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Archive for the ‘Libertadores Cup’ Category

Having “många järn i elden” is a Swedish expression for doing several things at the same time, stemming from how blacksmiths in ancient times carried out their work. Palmeiras are currently administrating three rods: Libertadores Cup, Brazil Cup and the Brazilian Championship.

Yesterday, Palmeiras concluded the Libertadores group phase beating Atlético Tucumán 3-1 to finish top in group 5, with 13 points. Among the 16 advancing to the knockout stage, Palmeiras are likely ending up in 5-7 place overall, a rather modest +4 goal difference being the determining factor.

Again, the transformation in team performance due to Cuca’s return was evident: Palmeiras came out smoking and opened up the scorecard at the 15 minutes mark through a splendid set piece identical to one successfully executed against Coritiba last year. Perfection through practice, as Mina pushed the ball into the back of the net after Dudu, Zé Roberto and Roger Guedes had played their parts in the sting.
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Shortly after halftime, Atlético equalised. Cuca sensed he had partially lost the midfield and made some swift changes, promoting Fabiano on the right so that Jean could take up a centralised position, and swapping Borja for Willian. The changes quickly yielded and Palmeiras controlled the action, with Willian and Zé Roberto decreeing the final score. At 42 years and 10 months, Zé Roberto is the oldest ever to score in a Libertadores Cup game and the second oldest player in the tournament’s history (number one is Peruvian Vicente Villanueva, forward for Sporting Cristal in the 60ies, 43 years and 10 months old at the time).
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Brazil Argentina Soccer Copa Libertadores.
Cuca now has 41 days to prepare for the knockout stage, time he will need: Palmeiras must become more consistent in order to survive the stiffer competition.

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Last week, on the Saturday, Palmeiras followed up their excellent 4-0 Brasileirão debut against Vasco with a 1-0 defeat away to Chapecoense. The game was poor in every aspect, Cuca opting for an highly alternative line-up, already eying yesterday’s decisive Libertadores bout. Under ordinary circumstances, a win or at least a draw would be acceptable. Actually, these are ordinary circumstances. But OK, the tournament has just started and so has Cuca. Let us hope these three points will make no difference in December. Next up, this Saturday, are SPFC away.

— ooo —

Finally, the Brazil Cup. In the group of 16, Palmeiras played the first leg against Internacional of Porto Alegre, winning at home by the odd own goal signed Léo Ortiz. That being said, Palmeiras did play well and controlled the action most of the time. The result leaves Palmeiras with a good advantage, as a draw will suffice upcoming Wednesday. Moreover, should Palmeiras score at the Beira Rio, Inter must bag trice.

Two teams are already ready for the quarter-finals: Santos and Flamengo, having eliminated Paysandu and Atlético Goianense respectively.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee has made public its ruling on the scandalous events following the Peñarol vs Palmeiras Libertadores Cup game. As previously reported, Felipe Melo received a six-game ban, while three Peñarol players received five games each. In addition, Peñarol must play their last home game before an empty stadium: a slap with a silk glove, as the Uruguayans are already eliminated from the tournament. Palmeiras on the other hand was sentenced to three away games without supporters, meaning that only in the case of advancing to the finals, palmeirenses will be present.

Palmeiras promptly issued a formal statement, which you find below, in a free translation.

“In view of the disclosure of Conmebol’s ruling on the incidents related to the match against Peñarol, the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras hereby announce that:

1 – The feeling is one of total indignation and revolt for the lack of criteria in Conmebol´s application of penalties for the two clubs and their athletes.

2 – It is on the verge of mockery that Peñarol, the club responsible for the safety of the match and the one who did not fulfill its function, receives a penalty lower than that of Palmeiras. Palmeiras, both team and supporters, being the victim of an evident ambush, in addition to other crimes. It is worth remembering that, in spite of the tense atmosphere during the first leg against Peñarol, safety at the Allianz Parque was guaranteed by nearly 600 professionals, able to avoid any kind of incident. This contrasts to the tiny and unprepared group of 60 private security guards hired by the Uruguayan club for the second leg.

3 – The Conmebol Disciplinary Committee has short-sightedly preferred to base its evaluation on the consequences and not on the causes of events.

