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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.

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torcedorlusachoradramalho.
Last round of the Brazilian Championship 2013. Portuguesa vs. Grêmio, a game without any relevance in terms of ascension, relegation, access to the Libertadores Cup or the Copa Sulamericana. Nothing.

32 minutes into the second half, Portuguesa commit what can only be regarded as a silly blunder: suspended player Héverton comes on for the paulista team.

Minutes ago, Portuguesa were punished by the Superior Tribunal of Sports for the infringement, and to the letter: Portuguesa lost the one point from the goalless draw against Grêmio and an additional three points. With that, Portuguesa drop four positions in the tables, finishing in the relegation zone. And saving Fluminense from second division play in 2014.

Did Portuguesa commit an infringement? Certainly. Is the punishment proportional to the crime? Certainly not. Not that any of the judges involved in the Rio de Janeiro-based STJD would agree to that.

And Fluminense? Based on historical merit and curious circumstances, the carioca club cements its position as Brazil’s most loathed.

While this blogger wonders how on earth he could be so naive as to entitle the previous post “Brasileirão 2013 – final statements”.

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Yesterday the 2013 edition of the Brasileirão ended. Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, founded in the city of Belo Horizonte in 1921 as “Palestra Italia”, were crowned champions with 76 points – 11 points ahead of runners up Grêmio – compiling 23 victories, 7 draws and 8 defeats. Congratulations to Cruzeiro for a job well done throughout the season.

Third and fourth places were occupied by Atlético Paranaense and Botafogo respectively. The teams making up the quartet have not all guaranteed their spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup: in case Ponte Preta beat Argentine Lanus in the upcoming second leg of the South America Cup final (first leg at home 1-1), Ponte Preta grab a spot in next years’ Libertadores at the expense of Botafogo’s. Expect many a botafoguense, not least a certain Clarence Seedorf, turn hardcore argentines overnight.

2013-tabela_finalThe relegated four are Náutico, Ponte Preta (yes, the same), Vasco da Gama and Fluminense. Thus, two out of four major Rio de Janeiro clubs will play in the second division next year, with Fluminense being the first club in the history of Brazilian football to be relegated the year after becoming national champions. In 2014, the state of Santa Catarina will have more clubs in the first division than Rio de Janeiro: Criciúma, Chapecoense and Figueirese. A disastrous year for carioca football? Well, let’s not forget Flamengo’s Brazil Cup title. A likely 2014 scenario would thus be two traditional cariocas in the second division, with other two competing in the Libertadores Cup.

Sunday’s Atlético Paranaense vs. Vasco da Gama was interrupted for more than an hour as supporters of both teams clashed violently in the stands. Disgraceful scenes unfolded, while helicopters landed on the pitch to pick up injured for transportation to hospital. As always, what followed were calls for more police, more control inside and outside of stadiums, the banning of organised supporters, heavy fines for the clubs, having clubs play behind locked gates, the list goes on and on. In the end, the solution is there and is strikingly simple: apply the law. How? By identifying the perpetrators – and God knows there’s plenty of footage to facilitate the task – taking them to court and locking them up. Stop treating crimes committed inside and around Brazilian football stadiums as something special. Just apply the law.

With the end of the season, the transfer market goes berserk. As earlier mentioned, this year Palmeiras seem to be very actively scanning a broad range of possibilities both inside and outside of Brazil. And with the clearly not-so-good relationship between Coritiba midfielder Alex and club president Vilson de Andrade, there might be room for just a little bit of expectations.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Palmeiras v2.0 came on last Saturday, still a few players short: Alan Kardek recovering form, Vilson idem, Eguren signed but not yet with all papers cleared for play, and Leo Gago with a few weeks to go before full recovery.

Now, what we DID have was Prass between the posts, Valdivia commanding the midfield, Charles the pitbull by his side and returning youngster Luís Felipe on the right flank. With six minutes Leandro opened the scorecard. Oeste threw away a few good opportunities to equalise (Kleina needs urgently correct defensive positioning, especially airballs) but stopped short, seeing Palmeiras double up with Leandro again just before halftime. Second half was Palmeiras steamrolling all over Oeste, Charles bagging twice and closing the scorecard 4-0.

Yes, the opponent wasn’t the strongest, but nevertheless Palmeiras showed new qualities and personality. Valdivia was directly involved in three of the four goals. Mendieta came on in the end and didn’t score twice due to one great save by the Oeste keeper and one bad call by Caio, who opted for shooting when he should’ve passed the ball.

All in all a good performance, especially the offensive moves. If the new pieces fit as expected, Palmeiras will sail through the Brasileirão like a breeze and be a serious contender for the Copa do Brasil title.

