Luiz Felipe Scolari – the second saga that never was

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Losing to Vasco da Gama last Wednesday was not the worst part, but rather how it happened. In stark contrast to previous games where Palmeiras concede the first goal and then, obliged to risk it a bit more chasing the equaliser, are punished a few more times, against Vasco Palmeiras opened up the scorecard midway into the first half. However, the Verdão showed no ability to take advantage of the situation: instead of carefully tightening defence and exploring the spaces to counter-attack, Palmeiras conceded the equaliser only minutes after the goal and the squad turned into a house of cards a la 2009/2010. We were “lucky” not needing to see Bruno scoop out the ball more than three times from the back of the net.

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Luiz Felipe Scolari is known for standing his ground but not even a World Cup champion coach, an outspoken supporter and winner of several titles for the club – the latest less than two months ago – will save you in the world of Brazilian football. Yesterday afternoon it was announced that the club’s directors and Scolari had reached an agreement where he leaves Palmeiras together with technical assistant Flávio Murtosa and without the club having to pay any fines (for prematurely terminating the contract). That’s the third major coach (Luxemburgo and Muricy previously) in a relatively short period of time leaving Palmeiras through the back door. Draw your own conclusions.

Scolari’s second period at Palmeiras was undoubtedly much less successful than expected: 69 victories, 49 draws and 45 defeats: a measly 52 per cent of available points concurred. His tactical choices have often been questioned, as well as some players brought into the squad (or left out, as the case with promising kids from the youth academy never given the opportunity). Even so, Scolari brought us the first national title in 14 years – the seventh title in his two passages through the club – and will always be intimately linked to Palmeiras, the club’s history and its glories. Felipão has always worked hard and with Palmeiras’ best interest in mind, including having to pick fights that wasn’t his. For that, he deserves our outmost respect.

No matter how you feel about Big Phil’s exit, the focus now must be on finding a replacement. There’s one candidate worse than the other being mentioned. Without having any idea about real possibilities, personally I’d go after Jorginho (ex Palmeiras, currently at Bahia). It seem however more likely that Tirone will opt for giving Narciso, recently brought in to take care of the Palmeiras sub-20 group, an initial shot at it. Depending on how things go, Narciso mighty even stay on the job for the rest of the season.

The non-spoken goal is for Palmeiras to win the remaining seven home games and nibble one or two points in the away games, summoning enough to stay clear of relegation. Considering Wednesday’s result, what are the odds Palmeiras will run all over Corinthians on Sunday?

As hope is the last thing that abandons us, Avanti Palestra! Or, as Gabriel Santoro puts it in his tasteful homage to Scolari and his legacy at Palmeiras below: as long as there’s 1 per cent of a chance, we’ll remain standing.
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