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Toward the end of the month, we´ll have two rounds of qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup. All in all, four Palmeiras players have been called up to defend their countries: Yerry Mina and Miguel Borja for Colombia, Alejandro Guerra for Venezuela and Dudu for Brazil.
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Dudu received the call later than the rest: Douglas Costa suffered a knee injury during training at Bayern München last Friday, and coach Tite picked Dudu as the replacement. This is the striker’s third time in the yellow shirt: his first appearance was under Mano Menezes, in 2011. Then a long break, before Tite called him up in January of this year. However, all previous occasions have been friendly games. Finally facing the “real deal”, Dudu is in ecstasy. Well deserved!

Brazil plays Uruguay away on the 23rd and Paraguay at home on the 28th. Palmeiras’ quartet will miss the last three group-stage rounds of the São Paulo championship: another involuntary test of the squad’s quality and resilience. Also, another proof of the incapacity of Brazilian football federations to set up a decent calendar throughout the year.

Good luck to the four: may they all return safe and sound to Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Any sãopaulino infiltrating the Allianz Parque yesterday was surely shaking like a leaf – in the fear of getting caught (after all, only Palmeiras supporters were allowed in, as in every derby in São Paulo as of late) and considering the retrospect of the clash in recent years: last 4 home games, only Palestra victories, with a goal tally 12-1 in Palmeiras’ favour.

With an eye on Palmeiras’ Libertadores Cup game this upcoming Wednesday, and considering previous Wednesday’s physically and mentally tough battle in Argentina, coach Baptista opted for a mixed bag against The Enemy. I first, real test of the squad’s strength. Against a São Paulo featuring the Paulistão’s best offense, how would Palmeiras behave without reference players like Edu Dracena, Jean, Zé Roberto, Felipe Melo, Keno and Borja?

Wonderfully well, we learnt. In what surely was Palmeiras’ best performance so far this season, São Paulo was thoroughly dominated. The line-up consisted of Prass; Fabiano, Yerry Mina, Vítor Hugo and Egídio; Thiago Santos and Tchê Tchê; Michel Bastos, Dudu and Guerra; Willian. Fluctuating between a 4-1-4-1 and a 4-2-3-1, Palmeiras never gave São Paulo a chance to breathe, consistently applying pressure high up on the pitch, compacting the lines, leaving the opponent little option but to clear the ball. Palmeiras created a number of chances, but the first goal came only just before halftime: Egídio won the ball on the midfield, by the left sideline, Dudu snapped it up, glanced over at Denis’ advanced position between the posts and fired away. Brilliant in every sense, a marvellous goal. And for the third time in three years, a São Paulo keeper is humiliated in similar fashion against Palmeiras. Difference is, this time, former keeper and current SPFC coach Rogério Ceni watched it all from the sideline.

In the second half, Palmeiras drove then final nails in the coffin, first through Tchê Tchê, with a terrific left-foot shot (what a comeback for the kid, spending last six weeks in recovery after fracturing his shoulder) and Guerra (his first goal for Palmeiras and his first opportunity playing the full 90 minutes, last 20 of these together with Borja).
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The victory was everything we could have hoped for. Yesterday, we had a clear indicator Eduardo Baptista’s ideas are finally catching on. And as formations, tactics and game plans start to mesh, players loosen up and allow their creativity to flow, leading to better individual and collective performance, better results and a continuous boost in confidence. 

Jorge Wilstermann had better look out. 

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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lease fee

Sunday Palmeiras made their debut in the Paulistão, beating Botafogo/SP by the odd goal, signed Tchê Tchê. It was not a good game, as they never are in the beginning of the season. Still, one could note some differences in the marking, in the more careful ball possession, in the movement of full-backs. Eduardo Baptista is implementing his own style of play, and it will differ considerable from Cuca’s. Upcoming Sunday, away against Ituano, we have another opportunity to observe the transformation.

Tchê Tchê not only scored Sunday’s winner, but also suffered a small fracture to his left shoulder and is out for 4-6 weeks. Good thing Moisés seems fully recovered from the foot surgery and is training well.

Against Botafogo/SP, Zé Roberto played his 100th game in the Palmeiras jersey. Upcoming Sunday, it is Fernando Prass’ turn to celebrate his 200th appearance in green. Giants, both of them.

Speaking of giants: our “little giant” Dudu has extended his contract with Palmeiras for an additional two years, the contract now running until end of 2020. With the extension, his salary has increased and also the release fee.

You will frequently hear both club president Galiotte and director of football Mattos state that “more important than any signing, has been maintaining the squad intact”. One of the few remaining weaker cards from last years’ squad, defensive midfielder Rodrigo, was today announced by Sport on a one-year loan with an option to buy. However, in relation to key players, Palmeiras have made an additional effort, just like with Dudu: a total of six players, including Yerry Mina, have extended their contracts. The hiked release fees work as a deterrent for other clubs, while salary increases are both a recognition of a player’s value and a means to keep him happy as new signings arrive and the inevitable salary comparisons happen.

Today, the Palmeiras squad contains eight players who have served Brazil’s national (Jean, Vitor Hugo, Dracena, Arouca, Zé Roberto, Felipe Melo, Michel Bastos and Dudu); two Colombia’s (Yerry Mina and soon-to-be-announced Miguel Borja), one Paraguay’s (Barrios) and one Venezuela’s (Alejandro Guerra). That is twelve players of National squad quality, twelve!

The squad is not only qualified but also decent-sized, which is important considering the potentially many games and the long travel distances involved in Palmeiras’ 2017 campaign. If Palmeiras were to reach the finals in every competition, a staggering 80 games would be played in the season: São Paulo Championship (18), Libertadores Cup (14), Brazil Cup (8), Brazilian Championship (38), Club World Cup (2).

Now stay tuned for the official announcement of Miguel Borja.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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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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Yesterday, on the day he reached his 77th birthday, legendary former defensive midfielder Dudu was graced with the highest reward: being immortalized through a bronze bust in front of the Allianz Parque.

Olegário Tolói de Oliveira – nicknamed Dudu – was born in Araraquara, state of São Paulo, on 7 November 1939. He arrived at Palmeiras in 1964. Twelve years later, he had played a total of 609 games for the club, scored 25 goals, and won nine titles, including five Brazilian championship titles. Upon retiring as a player in 1976, he gave coaching a go, winning the São Paulo state championship for the club that same year.
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“I’m prettier (the bust) than in person *laughs*. What the directors of Palmeiras are doing for me, I have no words to thank them, to thank my friends, relatives and former colleagues for their presence. I feel great joy today, this actually rocked me a bit. Which is very rare, for something to rock me, but today is very emotional for me” said Dudu at the uncovering of the bust, in the presence of president Paulo Nobre, vice-president Maurício Galiotti, Ademir da Guia and other invited.

In addition to Dudu, only five players have received the honour: Junqueira, Waldemar Fiúme, Ademir da Guia, Oberdan Cattani and Marcos. Dudu’s bust was positioned right next to Ademir’s, which makes perfect sense: Dudu and “The Divine” played back-to-back for most of their time at Palmeiras.

No one deserves the bust better. CONGRATULATIONS, DUDU!
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Palmeiras started against São Paulo FC as they finished against Fluminense: dynamic, fast and aggressive. Within minutes, two great opportunities created – one from each flank – leaving supporters believing it was only a matter of time before Palmeiras would open up the scorecard and start grinding down that taboo: not since 2002 have Palmeiras beaten SPFC at the Morumbi stadium.

A quick reversal after a foul on Dudu and awful timing from Thiago Martins as he tried clearing an aerial made it easy for Paulo Henrique Ganso to stuff our net. Unfortunately, that was the end of Palmeiras’ blitz: our opponents gradually took control over the midfield and tested Prass on several occasions, again showing why he is the best keeper in the competition. But that alone will not do, of course.
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A crucial aspect for Cuca to address is Palmeiras’ lacking consistency, the rollercoaster performances from game to game and, sometimes, from first to second half. This is nothing new and, partially, explains why the Palmeiras supporter nurtures an unusual strong bipolarity, normally expecting the worse and violently swinging between euphoria and doom. Yesterday, several players underachieved, most notably Dudu. Not for a lack of trying: Dudu is always full throttle and does not change his style of play for anything. Now, as he has only just returned from injury, he´s clearly not yet finely tuned with the ball and perhaps Cuca should have taken Dudu off the pitch instead of insisting in keeping him in a playmaker position where he repeatedly lost ball possession, resulting in numerous counter-attacks.

