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At La Bombonera, packed with close to fifty thousand Boca Juniors supporters, Palmeiras pulled off a perfect exhibition to assure a spot in the knockout phase of the Libertadores Cup. The victory was Palmeiras’ first at the legendary home grounds of Boca, and only four other Brazilian teams have previously managed the feat. This was also the first time in history that a foreign team beat Boca at La Bombonera by a difference of more than one goal. Epic!

Roger Machado lined up the same starting-eleven as against Internacional last Sunday and Palmeiras started the game better than Boca Juniors. With just one minute on the clock, Keno put pressure on Boca’s keeper, who tried to clear the ball but slammed it into the back of our winger, the ball bouncing back just wide of the goalpost. Two minutes later, Dudu took a shot from outside the box, but missed the target.

Palmeiras’ rhythm slowed down after the initial 10 minutes and Boca grew more confident, creating their first opportunities. The script was set: ball to Pavón on the left, and leave it up to him to create havoc. In the 11th minute, he dribbled Marcos Rocha, but Jailson blocked the shot. In the 22th minute, he took a free kick and hit Jailson’s upper bar.

At this point, the pressure was intense and it started to look like a matter of time before Palmeiras would succumb. However, the Big Green rode out the storm and then, in the 39th minute, Marcos Rocha crossed the ball from the right and found Keno free inside the box, by the far post. The winger headed it firmly, out of the reach of the keeper, to open the score for Palmeiras.

The minutes that followed until the end of the first half were nightmarish, Palmeiras truly suffering as Boca launched a major offensive. In the 40th minute, Ábila lost an unbelievable, open-goal opportunity. And in the 44th minute, he scored. On both of the opportunities he was offside, the goal correctly annulled.

No substitution in halftime for Palmeiras, and the first opportunities of the second half were again the visitors’. In the first minute, Lucas Lima received a heavy challenge from Magallan just outside the box and the free kick was awarded; the challenge should have rendered a yellow card as well, the defender’s second and an early exit to the showers, but our players’ protest left the referee unimpressed. Lucas Lima took the shot, surprising the keeper by sending the ball below the jumping barrier, but off target.

In the seventh minute, Dudu passed the ball to Keno to start a counter-attack. The winger aimed for Lucas Lima inside the box, but a Boca defender courageously intercepted it in the last moment, almost scoring an own goal.

Boca’s better opportunities were shots from outside the box, narrowly missing the target. The best one came with 15 on the clock, a shot from Pavón from the left, Jailson stretching to his absolute limits to brilliantly save Palmeiras from the equalizer.

In the 21th minute, the game-defining moment: Keno aimed a long ball at Dudu, Rossi leaving the goal to punch the ball clear, only partially successful. The ball offered itself to Willian, the keeper still outside the box, but our forward’s strike was blocked by Boca defenders. A second attempt was Lucas Lima’s, again blocked. On the third try, our midfielder brilliantly volleyed the ball above all Boca players and the keeper to score Palmeiras’ second.

Trailing 2-0, Boca went all attack, giving Palmeiras more space to counter-attack. The Argentinians scored through Tévez but, once again, we had a correctly awarded offside. Only on injury time did Boca threaten Palmeiras again, Jailson blocking Ábila’s shot. Seems like our players have learnt from previous mistakes, this time successfully controlling the game until the final whistle.
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With this historic victory, Palmeiras head the group at 10 points and are mathematically classified to the next phase of the tournament. The objective now is sum as many point as possible in the remaining two games, in order to secure that Palmeiras, in the knockout phase to follow, always have the second leg home advantage. The victory was of paramount important for players and supporters to regain confidence: the perfect response to the doubts and criticisms of last couple of weeks.

Palmeiras now turn their attention back to the Brazilian championship, where Chapecoense await, on Sunday, at the Allianz Parque, valid for the third round.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – – 
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi
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*photo credits: Cesar Greco

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Palmeiras did not delight the 23.263 supporters present at the Pacaembu Stadium this afternoon, but the victory against the visitors from Porto Alegre was important to bring a bit of peace to the coach and players after some tough weeks.

