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It’s not about celebrating defeat but being able to acknowledge, even in the haze of disappointment and frustration, that Palmeiras are evolving.

In a nightmarish Brazil-vs-Germany-2014-World-Cup déjà-vu, Palmeiras allowed Cruzeiro to get two balls past Fábio early in the first half, before reacting, surprisingly well, and dominate for the rest of the game. The term “justice” is always inappropriate in sports, but Palmeiras did indeed deserve at least a draw against the current leader of the Brazilian championship. The weak spot, again, was the absence of a true playmaker; although many passes reached Diogo and especially Henrique, both blowing chances they are not entitled to blow. Watch the Palmeiras 1-2 Cruzeiro highlights and imagine three solid players arriving to reinforce, and you just might get your hopes up.
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“Three solid players arriving to reinforce”? you might sneer. “So, where are they?” True: if you solely hang on to president Paulo Nobre’s declarations in the media, not much give you the right to be optimistic. Nevertheless, reinforcements are arriving. Starting with Agustín Allione.

The midfielder yesterday announced he’s on his way to Palmeiras. Vélez Sarsfield is letting the 19-year-old from both Vélez’s and the Argentine U20 national squad’s startn_velez_sarsfield_agustin_allione-4960170ing eleven go for just under US$ 1.2 2.7 million. The kid is expected to sing a four-year contract with the Verdão and he’s excited about it: on twitter and facebook, he’s already expressing his expectations and thanking Palmeiras supporters for all encouraging messages received during the day. On the other side of the scale, Vélez supporters are profoundly lamenting he’s leaving: a good sign if any. If everything goes as planned, Gareca might be inclined to use Allione already on Sunday in the derby against Corinthians.

But Gareca cannot focus on the derby quite yet, as Palmeiras tomorrow take on Avaí for the Brazil Cup. Lúcio, who on Sunday suffered a small fracture to his face after smashing it against the skull of Cruzeiro defender Manoel, is out; unless some kind of Jason-esque mask could be provided, he misses Sunday’s derby as well. Apart from Lúcio, all the squad’s main pieces are available but Gareca has opted for resting many of the players that were on against Cruzeiro, including Mendieta, Tobio and Wendel. In the training session before leaving for Florianópolis this afternoon, no less than eight players were different from Sunday’s starting eleven. Gareca has also promised more emphasis on set piece defence, as Palmeiras suffered goals both against Santos and Cruzeiro in that manner. Against Avaí, a victory is essential to boost confidence ahead of Sunday’s clash. In addition, a victory by a margin of two goals eliminates the need for a return game.

— ooo —

You a palmeirense living in or anywhere near the state of New Jersey? You wondering how and where to watch the Corinthians vs. Palmeiras derby?

Your place is at Casa Palmeiras!

Traditionally, Palmeiras promotes events around Brazil called Casa Palmeiras (Palmeiras’ House), where fans can get together to watch important games, check out trophies, memorabilia and chat with former Palmeiras player. As part of the centenary celebration, Palmeiras are innovating and will host, for the first time ever, a Casa Palmeiras outside of Brazil. The event takes place in Newark, New Jersey, at the Boi na Brasa & Grill. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet with representatives from Palmeiras’ marketing department, take picture of the 2012 Brazil Cup trophy and chat with a former Palmeiras player!

OK, let me spice that up a bit for your: come chat with none other than legendary keeper São Marcos!

For more details, check out the flyer below or contact Louis Abe – Palmeiras’ representative in the US – at phuinha@gmail.com or 732-673-6982.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Say hello to Nico!

Nico is the most recent Swede to be born in Brazil. As you can see, Nico is also one of the most recent palmeirenses. And not only Nico, but now also his mother and father, colleagues of mine here in Brasilia. Well, at least that’s what I’m hoping for. Because there can never be palmeirenses enough in this world, now can there?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Gareca’s debut against Santos was more bitter than sweet: Palmeiras – in a terrific, blue jersey paying homage to Oberdan Cattani – created very little offensively, Leandro refusing to come down from his pedestal and Bruno César not showing even remote conditions to substitute Valdivia. Diogo worked hard as always, but was off target again and again. Without additional reinforcements, palmeirenses must pray for Henrique and Mouche become Batman and Robin for the rest of the season. The former (suspended yesterday) and the latter (getting in shape) might both be on against Cruzeiro this coming Sunday.

