As it had to be.
Palmeiras are so much larger than the sum of the parts, but that seemed long forgotten as Santos were declared virtual champions of the 2015 Brazil Cup by a united press corps. In the ESPN Brasil TV studio, Palmeiras centre-back Vítor Hugo was greeted with a mocking “welcome, runner-up”. A “Santos Campeão” poster was available for purchase in the newsstands the day before the game.
In the end, all this only meant more fuel on the fire, on the desire to crown a difficult year with a national title and the outlook of continental play in 2016.
Those who were at the Allianz Parque and surroundings yesterday, all say the same: never in my life have I seen anything like this. The supporters occupied the entire neighbourhood, greeting players upon arrival in a splendid “Green Corridor” of flares, flags and cheers (pictures below by Ivan Fadel). A sold-out Allianz Parque lifted and carried our men on the pitch from the first to the last minute of the clash.
Palmeiras’ players all stepped it up. As could be expected from more experienced profiles like Fernando Prass, Lucas Barrios, Dudu, Robinho, Arouca, Vítor Hugo, Zé Roberto, Jackson. But even more impressive was the determination and maturity from the young guns: Gabriel Jesus and João Pedro, but especially Matheus Sales and Lucas Taylor ripped Santos apart. Hats off to coach Marcelo Oliveira, making the right call and trusting the kids to handle the pressure.
Supporters did their part, coach Oliveira and players did their part, as did referee Heber Roberto Lopes and his men, putting up a flawless performance. It did not take more. It did not take less.
This was Marcelo Oliveira’s fourth attempt at the Brazil Cup title in five years: he was runner-up twice with Coritiba then once with Cruzeiro. On a personal level, he needed this trophy, and deserved it.
The Copa do Brasil title, Palmeiras’ third, brings peace to everyone while preparing the squad for next season. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, neither the outlook of participation in the 2016 edition of the Libertadores Cup. Players have something new to look forward to, increased investments are expected, everything looks brighter.
More than anything, 15 million palmeirenses deserved this out-of-this-world ending to a rollercoaster year.
It is ever so true: Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!