Not much to say concerning the derby. It was an ugly game. Uninspiring. Two teams with little creativity but where Palmeiras, deservedly, drew the shorter straw. Third straight loss for Gareca in the Brasileirão.

This coming Wednesday an – excuse me now – utterly worthless game against Italian side Fiorentina in this “EuroAmerican Cup”. The cup is a competition between Europe and the Americas, where each victory awards a point to a continent. Europe is currently winning 4-1, as Monaco (France) first beat Junior Barranquilla and then Atlético Nacional (both from Colombia); Fiorentina beat Argentinian side Estudiantes; Alianza Lima (Peru) beat Valencia (Spain) on penalties, and Atlético de Madrid beat San Jose Earthquakes also on penalties. As the tournament progresses, we have another four games:

29/07: Universidad Católica (Chile) x Valencia (Spain)
30/07: América (Mexico) x Atlético de Madrid (Spain)
30/07: Palmeiras (Brazil x Fiorentina (Italy)
02/08: Universitário (Peru) x Fiorentina (Italy)

Thus, “Europe” needs just one more victory the secure the title. Isn’t it exciting?

Agustín Allione has signed a five-year contract with Palmeiras. He comes to urgently remedy Palmeiras’ lack of creativity on the midfield and is expected to occupy the right flank while Wesley drops to the left. Wesley – who has been ridiculous to watch the last three, four months – will hopefully react positively with an inspiring and talented player by his side. If not, it’s good-bye: his contract is soon ending and his paycheck is over the top, especially considering his recent contributions.

Palmeiras are negotiating with a handful of other players, but we need to see some signatures sooner than later, giving Gareca time to integrate the new elements and make Palmeiras competitive for the remainder of the season. With Palmeiras occupying 13th place in the tables but only three points from the relegation zone, nobody should be needing a wake-up call.

Sorry for today’s lame post.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Ricardo Gareca is not the Grand Master of football coaches, nor is he a revolutionary. Still, he’s undoubtedly bringing some new thinking intothe Brazilian context – at least if judged by his first six weeks at Palmeiras.

palmeiras-gareca-apito-640x480-Cesar-Greco-FotoarenaThose who have been following training sessions assert that Gareca is very detailed in his instructions and that he has 4-5 tactical variations for each situation. In the words of Raul Bianchi, a well-known radio personality of the Web Radio Verdão and Mondo Palmeiras independent media, describing training sessions: “When coach Kleina talked, players smiled. When Scolari talked, players pretended to listen. When Gareca talks, players do as told.”

In an earlier post I’ve mentioned Gareca’s predisposition for allowing the young and promising gather experience at top level – even if that means coming in 20 minutes from the end with Palmeiras losing at home. It’s early to assert, but Gareca seems to bother little with pressure. We hear a lot in Brazil that one cannot expose young players to difficult situations, as this will mark them, take away their self-esteem, and possibly even destroy their careers. Gareca seems to think differently: give the kids a chance and they will rise to the occasion – if not immediately, in due time. Or not. That’s all there is to it.
Against Avaí, Gareca swapped no less than eight of the players that were on and lost against Cruzeiro. Not because they performed badly, but because he wanted key player fit for Sunday’s derby. True, the derby is very important, but it’s hard to imagine a Brazilian coach, having lost his first two games, send a mixed bag to an important away game: the fear of losing a third straight – and the pressure to follow – would have him assembling his strongest side both in the Brazil Cup and in the derby to follow, allowing him to claim he did what was possible. In stark contrast, Gareca expresses not only confidence in his squad and in his work, but also shows he’s not worried about external pressure or about losing his head. Part of that must certainly also be credited the Nobre administration, who are discretely working on Gareca’s wish list of reinforcements and backing Gareca up in whatever way is needed for him to feel strong. At least yesterday, it went well, with Palmeiras beating Avaí 2-0, both goals by Felipe Menezes. Highlights below.

After the game, Gareca participated in the press conference, then a) went to the airport with the squad. b) went to the hotel. c) went out for a good meal and some drinks to celebrate. d) headed back to the Ressacada stadium to conduct a one-hour training session with all players not in the starting eleven against Avaí – including those coming on during the course of the game. Congratulations to those of you who picked option “d”. Actually, congratulations to Palmeiras and all of us for having found such a dedicated coach.

Dedicated, yes. But also unusual. Gareca commanded a training session minutes after having won the game. And gave the squad a day off after having lost to Cruzeiro.

The return game against Avaí takes place on 6 August, at the Pacamebu. Before that, two games in the Brasileirão: Bahia on 3 August and Corinthians this coming Sunday. There’s also the game against Fiorentina/ITA on 30 July for the EuroAmerican Cup, when Palmeiras will show off their new (and last) centenary kit. More on that later.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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.

“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!

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!

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.

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.


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.
.01 - gramado

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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.
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.
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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