club in 2003 – and the tally of managers is not that far behind. The very name Corinthians evokes an altogether different image. The club of Teleco, Rivelino and Socrates, the anniversary of whose death was marked the day the side left for Japan, can boast five Brazilian titles, the Club World Cup in 2000 and this year’s Copa Libertadores among a host of other honours, yet they cannot hope to match Chelsea’s pulling power.

Which is perhaps why coach Tite’s side have now to rely on endeavour over exquisite football, mind over Mata. And as Corinthians’ record of conceding just four goals in 14 games on their way to the Copa Libertadores title this year showed, they are hard to break down.

That will be put to the test by the array of skilled players at Benitez’s disposal, including the Brazilians David Luiz and Oscar, Spanish duo Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, and the brilliant Belgian Eden Hazard.

One man charged with disrupting this attacking threat is defender Paulo Andre. As well as being Brazil’s player of the year in 2011, Andre is notable for his off-field pursuits. He celebrated Corinthians’ Brazilian title triumph by asking all his team-mates to kick footballs dipped in paint across a canvas. As well as being a budding artist, he writes, and plays tennis and chess.

“I’m unusual,” he says. “It’s very hard to define players. I’m not sure if it’s because they are not capable or because they are shy about saying they do different things from football. We have a culture in Brazil where the football player can only play football. He can’t think, he can’t talk, he’s there just to play. And I’m trying to show people that you can be different.

“Then, on Sunday, you can play very well, because you are a professional guy who is enjoying life and doing what you know how to do.”

Playing against Chelsea will not be Andre’s first encounter with British football – as a youngster he was invited for a trial at Rangers in 2004. He was already an intermediate-level English speaker and is even better now, but he struggled with the Glasgow accent and ended up at Le Mans, in France. 

Ultimately, though, the lure of his “dream” club Corinthians was too strong. “I had a lot of injuries in France and I said, ‘OK, I’m not happy here. What would I like to do with my life? I would like to play for Corinthians and win every championship we play’ – and it’s working very well”.

Andre has been well briefed on Chelsea by a familiar name to English football – former Arsenal midfielder Edu, who is director of football at the club. “He showed us some tackles and some stuff he did in England,” Andre said. “He gave us a lot of information on the Chelsea team.

“We know, about Hazard, about Oscar, about Mata. We know exactly what to do to try to stop them, so we will try to put into practice what our coach said to do.

“We will try to put pressure on their defence. Then, we hope the ball can’t arrive to these players easily.”

How easy that is to prevent will be the key if his team are to deny Europe a sixth successive triumph.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor