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Dorival Júnior promoted five changes to the starting eleven we saw last week against Fluminense: Deola substituted Fábio between the posts; Lúcio returned from injury to compose the centre-lock with Nathan; 17-year-old João Pedro made his debut on the right flank; Cristaldo and Mouche up front with Henrique.

Pressure was on already before kick-off, as a couple of bad results were pushing Palmeiras down the tables: Fluminense lost to Vitória (goals by former Palmeiras players Dinei and Vinícius) while Criciúma were beating Figueirense.

31-year-old Deola had not played a game since March, but he was not to blame for the disastrous first half. Palmeiras had no creativeness on the midfield and the use of the flanks was easily neutralised by Flamengo, easily approaching the Palmeiras box. With six minutes, Juninho, on the midfield instead for on his usual right flank, was booked. At ten minutes, he almost saw his second yellow. At twelve minutes, he screwed up while trying to clear the ball, and Flamengo open up the scorecard.

Diogo failed in everything he tried. Flamengo withdrew slightly, clearly awaiting those mortal opportunities to counter-attack. At 32 minutes, Lúcio didn’t move in harmony with the offside trap, leaving two Flamengo players clean with Deola, who rushed out to clear the ball, which bounced up on the Flamengo attacker hand before he passed it on to Alecsandro – in offside position – to increase the lead. Nightmare.

At 42 minutes, Palmeiras were denied a clear penalty as Henrique was dislocated in plain flight, in excellent scoring position.

In half-time, Dorival swapped Henrique and Mouche for Allione and Valdivia, the only question being why he waited so long.

Kick-off and full speed ahead. With 2 minutes on the clock, Diogo scored his first goal in twelve months. We saw a completely different game, it was night and day in relation to the first half. Valdivia was instrumental, as he normally is when on the pitch.

Palmeiras dominated the following 15 minutes completely, then Flamengo started to adapt to the new scenario. But it was Valdivia, exchanging quick passes with Diogo and Victor Luis, who allowed the latter to whip in the equaliser with 23 minutes on the clock. The 21.500 at the Pacaembu exploded: our supporters never stopped chanting – not even during the most dreadful moments of the first half of the game – and now they were rewarded for their loyalty.
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Palmeiras looked as if winning the game was possible, pressuring Flamengo hard, but that changed in the 37th minutes when man-of-the-match Valdivia did what he does best: leaves everyone flabbergasted with his immaturity. This time he STEPPED on a lying opponent, deservedly being sent straight to the showers. Unbelievable. The man is a mental case. When he doesn’t get injured, he does something incredibly stupid. Valdivia is an idiot. A complete idiot. This must be dealt with. Internally.

With the results from this 22nd round, Palmeiras are back in the relegation zone with 22 points, ahead of Criciúma (22) and Vitória (21). Above, we find Botafogo (22), Bahia (23), Coritiba (23) and Chapecoense (23). Nice and intimate.

Today was the first of six crucial games against direct contenders for relegation: Flamengo (home), Goiás (away), Vitória (home), Figueirense (away), Chapecoense (home) and Botafogo (away). We’re not off to a good start, although today’s draw admittedly carries a certain air of victory due to the circumstances. Watching the team react was actually a relief. Deola played well. So did João Pedro – just a kid – in his debut.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

With twelve athletes either recovering from injury or suspended, Dorival Junior’s chances of playing a trick on Fluminense Saturday were almost null. Anything but defeat would have been a treat for Palmeiras.

Nevertheless, the game was atypical. Especially in the second half, Palmeiras created numerous chances burn blew them all, some grotesquely so. On the other hand, Fluminense had three attempts at goal and surreally converted all three, admittedly with the help of Palmeiras’ shaky defence, and, in particular, keeper Fábio. It’s a shame, but the kid doesn’t cut it: almost every game he slips one through. Deola is the most likely solution until Prass makes his comeback – our number one keeper in the final stages of recovery after the surgery to his elbow.
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tablesThanks to a combination of results, Palmeiras remain outside the relegation zone. But I quick look at the tables is enough to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Against Flamengo this coming Wednesday, Eguren and Victorino are also out due to suspension. On the other hand, Allione and Lúcio should be welcome reinforcements, possibly also Wendel and Marcelo Oliveira.

Every single game it’s do or die. Every single point. It’s sickening.

Three fundamentally important points yesterday against Criciúma. But what a game, ladies and gentlemen. What a game…Dorival better work his magic soon, because if not, we’re not escaping relegation. Criciúma played horrendous football and Palmeiras just, JUST beat them. Lord have mercy.

Leandro one again completely useless. Tobio and Marcelo Oliveira out with muscle strains. Overall, Palmeiras now have some ten athletes in the medical department. Luckily, we can expect Lúcio and Allione back on Saturday against Fluminense.

To end on a positive note: who would have thought Victorino to be best in show, two games in a row? “O mundo da voltas”, as one would say in Portuguese. And Cristaldo… Hopefully the first brace of many to follow.
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Dorival Júnior was not given any slack: two shorter training sessions, then off to Curitiba to face Atlético Paranaense, with several key players in the medical department: Valdivia and Prass since before, but now also Wesley, Wendel, Lucio and Allione. Mendieta, suspended.

Dorival opted for a cautious approach – the “arroz com feijão” we asked for in the previous post – but also showed some interesting innovation, placing Juninho and Leandro on the midfield. Palmeiras at times played well, got passes going, controlled the midfield and seemed rather solid in defence – not least with the early entry of splendid Victorino replacing Wellington beside Tobio as centre lock.

Atlético opened up the scorecard after an unlikely horse-like back-heel kick. The bucket of cold water, unlike previous games, did not make Palmeiras crumble: Diogo was taken down in the penalty area and Henrique converted with his usual cool.

The game was an open affair, with a slight Palmeiras advantage, until Josimar recklessly placed his boot in the chest of an adversary when trying to clear a ball, being sent off. The last 30 minutes that followed saw considerable pressure against Fábio, but in the end, Palmeiras returned home with a valuable and much deserved point, keeping Palmeiras out of the relegation zone for one more round.
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With that, we’ve completed the first half of the Brasileirão. On Wednesday, Palmeiras receive Criciúma. Three points are fundamentally important to distance Palmeiras slightly from the desperate four and boost morale.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

We’ve had five off topic post in the history of Anything Palmeiras: four recent ones related to the World Cup in Brazil, and then the one in homage to the greatest football goal of all times.

It’s Zlatan time again. Yesterday, Ibra scored twice in Sweden’s friendly against Estonia to become the country’s all-time leading scorer with 50 goals in 99 appearances. Both braces came in the first half.

After scoring the record setting goal, Zlatan removed his jersey to reveal a message underneath, addressing the fans: “You made it all possible”.

Ibrahimović takes the long-standing record from Sven Rydell, who scored 49 goals in no more than 43 appearances for Sweden between 1923 and 1932.
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Atlético Mineiro breezed through to the quarter-finals of the Brazil Cup, once again exposing a Palmeiras squad in shambles. It took the mineiros less than 20 minutes to get the message across to Dorival – placed next to Paulo Nobre in a box at the Independência stadium – in case he had any doubts: your one and only mission is to save Palmeiras from relegation, that’s all there’s left in 2014.

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Some have argued the team has been underperforming as of late in protest of Gareca. Others have anticipated Alberto Valentim’s return as interim coach, imagining he would repeat the success he enjoyed after replacing Kleina earlier this year. Both outlooks proved wrong: resent results is a direct reflection of the squad’s weakness. In fact, today’s squad is one of the worst that many of us have ever seen and even journalists, with access to all sorts of archive information, are hard pressed to come up with a weaker Palmeiras squad.