Borja recovered from the knee inflammation and was once again in the starting-eleven. The only difference compared to the usual line-up was Edu Dracena replacing Thiago Martins in the centre lock.
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2018.04.22 - SEPvsINT

Teams aligned for the kick-off (photo credits: Augusto Oazi)

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The first five minutes of the game were terrible for the palmeirenses: with just three minutes on the clock, Internacional took a corner and the ball offered itself to Gabriel Dias inside the box after Pottker’s header, but Jailson performed a great save. Two minutes later, Pottker tried a long-range shot and Jailson had to save Palmeiras again. An early goal would have been a disaster, but Palmeiras were able to improve their game in the minutes to follow.

In the 13th minute, Keno went to the deep end and crossed the ball, but Inter’s keeper partially blocked it, the ball offering itself to Borja who incredibly headed it over the target with an open goal. Three minutes later, Lucas Lima took a corner, but Borja header missed the target again.

The game cooled down until the 39th minute, when Lucas Lima backed off a bit to receive the ball and sent it with a long pass to Diogo Barbosa on the left wing. The fullback performed a perfect cross to Dudu who was free to head the ball to the back of the net. Palmeiras 1-0 and this was the scorecard as the referee blew the whistle ending the first half.

No substitution in halftime for Palmeiras, and the first opportunities of the second half were again Inter’s. In the fifth minute, Edenílson fired from outside the box and the ball went just wide of Jailson’s right post. In the 11th minute, another opportunity for Inter: Patrick crossed the ball to Damião’s header, but Jailson stopped the equalizer.

Palmeiras game again improved only after some initial apprehensive minutes. In the 15th minute. Bruno Henrique concluded from outside the box, but just missed the target. In the 18th minute, Dudu passed to Borja, but the Colombian could not conclude well, going wide, very wide.

One minute later, ball to Borja again and he made a nice cut, sending the ball behind to Lucas Lima. The midfielder placed it beautifully, but unfortunately right into the left woodwork. In the 24th minute, Keno cleared the defenders out his way and fired away from outside the box, to an easy save by Danilo.

In the 28th minute, Damião received the ball behind Palmeiras’ defensive line and the referee had already called the offside when he shot to score the equalizer. The replay showed that Inter’s player was onside by a few centimetres.

In the 37th minute, Inter had their last clear opportunity to equalize the scorecard: Edenílson crossed the ball and Damião headed it just wide. Inter ballooned a few more balls in the last minutes, but nothing too threatening. This time, Palmeiras were able to hold on to the lead.
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The victory came with more difficulties than expected, but the three points is what matters. The Verdão now travels to Argentina to face Boca Juniors on Wednesday for the Libertadores Cup. The game has all the ingredients and will prove a major test for our squad. It will not be easy, but a victory would practically assure Palmeiras a spot in the knockout phase of the competition.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

The Paulistão 2018 final initiated a backstage war between Palmeiras and the São Paulo Football Federation (FPF) still far from its end.

In short, the sequence of events includes Palmeiras issuing a note, announcing the break with the Federation; the release of a video, showing the external influence in the game against Corinthians; and the club’s request for a formal investigation at the São Paulo Court of Justice for Sports (TJD-SP). The FPF responded by returning the box at the Federation’s disposal at the Allianz Parque.

For considerable time, Palmeiras supporters have demanded a firmer position from the Club concerning the frequent referee errors. Thus, in this case, they stand united, backing all decisions so far taken by the directors, including the no-show at SporTV’s Segunda Campeã after the game against Botafogo. On social media, it is common to see supporters advocating that the club do not dispute the 2019 São Paulo state Championship, or alternatively, line-up nothing but the U20 squad.

Opting out of the Paulistão would not be an easy decision. Even though most state championships are experiencing nothing short of a crisis, the São Paulo edition brings significant revenues to the clubs. Let us have a look at the numbers for 2018.

Broadcasting rights
The broadcasting rights of the Paulistão carry the highest price tag among all the state championships. In 2018, Rede Globo, through the PFP, distributed R$20 million to each of the big four (Palmeiras, Corinthians, São Paulo and, oh well, Santos) in the state.

Although the contract between the broadcaster and the Federation has never been disclosed in its entirety, it is considered “common knowledge” that clubs must play the championship with their main squad to receive their share.

