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Unfortunately, this match review is less about football and more about external interference that decided the final of Brazil’s most prestigious state championship.
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A giant mosaic covered the whole stadium (photo credits: Augusto Oazi)

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Backed by 41.227 supporters (new Allianz Parque attendance record), Palmeiras allowed Corinthians a start they wouldn’t even dream of: a goal to equalize the aggregated scorecard already in the first minute. Matheus Vital slipped through Marcos Rocha and Antônio Carlos to pass the ball behind to Rodriguinho; the shot would have been easily saved by Jailson had it not deflected off Victor Luiz.

After the early goal, the game evolved as expected, Palmeiras exercising superior ball possession but at large being blocked by Corinthians’ defensive line. The team in black and white basically parked the bus, waiting for that opportunity to counter-attack.

Palmeiras did not create that many opportunities during the game, but in the 26th minute of the second half, Dudu received a heavy challenge from Ralf inside the box and went down, well-positioned referee Marcelo Aparecido de Souza without hesitation awarding the penalty. Dudu took the ball and placed it on the 9-meter mark, but as the referee continued aggressively surrounded by Corinthians players, play did not resume. This went on for almost two minutes, de Souza fencing off Corinthians players and handing out a yellow card. Enough time for the fifth referee, who had been positioned at the other side of the pitch completely, jog over to the fourth referee, say something, and the fourth referee approach de Souza with what could only have been fresh info based on camera reviews: Ralf might have touched the ball before clipping Dudu, there might be room for interpretation, there might not have been a penalty. The referee looked ready to change his mind, now with all Palmeiras players ventilating their frustration. In vain, we learnt. The confusion lasted for a total of eight minutes, no penalty awarded, the external influence crucially changing the game’s outcome. Need I mention de Souza’s refereeing career was hanging on a thread there?

In the remaining 20 or so minutes, Palmeiras tried their best, coming close with a free kick just wide from Marcos Rocha and a header from Thiago Santos. Also Corinthians had an opportunity with Sidcley, driving the ball not far from Jailson’s left post.

In the penalty shootout that followed, our players were clearly frustrated, and more nervous than Corinthians’. Cássio saved the shots from Dudu and Lucas Lima, our first and third kickers respectively. Victor Luiz, Marcos Rocha and Moisés scored for Palmeiras. Corinthians missed only one penalty, the fourth, Fagner sending the ball to the stands. Below, a first video with the highlights, and a second, with the eight minutes culminating in the external interference.
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After the game, Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte did not spare his criticism. “Shameful” was the word, repeated over and over again. Galiotte informed no Palmeiras representative would be present at today’s closing ceremony of the championship at the Paulista Football Federation.

As palmeirenses and lovers of football, yours respectfully hope, with all sincerity, that president Galiotte and Palmeiras transform words into action, sparing no effort to protect the club and the sport against biased and harmful practices that stain Brazilian football at an accelerated pace. What happened yesterday is the mirroring of Brazil, where impunity reigns and the powerful do as they please. Overwhelming as the task may seem, we believe we speak for an absolute majority of Palmeiras supporters when we say we are ready, come what might. There needs to be change.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi and Kristian Bengtson

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Ahead of tomorrow’s Paulistão final, Palmeiras this morning opened up the Allianz Parque, inviting supporters to accompany the last training session before the derby. With some 31.500 spectators of all ages and social classes present, the stadium pulsated in an impressing display of passion and union. The event also rendered close to 40 tonnes of food products, collected for distribution to the needing.

What a jackpot, Palmeiras, on so many levels!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Marcos Ribolli_9328

Many this morning had the first opportunity of their lives to visit the Allianz Parque.

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Although still in what almost could be considered pre-season (were it not for the Libertadores Cup), things are starting to get serious. Palmeiras already know what awaits in the quarter-finals of the São Paulo Championship: Novorizontino, who yesterday beat Santos 2-1 to secure their spot.

Today’s penultimate game for Palmeiras in the group stage of the Paulistão has a special flavour: the 100th game at the Allianz Parque, and against arch-enemy São Paulo FC. 32 thousand tickets had been sold by yesterday evening. If Roger Machado wants some peace and tranquillity, he’d better make sure Palmeiras turn out a convincing performance tonight, erasing the perception of a stale and uninterested squad of last few rounds.

— ooo —

A brief update on players currently in the Medical department:

Edu Dracena has not yet made his debut in 2018. On a specially tailored programme in order to reduce muscular injuries throughout the season, the 36-year-old felt discomfort to the hip last week during training. With nothing but a minor inflammation to a tendon, Dracena should be at Roger’ disposal by next week.

Deyverson suffered an almost identical injury to that of Neymar, in the fifth metatarsal of the right foot, and underwent surgery. The forward is in his sixth week of recovery, with another expected two weeks before ready to initiate physical reconditioning on the pitch.