This coming Sunday, Palmeiras initiate a sequence of “favourable” games against direct contenders: Atlético Paranaense (away), Criciúma (home), Fluminense (away), Flamengo (home), Goiás (away), Vitória (home) and Figueirense (away). 3 or 4 victories, and we can start believing in the firing squad missing their target. Normally, a team with 46 point will escape relegation. Palmeiras thus need to bag 29 points in the remaining 20 rounds.

New players of rank will not arrive, this is the squad we’re stuck with. Dorival must get back to basics with these men, apply the Brazilian “arroz com feijão“, parting from the KISS principle and start rebuilding players self esteem. The now orphan Argentine players are of special concern: it’s crucial that they are embraced, encouraged, given opportunities.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of keeper Prass and playmaker Valdivia: both recovering from injury and expected back within a week or two. If they perform like we know they can, and if they (read Valdivia) remain healthy, I seriously believe we’ll be “fine”.

“Fine”. Look at what they’ve done to us, done to Palmeiras. How can one even contemplate using “fine” under circumstances like these?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Spinal reflex

Ricardo Gareca
“We may be criticised for decisions, but never for omission” Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre said when justifying the dismissal of medium-to-long term coach Ricardo Gareca. The renowned Argentine professional did not last three months at the Verdão, the club resorting back to the classical, Brazilian modus operandi described in a recent post: fire the coach.

True, Gareca wasn’t delivering. Or rather: Palmeiras, under Gareca, were not delivering. Gareca is partially to blame, as he was constantly testing players and line-ups (13 games, 13 starting elevens) and wouldn’t forgo his philosophy of always playing offensively, even when his limited squad was facing stronger adversaries.

That being said, Gareca’s failure must at large be attributed to Paulo Nobre, once again poorly making the bed we’re now all forced to sleep in. He kept Kleina much too long, taking Gareca on board – and players he requested – when most other teams in the Brasileirão were already tuned. He brought in a foreigner – who naturally would need more time to adapt – when there was little time available. He envisioned a medium-to-long term project – with the squad already partially cracking up due to the disastrous Kardec affair and growing influence from a few, spoiled fruit – when firm and urgent action was needed both from him and the new coach to arrive. In short: Gareca might possibly have been the right choice for Palmeiras, but he definitely arrived at the wrong time.

Palmeirenses kept the faith in a turnaround, including yours truly. Gareca enjoyed massive support – and respect – from the stands, all the way to his dismissal and beyond. Truly remarkable for a coach who delivered so little, at least in terms of points.

Anything Palmeiras wishes Ricardo Gareca the best of luck.

— ooo —

Dorival Júnior
wpid-dorival.jpgThis morning, Palmeiras announced their new coach: Dorival Júnior. Dorival is a former Palmeiras player, having pulled on the jersey 157 times for the club between 1989 and 1992. He also happens to be the nephew of legendary Palmeiras midfielder Dudu.

Dorival was runner-up as Kleina’s replacement earlier this year. As a coach, his previous clubs include Cruzeiro, Santos, Atlético Mineiro, Internacional and Flamengo. Palmeiras’ new coach has but one important national title on his curriculum: the Brazil Cup of 2010, with Santos.

wpid-dorival_int.pngDorival’s 2013 record of accomplishment does not still any nerves: he left Vasco da Gama in the relegation zone and worked the same magic with Fluminense (although he couldn’t really be blamed as he only took Fluminense on for the last five rounds, winning three games and drawing one).

So far, in 2014, 52-year-old Dorival has been, well, taking it rather easy. Studying football. Including apparently spending some time at Chelsea F.C. Hope he’s relaxed, confident and ready for what’s to come at Palmeiras.

— ooo —

Wesley
The midfielder is free to sing a pre-contract. Although denied by the player and his staff, rumour has it that’s what he’s done. With SPFC. Can’t say I’m bothered. Especially not as Wesley isn’t cheap and has been underperforming, on and off the pitch, for some time. If fruit can be performative, that is.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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