Six of Palmeiras’ games were broadcasted on free-to-air television. In total, these games reached 187 rating points, as measured by IBOPE, corresponding to 13.4 million televisions tuned in. No Palmeiras sponsor would like give up such expressive brand exposure.
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Paulistao - table1

Rating points, Palmeiras games on free-to-air television

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Ticketing
Palmeiras had nine home games in the Paulistão 2018: eight at the Allianz Parque and one at the Pacaembu (semi-final against Santos). The Verdão headed both attendance and revenue rankings, with an average 31.399 supporters per game and a gross ticketing income of R$18 million and a net income of R$ 11.5 million.
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Paulistao - table2

Palmeiras gross ticketing revenues, Paulistão 2018

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Prize money
The Paulistão hands out the biggest prize among the state championships: R$5 million to the champions and R$1.6 million to the runners-up (Palmeiras, in this case).

Adding up the numbers
Palmeiras’ net revenues from this year’s edition of the Paulistão, comprised of broadcasting rights, ticketing and prize money, surpasses R$ 33 million. This corresponds to roughly 5% of Palmeiras’ annual gross income and would pay a full month’s worth of expenses generated by the club’s professional football department. Not at all negligible.

If opting out of the Paulistão, part of the revenues could be recovered through a pre-season tour, adding to the ticketing of the U20 team competing in the state championship. Still, Palmeiras would hardly reach the R$33 million mark.

What about the Federation?
From the Paulistão, the FPF receives 7% of gross ticketing revenues from the big 4 and 6% from the other 12 participating clubs. This arrangement brought the Federation a total of R$ 3.3 million this year. In the chart below, we can see that a whopping 38% of these revenues originate from Palmeiras; it would certainly be a hard blow to the Federation should it lose its primary source of ticketing income.
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Paulistao - table3

FPF ticketing revenues, 2018 São Paulo State championship

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Furthermore, add to this the damage to the Federation’s reputation, potentially reducing the value sponsors are willing to pay for the Paulistão. One of the biggest teams refusing to play the championship is not a minor issue and should not be underestimated. Palmeiras’ refusal could signal the beginning of the end of the Federation, as we know it today.

The hearing that took place last Tuesday is a clear indicator that Palmeiras are not bluffing. The club wishes to bring the truth out. The Federation should prepare for acknowledging its errors and aid in the quest for transparency. We have seen nothing of the sort so far and, to be frank, odds are small, very small.

With the backing of their supporters, Palmeiras are in a position to play hardball. Stay tuned.

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

Within days of the scandalous Paulistão final against Corinthians, Palmeiras were in possession of video footage showing Director of Refereeing of the São Paulo Football Federation (FPF) twice approaching one of the assistant referees by the sideline. This takes place while the main referee is on the pitch, trying to put into effect his decision to award Palmeiras a penalty. Shortly after, as we all now, the referee changed his ruling.

According to regulations, the Director of Refereeing, in this case Mr. Dionísio Roberto Domingos, is not allowed to enter the grounds while a match is taking place, much less address any of the referees.

Based on the video and the initial, unconvincing statements from the involved, Palmeiras’ legal department last week filed a request for the initiation of an investigation at the São Paulo Court of Justice for Sports (TJD-SP). A first hearing took place Tuesday, lasting eight hours, with statements from the five referees, the Refereeing Supervisor and the Director of Refereeing – the individual Palmeiras accuse as pivotal in bringing about the external interference.
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TJD_Tossiro_Neto

From last Tuesday’s hearing at the TJD-SP (photo credits: Tossiro Neto)

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Palmeiras are going all in. So much, the club has reinforced its team with a renowned criminal lawyer, Mr. José Luis Oliveira Lima. In addition, Palmeiras have hired the services of Kroll, one of the largest private investigation companies in the world, with headquarters in the USA and branches in some 30 countries, including Brazil. Though neither Palmeiras nor Kroll will comment, at least two Kroll representatives were present at the TJD hearing earlier this week, in addition to Mr Lima and Palmeiras’ regular lawyers. Kroll will present an independent analysis of events leading up to the reverted ruling on the pitch.

The TJD judge assigned to the case is expected to present his report by Monday 23rd April. Based on the report, a prosecutor and the Court president will then determine whether to put the case to the archives or de facto initiate proceeding, which could end up formally cancelling the final.

Mr. Lima spells it out. “Palmeiras want to lay out the truth of the matter. If that truth entails showing the Courts that there were external interference and that the match must be invalidated, then that is what Palmeiras will do. After all, it is in the regulations of the competition”.

