The dream remained alive up until the dying minutes of the second half of extra time, when an unlucky, completely unintentional handball decided the game in favor of one of the richest teams in the world, moving Palmeiras away from their second Club World Cup title.
Palmeiras resisted very well during regular time. The best opportunities in the first half were in fact ours. Dudu missed a good chance after receiving the ball from Zé Rafael and later into the game, in a fast-paced counter-attack, the midfielder failed to conclude a pass that would have left Rony face-to-face with the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Palmeiras didn’t return in good shape for the second half and Chelsea were given more space. In the 54th minute, Hudson-Odoi crossed the ball and a powerful header from Lukaku opened the score. Our defense was perhaps not completely on its toes there, and against world-class players, punishment is a given.
The opener could have sealed the fate of the final, but our men reacted quickly: in the 62nd minute, Marcos Rocha made a long throw into the box and Thiago Silva put his hand on the ball. The VAR called the referee to award the penalty and Raphael Veiga did what he does best: put it into the back of the net. The 16th consecutive penalty that he converts.
After drawing, Palmeiras were able to control the action for the first time in the game and exercised that control until the end of regular time, but without being able to create good scoring opportunities against one of the best defenses in the world. The game went to extra time.
During the 30 minutes of extra time, the financial abysm between the teams became ever so more evident. Dudu, Rony and Raphael Veiga had to be taken off and their substitutes did not maintain the same level. Palmeiras backed down, trying to resist the pressure and wait for that one oportunity. Or go to penalties, where the technical difference might not be so large.
The resistance lasted until the 115th minute. After a corner kick, the ball remained alive in the box and Azpilicueta fired a shot that hit the hand of Luan, who was turning his back to the man in blue. VAR once more stepped into action. Havertz executed perfectly and that was that. Chelsea champions of the world.
Following a dramatic defeat, it is natural to try to find culprits. And there is an obvious one: money. What Chelsea payed to sign Lukaku corresponds to all of Palmeiras’ earnings in 2021. It takes a miracle to overcome such a huge difference. Palmeiras nearly did.
Losing the title is hard, but there isn’t a single palmeirense not proud of what our squad did. Moreover, the supporters that went to Abu Dhabi painted the city green for almost two weeks, turning everything into an incredibly beautiful party. This team has made history and we are confident many more chapters will be added to this extraordinary story that has Abel Ferreira as the leading character.
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.