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It was in the cards. Last Thursday’s home draw to relegation-threatened Bahia, after leading two nil, saw coach Cuca’s dismissal. “By mutual agreement”, as the Palmeiras statement read on Friday afternoon.

cuca_211In 2016, Cuca guided Palmeiras to their first top-flight title in 22 years before stepping down for personal reasons. After a few months with Eduardo Baptista in command, Cuca was reappointed in May. The premature exit in the Libertadores Cup was followed by an equally disappointing Brazil Cup performance. Now, with plenty of time for training and rest, improvements were expected but Cuca and the squad failed to deliver. The lack of evolution gradually corroded confidence and both players and coach started to display certain listlessness. The ending is always the same: coach sacked. In this second spell at the club, Cuca led Palmeiras in 34 games, with 16 victories, 7 draws and 11 defeats: only 54% of the points available.  

Always a fierce critic of the constant coach swapping in Brazilian football, I have come to understand just how deeply entrenched in the system it is. Consider the latest turns at Palmeiras: Ricardo Gareca, 4 months; Dorival Júnior, 3 months; Oswaldo de Oliveira, 5 months; Marcelo Oliveira, 10 month; Cuca, 8 months (first spell); Eduardo Baptista, 5 months; Cuca, 5 months (second spell). A club might have the best of intentions, wanting to stick with a coach no matter what: the pressure, from everyone and everywhere, is overwhelming. Considering this, Cuca’s dismissal was well timed. Assisting coach Alberto Valentim immediately assumed, last Sunday leading Palmeiras to a 3-1 away victory against Atlético Goianense. With ten rounds to go, he should be able to keep Palmeiras in the top four, securing a spot in next year’s Libertadores.

That said, Valentim has virtually zero chance of receiving a permanent appointment. My sources say Palmeiras have locked sights on current Cruzeiro coach Mano Menezes, with previous spells at Grêmio, Corinthians, Flamengo and, in 2010-2012, Brazil’s national squad. The 55-year-old has been the name of choice of football director Alexandro Mattos for years. Seems discussions are already involving names of players Mano would like to see added to the Palmeiras squad in 2018. With that, planning for next season is well underway, which is fundamentally important.

To Cuca, eternal gratitude for the 2016 Brazilian championship title. Too bad things did not work out in the sequel. Best of luck in future endeavours!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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After yesterday having his picture snapped wearing a Palmeiras jersey underneath the Brazilian National Team polo, Neymar frankly admitted he one day would like to play for the Verdão.

“Already as a small kid, I was Palmeiras. My idols were Evair, Marcos, Rivaldo, Alex… These are the guys I looked up to. I became a palmeirense because of them.”
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Neymar and the rest of the National squad today trained at Palmeiras’ Football Academy ahead of Tuesdays World Cup qualifier against Chile at the Allianz Parque.

“Nobody knows about tomorrow, but it would be a great pleasure (to play for Palmeiras)”, the Paris Saint-Germain forward concluded.

Lucas LimaDirector of Football Alexandre Mattos today met with Neymar’s father, but Neymar is not transferring to Palmeiras (quite yet). Now, there is a decent chance playmaker Lucas Lima, currently at Santos, pulls on the green kit next season. So happens, Neymar Senior is Lima’s agent… Stay tuned.  

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

The game destined to be the turning point for Palmeiras, cementing the chase for the championship title, took a different direction. Although Palmeiras effectively blocked Santos throughout the game, not enough was achieved offensively, partially due to the heavy rains that soaked the Allianz Parque pitch. Nevertheless, the second half was basically Santos against the ropes, Dudu missing an open goal shot and then… The ice bucket.
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Palmeiras did not deserve defeat, but that is irrelevant. Corinthians drew against Cruzeiro and Grêmio beat Fluminense. As it stands, Corinthians lead at 55, followed by Santos 47, Grêmio 46 and Palmeiras 43. That is a 12 point gap, with 12 rounds to go. The top six get a spot in next year’s Libertadores. Or the top seven if Cruzeiro – who already secured their spot through the Brazil Cup title against Flamengo earlier this week – are among the top six.

The Brasileirão title is a far, far shot but not impossible: the last five rounds rendered Corinthians five points, while Palmeiras bagged ten. If that pattern is maintained, we’d go into the last two rounds with a two-point difference. Optimism is my middle name.

The championship now takes a ten-day break due to WC qualifiers. Thursday the 12th, Palmeiras receive Bahia at the Pacaembu stadium, home venue as the Allianz Parque host a number of music concerts. If Cuca is serious about remaining in 2018, better continue showing evolution.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Right after the draw with Atlético Mineiro at the Independência stadium some ten days ago, coach Cuca set a partial goal for Palmeiras: win the upcoming six games in order to keep the Brazilian championship title in sight. After two consistent 1-0 victories – at home against Coritiba and last Sunday away against Fluminense – the first third of the plan has been successfully fulfilled. “We are looking for those 18 points. It’s a partial goal. Against Santos, it will be difficult, but we’re growing in the competition and need to believe. We were 15 points behind the leader and we’ve shaved four off”, Cuca explains.
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Palmeiras currently rests in fourth place with the same 43 points as Grêmio, with Santos in second, one point ahead of the duo. Cuca believes the next four games will define the championship: Santos (home), Bahia (home), Atlético-GO (away) and Ponte Preta (home). “After this sequence of six games, we will make another mini-project. These partial goals make everything more fragmented and we can mobilize a little better”, the coach argues.

