When the Dream Team Lost

Barcelona versus the champions of South America to become the Intercontinental Champions; what could go wrong for the Spanish Giants labelled the Dream Team? Unfortunately for the Catalonians, a certain midfielder named Raí did make it go wrong all those nights ago.

Every football fan knows that Johan Cruyff is one of the greatest players to have graced the pitch. He was such an icon that he is considered as one of the greats at two clubs, both at Ajax in his homeland and Barcelona where he spent five glorious years in the 1970s.

When the Dutch legend decided to go into coaching, he first returned to Ajax and then on to Barcelona where he oversaw a transformation of the club, implementing an attractive brand of football. From his first season in 1988 the team which became known as the Dream Team played some of the best football of the era, some of which we haven’t seen since.

Under Cruyff’s leadership, the team won four Spanish League Titles, a Super Cup, and won in Europe in 1992. The team boasted the likes of Michael Laudrup, Ronald Koeman, Pepe Guardiola, and Hristo Stoichkov. They were some of the best players in their position in world football, with many of the team going on to have successful managerial careers.

In the 1992 Intercontinental Cup, which was held in Tokyo, they went up against Brazilian side São Paulo who play in the Paulistao (State League), and the top national league of Brazil. At that time, they had won the state league 18 times, the national league three times, and the Copa Libertadores in the same year.

In the Copa Libertadores, São Paulo had beaten Argentina’s Newell’s Old Boys on penalties after the tie ended 1-1 on aggregate after over two legs. Rai was the hero in the final as his penalty in the home-leg took the game to penalties where he scored again. The Brazilians ended as champions after Newell’s missed three of their five penalties to hand them a 3-2 shootout win.

On December 11th, 1992 São Paulo walked into a match that on paper they should have lost easily. However, they had one player in their side who had a fantastic game to rip the aforementioned paper up. That player was Raí – brother of the iconic Sócrates.

Bulgarian Stoichkov put Barcelona ahead in the 12th minute with a superb left-footed strike from outside the box after a Brazilian attack had been thwarted by Guardiola.

Then, striker Müller, who had recently come back from a spell in Italy with Torino, ran past Albert Ferrer in the right-back position to put a cross into the box directly onto Raí’s chest for the equaliser in the 27th minute. There was an air of fortune to the finish but it was a fine piece of trickery from Müller to beat his man on the left flank.

After the break São Paulo, dominated the match, and Raí, won it in the 79th minute with an excellent curling right footed shot from a free kick. It was the second time the Brazilian club had beaten a Spanish club that year – they beat Deportivo de La Coruña 4-1 during pre-season.

After another successful Copa Libertadores where São Paulo thrashed Universidad Católica in the final, the club would again go back to Japan the next year and beat AC Milan in the process. However, in the 1993 version they were without their talisman as Raí had already starting playing in Europe with French club Paris Saint-Germain.

Raí would go on to be an amazing signing for PSG – he scored more than 50 goals for the Parisian club, helping them win only their second league title a few months after his transfer. He also helped the club to the European Cup Winners Cup in 1996 where he finally succumbed to Barcelona, with the Catalonians the victors in a 1-0 win in Rotterdam.

After leaving France, the 1994 World Cup winner returned to São Paulo to play out his career in the 1998-99 season.

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