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Not a fatalist, but sometimes you get the feeling that the time has come, no matter what. That the frustrations of 15 million are soon to be released. Even with the referees yanking Henrique from the first of the final games, even with Hernán Barcos waking up on D-day with an acute appendicitis (he was operated yesterday afternoon and is fine, but will be absent for 6-8 weeks). This Copa do Brasil title must be ours and it will be remembered as the title that came against all and everything.

Palmeiras yesterday were Bruno; Artur, Maurício Ramos, Thiago Heleno and Juninho; Márcio Araújo, Marcos Assunção, João Vitor and Valdivia; Mazinho (Maikon Leite 35’/2nd H) and Betinho. How the Verdão didn’t suffer a goal or two in the first half is beyond me, as Coritiba dominated completely and wasted more chances than I care to remember. It’s absolutely true that Bruno was monstrous between the posts, but that’s only part of the explanation. Coritiba should have scored. But they didn’t. Instead, Valdivia opened up the scorecard at the very end of the first half, converting a penalty dubiously granted to Betinho after getting tangled up with a Coritiba defender. The home crowd, passionately supporting the team from beginning to end, sensed victory.

Coritiba initiated the second half better than Palmeiras and the pressure was on yet again, but the Verdão managed it better this time and the few chances created by the opponent were not nearly as dangerous as in the first half. The bucket of cold water for Coxa came after a free kick by Assunção, deflected on the back of Lincoln before headed by Thiago Heleno into the back of the net. 2-0 and the stadium exploded.

Coritiba fell through and Palmeiras could easily have decided the title there and then but Valdivia – who has a serious problem of dosing his intensity – received his second yellow after elbowing an adversary and was sent off, jeopardising the monstrous result constructed until then. Luckily, Coritiba had little strength left to pull off a comeback ad the last 15 minutes, although nervous, did never present any real danger.
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Yes, the result was monstrous. The two goals advantage is strong but equally important was denying Coritiba any goals: scoring one goal at the return game at the Couto Pereira stadium will force Coritiba to net four times.

It’s a shame we can’t count on Valdivia in the final game (again: what a STUPID move) but we have playmaker Daniel Carvalho (might even be the better option due to the nature of the coming game, with Coritiba forced to pressure hard and Palmeiras needing a strong defence and patience to explore the opportunities for rapid counter-attacks with Maikon Leite) and also Henrique back.

Things are looking good but rest assured the return game will be total war. Stay positive but no commemorations: palmeirenses have waited 14 years for a national title and we can wait another week.

AVANTI PALESTRA!
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It’s a battle over 180 minutes, with the first 90 happening today. Palmeiras’ supporters are understanding what’s at stake and are completely mobilised, both physically and virtually. Tickets are obviously sold out and when players arrive at the Barueri arena they will be greeted by “The Green Corridor”: supporters in uniform carrying flags, firecrackers and green signal torches will make way for the bus to pass right between them. It will be powerful and beautiful, a display of greatness to further boost determination of the squad. Within the limits of possible, the Barueri stadium will be transformed into the Palestra Italia, if just for a few hours. Coritiba will feel the white heat.

Bruno – standing tall between our goalposts tonight – arrived at Palmeiras exactly 15 years back, on 5 July 1997, at the age of 13. No better moment to shine than tonight.

Get ready to fill your lungs with air as the spectacle begins; may we all release that roar of ecstasy tonight, again and again.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

EDIT (13:40) – Centre-forward Barcos is out of the finals: the Argentine woke up this morning with severe abdominal pains due to appendicitis. A surgery has been scheduled for 2pm today at the São Luiz hospital in São Paulo. Of course a major blow to Palmeiras’ offensive quality, but such is life.

Barcos: get well soon. Rest of the squad: your glory will be even greater. Avanti!

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