Roger Guedes was a shadow of the player we saw against Fluminense. Moisés, Tchê Tchê, Gabriel Jesus and Alecsandro idem. Only Prass was his usual, remarkable self, as was, rather surprising, Zé Roberto: many feared he would have trouble holding back Kelvin on the left flank, but the old man did splendidly well. Regardless of this, Egídio is expected back in the position against Grêmio on Thursday.

Gabriel_Jesus_2016Gabriel Jesus did not have a particularly good afternoon either: possibly his mind was partially occupied by the likely upcoming call to join the Brazilian Copa América squad, replacing attacking midfielder Rafinha (Barcelona) who recently contracted a muscle injury. The Cup takes place in the United States, 3-26 June. No palmeirense in his right mind would like to see Jesus absent for so long.  

On the same day we learnt about Gabriel’s likely exit, the Colombian federation confirmed Yerry Mina in their Copa América squad. Expectations were for the fullback to be called up only for the Olympics later in August, but apparently someone had a change of mind. Another setback for Palmeiras.

Finishing off on a happier note, the Palmeiras U17 squad is doing brilliantly over in Spain, where the Club World Cup is taking place. After having finished first in their group, Palmeiras beat Peruvian side Sporting Cristal 2-0 in the quarter-finals, before today beating Spanish side Rayo Vallecano 5-2 in the semi-finals. In the final, this Wednesday, our boys in green face no other than Real Madrid, who advanced to the title match by beating Atlético de Madrid 3-1.

Forza Palestra! Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The Dudu novella has come to an end. Neither a two games’ suspension (like Corinthian’s Petrus received for a similar violation in late 2014), neither a 180-days ban like the Tribunal for Sports initially sentenced: Palmeiras recently reached an agreement with the Tribunal and a six-game ban was settled. Dudu, who had already served two games, was thus left out of yesterday’s game against Figueirense and will not see action in any of the upcoming three in the Brazilian championship: Fluminense (away), Grêmio (home) and  São Paulo (away). Dudu is however available for games in the Brazil Cup, as the ban only applies to the Brasileirão.

While Dudu is fit but unavailable, Cleiton Xavier is a different story: recovering from a thigh injury, he recently felt discomfort in one of his calves. No telling when he’ll be back on the pitch. Xavier, one of those expected to compensate for Valdivia’s exit, is unfortunately on his way to mimic the Chilean in less fortunate ways.

Fernando Prass is on another path. The most undisputed player in the starting eleven, our #1 recently made his way into the top 10 of keepers with most games in the Palmeiras jersey. Prass says he has basically accepted Palmeiras’ proposal for a renewal of his contract and if he keeps the pace up, he could perhaps give Gilmar a fight for seventh place. Below, the full list.

1) Leão: 618 games
2) Marcos: 532 games
3) Valdir de Morais: 481 games
4) Velloso: 455 games
5) Oberdan: 351 games
6) Sérgio: 334 games
7) Gilmar: 289 games
8) Primo: 175 games
9) Fernando Prass: 137 games (as of 13 September 2015)
10) Jurandyr: 133 games

As previously reported, the unparalleled Marcos, keeper with the second most appearances for Palmeiras, will see a bust uncovered in his honour at the Allianz Parque. The date has now been announced: 12 of December – considered by palmeirenses as the day of Saint Marcos. The list of players previously graced with a bust is restricted: Ademir da Guia, Waldemar Fiúme, Junqueira and Oberdan Catani.

Speaking of the Allianz Parque: Palmeiras’ next home game against Grêmio will not take place in our stadium, as on the same night, Saturday 19 September, there’s a Rod Stewart show on. The following Friday, Katy Perry gets the spotlights. Depending on the conditions of the pitch after the Perry gig, Palmeiras might be forced to play also the second leg of the Brazil Cup quarterfinals, against Internacional, at the Pacaembu.

There are five full days between Perry’s show and the game against Inter. Shouldn’t the technology used at the most modern arena in Latin America permit a full recovery of the grass in such a period of time? What say you, WTorre?  

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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