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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.
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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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Comeback Cuca

Yesterday, Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte met the press, with Cuca on his left, announcing Eduardo Baptista’s replacement. From Palmeiras, certainly a discrete probing and an even more discrete “yes” from Cuca took place moments before letting Baptist go after last week’s defeat against Jorge Wilstermann. Cuca’s new contract follows the same framework as last year’s, with duration end of 2018.
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Baptista was in a tight spot from day one, and he knew it. After the successful 2016 campaign, culminating in the first Brasileirão league title in 22 years, Palmeiras did everything to keep Cuca, but the coach had promised his family a six months sabbatical. Baptista was probably not Palmeiras idea of an ideal replacement, but options at the time were scarce. Had the young and upcoming coach presented steady progression regarding the squad’s playing style, attitude and overall performance, he could have outshined the towering shadow of Cuca’s return to coaching. Could have.

Cuca knows the squad well, knows Galiotte and Mattos, knows Palmeiras. He understands the overwhelming pressure – internal and external – that comes with the job. Hopefully he will need little time to tweak at least the basics into place, before starting working on the extras. “Changing the tire with the car in motion” as one says in Brazil. Yesterday afternoon he conducted his first training session with the squad. The 2017 Brasileirão debut, against Vasco da Gama, is on Sunday.
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During yesterday’s press conference, Cuca was an island of serenity and focus. Never dodging responsibility, he stressed that Palmeiras’ considerable investments were no guarantee, that every other team were also doing their best to become champion. He explained that last year, he needed to say “Palmeiras will win this year’s Brazilian championship” in order to bring the squad together after an early exit from the Libertadores Cup. It worked. This year, he said, the situation is different: Palmeiras are the current champions, everyone expects great things and the pressure is on. “No one has the obligation to become champion, but we will do our outmost”, he concluded.

Should Cuca succeed in implementing something similar to what he had last year, the sheer quality and size of Palmeiras’ squad will transform this “outmost” into one or several championship titles – a probability further enhanced if one or both of the reinforcements suggested/requested by Cuca arrive.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Nine minutes after the publication of the previous post, Palmeiras announced the exit of Eduardo Baptista. Club president Maurício Galiotte will meet the press tomorrow morning. Baptista led Palmeiras in 23 games harvesting 14 victories, 4 draws and 5 defeats.

Needless to say, Cuca is the replacement of choice. Expect a speedy negotiation: Palmeiras have no time to lose considering the significant player investments done this season and upcoming decisive games.

Baptista deserves all our respect. Unfortunately, it did not work out this time. Anything Palmeiras wishes Baptista the best of luck in hist future career.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Although not formally announced, Palmeiras have a new coach in Eduardo Baptista, who last Friday announced he is leaving Ponte Preta one year short of fulfilling his contract. The decision immediately triggered Alberto Valentim’s exit from Palmeiras: our assisting coach had been nourishing hopes he would replace Cuca, but is instead taking the reins at Red Bull Brasil. Anything Palmeiras wishes Valentim the best of luck in his career, foreseeing his return to Palmeiras after acquiring more experience as head coach.

So who is Eduardo Baptista? The 46 years old Campinas-born was a physical trainer for 15 years before picking up coaching, following in the footsteps of his father, Nelsinho Baptista. Eduardo initiated at Sport in 2014, followed by a short stint at Fluminense before joining Ponte Preta in April of 2016, being the prime responsible for the club’s solid campaign.
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Baptista is sober-minded, studious and seeks to apply modern concepts. His teams are normally tactically well-defined and obedient, characterised by strong marking and quick reversal from defence to offense: possibly decisive factors to Palmeiras’ decision to give the comparatively inexperienced coach a shot.

Expect Eduardo Baptista to be announced shortly after the end of the championship.

— ooo —

Due to the Chapecoense tragedy, the CBF postponed all football games by a week. The Brazil Cup final between Grêmio and Atlético Mineiro will be played this Wednesday, while the Brazilian championship final round takes place on Sunday. As Palmeiras are already champions and many players had booked tickets to travel with their families, the club granted several of them their vacations as of this week. Neither Cuca has been confirmed for the final game against Vitória. Most likely, Palmeiras will be made up of a mixed bag from the bench and youth divisions. Serves Vitória just about right, the Bahia team needing but a draw to mathematically escape relegation.

Either Sport or Internacional are likely to join América Mineiro, Santa Cruz and Figueirense in the second division next year. No doubt a large majority of Brazilians nourish the expectation of seeing the gaúcho team go down: Inter directors and players have caused outrage in the last few days, directly and indirectly suggesting the last round of the championship be cancelled due to the plane crash, opening up the possibility of declaring an “incomplete championship” in 2016 and, who knows, a 2017 edition of the Brasileirão with 24 teams… Absolutely disgusting.