4 – Palmeiras reiterates what the club has sustained from the first moment, at the stadium in Montevideo: the club and its players were victims and not causers of the incidents after the game. We proved to Conmebol, through a vast selection of videos, photos and testimonies, what really happened in that game. By the outcome of the ruling, it seems technical criteria were not taken into account, which is completely inadmissible and inconsistent. It is unacceptable that a Palmeiras athlete be punished for defending himself against a clear attempt of aggression and that supporters – clearly cornered, attacked and the target of racist manifestations – are now prevented from following the team through the competition.

5 – Palmeiras’ Legal Department is preparing an appeal, contesting the penalties applied to player Felipe Melo and the club. The appeal will be brought before the Conmebol in the coming week.

6 – The Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras will seek justice. The club does not accept any other position of Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee but a revision of its decision and a ruling solely based on technical criteria.”

Needless to say, supporters are wholeheartedly behind the club on this one. Many hold the opinion Palmeiras must withdraw from the tournament should Conmebol maintain its ruling.

For Palmeiras’ upcoming last game in the group stage on Wednesday, at home against Atlético Tucumán, a silent protest against Conmebol is planned. During the National Hymn, supporters on the stands will raise their arms towards the sky in the same manner Felipe Melo did after the final whistle against Peñarol. In the same manner he does after almost every game. In the same manner now labelled “a provocative gesture” by the referees and Conmebol, a gesture they argue sparked the violence.

Anything Palmeiras strongly urge everyone to adhere to the protest on Wednesday.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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vitor-hugo-palmeirasPalmeiras supporters are likely to have seen the last of Vitor Hugo. Coach Cuca today confirmed the centre-defender is heading for Fiorentina, in return for € 8 million. Out of these, € 4.5 million go to Palmeiras, who in turn will pass on € 1.75 million to Crefisa – the amount corresponds to what the sponsor paid for the athlete in 2015. Thus, Palmeiras’ net revenue are € 2.75 million. The remaining € 3.5 million belong to Tombense, the other holder of the player’s economic rights.

The European transfer windows only opens in June, but Vitor Hugo is likely to be released from his obligations as of now. For Palmeiras, he played a total of 131 games, scoring 13 goals. Anything Palmeiras wishes the humble, charismatic, talented and hard-working 25-year-old the best of luck on his new endeavour. Avanti, Vitor Hugo!

As an immediate response to Vitor Hugo’s exit, Palmeiras are set to sign Juninho, a left-footed 22-year-old currently at Coritiba. The youngster is expected in São Paulo tomorrow Saturday to undergo medical and sign the contract, price tag locked at € 3 million. I have a good feeling about this one.

Speaking of Coritiba: the club from Paraná yesterday confirmed the signing of Alecsandro, beating Bahia for the contract. Palmeiras will continue to pay the forward’s salaries throughout the year in an arrangement reached to settle an unresolved balance linked to Raphael Veiga’s transfer to Palmeiras earlier this year. The experience 36-year-old leaves through the front door after 62 games for the Verdão.

Another forward expected to leave any day is Rafael Marques: seasoned, still hungry, but with oh so little space in Palmeiras’ numerous squad. Cruzeiro is a possible destination, with a player from “the Fox” likely to be involved in a swap.

Finally, a piece of news we nourished hopes not having to declare, but was confirmed tonight: the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) sentenced Felipe Melo to six games of suspension for throwing a punch while chased by numerous Peñarol players after the final whistle in Montevideo late April (recap here and here). The original three Uruguayan aggressors received five games each. The Peñarol player caught on tape knocking Willian down seconds before the final whistle goes unpunished. It is a disgrace, it is a scandal, it is CONMEBOL in a nutshell. Palmeiras have already challenged the sentence, seeking it reduced to the minimum three games of suspension. Good luck with that.

In weeks, CONMEBOL will also rule on the responsibility of each team for what happened in Uruguay. Nothing good can come out of this. At Anything Palmeiras, we stand our ground: should CONMEBOL slap a significant punishment on Palmeiras for being ambushed at the Campeón del Siglo, Palmeiras should walk out on the tournament altogether.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The additional wide-angle video footage that have surfaced in the last couple of days shows that Palmeiras were the victim of an outright assault at the Campeón del Siglo stadium, Montevideo. It all starts seconds before the final whistle, Willian going down after receiving a punch to the face, from behind, inside the penalty box. At the final whistle, Felipe Melo raises his arms towards the sky in his characteristic “thank-you” prass_attackedgesture, while several Peñarol players approach him, starts tugging (Melo still with his arms raised, defensively) then initiate a chase. Meanwhile, keeper Fernando Prass (pictured) tries to defend himself from a series of kicks and punches from three Peñarol players. As the debacle unfolds, now generalised, we see invading Peñarol supporters participating and, I kid you not, Uruguayan press (there is video footage of a photographer hitting Felipe Melo with what seems to be his tripod).