Diogo Barbosa seriously twisted his ankle in mid-January, during a pre-season friendly game. The left-defender is clinically cured, but not yet ready to play, as he lost considerable muscle mass due to the period of immobilization. In the coming days he’ll start training on the pitch.

Mayke twisted his right ankle during a training session last week, suffering a ligament injury. He will not need surgery, but with recovery expected to take between four to six weeks, he has been cut from the São Paulo Championship roster.

Jean went under the knife on 11 January, in an effort to minimize effects of wear and tear to the cartilage of his right knee. He is about to complete two months of treatment, with the recovery period ranging from three to four months, effectively keeping him out of the Paulistão and also (at least the first stage of) the Libertadores Cup.

Artur operated his right ankle on 16 February. The young forward initiated physiotherapy this week and should be recovered in little more than a month.

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While on the topic of players: forward Dudu has extended his contract with another two years, now valid until end of 2022. Earlier this year, the 26-year-old turned down a very lucrative offer from China. With the extension cames a salary adjustment, as well as a bumped up early termination fee.

— ooo —

A whopping six (6) Palmeiras players have been called up for the Brazilian U16 squad to compete in the upcoming Montaigu tournament in France. In addition, striker Fabrício was called up for the U17 squad, playing two friendlies against England at the end of the month.

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Rounding things off with a sight for sore eyes: Phil Collins and Foo Fighters recently did sold-out gigs at the Allianz Parque and, of course, received Palmeiras jerseys up front. Just one more reason for becoming a superstar.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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After defeating Grêmio 1-0 last Saturday, Sunday was all about resting. Today Monday, only a light training session in the morning before heading off to Ecuador, where Barcelona de Guayaquil await on Wednesday. The Libertadores matchup for the group of 16 is illustrated below, with the second leg taking place in a month’s time.
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Ten days ago, CONMEBOL announced they were changing the rules regarding how many players a team could swap in their Libertadores squad – funny enough only hours after River Plate saw seven of their players fail a doping test. At the wave of a wand, the limit went from two to six players. Palmeiras today swapped four: Bruno Henrique, Juninho, Luan and Mayke replaced Rafael Marques, Vitor Hugo, Vitão (only still at Palmeiras) and Alecsandro.

The additional two swaps Palmeiras can (and certainly will) do up to 48 hours ahead of the second leg. One spot is dedicated to Moisés, who is in the final stages of recovery from his knee surgery. The last spot will probably go to a forward in Mattos’ crosshairs. Could be Diego Souza, currently at Sport. Before the weekend, we will know.

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Palmeiras appealed and CONMEBAL revised the absurd rulings following the debacle in Montevideo: Felipe Melo’s ban has dropped from six to three games, and the three-game ban on Palmeiras supporters during away games has been reduced to one game (which will be the one against Barcelona on Wednesday).

— ooo — 

Alberto Valentim is back at Palmeiras as assisting coach, after a brief spell at Red Bull. He left Palmeiras in December of last year, after it became clear he was not taking over after Cuca’s exit. Everyone celebrated his return, although Valentim himself recognises he is taking a step back in order to advance two steps in the future.

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Someone on the verge of taking a major step is 19-year-old attacking midfielder Vitinho. Seems Barcelona are close to finalising a loan move with an option to buy. Cuca has publicly given his approval: “Good for the player and the club if he goes to Barcelona B. He’s training well but, unfortunately, he can’t get the necessary minutes with us. At the moment, he needs to play”, Palmeiras’ coach recently stated.

— ooo —

English football magazine “World Soccer” annually lists their Top 500 in the World, and the 2017 edition sports six Palmeiras players, more than any other Brazilian club: Felipe Melo, Dudu, Borja, Guerra, Mina and Tchê Tchê.

— ooo —

Saturday, the Allianz Parque hosted Ariana Grande. Already on Sunday, pictures showed the stadium in shape to receive a game, with the pitch apparently intact. For the first time, stadium management had used a technique to anchor the stage not on the ground but using the ceiling, resulting in considerably less strain on the pitch and much shorter disassembling time. Not a day too early.

— ooo —

The Allianz Parque, as first stadium in Brazil, has received the “Guiaderodas” seal of approval. The seal is given to venues that has proven fully accessible to wheelchair users and people with other physical disabilities. Unlike the old Palestra, the Allianz Parque was designed with full accessibility in mind from the start: parking lots, stands, restrooms, snack bars… There are 15 elevators and 26 escalators, and staff have been given specific training to meet the needs of disabled visitors.

As palmeirense wheelchair user Renan Barreiros commented: excellent news; will be even better once Palmeiras implement mechanisms that assure only disabled persons are able to reserve the specially designated seats at the stadium, as well as secure the same discounts that non-disabled, enrolled in Palmeiras’ supporter membership programme, enjoy for certain sectors. Seems Palmeiras are working on solutions; this is something worth keeping an eye on.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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A game of two halves, if you ever saw one.

