The title of the Libertadores Cup gave Palmeiras the opportunity to fight against the best team of each continent for the title of the FIFA Club World Cup. Having being champion only a week ago, Palmeiras were the last contender to be defined and traveled to Qatar on Tuesday, after playing against Botafogo for the Brazilian League. It sure has been a busy week for our players. And there’s no end in sight.
As always under the current format, the champions of South America and Europe enter the competition in the semifinals. Palmeiras’ opponent would emerge from the clash between Tigres, Mexican team winners of the CONCACAF Champions League, and Ulsan Hyundai, South Korean team winners of the AFC Champions League. On the other side of the fixture, Bayern awaited the decision between Al Ahly, Egyptian team winners of the CAF Champions League and Al Duhail, winner of the national league of hosting country Qatar. Al Duhail were to play Auckland, nominated by the OFC to represent Oceania, but the team withdrew from the competition due to COVID-19 quarantine measures required by authorities in New Zealand.
Tigres, Palmeiras’ opponent in the semifinal, aspire to become the first Mexican team to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. In their opening game against Ulsan Hyundai, they managed to turn the table after the South Korean team having opened the scorecard in the 24th minute, both goals scored by excellent French center forward Gignac, the star of the team Tigres are coached by Tuca Ferretti, a Brazilian with an impressive footprint in Mexican football.
In the case of Palmeiras’ advancing to the final, the opponent is vert likely to be the European Champions Bayern Munich. The Germans traveled to Qatar with the full squad but Goretzka and Javi Martínez, diagnosed with COVID. Featuring the best player of the world in 2020, Robert Lewandowski, Bayern are the huge favorites. The last time an European team didn’t win the tournament was in 2012.
One last chance
After playing – and winning – the first ever Club World Cup in 1951, and after playing – and losing – the late Intercontinental Cup against Manchester United in 1999, Palmeiras’ best shot of conquering the world again is now. Because times they are a changing.
This year’s edition will be the last one played annualy under the current format. FIFA plans to organize the tournament from four-to-four years, featuring more teams, with a format similar to the World Cup played by National Teams. Therefore, with more European clubs and the ever growing inequality existing in the world of football, any future Club World Cup title will be an even more remote dream for any South American club.
Playing at home
Although very far from Brazil and probably without significant amounts of supporters in the stadium due to severe quarantine measures enforced by Qatar, Palmeiras will feel at home: the Education City Stadium, stage of the semifinal against Tigres and of a potential final, features stands in green and white, very much resembling the Allianz Parque.
Palmeiras arrived in Qatar on Wednesday. Players and every person in the delegation have been tested for COVID and all have been cleared. After some photo ops and a short hotel quarantine, Abel Ferreira was able to conduct three days of training before the game against Tigres. Palmeiras is by far the team with most games played in the last few months, but at least has enjoyed a few more days of rest than Bayern.
Palmeiras brought 28 players in Qatar, although only 23 were to be registered in the tournament. The final list reads: Weverton, Jailson and Vinicius Silvestre; Esteves, Marcos Rocha, Mayke and Matías Viña; Gustavo Gómez, Luan, Alan Empereur, Emerson Santos and Kuscevic; Danilo, Patrick de Paula, Felipe Melo, Gabriel Menino and Zé Rafael; Raphael Veiga, Gustavo Scarpa and Lucas Lima; Luiz Adriano, Rony and Willian.
Ofds are certainly weighing heavily in Bayern’s favour, but Abel and our players have transformed a year that almost every palmeirense had already given up on into one the most successful of our history. The quest for a second Club World Cup title initiates Sunday 15th, at 3pm (Brazilian Time), against Tigres. Although very distant, our hearts and hopes will be inside the stadium at Qatar where Palmeiras will be making history. Again!
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi & Kristian Bengtson
*Here at Anything Palmeiras, we love football. We love Palmeiras. We are always keen to see Palmeiras play, and keen to write about it for you. But we’re against the return of football in a country that still hasn’t controlled the coronavirus pandemic. We express our deepest sympathy to the families whose loved ones have been taken by the disease.