Yesterday morning, Palmeiras lawyer Leonardo Holanda personally handed in documents and video evidence at the Conmebol headquarters in Asunción, Paraguay. Piece of cake, right. Think again.

Awaiting trial, Conmebol has preventively suspended four players for three games: Palmeiras’ Felipe Melo and Peñarol players Nández, Mier and Lucas Hernandez. For starters, none of these was responsible for knocking out Willian.

Worse, the official reports from the referee and the Conmebol delegate state that the ruckus started when Felipe Melo, facing the Peñarol bench, made a gesture towards the sky, provoking a reaction from Peñarol players before mutual punches were thrown. The reports imply that “had it not been for Melo…”

On the day, Peñarol’s president stated he had ordered the gates closed out of concern for security (for whom? certainly not for Palmeiras players and staff left isolated on the pitch to face the rage of the crowds). The other day, Conmebol claimed THEY ordered the gates closed.

The signals are extremely worrying. Seems Conmebol will spare little effort to, at least partially, blame Palmeiras for the events in Montevideo. Absurd? Yes, but not that surprising, considering the entity’s stance on previous occasions involving Brazilian clubs and any other Spanish-speaking neighbours.

Considering the above, it is even sadder to register the deafening silence from the Brazilian Football Confederation. Add to that the silence from other Brazilian clubs and the overall lack of support from Brazilian sports journalists.

Seldom has it come through more clearly: we are on our own.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Act 1 – The Game
Freshly eliminated from the Paulistão and with coach Eduardo Baptista under pressure, Palmeiras travelled to Montevideo without Dudu, suspended, to face Peñarol. The away game promised to be every bit as tough as the home game in mid-April, the Uruguayans having already shown their nastier side. However, not their nastiest.

Baptista tried to surprise Peñarol by using the same formation as against Ponte Preta the other week: a 3-5-2, this time with Vítor Hugo operating to the left, Dracena centred and Mina to the right. Promoting Vítor Hugo back into the line-up, Baptista hoped to add both speed and superior aerial cover, both offensively but in particular defensively. He rested Tchê Tchê, populating the midfield with Felipe Melo, Guerra, and Michel Bastos. Jean and Egídio on the flanks, Roger Guedes and Borja up front.

Baptista’s battleplan failed miserably. Although the 3-5-2 turned into a 5-4-1 when pressured, Palmeiras were still unable to stop the crosses from happening, several of them reaching Peñarol’s hovering forwards. When recovering the ball, Palmeiras’ transition was typically a punt up the field, where Borja, completely isolated, faced two or three defenders. Palmeiras created nothing but suffered great pressure, succumbing at 12 (goal should have been void due to a clear foul on Mina) and again at 40. Things looked very grim at halftime.

The second half kicked off with Palmeiras back to basics: Vítor Hugo and Egídio out as Palmeiras reshaped into a 4-1-3-2, with Willian as Borja’s wingman and Tchê Tchê adding quality in the middle. The only novelty was Michel Bastos, dislocated to the left flank. The changes had immediate effect, Willian closing the gap with four minutes on the clock and Mina equalising at 18. Peñarol were on the ropes and suffered the third blow at 27, again by the feet of Willian. Palmeiras controlled the game until the final whistle, securing another epic victory.
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Act 2 – The Ambush
Final whistle. Felipe Melo raises his arms in a victorious gesture and walks slowly toward the centre of the pitch, but is intercepted by Peñarol players and the aggression starts, while supporters clash on the stands. Fernando Prass, Willian and others are targeted on the pitch, as havoc spreads all over. Melo defending himself with his fists. As Palmeiras players run for the exit – for the tunnel that leads to the locker rooms – they find the gates shut. Impossible to know what would have happened had not Palmeiras’ directors predicted something of the sort could go down and brought a batch of extra security with them to Montevideo: these men now go to work on the gates, forcing them open, finally permitting our staff and players to exit the pitch. The ruckus continues in the tunnel and down the corridors, but eventually stalls, again thanks to Palmeiras’ guards. No police in sight, outsourced stadium security or anyone else concerned with the safety of the visitors. On the contrary: there are reports of stadium management people, photographers and others attacking Palmeiras players and supporters.