On a side note, it has been gratifying to see how Palmeiras supporters have expressed their support for the club’s chosen route: not because of the Paulista title itself, but for the good of Brazilian football. However clear the evidence of external interference, the odds are not in Palmeiras’ favour and Palmeiras are likely to suffer direct and indirect consequences. Then again, there is the possibility that this is a turning point. That Palmeiras will act as a catalyst for substantial change. Hope never dies.

Palmeiras could and should go after every title, every year. The Paulistão is gone (as a trophy, but not as a fight to be fought for transparency and fairness in Brazilian football), with the Libertadores Cup, Brazil Cup and Brazilian Championship still up for grabs. And it’s the latter that kicked off last weekend.

The Brasileirão is the competition Palmeiras are most likely to win this year. Why? Primarily, because of the quality and depth of the squad, crucial in a long and tiring championship as the Brazilian national, played all over this continental-sized country.
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The Brazilian championship is one, if not the hardest to predict in the world, as many football betting sites will tell you. There are normally 7-8 teams seriously in it to win, sometimes more. However, this year, I´d say the usual suspects have been slightly decimated. Current champions Corinthians, heavy-spenders Flamengo, stable Grêmio, well-coached Cruzeiro: any champion other than the aforementioned four and Palmeiras would be quite the surprise. Yes, I am ruling out Santos, São Paulo, Internacional, Atlético Mineiro, and all the carioca teams except Flamengo.

Obviously, Palmeiras are not yet close to peak performance, neither is every position rock solid, with an as-good option on the bench. But things seem to be moving in the right direction and, at least on paper, the Palmeiras squad is clearly ahead of the competition. Add to that an ever-increasing revenue gap, the excellent attendance levels at the Allianz Parque, apparently solid club management, player’s paychecks deposited on time (not a given in Brazil, mind you) and Palmeiras quickly becomes the favourite. The obvious downside to this, the added internal and external pressure.

Below, the 20 teams in this year’s edition, in alphabetical order: 

América Mineiro (up from 2nd division)
Atletico Paranaense
Bahia
Botafogo
Ceará (up from 2nd division)
Chapecoense
Corinthians
Cruzeiro
Flamengo
Grêmio
Internacional (up from 2nd division)
Palmeiras
Paraná (up from 2nd division)
Santos
São Paulo
Sport 
Vasco
Vitória

The round kicked off with three games on the Saturday, five on the Sunday and the last two yesterday Monday, which included Palmeiras’ 1-1 debut away against Botafogo. Although Palmeiras missed a great opportunity to return home with the three points, the result was no disaster: out of the ten visiting sides in the first round, none but Grêmio came out victorious, and only Palmeiras and Flamengo managed a draw. That being said, Palmeiras urgently need to address the squad’s apparent lack of zest and concentration, especially at the end of matches – these last two draws, against Boca Juniors and Botafogo, being clear examples of this. Machado and the squad now have a few days to rest and train ahead of the clash with Porto Alegre’s Internacional on Sunday.

Finally, things are getting serious.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

The debut performance of Palmeiras in the Brasileirão 2018 was below expectations, albeit the team was one of the few that did not lose playing away. The 1-1 scorecard took Palmeiras to their 9th consecutive year without losing in the opening round of the Brazilian Championship.

Borja had to be spared for this game due to a knee inflammation and Roger Machado chose Willian to replace him. This was the only difference compared to the starting-eleven against Boca last Wednesday.

As the game kicked off, the first opportunity was Botafogo’s: Léo Valencia crossed the ball, Rodrigo Lindoso’s header missing the target. Two minutes later, Palmeiras responded: Keno crossed the ball and Willian headed it firmly, Gatito Fernandez showing great skill between the posts to save the carioca team.

In the 13th minute, Diogo Barbosa’s ball crossed the whole area with no one reaching it. Palmeiras exercised superior ball possession, but were again in difficulties to create clear goal opportunities. Botafogo tried twice with long-range shots: the first from Brenner just wide the target and the second from Léo Valencia, provoking a nice save from Jailson. That was all we got in the first half.
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In halftime, Roger Machado made his first substitution: Guerra came on to replace an unassertive Lucas Lima. Already in the 8th minute, the alteration paid off: Keno passed the ball to Dudu, our captain fought for possession with the defender and then, with a beautiful pass, left Guerra face-to-face with the goalkeeper, the Venezuelan calmly concluding to score the opener.