One positive aspect yesterday was the compact defensive system, although obviously still in need of tuning. Our players seemed to shorten distances between each other, pinning the opponent down, and playing closer to the adversary. Santos used speed and the flanks as countermeasures, and were, generally speaking, successful. Still, I believe Gareca’s on to something. something. Time will tell.
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A second positive aspect was Gareca’s clear message to the youth academy: stay alert because your time will come. Against Santos, he pulled up centre-back Gabriel Dias, midfielder Eduardo Junior and striker Erik. Two of the three came on yesterday. The kids will only acquire experience if allowed to play, Gareca says. Nothing revolutionary in that philosophy, but difficulties have always surged when trying to implement, especially at Palmeiras, with the team considered either too good or too bad to let the kids in.

Even if Gareca proves successful in tuning Palmeiras defensively and offensively, even if he finds a few gems in the youth academy, reinforcements are urgently needed. At least a good to great striker and a great playmaker. Without these two, Palmeiras run the risk of relegation. And while we’re at it, a strong right-defender/winger is needed. Palmeiras need to FIND INVESTORS, INCREASE REVENUES, and DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring in these 2-3 players. There’s NOTHING more urgent right now.

Speaking of midfielders: Bernardo is back. The deal with Vitória went up in smoke as it was discovered that regulations prohibits someone playing for three different clubs during the same season. Bernardo came on once for Vasco and has played three games with Palmeiras. Oh, joy. Gareca, show us your magic.

Exodus

Several changes, big and small, are rocking the Palmeiras squad as coach Gareca continues his observations and makes adjustments.

Defender Tiago Alves and striker Miguel has both left for Ponte Preta, where they will be on loan until the end of the year. Alves was fourth choice even before the arrival of Fernando Tobio. And Miguel, from Palmeiras’ youth academy, never made an impression when given the chance in the first team.

Then there’s Bernardo, the troublesome attacking midfielder borrowed from Vasco da Gama some two months ago. He played only three games for Palmeiras before the World Cup break, has not impressed Gareca during these last four weeks of training and is now released to sign with Vitória, state of Bahia.

A fourth player packing is Marquinhos Gabriel, Saudi side Al Nassr having already officially announced his signing for the next three seasons. The also attacking midfielder arrived at Palmeiras in January and played a total of 19 games. A promising player, his economic rights were tied to BMG, who sold him to the Arabs. I don’t know at this point if Palmeiras are reaping any financial benefits from the deal.

valdHowever, the by far most impacting departure is that of Valdivia. For anyone able to read the signs, it was clear that the 30-year-old Chilean playmaker was hoping the World Cup would land him a final, lucrative contract with a European club. That didn’t happen, but instead, Emirate club Al Fujairah made ​​a great offer: € 5.5 million (US$ 7.5 million) for the player, in addition to paying the € 2 million (US$ 2.7 million) that Al-Ain, Valdivia’s former Arabic club, stipulated as fine should Palmeiras ever sell the player to any other club in the region.

Valdivia’s economic rights are split three-way: Palmeiras with 54%, investor Osorio Furlan with 36% and the player himself holding 10%. Valdivia is passing on his 10% share to Palmeiras, meaning Palmeiras will pocket 64% of the transfer amount, some € 3.5 million (US$ 4.8 million). That’s more than Palmeiras were counting on. On the downside is that the amount will be paid in instalments and settled only in 2015.

Valdivia travels today (Tuesday) to conduct medical exams and (hopefully) sign the agreement. He is then expected back in Brazil to wrap things up and bid his teammates farewell. On Instagram, he has already addressed the Palmeiras supporters, claiming he will be one of us forever:


Words cannot describe what this club represents in my life. And I’m not talking about football, but about life, about learning, about six years of dedication, of good or bad, of sticking it out in spite of all difficulties. Kidnapping, aggression, all this made me want the club even more. I am and will be forever grateful to the supporters, the club, and the people who always stood by me at all times. I was happy playing in the second division for the club that I love, bringing it back to [to the first division] where it should never, ever again, leave. My future is at another club, but my worship will be for life. I would have loved to stay, even growing old here, but the club needs this dough. I hope that you’ll understand, and recognize that I am eternally grateful to you. Forever thankful and forever pig.

That’s Valdivia. Hate to love him or love to hate him: he doesn’t leave anyone untouched.

— ooo —

In a press conference late Monday morning, Ricardo Gareca talked about his expectations for the restart of the Brazilian championship. He’s of course waiting for additional reinforcements – only Tobio and Mouche have arrived so far – and made it clear that they will arrive, but he just doesn’t know when. A prominent striker is topping the list, and now also a first-class playmaker.