I know where my sympathies lie on Sunday.

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It has been confirmed Cuca will not renew his contract with the club in 2017. That means also Cuca’s brother and assisting coach Cuquinha and Euders Pedro are bidding farewell by the end of the month.

Cuca’s decision comes as no surprise, although both Palmeiras and especially the clubs’ supporters were hoping for a different outcome after the successful 2016 campaign, culminating in club’s ninth Brasileirão title. Cuca is keeping a promise to his family of dedicating more time to his loved ones, at least throughout the first semester of 2017.

“It’s a difficult choice, but I had to make it. In fact, and as I have always said, it was not for me even to come (to Palmeiras) this year. I was going to dedicate myself entirely to my family in 2016, but I was convinced by Alexandre Mattos, by the president, by the project that was presented to me and, of course, by my love for Palmeiras. I’ve been a supporter since I was a kid, I’ve never hidden that from anyone, and last Sunday I ended up being champion twice: as a coach and as a supporter. I exit very happy and with the mission accomplished. I’m sure I’ll be back one day to continue my history at the club”, Cuca told Palmeiras’ official website.

Club president Paulo Nobre added: “Considering his technical capacity, identification with the club and the person he is, we would have loved to have him in 2017. But we understand his choice. Palmeiras will always be open to him.”

Director of football Alexandre Mattos certainly has been anticipating work on plans B, C, and D. Abel Braga and Roger Machado were early speculations, but in the last couple of days, both reached agreements with Fluminense and Atlético Mineiro respectively. Another, less likely, option would be giving assisting coach Alberto Valentim the opportunity, either permanently or on the premises that Cuca could come back to Palmeiras in the second semester. Some supporters are already getting nervous, claiming Palmeiras moved in too late and will now have to settle for leftovers. Personally, I think Mattos has everything under control.

Cuca’s last game for Palmeiras happens Sunday 11th against Vitória, at the Barradão stadium, Salvador. In 52 games for the club, he totals 28 wins, 11 draws and 11 losses. Cuca was also suspended in two games: a victory with Cuquinha and a defeat with Alberto Valentim.

Here at Anything Palmeiras, we wish Cuca all the best. It has been a tremendous pleasure following the work of this very competent, dedicated and charming professional. Cuca, enjoy your family to the maximum, then come back to Palmeiras for many more days of glory!

ABRAÇO AND THANK YOU!
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Playing before 40.986 spectators, a new attendance record at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras were Palmeiras like throughout most of 2016: confident, in control, sufficiently efficient to secure the three points against Chapecoense and the 2016 Brazil championship title. The only goal was right-back Fabiano’s, and what a beautiful goal. His first for Palmeiras, one that will be remembered forever.

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Who contributed the most to this title, arriving after 22 long years of waiting?

Jailson, the 35-year-old who had never played a first division game in his life and stepped up in August, when Fernando Prass was injured in late July, to support an 18-games-streak of invincibility?

Dudu, the hotheaded forward who matured after receiving the captain’s armband to become the player with most assists in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão?

Tchê-Tchê, who last year seriously considered abandoning football for the lack of opportunities, today a given on the midfield on any Palmeiras starting eleven?

Moisés, “hidden away” in Croatia, ridiculed upon arriving, today considered the greatest surprise of the championship?

Gabriel Jesus, who’s splendid first half of the championship set the pace for the title race?

Jean, the experienced, polyvalent, hard-working leader?

Yerry Mina, who went straight into the starting eleven, scored, was injured, came back to score more and form a massive centre lock with Vítor Hugo?

Zé Roberto, the living myth, at 42 the heart and soul of the squad, always reminding us of the GIANT called Palmeiras?

Cuca, the prophet, the professional, the father, who knows how to create a family not through external enemies but common aspirations?

Alexandre Mattos, the director of football who contracted all the aforementioned pieces and then some?

Paulo Nobre, the club president who in four years took Palmeiras from rags to riches?

Palmeirenses near and far, tirelessly reinventing the art of supporting the team, standing ground against everything and everyone, including friendly fire?

None. All. That is what is so special about this campaign: it is a truly collective effort like seldom seen. And unbelievably well deserved.
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I still need to come down. Pictures and videos of the magnificent celebration – all over São Paulo and all over the world – only in a day or two.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Yet another good article on Palmeiras, this one by Jack Lang for WhoScored.com, dissecting Cuca’s take on the squad and tactics, fundamentally important to shape the lean and lethal machine that has been in the lead of the Brazileirão for the last seven rounds. Enjoy!

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