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Archive for the ‘South America Cup’ Category

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For the second leg of the South America Cup group of 16 knockout phase Palmeiras rested important players, notably Marcos Assunção, Henrique and Maurício Ramos. Others that could have made a difference – like Maikon Leite and Wesley – are either in recovery or not enlisted in the SA Cup. Palmeiras’ line-up – Bruno; Artur, Leandro Amaro, Thiago Heleno and Juninho; Márcio Araújo, Patrik (Betinho), Tiago Real, Daniel Carvalho (Obina) and Mazinho (Luan); Barcos – struck no fear in the hearts of the Millonarios players who came on fast and strong as of the first minute at the El Campín stadium, Bogotá. Additional enemies like high altitude fatigue and odd ball curves completed the scenario as the Colombians patiently and systematically squeezed the juice out of us. 3-0 could have been 4 or 5: Bruno performed well and had a bit of luck.

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The good news is no one was injured – with the exception of a few bruised egos – and that Palmeiras from now on can focus 100 per cent on the Brasileirão rescue mission.

Speaking of egos: it’s inadmissible that hotheads like Betinho and especially Luan continue to act out their frustrations at Palmeiras’ expense. Luan wasn’t sent off solely due to a touch of grace from the excellent Victor Hugo Carillo from Peru; Betinho however made sure to conclude his short, pathetic display as to leave the referee no option but to pull out the red card. I’m wondering what would have happened had Valdivia been on the pitch.

Not wasting another thought on the SA Cup and Millonarios, the million dollar question is if Palmeiras will find willpower, tactics and technique to once again turn Porto Alegre into “Porco Alegre” as happened against Grêmio in the semi-finals of this year’s Brazil Cup. On Saturday at 16:20 (yes, a rather odd time), Internacional receive Palmeiras in the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul for the 33rd round of the Brasileirão. We’re four points behind Bahia who receive Grêmio that very same day, kick-off scheduled for 18:30. We need to see a very different Palmeiras from yesterday’s to stand a chance.

Avanti Palestra!

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With  a fever and a clogged up face – in addition to being slightly bitter about the bad results in every game this round except for Corinthians vs. Bahia – I’ll be giving you nothing but the highlights from Saturday’s Palmeiras 2-0 Cruzeiro.

Marcos Assunção is out there even with the hurting knee. Hernán Barcos sees no rest but displays splendid technique and extraordinary dedication. Actually, every single player is showing dedication and team spirit. We’re not going down. We’re four points behind Bahia with six rounds to go. We’re not going down.
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On Tuesday Palmeiras are in Bogotá to take on Millonarios in the return game of the South America Cup. The first leg ended 3-1 to Palmeiras. Let’s keep it simple.

Avanti Palestra!

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Palmeiras were a bit of a mixed bag against Millonarios from Colombia in yesterday’s first leg in the group of 16 in the South America Cup. At the Pacaembu stadium before some 7.000 spectators – actually not a bad number considering the day and time of the game and the focus Palmeiras and palmeirenses are giving to the Brazilian Championship – Palmeiras showed superiority and, as in previous games under Kleina, opened up the scorecard within 15 minutes. With Barcos serving his national squad and Assunsão a Thiago Heleno resting, we saw a starting eleven composed of Bruno; Artur, Maurício Ramos, Román and Juninho; Henrique, Correa, Márcio Araújo and Daniel Carvalho; Maikon Leite and Obina. Unfortunately, Leite twisted his ankle in the early minutes of the game and was substituted for Luan (in any case Leite will not play on Saturday against São Paulo due to suspension, but let’s hope for a speedy recovery).

The end result, 3-1, was good but not great. Palmeiras relaxed a bit too much, especially mid second half, and allowed Millonarios to apply considerable pressure. Bruno was terrific between the posts but was beaten by an unlucky own goal from Artur. However, on the whole, the team performed well. Román showed a lot of spirit, Daniel Carvalho has his best display in ages, both Luan and Valdivia (came on with 15 minutes to go in the second half) worked well offensively, stressing the opponent to commit mistakes. Kleina again showed he has a good grasp of the squad and all his substitutions aimed at turning Palmeiras more offensive. We like that.
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The return game takes place in three weeks’ time. Palmeiras can afford to lose by one goal and still qualify for the quarter-finals.

As of today, the focus is back 100 per cent on the Brasileirão and Saturday’s derby against São Paulo. The three victories under Kleina have been against relatively weaker teams; this will be the first actual test. Maximum alert in regard to the referee picked for the clash: Paulo César de Oliveira has the worst possible track record against Palmeiras and in any serious country/football federation he would have been asked to clear off a long time ago. Expect penalties against Palmeiras, expect our players seeing the red card. Expecting anything.

Avanti Palestra!

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Palmeiras played brilliantly in the first half and virtually neutralised Botafogo. Still, the cariocas took the lead due to yet another revolting error from a linesman, not calling a clear offside. Palmeiras’ reply came quickly, with Barcos serving up Patrik for the more than deserved equalizer. We went to halftime knowing that Botafogo needed three more goals to snatch the qualification from us. Things certainly seemed to be under control.

As pressure increased in the second half, Palmeiras’ tactical disposition started giving way. Botafogo’s second in the net was a beautiful goal but a bit of a fluke; the third, a result from hard work and certain lack of attention from our defenders who let the Bota player charge in right between them to get a foot on the ball. On both goals, Bruno stood without a fighting chance.

Palmeiras could have imploded right there and then. With 20 minutes to go, the pressure was monstrous. All heart, the team fought back with everything they had, including the debuting kid Luiz Gustavo who replaced Román after the veteran’s thigh had had enough. And Betinho, coming on for Obina? The often criticized striker was on fire and was, together with Barcos, the main responsible for lifting and holding the game on Botafogo’s half of the pitch whenever possible.