Debuting on Thursday against Santos, Gareca expressed confidence but also some anxiety for the day to come. He also said we shouldn’t expect much tactical changes in relation to what we’re used to see.

When asked about the line-up, Gareca was firm: no player can take a spot in the starting eleven for granted. Not against Santos, not against any team. Message to journalists and supporters alike: wait and see.

— ooo —

Palmeiras and the Holiday Inn
Palmeiras has announced a partnership with the Holiday Inn Parque Anhembi hotel, the place where players and staff will meet up on the eve of home games. Onsite, the athletes will have a special menu prepared by club nutritionist Alessandra Favano. This coming Saturday, the players will check in for the first time, ahead of Sunday’s clash against Cruzeiro at the Pacaembu stadium.

Grass, green and strong
Last Saturday, FINALLY, the Allianz Parque started receiving rolls of grass. As previously mentioned, the grass needs some 30-40 days before the first cut. Will we have our home ready by the 26 August? If we were only depending on the grass… WTorre better put the pedal to the metal or well see another promised deadline pass by; this time provoking severe discomfort for everyone involved.
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Dreams of a sixth World Cup title for Brazil were dashed yesterday as a completely dominant Germany humiliated the men in yellow. 7-1 is not only Brazil’s worst defeat ever, but also the second worst in the history of World Cups, only trumped by Sweden’s 8-0 against Cuba in the quarterfinals of 1938.

Muller opened up the scorecard for Germany in the tenth minute, then Miroslav Klose drilled home, becoming World Cup top scorer of all times with his 16 braces. What then followed at the Mineirão stadium was an utter disgrace: Brazil’s defence suffered a complete meltdown, allowing the German side another three goals in six minutes, making the score 5-0 with 28 minutes on the clock. We saw Germany cruise through the remainder of the game, adding two additional braces in the second half, before Oscar defined the end result in the dying minutes.
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There are explanations to the seemingly inexplicable. Emotional aspects come into the mix, the pressure on the squad, expectations. The collective blow of losing Neymar and the whole “play for him” sentimentalism that followed. Motivation and emotion, the us-against-the-world, defined as the “Família Scolari” approach – has worked on previous occasions. This time, it backfired.

Now, would yesterday have played out much differently with Neymar and Thiago Silva on the pitch? Not likely.

Brazil lost because of hubris, believing it could take Germany on as equals.

The German squad has been carefully crafted for years, with players moulded to fit like pieces in a machine. In comparison, the Brazilian “little canary” is young and unexperienced as a group. Unexperienced, chiefly because of the many different players that have been tested and discarded in the last few years.

Scolari’s relaxed attitude to training hasn’t helped: Brazil played Chile on a Friday, the players only going back to train on the Tuesday.

However, tactical errors must be considered the primary reason for yesterday’s disaster. As during earlier games, Brazil’s lack of a midfield was obvious. Against Chile and Colombia, Brazil suffered but pulled through. Against Germany, not strengthening the midfield equalled suicide. Penetrating Brazil’s defence with ease, it looked like the Germans were on a training session.

Who’s to blame? Primarily coach Scolari.

But we need to look further.
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Brazilian football has stagnated. Internally, externally. On and off the pitch. And this while maintaining an absurdly arrogant attitude. It’s time for Brazilian football to rethink itself, to reframe glories and values from the past into a modern context, a globalized perspective, humbly learning from others and implementing profound changes. At club level, in regard to legislation, financial transparency, the Federation, relationship with sponsors (in particular Rede Globo), match hours… The list could go on and on.

Change must also happen at player level, but not through “implementing”: something is lacking in terms of maturity and responsibility on an individual level. Something has been lost (or were never present) behind all the hairdos, gang style signs, instagraming, silly dance moves and everything else taking the focus away from football. Watching Brazilian TV these last few weeks, you wouldn’t believe the number of commercials featuring Scolari and Brazilian key players. Neither would you believe the easy access selected Brazilian entertainment TV has had to players and staff throughout the tournament.

Brazil needs to man up. Learn when it’s time for fun and when it’s not. Give and demand respect. In so many aspects; football being only one of them.

Brazil takes on either the Netherlands or Argentina in Saturday’s bronze match in Brasilia. In case of an all-out South America clash, FIFA has already signalled it will suspend the selling of alcoholic beverage at the Mané Garrincha stadium. Wisely so, if you ask me.

The World Cup, as a tournament, is a success. The path leading up to it has been a tragedy of wasted money and opportunities. As for the legacy? For Brazil? Let me get back to you on that one.