Next challange is ABC, at the Pacamebu stadium, this coming Friday. A good crowd is expected: it’s been a while since Palmeiras played in São Paulo due to the four-game punishment imposed due to incidents last year.

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Eguren_unveiledSpeaking of Sebastián Eguren: the defensive midfielder was unveiled today, receiving the #4 jersey from the hands of president Paulo Nobre. The 32-year-old was excited about the future of not only playing in Brasil but for a big club like Palmeiras. Having spent the last ten years abroad, playing mainly for clubs in Spain and the Nordic countries, Eguren expects no difficulties in adapting to Brazil. Those who saw his first training session at Palmeiras can nothing but approve: the tall member of the Uruguayan national squad has a strong presence, showed passing qualities and good positioning.

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RamosAt Sharja FC, Maurício Ramos is the new owner of the #4. Officially unveiled at the beginning of the week, the centre-back, with close to 200 games for Palmeiras, expressed his gratitude toward club and supporters alike, showing great appreciation for the almost four years he spent at the Verdão.

Anything Palmeiras wishes Maurício the best of luck in this new endeavour.

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Maikon Leite said his goodbyes, left… and boomeranged back. There are few details available, but something obviously got in the way of his transfer to Qatar club Umm-Salal Sports. Training isolated from the rest of the squad while awaiting a definition in regard to his future, things have certainly looked better for the 24-year-old striker. A possibility is re-inserting Leite into the negotiations with Portuguesa in the Ayrton-for-Luis Ricardo negotiations.

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Remember the 2011 Martinuccio case? Palmeiras lawyers have silently and patiently been working on the case, awaiting a decision by FIFA. Palmeiras are claiming roughly US$ 4.5 million in compensation, in addition to the suspension of the player and a fine for Fluminense. Palmeiras’ lawyer André Sica is leaving for Zurich this Friday to check up on the case. “We’re looking after our interests and only want what’s just”, Sica stated. One can only hope that sooner or later, Martinuccio – currently at Cruzeiro – and Fluminense will pay a price for breaching the pre-contract.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Touches of cruelty. Sadism, even. Palmeiras vs. Fluminense was a good game, practically on equal terms, and little reflected that one side are desperately struggling against relegation while the other are the protagonists of the best campaign in the history of Brazilian national championships.

Both teams altered between great and less great moments in the first half, but Fluminense got a grip on things in the final 10 minutes and I remember muttering to myself “ride it out into halftime, just ride it out”. They didn’t. A difficult save from Bruno bounced back to a solitary Fred who netted after the ball having touched both Román and Bruno on the way in: a quite unlucky last sequence of the first half.

The jinx remained with us into the second half: at eight minutes Fred crossed the ball and an intercepting Maurício Ramos deflected it into his own goal.

Quick replies from Barcos and Patrick Vieira – first from a corner and then from a perfectly curved free-kick taken by Correa to the advancing midfielder – and within 15 minutes the scorecard was even. Palmeirenses all over the world started believing , and it nearly happened twice with Maurício Ramos: a header just over the crossbar and a point-blank shot with former Palmeiras keeper Diego Cavalieri operating a miracle.

Then, it fell apart. Kleina had already made his three substitutions as Patrick Vieira strained his left ankle, Correa started to feel muscle cramps and João Denoni dislocated his shoulder. Fluminense wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity and Fred (who else?) closed the scorecard at 42 minutes to become Brazilian National Champions 2012 with three rounds to go. Impressive. But also rather sad (both for Palmeiras and for the sensation of celebration in a virtually empty stadium – see picture at the head of this post).
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Palmeiras’ road to salvation consists of three mandatory victories: Flamengo (away), Atlético Goianense (home), Santos (away). In addition, Palmeiras need to pass at least two out of three teams ahead in the tables: Portuguesa (playing Grêmio at home, Internacional away and Ponte Preta at home); Bahia (playing Ponte Preta at home, Náutico at home and Atlético Goianense away); and Sport (playing Botafogo at home, Fluminense at home and Náutico away). In order for this to happen, Portuguesa and Bahia are allowed a maximum two draws each. Sport are allowed a win and a draw.

On paper, Bahia have the easier path and must be considered favourite to avoid relegation, while both Portuguesa and Sport might fall short of accumulating a sufficient number of points to steer clear solely on their own merits.

The million dollar question: can Palmeiras pull three rabbits out of the hat?
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It’s been a while since we last had them, the sonar pings. Partly, because everything with Palmeiras turns into such a mess it demands a full post. Actually, these recent happenings do as well but I’ll shamelessly admit I don’t have the time nor energy to waste beyond the minimum. It’s not the right word, but “enjoy”.