Palmeiras held on by the skin of their teeth. It was terrifying, it was dignifying, and it was beautiful. A spectacular game of football. Botafogo deserve respect for their effort and correct posture: it was a fair fight from beginning to end.
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The Verdão are now in the final 16 and will face either Guaraní from Paraguay or Millonarios from Colombia. Entering the international phase of the competition is important to gather experience, not least considering next year’s participation in the Libertadores Cup. However, the first leg of the next phase of the South America Cup takes place only in mid-September; Palmeiras must immediately refocus on the Brazilian Championship – we have six rounds to distance ourselves from the relegation zone.

Is it even humanly possible to reload against Santos at the Pacaembu this Saturday?

Avanti Palestra!

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Scolari continues having difficulties due to the elevated number of players in the medical department – the latest member is Daniel Carvalho who on Wednesday left the training session. Against Botafogo in yesterday’s first leg of Palmeiras’ debut in the South America Cup, our warriors in green were Bruno; Artur, Maurício Ramos, Leandro Amaro and Juninho; João Vitor, Henrique, Marcos Assunção (Márcio Araújo – 20’/2nd H) and Mazinho (Obina – 38’/1st H); Maikon Leite (Fernandinho at halftime) and Barcos. At least we got Maurício Ramos and Assunção back, but not even Scolari was to be found on his usual position: due to previous bad experiences with the two linesmen he chose to put assistant coach Murtosa in the frontline, Scolari calling the shots from the stands by radio.

As you can notice, Palmeiras came without a reference playmaker on the midfield as both Valdivia and Carvalho are injured. This was clearly felt as improvised Mazinho didn’t deliver and both he and Maikon Leite got almost nothing right in the first half. Botafogo were not dominating completely, but Palmeiras certainly weren’t on top of the situation. We went to halftime with a goalless draw, much thanks to Bruno’s inspired evening between the posts.

Second half began with Obina on Mazinho and Fernandinho on Maikon Leite, turning the game around completely. Palmeiras gradually took command of the midfield and created chance after chance. The efforts paid off twice and in similar fashion: Barcos taking down the ball on his chest, turning, choosing the angle, and netting. Two spectacular goals by the Pirate.
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Barcos’ two goals and the excellent performance put on by Bruno were the highlights of the night, together with the hilarious moment below. The basketball player in disguise deserves a medal.
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The return game will take place in three weeks’ time and Palmeiras have an important advantage, especially for not having conceded any away goals.

Now for the less positive aspect of yesterday’s clash: 3.833 paying spectators at the Barueri arena. “Less positive” is quite an understatement: utterly revolting is more like it. To your right, a picture taken by “ArqPalestrina” and posted on the Arquibancada Palestrina blog, showing the ticket box at the stadium less than 30 minutes before kick-off. Deserted.

Those responsible at Palmeiras for insisting on using the Barueri must be pressured every single moment and in every possible way to reverse this perversity and put Palmeiras back at the Pacaembu stadium. If that doesn’t help, hang’em high. This has GOT to change. Palmeiras are being clinically separated from the lion’s part of their supporters, with only the die-hard fans mustering enough energy to time and time again show up at the Barueri stadium. Enough!

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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Vasco da Gama 2-0 Palmeiras, South America Cup
On 11 August, Vasco beat Palmeiras 2-0 in the first leg of the South America Cup. Returning the score is difficult but of course doable, especially considering that Palmeiras did create more chances than Vasco but were unable to convert. The second leg will be played 25 August. Highlights below.

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Vasco da Gama 1-0 Palmeiras, Brazilian Championship
Frustration. Total frustration. Palmeiras inability to convert reached unknown heights on the 14 August while Vasco were successful in one of the two opportunities created. Highlights below.

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Focusing on the positive in this more than sensitive moment: Palmeiras did create heaps of chances to score in the second game against Vasco but, again, did not. Sooner or later, this scenario must change. Even with the team not winning any of the last four games and not having scored once in the last three, I sincerely and honestly believe in the ketchup effect. And it’d better happen in the game against Bahia, tomorrow Wednesday. A convincing win could make all the difference in the following crucial suit of games against São Paulo (Brasileirão), Vasco (South America Cup, second leg) and Corinthians (Brasileirão), allowing Palmeiras to stay in the fight for the top positions in the national championship while keeping the dream alive in the continental tournament. The nightmare scenario would be the opposite, with the Verdão out of the SA Cup and plummeting down the Brasileirão ladder on the week of the club’s 97th birthday.

More than ever: AVANTI PALESTRA!

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ps. And yes, my wife is walking around with a rather pleased grin on her face. Luckily, here in Oslo I’m far from my father in law’s dito.

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Not all bad news travel fast. And ignorance is bliss. I for one would certainly not have enjoyed Jaipur and Jodhpur half as much had I known about the disastrous result against Goiás. I was even able to dismiss a funny and worrying feeling, although it kept growing stronger for each hour passing.

By the end of the second day, an internet connection became available. All the alarms went off at the sight of Goiás striker Rafael “He-Man” Moura’s picture in a prominent place on the G1 sports section; one glance further down – “worst day of my career, says Big Phil” – was more than enough: I firmly shut the lid on my netbook and on this whole damned decade of lost opportunities for Palmeiras.

It’s day three, and I‘ve recently arrived in Udaipur – nicknamed “the Venice of the East” and by many considered the most romantic city in India. Together with my wife, I intend to experience this to the fullest. There’s plenty of time to think about Palmeiras later. Namaste.

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