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With Palmeiras’ 100th birthday at D-55, no effort should be spared in trying to get our new home ready in time.

An important component was stuck in customs for quite some time, but has finally arrived at the arena in eight, large containers: the “Stadium Grow Lighting” system consisting of six MU160 MU360 units and two MU50 units (below, you see the technology in operation at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium), designed to provide superior conditions for natural grass to grow strong. Dutch company SGL is the market leader in this segment, contributing to perfect pitches in more than 140 stadiums all over the world. This particular piece of equipment was imported by World Sports, contracted by WTorre to handle the pitch. Planting of the grass is expected to initiate early next week and the first trim should happen some 30-40 days later. Thus, we’re talking playing conditions maybe second, more likely third week of August. And that’s a best case scenario.
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The Allianz Parque itself is more than 90% complete. Retractable chairs are being fixed to the metallic rails, some 20.000 seats already in place. At the very upper part of the stands, partially overlapping large plates allow for air to circulate while at the same time confining noise, promising to turn the stadium into an intimidating place for visiting teams. The two 103 square meter LCD screens are up. There are wifi antennas everywhere. Many of the security cameras are also up and ready, and VIP boxes have received their windows facing the pitch.

WTorre is also involved in the execution of several changes to the area surrounding the stadium, allowing for greater mobility both for visitors and residents. Additional improvement have a longer timescale: the Brazilian development bank BNDES recently approved some US$ 2 billion for the construction of a new Metro line in São Paulo, a line that includes a stop very close to the Allianz Parque. Unless there are delays, the line will be ready by 2020.

There’s no telling if the Allianz Parque will stand ready in late August. WTorre has promised it will, again and again.

Not only Palmeiras are eager to see the stadium ready; other sporting events are lining up, the Italian Supercup being one of them. The competition consists of a single game between the Italian national champion (Juventus) and the Italian Cup champion (Napoli). On six previous occasions the Supercup final has taken place outside of Italy: 1993 in Washington DC, 2002 in Tripoli, 2003 in New Jersey, and 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Beijing. And 2014 in São Paulo – at Allianz Parque – if this group of investors are successful in promoting their idea. 23 December. Save the date. At least, out of precaution.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Ricardo Gareca is training the squad in Atibaia, interior of São Paulo. Defensive midfielder Marcelo Oliveira describes him as a hands-on and hard-working coach, who speaks a lot to the players and pays a lot of attention to the defence. “He wants the defensive line aggressive and compact”, Marcelo says. “When putting pressure on an attacking opponent, he want us all going as one, and in proximity, with no more than five meters between centre backs”, he concludes.

Gareca might be concerned with defence, but not only: in a friendly against Barueri earlier this week, Palmeiras won 6-0, with unlikely Felipe Menezes scoring three goals. A good coaches has the ability to bring the best out of players. If this is a first taste of what’s to come, we’re in for a treat.

tobioThursday afternoon Palmeiras announced the first reinforcement post-Gareca: 24-year-old Argentine centre-back Fernando Tobio. Gareca’s protégé at Velez, the 186 cm tall defender has signed a five-year contract and is already in Atibaia with the rest of the squad. “This is a moment for which I’ve been waiting a long time”, a visibly pleased Fernando told journalists.

moucheYet another hermano joined the squad yesterday: 26-year-old striker Pablo Mouche. Palmeiras, with the aid of investors, brought the former Boca Juniors player from Turkish club Kayserispor for US$ 4 million. The player, with experience from Argentina’s U20 and National squad, has also signed a five year contract and becomes Palmeiras sixth foreigner in the squad, joining fellow countryman Tobio, Victorino and Eguren (both from Uruguay) Valdivia (Chile) and Mendieta (Paraguay).

Players leaving can also be good news. Finally, Palmeiras got rid of Luis Felipe, the right-wing defender with good technique but lacking morals. He was sold to a group of investors for US$ 1,3 million, destined to pass him on to Benfica of Portugal.

Solve one problem, just to have another show its ugly head. Defensive midfielder França was supposed to play for Figueirense until the end of the year, but last Wednesday he flipped his car over when returning home from a party. The following day he did some other, non-disclosed but certainly stupid shit, because Figueirense dismissed him without further ado. What Palmeiras will do with him now is anybody’s guess. A first step could perhaps include a detox clinic.

Twelve hours to kickoff. Brazil will stop once again as the national squad face the Chileans (with Valdivia) for the first game of the 2014 World Cup knockout phase. The winner take on either Colombia or Uruguay in the quarter-finals.

So… Avanti Brasil!

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