Anything except heavy fines for Peñarol would be a tremendous scandal; CONMEBOL had better act fast and with vigour.
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Act 3 – Relief & Revolt
During the press conference that followed, Eduardo Baptista let the dogs out. He showed initial relief by the fact that no one was seriously injured, mixed with anger at the outrageous behaviour of Peñarol and the stadium administrators. However, an underlying issue quickly surfaced: all the bull written in the press about Palmeiras in general and Baptista’s work in particular. He really laid it out, pitched voice and fist slamming the table. All the frustration of being a serious and dedicated coach, leading a group of equally dedicated professionals, and having to read gossip and outright lies day in and day out, as if football was tabloid material. How much this hurts the sport and how much it damages the work he and others try to carry out. His bottom line: journalists have a huge responsibility, but many ignore that in their increasingly obsessive quest for audience rating and online clicks.

In the words of former Palmeiras director Custódio Dias: “I’d say we just witnessed Eduardo Baptista take command at Palmeiras”. And I agree with him. Things will never be the same between supporters and Baptista after yesterday’s victory and the way he later positioned himself vis-à-vis the press. Many might continue sceptical about his capacity as a coach, but he won the respect of everyone. Yes, I dare say everyone.
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— ooo —

Palmeiras now have 10 points, leading Group 5 four points ahead of Jorge Wilstermann and six points ahead of Atlético Tucumán. Peñarol is at the bottom with three points. In the next round, Palmeiras travel to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to face Wilstermann on 3 May.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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We all knew facing Peñarol would be tough, both physically and mentally. We were possibly not prepared for the scale. The Uruguayan players did absolutely everything in the book to sabotage the game – excessive use of force, retarding by all means possible, provocations including racial slurs. The Peñarol coach even deliberately provided the fourth referee with wrong numbers while conducting his substitutions, causing further delays.

To the mix, add a referee that was lost at best. He allowing for most of the above, delayed the game flow himself, and responded to our player’s growing frustration by sending Dudu off.

None of this mattered in the end. In a spectacular display of collective and individual determination, Palmeiras – down by the odd goal after the first half – came back in spectacular fashion to turn the game around with goals from Willian and Dudu, then suffer the equalizer before, in the dying minute, secure the three points through Fabiano. An epic, unforgettable night. I am literally speechless, and no doubt share this with most of the other 39.000 supporters who yesterday carried the team from start to finish.

A special mentioning to Guerra, yesterday’s master of the midfield, with an incredible number of passes finding his teammates in position to fire away. Palmeiras could and should have netted at least three more times, including a penalty that Borja sent up the stands.
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The sequence of decisive games continues Sunday, with the first leg of the Paulistão semi-finals: Ponte Preta, who eliminated Santos in the quarterfinals, are on the menu.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Ah yes, should say something about the pitch. Apparently, it was really good. Let’s see how it holds up in the weeks to come and, in particular, after having been covered up during a concert or two. For now, a rare “well done” to the arena administration.

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Palmeiras will have a series of important and decisive games in the São Paulo championship and Libertadores Cup, starting on Sunday (2), away against Novorizontino, for the first leg of the Paulistão quarterfinals. The three other clashes are Botafogo/SP vs Corinthians, Linense vs São Paulo and Ponte Preta vs Santos.

Next Friday (7), the Verdão receive Novorizontino to define who advances to the semi-final phase of the Paulistão. The game will be played at the Pacaembu stadium, as the Allianz Parque is receiving new grass.

On the following Wednesday (12), back at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras receive Peñarol (URU), for the third round of the Libertadores group stage. Palmeiras currently head group 5 at four points, having drawn 1-1 with Atlético Tucumán in the opening away game before beating Jorge Wilstermann 1-0 at home.

Palmeiras advancing to the semi-finals in the São Paulo championship (anything else would be a disaster) the games will take place on April 16 and 23. Then, on the 26th, refocus on Libertadores as Palmeiras travel to Montevideo to again play Peñarol.

Should Palmeiras advance to the finals in the Paulistão, the first leg is played on 30 April.

A busy month, every game a decisive one.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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