In the 11th minute, Willian almost increased Palmeiras’ lead, but Gatito Fernandez saved his shot. Willian tried again in the 16th minute, again ending up in the keeper’s hands. The game seemed to be in control… But Palmeiras like to play tricks on their supporters.

In the 32th minute, a preview of what was about to come: a crossed ball into Palmeiras’ box and Jailson failed to put it away. The ball remained with Kieza, who missed the shot on a first attempt and concluded with little power on a second, allowing for Jailson’s intervention. Four minutes later, the announced tragedy: another crossed ball, this time deflected by Antônio Carlos, remained inside Palmeiras’ box. Jailson did not charge to put the ball away, Felipe Melo did not disputed it with Igor Rabello and Thiago Martins turned his back when the Botafogo player took the shot (and missed the ball) on a first attempt. All the individual errors allowed Igor Rabello to unchallenged have a second go, slamming the ball firmly behind Jailson to level the scorecard with less than ten minutes left of the game.

With both teams chasing victory, the game got very intense in its final minutes. Léo Valencia tried a long-range shot. On stoppage time, Guerra had one off-target and another, where he kicked thin air. And that was that.

The result was not bad for Palmeiras, coming from a difficult sequence playing twice a week, with no time to rest and practice. As the next game is only on Sunday – in São Paulo, against Internacional of Porto Alegre – Roger Machado can look forward to a few well-spent days of practice, addressing some of the visible problems of the last few games, in particular the taking but not holding on to a lead.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

After losing the final of the São Paulo state Championship to our biggest rivals, Palmeiras had to recover fast as the game against Boca could define the leadership of Group 8 in the Libertadores Cup. The 37.192 supporters present at the Allianz Parque were however treated to a boring game that reserved all its emotions to the last five minutes.

Roger Machado’s starting-eleven featured two alterations in comparison to the usual one: Keno and Diogo Barbosa replaced Willian and Victor Luiz respectively. The coach, opting to field faster players, probably imagined exploring spaces behind Boca Juniors’ full-backs.

With last Sunday’s scandalous external interference in fresh memory, supporters chanted against the Paulista Football Federation and the press corps before kick-off. The atmosphere was initially intense, but the lukewarm action of the first half, with teams unable to fire away a single, decent shot at goal, was disheartening. Palmeiras best chances were two crosses from the deep end, with no one inside the box to conclude.
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2018.04.11_boca

Allianz Parque sees the 2nd biggest gross revenue of the year: R$ 4.4 million (photo credits: Augusto Oazi)

 

Heading into the second half, not much changed. Palmeiras had a few goes from outside the box in the first minutes, but all shots were off-target. The first on-target came from Boca, in the 10th minute. Two minutes later Roger sent Willian to replace Borja, the Colombian on an unfortunate night.

With the substitution, Palmeiras improved their game, but not sufficiently to actually threaten Rossi’s target. The best opportunity came in the 37th minute, with Moisés and Guerra already on the pitch (they replaced Lucas Lima and Bruno Henrique, respectively). Keno dribbled four players on the left wing and cut the ball back to Willian. Moisés was free to receive the ball and score, but Willian turned and took the shot himself, deflected by Boca’s defenders.

Everything indicated a goalless draw, but in the 44th minute, a Boca defender lost the ball to Guerra in a bizarre move. The Venezuelan midfielder crossed the ball beautifully, Keno concluding inside the box like a true centre-forward. Supporters celebrated, confident in a third victory in the Libertadores Cup, the game almost at its end. Perhaps feeling sorry for the Boca defender, Antônio Carlos two minute later had his bizarre moment, allowing Pavón to venture into the deep end and cut back to Tévez to tie the game. Palmeiras came close to a perfect Libertadores’ style victory, but lacked the experience to refrain Boca from effective play during injury time.
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We arrive at the end of our first difficult sequence of the year with a reasonable result: a title stolen from us and pole position in our Libertadores group, having still not lost a single game in the competition. Upcoming Monday sees Palmeiras’ debut for the Brasileirão 2018 against Botafogo and this is a championship were regularity brings the trophy home. Roger Machado cannot repeat coach Cuca’s mistake of last year, prioritizing the cups: all competitions are equally important to the sequence of his work, the squad’s development and the future of Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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