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Following the continuously not-so-good results, Palmeiras supporters are increasingly edgy and both directors and some players have reportedly been receiving threats. Mainstream media has been blowing the story up, and although it’s of course unacceptable that players walk around in fear – in addition to highly counter-productive – the whole thing shouldn’t be overestimated. Just nerves and that’s that.

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On the other hand, Palmeiras’ administration is sufficient to drive the calmest man insane. Returning from Araraquara, where Palmeiras drew 2 all with Botafogo last Sunday, communication at some point tilted: players were told they’d have all of Monday and Tuesday morning off, but no one got the message through to the rest of the staff or the journalists: everyone turned up on Tuesday morning, while players only arrived in the afternoon.

The day was crowned with the announcement that Palmeiras would make 11.000 seats – not the standard 4.000 – available for Fluminense supporters in Sunday’s do-or-die clash in Presidente Prudente. Instead of trying everything within reach to boost our chances of avoiding relegation, our directors have their minds on the few extra bucks they can make by selling more expensive tickets to a larger number of the opponent’s supporters. Chocking, to put it mildly. Luckily, the immediate reaction from Palmeiras supporters was strong enough to have the directors retreat within 24 hours, on Wednesday announcing that 4.000 tickets would be available for Fluminense supporters.

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Speaking of Fluminense: the carioca club sustain the largest pay check of all Brazilian teams – roughly US$ 4 million a month. Perhaps not that surprising considering that player like Fred and Deco each receive some US$ 350.000 a month. The lion’s share is covered by the club’s sponsorship deal with Unimed.

In 2011, Corinthians sustained the largest pay check and were crowned champions of the Brasileirão. Fluminense are heading in the same direction: a victory against Palmeiras on Sunday is all it takes. Palmeiras on the other hand need the victory to maintain any hope of remaining in the first division.

Unfortunately, spending money is not a guarantee of success, our Verdão being the clearest example: with a total of some US$ 3 million a month, fifth-ranking Palmeiras are not quite up there fighting for top positions.

Below, a list of the top 10 spenders in Brazilian football (numbers in US$).

1º. Fluminense – 4,0
2º. Grêmio – 3,5
3º. São Paulo – 3,2
4º. Inter – 3,0
5º. Palmeiras – 2,9
6º. Atlético-MG – 2,7
7º. Corinthians – 2,6
8º. Flamengo – 2,5
9º. Botafogo – 2,2
10º. Vasco – 2,0

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As announced by the president of Palmeiras’ Deliberative Council José Ângelo Vergamini, the club’s General Assembly will take place on 19 January. It’s still unclear in what manner the associates will ratify the Direct Vote proposal: by approving/rejecting the whole package or voting the proposal and then each amendment separately. The second option would be correct and give members a chance to modify (i.e. lower) the filter for candidates to run for election (currently set at 20 per cent of approval from the Deliberative Council). The battle never ends.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The straws we’re grasping at are increasingly slim, short and slippery. The draw against Botafogo wasn’t the last nail in the coffin, but Palmeiras are now seven points behind Bahia (would’ve been five hadn’t Lusa keeper Dida make things that much easier for the baianos) and Portuguesa, with Sport – also in the relegation zone – three points ahead of us. Twelve points (four rounds) are still available, meaning that Bahia and/or Portuguesa are not allowed to sum more than five points each while Palmeiras must win all remaining games (Fluminense, Flamengo, Atlético Goianense and Santos). You optimistic? If Vasco da Gama lost six in a row, we could win four… Always look on the bright… And so forth.

Yesterday’s game was a good game, a tight duel. Palmeiras just blew too many clear chances while individual faults (this time Maurício Ramos seemed as if having two left feet) tipped the scale against our favour. Barcos was magnificent (again) and with his two successful attempts reached his personal goal for the season: 27 times on the score sheet – the same amount he scored last season for LDU. Yesterday, Barcos’ late equaliser was a piece of art. He’s simply too good for Palmeiras, at least the Palmeiras we’ve come to know the last few years. Would he stick around for second division play? I don’t think so. And it wouldn’t cross my mind blaming him for not to. If we’re in fact relegated perhaps a creative solution could be found, with Barcos on loan to let’s say Cruzeiro for a season. After all, he’s on contract with Palmeiras until 2015: would be a shame to see him go so soon, especially after having bonded so well with the Palmeiras supporters.
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A week of training before Sunday’s clash in Presidente Prudente against visiting top dogs Fluminense, with Fred and all. A loss and Palmeiras could, depending on a combination of results, be mathematically relegated (and Fluminense crowned champions) already on that same night. A win and hope regains its strength. Coach Kleina believes in four straight wins: he remains motivated and Palmeiras are in his prayers. Positive energy, prayers and dreaming come free of charge. I’d encourage everyone to do a little bit of each.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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