table_05.25Palmeiras exited the sold-out Allianz Parque humiliated by Goiás. Humiliated not so much due to performance, but the end result. Ball possession does not win games, especially if you do not take the shots but only do crosses. Halfway into the second half we finally saw some vertical passing action, but it proved too late. Another disappointing result, and displays on the stuttering machine have gone from yellow to red. Yes, it’s early in the championship, but seven (considered easy) points are lost and Palmeiras are flirting with the relegation zone.

Before I forget: the referee was a disaster, but that does not excuse the poor result, neither how our players acted and reacted on the pitch, seeing the yellow all the time. Emotional stability is key.

On paper, yesterday’s starting eleven is good. And should improve further as two fundamentally important players – Arouca and Cleiton Xavier – return from injury this week. And if there was one positive flash yesterday, it is spelled Kelvin. That being said, a few tweaks are urgently needed:

# Removal of Valdivia from the squad: it’s crystal clear he will not renew his contract and the sooner Palmeiras learn to live without him, the better.

# Signing of a star quality centre-forward A.S.A.P.

# Signing of a seasoned centre-back, a “sheriff”, as one says in Brazil.

# Signing of a quality playmaker.

# Tightening of coach Oswaldo de Oliveira’s thumbscrews: the “go-deep-cross-the-ball” routine is not working – at least not with the pieces currently in the squad – and he needs to develop other tactical options. Personally, I’m against his dismissal at this point, but another three rounds without results and Oswaldo is toast.

Wednesday night, the first clash with ASA in the third phase of the Brazil Cup. Allianz Parque. The 10 pm kick-off time will certainly spoil chances of any larger audience. A solid victory is imperative to boost confidence ahead of Sunday’s derby against Corinthians.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Last Sunday away against Joinville, Palmeiras reportedly played one of their most uninspiring games of all times: the goalless draw was a sleeping pill from start to finish and not even injecting Valdivia or Kelvin into the formula had any effect. With that, Palmeiras compute two draws in two games in the Brazileirão – certainly not the start foreseen.

This week coach Oswaldo stepped up the pace at practice sessions.

Sunday, at the novel time of 11am, Palmeiras welcome Goiás at the Allianz Parque. An astonishing 30.000 tickets have already been sold. For a Sunday morning game. Against a rather inexpressive opponent. At the start of the championship. Palmeiras are something else.

Speaking of the Allianz Parque, our stadium is once again nominated for an International award, having previously won the 2014 “Stadium of the Year” of the Stadium DataBase and the “Most Spectacular of the Future” by Spanish El Gol Digital. This time, the Allianz Parque is one of the finalists for the “New Venue Award”, of The Stadium Business. Stay tuned.  

Maikon Leite has left the squad to joint Sport of Recife for the remainder of the season. Early in the year, the fast forward enjoyed Oswaldo’s confidence, but soon enough showed his limitations. As Leite’s contract with Palmeiras ends in May of next year, we’ll likely not see him fly our colours anymore. Which is good news.

Change to the squad is not stopping with Leite: a few other players, like Ayrton and Victor Luis, are likely to continue their careers elsewhere. Oswaldo is looking at a reduced squad, but also making room for the 2-3 athletes Alexandre Mattos is expected to bring in for the Brazilian championship.

Then there’s Dudu. You will remember he was shown the red card in the second leg of the Paulistão final against Santos and that in the turmoil that followed on the pitch, he gave the referee a little shove from behind. Well, the almighty Supreme Tribunal of Sports this week sentenced Dudu to a 180 days suspension. Palmeiras’ lawyers will appeal. In similar cases, the initial sentence has been converted to a three-game suspension. Brazilian justice at its best, with zero predictability. Especially as we’re talking Palmeiras.

Well, at least we now know our next adversary in the Brazil Cup: after having drawn twice with Vitória, ASA is the team to beat. The first leg will be played on Wednesday next week, the second leg yet without a date.

Rounding things off with a special mention to all our German fans out there: Zé Roberto promoting the TV Palmeiras youtube channel and its 300K+ subscribers – of course, in German.

Sich freuen, der Sieg ist unser!

The Allianz Parque press office confirms that the Arena will host several major attractions in the second half of 2015. So far, three shows are confirmed between September and October.

Rod Stewart takes possession of the Allianz Parque amphitheatre on September 19, treating the audience to rock gems from his career that spans no less than five decades. The outspoken Celtic F.C. supporter will certainly enjoy the green surroundings.

On 25 September, pop artist Katy Perry brings her megashow “The Prismatic World Tour” to the people of São Paulo. 

And on October 24, rock band Muse takes the centre stage with their “Drones” tour.