Palmeiras play Corinthians on 5 November. Out of the six rounds before the derby, Palmeiras play four at home, while the rival play only two. Add to this the rather different phases the teams are in, are we are likely to see the gap diminish further.

Palmeiras pre derby
30/9 – Palmeiras vs Santos (Allianz Parque)

12/10 – Palmeiras vs Bahia (Allianz Parque)
15/10 – Atlético-GO vs Palmeiras (Olímpico)
19/10 – Palmeiras vs Ponte Preta (Allianz Parque)
22/10 – Grêmio vs Palmeiras (Arena do Grêmio)
29/10 – Palmeiras vs Cruzeiro (Allianz Parque)

Corinthians pre derby
01/10 – Cruzeiro vs Corinthians (Mineirão)

11/10 – Corinthians vs Coritiba (Itaquera)
15/10 – Bahia vs Corinthians (Fonte Nova)
18/10 – Corinthians vs Grêmio (Itaquera)
21/10 – Botafogo vs Corinthians (Nilton Santos)
29/10 – Ponte Preta vs Corinthians (Moisés Lucarelli)

These next few weeks should be enjoyable. There’s nothing like the hunt, especially when unpretentious and rather relaxed. Not at all like being hunted…

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

SOS_tree_dayPalmeiras stirred supporter’s curiosity this Thursday morning. On the club’s social networks, the profile picture was changed to a “P” symbol with practically no green in it.
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A few hours later, the motif was revealed: in partnership with the non-governmental organisation SOS Mata Atlântica, Palmeiras promoted Brazil’s “Day of the Tree” by illustrating how much of the Atlantic Forest that used to cover Brazil’s coastline – a whopping 90% – has disappeared. Palmeiras call upon all of us to protect what remains of this precious biodiversity.

Want to contribute? Click here!

“No names making reference to the axis powers allowed” read the controversial decree, issued by Brazil’s president Getúlio Vargas in 1942. Under the threat of having to forfeit all the club’s assets and be expelled from the São Paulo state championship they were leading, Palestra Italia changed name to Palmeiras.

From Palestra to Palmeiras, on the week preceding the State championship final against São Paulo Futebol Clube. São Paulo FC, which openly played the treason card in relation to “foreign” sport associations, having already taken over the facilities of “Deutscher Sport Club” through a forced merger. Now, the same club was laying claim to the assets of the former Palestra Italia.
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arrancada.
20 September 1942, day of the championship final. Palmeiras entered the pitch carrying a Brazilian flag under the leadership of Army Captain Adalberto Mendes. With the game underway, Palmeiras were soon leading 3-1. Then, with a penalty called in Palmeiras’ favour, São Paulo pulled their side off the field amid jeers and taunts from the stands.

The following day, newspapers sold out. The headline remains in classic: “A Leader Dies, A Champion Is Born”. This defining episode in the club’s history was later coined Arrancada Heroica, the Heroic Jolt.

Happy Anniversary, Palmeiras!
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escudos_palestra_palmeiras

Atlético Mineiro 1-1 Palmeiras
Cuca used the two weeks to tweak defence and midfield creativity. Yesterday’s first test against Atlético Mineiro was an interesting albeit frustrating experience:  individual errors and a biased referee saw two Palmeiras players – Luan and Willian – sent off, not permitting the game to evolve organically. Still, the end result and, in particular, the way Palmeiras occupied spaces and to a certain extent controlled the game at the Estádio Independência – even one and later two men short – are good indicators the team has evolved. How much, possibly we will learn more about on Monday the 18th, when Palmeiras receive Coritiba.

Monday, Palmeiras are issuing a formal protest against Leandro Vuaden. On two occasions, both crucial, he failed to do the right thing: award a penalty for Palmeiras as a shot was blocked with open arms, and have a converted Atlético penalty go repeat after an Atlético player grossly invaded the penalty box. In addition, criteria for distribution of yellow and red cards were inexistent throughout the game.  
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Is there anything left for palmeirenses to enjoy this year? Sure. The Libertadores Cup spot needs securing. And seriously… Palmeiras are 14 points behind Corinthians, but the skunks have lost three out of last four games, with 15 rounds to go. Then there is the deliciousness of São Paulo FC’s desperate battle against relegation…

— ooo —

Felipe Melo has been reintegrated into the squad. Not meaning Cuca will take advantage of the new-old addition. During an unfortunate press conference, the loose cannon was allowed to take centre stage and the habitual stream of bombastic bull followed. Just for starters, Melo alleged categorically not having apologized to Cuca… I expect Melo to train with the squad and, occasionally, make it to the bench. And negotiated as soon as an opportunity arises.

— ooo —

Palmeiras’ youth divisions are doing well. Three athletes – midfielder Alan, centre-back Vitão and left-back Luan – have been selected for Brazil’s U17 squad playing the World Cup in India 6-28 October.

So far this year, 15 Palmeiras players have represented Brazil in one of the youth categories: nine in the Brazil U15 (keepers Mateus and Bruno Carcaioli, centre-backs Henri and Renan, defender Garcia, midfielders Fabinho and Gabriel Silva and forwards Vinicius and Gabriel Veron), another five in the U17 team (defenders Lucas Rosa and Luan Cândido, centre-back Vitão and midfielders Alan and Bruno Tattavito) and forward Léo Passos for the U20. Promising for the future.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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