Odds were not in Palmeiras’ favour, Santos parading a streak of 25 undefeated games at the Vila Belmiro. In the Paulistão, Santos were undefeated at home since 2011. Add to that a semi-final to be played before home supporters only.
Without Dudu and Allione, Cuca opted for young gun Roger Guedes and Robinho, with Matheus Sales and Gabriel providing cover. Sales did not have the best of afternoons and was directly involved in the two situations that lead up to Santos’ maintaining a seemingly comfortable lead with less than minutes to the final whistle. Rafael Marques, who had come on at 15 minutes of the second half and succeeded with nothing he tried, levelled the scorecard in less than two minutes, taking the decision to penalties. Unfortunately, Prass “only” grabbed one this time, while Rafael and Lucas Barrios missed theirs, seeing Santos through to the finals against Audax.
Heads held high. Palmeiras continue to pay the price for the recent but necessary swapping of coaches, but not light-heartedly, fighting fate to the bitter end. Cuca now has three full weeks to evaluate the squad, trim it (the current 39 athletes should come down to 33-34) and negotiate a few reinforcements. A fullback and a right-back seem like priorities, and perhaps a playmaker: Cleiton Xavier’s recent comeback is promising but not even God knows if his long spell at the medical department has actually ended.
So, who might be leaving us? Likely candidates are fullbacks Nathan and Leandro Almeida, midfielders Fellype Gabriel and Régis, and forward Luan. Also Thiago Santos should be added to the list: oddly enough, one of last season’s most regular defensive midfielders doesn’t seem to please Cuca.
Already gone are right-winger Lucas Taylor and forward Gabriel Leite – both on loan to Criciúma until the end of the year as part of the deal to bring Roger Guedes. A total of five players might be involved in the swap, including abovementioned Nathan and Leandro Almeida. Taylor is a promising player from Palmeiras’ youth division, 21 years old, and should return more experienced to Palmeiras next year. Also Gabriel is 21, played for Paraná in 2016 and is a promising attacking midfielder. Both players have contracts with Palmeiras until 2019.
Five players for Roger Guedes? That’s right. The 19-year-old, who arrived earlier this month from Criciúma, is not your average player, which was reinforced as he entered Palmeiras’ starting eleven already within weeks (true, in the absence of Dudu and Allione). The forward normally works the right side of the field, taking advantage of his speed and stature to quickly close in on the target or serve his companions. A very interesting signing, Guedes is.
Before signing off for tonight: youth division goalkeeper Daniel Fuzato has extended his contract with Palmeiras until end of 2018. At Palmeiras since 12 years of age, the athlete is currently living his best moment, integrating the Brazilian U20 National team since February. Fuzato turns 19 in July.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!