As always, part of the net revenues from these events go to Palmeiras. But there is no such thing as a free lunch: some of the events might clash with home games, dislocating Palmeiras to another venue (and if so, receiving compensation from the construction company WTorre). Another negative aspect is the wear and tear of the grass. After the Paul McCartney and Roberto Carlos shows, the pitch didn’t look good at all. This week however, more resistant grass for the winter season is being planted, which will hopefully limit the damage.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

The two faces of a theatre mask illustrates yesterday’s game perfectly. After 1-1 in the first leg against Sampaio Corrêa, Palmeiras needed a goalless draw or a simple victory to advance in the Copa do Brasil. The Verdão started alright, created a few semi-chances, but saw Sampaio take the lead after splendid footwork by Pimentinha followed by a cross that lead to the brace. Enough to make Palmeiras nervous and create nothing for the remainder of the first half.

Coach Oswaldo certainly talked our players straight, in addition to promoting the entrance of Robinho as an additional creative force on the midfield. Within ten minutes Palmeiras had turned things around: Vítor Hugo equalized after a corner; Cristaldo deflected a cross from Lucas (always Lucas) to take the lead. And the walk in the park continued with Zé Roberto scoring after a great setup by Dudu; the same Dudu suffering a penalty that Kelvin converted on the rebound from Zé’s badly taken shot; and Zé closing the scorecard with a header after receiving that sweet cross from Egídio.

5-1 is the biggest score so far at the Allianz Parque, entertaining the 25.000 strong crowd that showed up on a late, cold and at times rainy Tuesday night. Impressive.

In the upcoming third round of the competition, Palmeiras face either ASA (state of Alagoas) or Vitória (state of Bahia). The two play their first leg today, the return game next week.

In the meantime, Palmeiras prepare for Sunday’s away game against Joinville, Santa Catarina. Good news is Arouca, Leandro Pereira and Jackson should have recovered from their minor muscular injuries by then.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

No, it wasn’t the start of the Brazilian Championship we were dreaming off, drawing with Atlético’s rotation squad at the Allianz Parque. But Palmeiras were not in their full splendour either:  forwards Leandro Pereira and Cristaldo injured, midfielders Arouca and Cleiton Xavier likewise. Nothing serious in any of the cases, but the impact was nevertheless  felt as coach Oswaldo failed to provide solutions: in the absence of Arouca, Gabriel was overburdened; Robinho – pulled back – disappeared; Gabriel Jesus was of little use with his back constantly against the goal. Palmeiras frittered passes like we haven’t seen so far in 2015, while Atlético Mineiro seemed much more focused. In the end, the draw – Palmeiras finding the equalizer in the very last seconds of the came – could be considered a fair result. And a bit of a relief.

Yesterday was the first time Gabriel Jesus played the full 90 minutes. Expectations are still high regarding the future of the kid, but perhaps more realistic: he’s had his opportunities but not yet scored and the adaption from the U20 to the major league is taking time. Coach Oswaldo has been devoting special attention to Jesus, often having him stay a bit longer after regular training to work on positioning and finishing touches.

Yesterday also marked the debut of left-defender Egídio. The long-awaited paperwork finally arrived from Ukraine on Friday, just in time for Palmeiras to have him registered and in playing condition ahead of Saturday’s game. Egídio came on in the second half and looked good: I expect him to enter the starting eleven already coming week, either displacing Zé Roberto toward the middle or, more likely, alternating the bench with the veteran.

Speaking of veterans: Palmeiras this week finally reached an agreement to end the contract with centre-back Lúcio, who ever since the end of 2014 has been receiving his wages, although not anymore part of the working squad. The former World Champion has been negotiating with clubs from China and Australia, but without reaching a conclusion. After 47 games and two games for the Verdão, the club and athlete now part ways.

While some depart, others arrive. Palmeiras on Thursday announced having reached an agreement with 29-year-old attacking midfielder Fellype Gabriel, who started his career at Flamengo. The player has previously worked with coach Oswaldo both at Botafogo and Japanese club Kashima Antlers. Fellype’s arrival is one more indication that Palmeiras are preparing for a post-Valdivia experience.

— ooo —

For months, Palmeiras and Adidas have been negotiating a new agreement, Palmeiras always making clear they are open to new proposals from competitors. And proposals have indeed arrived – the most interesting one from Puma – forcing Adidas to step up its game. Paulo Nobre has recently expressed optimism a new agreement will be reached with Adidas, and leaked photos of a supposedly new Palmeiras jersey, made by Adidas, reinforce the impression. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new agreement is announced within a week or two, where the former R$ 10 million/year (US$ 3.3 million) agreement has been substantially boosted, perhaps reaching R$ 15 million or more. After all, only a handful of teams in the world sell more Adidas jerseys than Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Dear Zlatan,

Allow me to call you by your first name, as we would in Sweden.

Before anything else, congratulations on your brilliant career. And thank you for flying Sweden’s colours so splendidly.