Quarter-finals of the Brazil Cup, and Cruzeiro rolled all over Palmeiras in the first half, Cuca really asking for it. Zé Roberto on the flank is not a viable option anymore. Adding insult to injury, Cuca placed Edu Dracena by his side: excellent positioning, little pace. Thus, an open invitation for Cruzeiro to excel in fast transitions with the ball on the ground. Things did not go much better on the right flank either, where Fabiano had a bad night.

Although Palmeiras did create some chances in the first five minutes, with 30 minutes on the clock Cruzeiro were fully deserving their 3-0 advantage.

Thankfully, our commander drew the right conclusions and made modifications accordingly: after suffering the third goal, he sacked Fabiano, displacing Tchê Tchê to occupy the position. Zé Roberto was consequently displaced to the centre. And Egídio came on to fill Zé’s position on the left flank. Palmeiras improved.

At half-time, Cuca swapped Guerra for Borja, the midfielder suffering some physical discomfort. Dudu dropped down, more centralised, while Willian opened wide and left, mirroring Guedes on the other flank. With the Allianz Parque in a feverish state, Palmeiras suddenly meshed and equalised the score within 20 minutes: Dudu twice, then Willian.

Cruzeiro were at the ropes but used all their experience to cool down the game, holding on to the result until the final whistle.
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Some final remarks:

Cuca is very stubborn. His initial line-up was insane. However, he reads the game well and acts accordingly. Knowing how to use players in different positions allows for much greater tactical tweaking.

Borja and Willian look good together, they grow, they open up space for each other. Borja yesterday was different, more aggressive, and more participatory. In short: instrumental. And more in line with what Cuca envisions.

Dudu is a true leader, captain, the absolute thermometer of the team.

The crowds at the Allianz Parque yesterday were fantastic. Several I spoke with claim it was magical, that never before have the Allianz Parque pulsated like in those first 20 minutes of the second half.

The comeback was spectacular, but the result in itself was not good: in order to advance, Palmeiras will need a victory in Belo Horizonte (or a draw by more than three goals). The second leg is scheduled for end of July: no way of telling in what shape the two sides will be at that point in time.

Grêmio on Saturday, 11th round in the Brasileirão. The current runner-up and Palmeiras are both likely to rest some players ahead of next week’s commitments in the Libertadores Cup. Let us find out who has the stronger squad.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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How about a 360 degree HD snap view from inside of the Allianz Parque on game day, with teams on the pitch and supporters on the stands? How about being able to zoom in and out? How about being able to identify your own face, or that of your friend, in the crowd, mark the spot, and leave a comment on the notice board? That’s what Palmeiras 360 degrees is all about: making the Família Palmeiras, step by step, a little more familiar.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Palmeiras qualified to the Paulistão semi-finals like a breeze, beating Novorizontino 3-1 (away) and 3-0 (home). The team is evolving game by game, Eduardo Baptista clearly understanding the squad he has at hand and players feeling confident about their leader. And although it is still early, there are hints of something else, which we have not seen in a rather long time at Palmeiras: the drive to play well the full 90 minutes and transform a good performance into an excellent one. With Borja and Guerra adapting to their new team and country, Palmeiras look stronger than ever.

São Paulo FC are through, and so are Corinthians. Today Monday, Santos and Ponte Preta battle it out for the last spot. Next weekend sees the first leg of the semi-finals, but who takes on who will only be known after the final whistle tomorrow.

Not that Palmeiras waste any energy thinking about possible upcoming Paulistão opponents: focus is on Wednesday’s bout against Peñarol in the third round of the Libertadores Cup group stage. Jean has been recovering well after the foot injury and is likely to be found on the bench against the Uruguayans.

bieber_allianz_croppedEnd of March, the pitch at the Allianz Parque was completely removed. Three shows took place in the first week of April: two performances by Justin Bieber and one by Elton John. Then, last Friday, some 14.000 square meters of grass was taken from a farm in Tremembé and installed at the arena. The stadium manager promises that the pitch will be ready by Wednesday, thanks to machines imported from the United States and Europe, capable of cutting a thicker slice of grass: 4.5cm instead of 1cm. The thicker cut allows for not only grass and root, but also part of the rooted soil. In theory, three days should be enough to extend the grass rolls, the pitch being ready for play already on the fourth day.
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Compared to the conventional model, where the pitch needs 30-45 days to reach ideal conditions, this is a huge step forward, albeit expensive: each swap costs approximately R$ 300.000 (US$ 95.000), with the arena constructor foreseeing another four swaps during the year. Those Bieber shows are clearly very lucrative. Palmeiras and sponsors cannot complain either: there has been tremendous visibility and branding, as indicated by the picture featuring the Canadian megastar wearing our jersey. That said, Palmeiras forced out of their home grounds time after another is unacceptable and we need better harmonisation of schedules, combined with a permanent solution addressing pitch quality. On the latter, let’s see how far this thick cut technique takes us.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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