By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Clube Atlético-MG, from Minas Gerais, were this week crowned champions of the Florida Cup. The Brazilian team was one of nine from around the world to compete in the annual friendly in Florida in the United States. Taking place every January the tournament attracts clubs who want to expand their brand abroad while also having the chance to play against quality rival teams in ideal conditions.
Atlético-MG beat FC Schalke 04 from Germany 3-0 and top Paulista team Corinthians 1-0, in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton respectively, to collect six points and top the table.
“Our stay here was great for the tests we were able to do,” said Atlético striker Thiago Ribeiro. “Of course we’re happy with the title, we faced two strong teams and were able to play our game. We’re not at our best yet, but it’s certainly a good preview on what’s ahead.”
Bayer Leverkusen, also from Germany, and fellow Brazilian team Internacional finished two points behind the winners, taking joint second place. Corinthians, from São Paulo, came in fourth and Rio’s only team in the competition, Fluminense, finished in eighth position with just one point.
The method of scoring the Cup varies each year, depending on the availability and schedule of the competing clubs. In 2016 the winner was the club with the most points after two matches.
Despite having left Fluminense, Brazil’s Ronaldinho returned to play with his former team in the competition as part of a contractual agreement. He ruled out returning to the club and said he would decide his next move in the coming weeks.
Apart from the football, the Florida Cup also features side attractions, such as star players from each team driving through Magic Kingdom park, a Disney theme park, on the back of a car and an NBA shootout between a club star and a fan in Orlando.