Palmeiras’ recent games serve as the ideal backdrop for a discussion regarding results vs perception of evolution. Clearly, in terms of points won, Palmeiras are not where expected: the initial victory against Vasco was followed by two away defeats – against Chapecoense and SPFC – and yesterday’s goalless draw against Atlético. Four points in four games, 12th place in the tables, six points behind leaders Chapecoense.

Add last week’s defeat against Internacional, that nevertheless qualified Palmeiras to the Brazil Cup quarterfinals, and it would be safe to assume Cuca is lost, right? Wrong. The squad and Cuca seem confident it is just a matter of time for pieces to fall into place, and there are indeed indicators of progress. Both against São Paulo and yesterday against Atlético, Palmeiras exercised control. What is lacking is more verticality, more objectivity, and more finalising power. All these components are improving slightly, game by game. Cuca is not afraid to try out the pieces at his disposal, including the newcomers Juninho and Mayke, the latter doing a good job at the right flank. Keno is another one eager to grab a spot in the starting eleven, yesterday’s performance strengthening his shares.

In particular three key players are underperforming: Tchê Tchê, Dudu and Jean. All these are crucial for a good transition between defence and offense, which partially explains why few balls reach Borja, the forward struggling to regain the confidence so important for a striker. With a bit more overall mesh, and the aforementioned four players snapping back to the levels of performance we are used to, Palmeiras will turn lethal. Not least if starting to convert penalty shots…

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

By the narrowest margin, Palmeiras went through to the quarterfinals of the Brazil Cup, Thiago Santos scoring the crucial away goal toward the end of the second half, silencing the Beira Rio stadium. Internacional now have six months of second-division play to look forward to.

Palmeiras did not impress in Porto Alegre, although it must be mentioned that Guedes’ goal was incorrectly ruled as offside and that the referee should have rewarded Palmeiras at least one of the two penalties suffered. Nevertheless, what matters is advancing, Cuca now having some time on his hands – albeit in the middle of the ongoing Brasileirão – to tweak tactics further.

Palmeirenses now eagerly await the result of two draws: on 14 June, the Libertadores draw for how the remaining 16 will battle it out, and upcoming Monday’s definition of the Brazil Cup quarterfinal match-up. The eight teams still in the Brazil Cup are Palmeiras, Atlético Mineiro, Atlético Parananense, Botafogo, Cruzeiro, Grêmio, Flamengo and Santos. All of these are also alive in the Libertadores, except for Flamengo and Cruzeiro.

On Sunday, Palmeiras receive Atlético Mineiro at the Allianz Parque for the fourth round of the Brazilian championship. So far, Palmeiras have three point, having beaten Vasco in the opening game. Naturally, a victory on Sunday would be important to break the negative trend and avoid a too large a gap to the head of the table.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

A curious game, that was. Looking at the highlights, you will not grasp how very much in control Palmeiras seemed to be. Patiently constructing, advancing, retreating when necessary, alternating from flank to flank, rarely giving up possession. If something is to be criticised, it was the lack of verticality and the few efforts on goal, in particular medium/long distant shots; no minor issue though, as Palmeiras came without a man of reference in the penalty area, Cuca resting Borja and instead promoting Willian. He also centralised Jean, allowing for the debut of Mayke – just arrived from Cruzeiro as a loan until end of 2018 – on the right flank.

The “seemingly in control” aspect makes defeat much harder to swallow. Many supporters would claim our players were arrogant, that they believed they could win at the turn of a key. Others identified a lack of will or even laziness in the squad.

Although there might have been a bit of hubris involved, I believe the outcome was primarily a result of individual failures: Fernando Prass let two very defendable balls slip through, and Jean blew a penalty shot. SPFC were more vertical, more objective, and also lucky. When SPFC opened up the scorecard with 15 minutes on the clock in the second half, Cuca and Palmeiras quickly responded and things would have been very different had Jean converted. Instead, the bucket of cold water took the edge of Palmeiras’ aggressiveness.

This year’s Brazilian championship is likely to be a level affair. After three rounds, no team is 100%. Moreover, if we look at the ones still in the Libertadores Cup, four out of six are found in the bottom half of the Brasileirão tables.

With Internacional awaiting on Wednesday, there is no time for anything but hard work and focus. A draw at the Beira Rio, and Palmeiras are through to the quarterfinals in the Brazil Cup. Our opponent sacked their coach last weekend, putting an even stronger spin of unpredictability on the whole thing.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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.

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).
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.

— ooo —

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!

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!

Shoulder to shoulder, back to back. That’s how Palmeiras’ troop of security paved its way through the crowds to brake the hinges of the locked gate hindering our players to exit the feverishly hostile Campeón del Siglo stadium after the game against Peñarol. 

Their decisive action possibly saved lives. In recognition of their crucial intervention, Palmeiras president Mauricio Galiotte last Sunday, during the halftime break against Vasco, pinned a medal to the chest of each of the 20.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Sure, Vasco struggled in 2016 to secure promotion back into the first division. And sure, Vasco have not made any significant signings for the 2017 season.

Nevertheless, Vasco have played several major teams this year and never been beaten this thoroughly. Moreover, Cuca had only five (5) days to get the team ready.

What impresses the most is the almost full reversal to Palmeiras anno 2016 that Cuca was able to implement in the short amount of time available. Clearly, the defence needs tweaking, Vasco in the first half wasting several excellent opportunities to drive it home, but otherwise, Palmeiras were fast and furious, the characteristic initial blitz altering the scoreboard within four minutes through a penalty converted by Jean. Halfway through the first half, Vasco had levelled the action and only Prass kept Palmeiras in the lead. Cuca realised he had lost the midfield and instructed Tchê Tchê and Jean to swap positions, which immediately reversed the overall performance, again placing Palmeiras in the driver’s seat. Shortly before halftime, Guerra increased the lead.

Any hope Vasco nourished died within one minute of the second half, Borja making it 3-0 through a diving header peixinho-style. What followed was a walk in the park, Palmeiras blowing several opportunities before closing the scorecard with another penalty converted, this time by Borja. Both penalties bore Dudu’s signature, the “little giant” on fire. Also Tchê Tchê, Borja and Jean showed a lot more than in recent games under Eduardo Batista. It is undeniable: Cuca has this squad in a firm grip and should be able to extract truly great things given a month or two.

Impossible ask for a better debut in the Brasileirão. However, there is a natural barrier to progress, which is time. Or, rather, the lack thereof. Going into a period with two games a week, space available for training is limited. Already this Wednesday, Palmeiras receive Internacional for the first leg of the knockout phase in the Brazil Cup group of 16. A few minutes of inattention and Palmeiras can say goodbye to the tournament, just as recently against Ponte Preta in the first leg of the Paulistão semi-finals.

Not that Cuca would allow that.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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