Zlatan, as soon as you pull on a club jersey, you win a league title. Seven clubs so far, league titles in the last six of them. Unbeatable timing, combined with skill and determination. I’d like to show you some new hunting grounds.

The Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras – or just Palmeiras for short – is Brazil’s most successful football club, with more than 15 million passionate supporters. We’ve recently been through some rough times – including two relegations in the last decade – but the tide has finally changed: the squad is brand new and qualified; the club’s finances are in order; and our own stadium – the Allianz Parque, holding 43.000 spectators – was inaugurated only months ago and is Latin Americas most modern multipurpose arena.

Considering the above, no wonder Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme is the fastest growing in the world.

One of the few details missing to complete the picture is a one-of-a-kind forward. You would fit like a glove, Zlatan. Brazilians love a winner, a cocky and confident leader. You’d take not only Brazil by storm, but the whole of Latin America, as Palmeiras battle it out in future editions of the Copa Libertadores.

Now, don’t think it’ll be a walk in the park: the Brazilian league is one of the world’s toughest, with ten different clubs having lifted the trophy in the last two decades. The Libertadores Cup is also quite the nut to crack, sporting nine different champions in its last ten editions. Challenging.

Brazil, as a country, can also be challenging, even overwhelming at times. That would include the buzzing metropolis of São Paulo, which is an acquired taste. But then, in certain ways, so are you.

Language-wise you will be just fine: with your Italian and Spanish skills, you’ll pick up Portuguese in no time.

The Brazilian Championship kicks off this Saturday 9 May, Palmeiras receiving Atlético Mineiro at home. May I suggest you allow everything I have told you to linger somewhere in the back of your mind. Who knows, one day, you feel the urge to gravitate toward this part of the World. Personally, I can nothing but recommend it: I’ve been here for 18 years and counting.

By the way, has anyone told you green looks good on you?

Come rule the Americas with us.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Kristian Bengtson, editor, Anything Palmeiras
* Illustration by Custódio Rosa

The title escaped us by the narrowest of margins.

Many of our supporters allot the referee – reportedly a Santos supporter since childhood – as the prime responsible for the defeat. Although there were some questionable decisions during the course of the game, I tend to disagree. The Palmeiras squad come on too strong, especially Dudu, who certainly was feeling pressured to perform after having blown the penalty in the first leg of the finals. Dudu and Valdivia were both booked within minutes, referee Guilherme Ceretta clearly showing he wanted to keep the game in a tight grip. In addition, several of our players performed under standards of what we’ve come to expect, including Valdivia. Overall, the team wasn’t up to scratch, not individually nor collectively.

Santos’ two goals were unquestionable. Palmeiras supporters complain about two penalties: the one involving Leandro, sandwiched between two Santos defenders, I felt could have gone either way – in all essence there were three bodies trying to occupy the same space; the other was a push to the back of Vitor Hugo, a clear penalty but of a kind that Brazilian referees never acknowledge.

Three players were sent to the showers. On stoppage time in the first half, Dudu exited together with Geuvânio. I thought none of them deserved it but one can hardly say the referee’s decision harmed Palmeiras more than Santos, rather on the contrary.  With roughly 15 minutes left on the clock in the second half, Victor Ramos correctly received a second yellow, leaving Palmeiras with nine men to support the pressure.

2-1 meant penalties, and Palmeiras’ lack of cool was decisive – just as during the 90 minutes preceding the shootout.

In 2014, Palmeiras narrowly escaped relegation. 20 players were brought in for the 2015 season in a complete remodelling of the squad. Under the circumstances, reaching the Paulistão finals, having eliminated Corinthians on their home turf in the semi-finals, is a great achievement. More importantly, this is not the finish but only the very beginning of a journey. The squad shows quality, personality, determination and commitment. Palmeiras of today – in stark contrast to the Palmeiras of recent years – must be considered entering any competition as one of the favourites.

That being said, a few pieces are needed to complete the puzzle. A first priority is to sign a lethal centre-forward. The second is finding a replacement for Valdivia (regardless of Valdivia renewing his contract or not, as Palmeiras cannot be allowed to depend on the Chilean). Thirdly, an experienced centre-back to guide the rather young, defensive line-up. Finally, a defensive midfielder or right-back better than current options on the bench, permitting Palmeiras to maintain quality throughout the season.

With a strict fiscal policy in place and a financial surplus from the São Paulo championship coming in at well above expectations, rest assured that Alexandro Mattos and Oswaldo de Oliveira have received a checkbook estimate from president Paulo Nobre and are thoroughly scanning the market.

— ooo —

Vasco beat Botafogo 2-1 to claim the 2015 Rio de Janeiro championship. The missus is happy, of course. Perhaps it was too bold wishing for two different champions under the one roof.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!


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