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Palmeiras this morning signed 23-year-old defender Luan, from Rio de Janeiro club Vasco da Gama, on a five-year contract, the price tag coming in at R$ 10 million (US$ 3.2 million) for 60% of the player’s economic rights. While getting to know his new club’s training facilities, the 1.88m tall 2016 Olympic champion did not disguise his enthusiasm. “I’m so happy, this is a dream coming true. I am very motivated, I want to help Palmeiras and I want to evolve here at the club. I’m arriving with an open heart, a focused mind, on fire and crazy to play, to make the supporters happy”.

The newcomer, born in the city of Vitória, played with Fernando Prass at Vasco and considers Palmeiras’ keeper a fathers figure to him. “I was 18 when I turned professional, and he always passed on advice, helping me a lot.” Luan also admitted to having called Gabriel Jesus just a few days back: “I had no doubts really, and after Gabriel told me ‘Go, you’ll be very happy at Palmeiras’ I could nothing but sign”, he laughs.

Do Palmeiras need another defender? Yes, absolutely. Yerry Mina leaves for Barcelona after the 2018 World Cup, Vitor Hugo is likely to transfer to Europe in the next window, Edu Dracena is already 35 and Thiago Martins will stay in the medical department for at least five more months. Antônio Carlos and Luan is our future centre-lock. Palmeiras are ahead in the planning, already preparing the squad for the 2018 season.

Welcome, Luan: may you shine brightly at Palmeiras!
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Yesterday the 2013 edition of the Brasileirão ended. Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, founded in the city of Belo Horizonte in 1921 as “Palestra Italia”, were crowned champions with 76 points – 11 points ahead of runners up Grêmio – compiling 23 victories, 7 draws and 8 defeats. Congratulations to Cruzeiro for a job well done throughout the season.

Third and fourth places were occupied by Atlético Paranaense and Botafogo respectively. The teams making up the quartet have not all guaranteed their spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup: in case Ponte Preta beat Argentine Lanus in the upcoming second leg of the South America Cup final (first leg at home 1-1), Ponte Preta grab a spot in next years’ Libertadores at the expense of Botafogo’s. Expect many a botafoguense, not least a certain Clarence Seedorf, turn hardcore argentines overnight.

2013-tabela_finalThe relegated four are Náutico, Ponte Preta (yes, the same), Vasco da Gama and Fluminense. Thus, two out of four major Rio de Janeiro clubs will play in the second division next year, with Fluminense being the first club in the history of Brazilian football to be relegated the year after becoming national champions. In 2014, the state of Santa Catarina will have more clubs in the first division than Rio de Janeiro: Criciúma, Chapecoense and Figueirese. A disastrous year for carioca football? Well, let’s not forget Flamengo’s Brazil Cup title. A likely 2014 scenario would thus be two traditional cariocas in the second division, with other two competing in the Libertadores Cup.

Sunday’s Atlético Paranaense vs. Vasco da Gama was interrupted for more than an hour as supporters of both teams clashed violently in the stands. Disgraceful scenes unfolded, while helicopters landed on the pitch to pick up injured for transportation to hospital. As always, what followed were calls for more police, more control inside and outside of stadiums, the banning of organised supporters, heavy fines for the clubs, having clubs play behind locked gates, the list goes on and on. In the end, the solution is there and is strikingly simple: apply the law. How? By identifying the perpetrators – and God knows there’s plenty of footage to facilitate the task – taking them to court and locking them up. Stop treating crimes committed inside and around Brazilian football stadiums as something special. Just apply the law.

With the end of the season, the transfer market goes berserk. As earlier mentioned, this year Palmeiras seem to be very actively scanning a broad range of possibilities both inside and outside of Brazil. And with the clearly not-so-good relationship between Coritiba midfielder Alex and club president Vilson de Andrade, there might be room for just a little bit of expectations.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Perhaps not the most urgent position to fill at Palmeiras, but still a very welcome reinforcement considering the rather wobbly performances of Bruno and Alemão between the posts as of late: former Vasco da Gama keeper Fernando Prass has signed a three-year contract with Palmeiras. Prass is expected to be not only keeper of choice but a mentor of sorts for Bruno and especially young Alemão.
It’s been an amazing 18 years since Palmeiras last signed with a keeper not originating from within the club.

Brought up at Grêmio, Prass has had a stable and trouble-free career that includes three years with Coritiba, three years with Portuguese club União de Leiria and, most recently, four years with Vasco da Gama. One of the most popular players at Vasco, the experienced 34-year-old got tired of waiting for his pay checks and in the end sought his release from the Rio de Janeiro club through the judiciary. His move to Palmeiras was certainly facilitated by the outlook to play in next year’s Libertadores Cup in addition to a reportedly hefty salary raise. Prass signed the contract last Tuesday – by coincidence on the same day as the sending off of São Marcos – and was formally presented and integrated into the squad two days later.

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The Palmeiras stew anno 2013 is in the making, with Prass being the second new ingredient. There’s as usual a lot of rumours running, but here at Anything Palmeiras no ingredient will be sung before purchased and firmly tucked away in the basket; transfer speculations are a waste of time and in any case only serve the interest of the player and his agent, never the club.

That being said… Expect updates on new signings at any time. Stay tuned.

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Losing to Vasco da Gama last Wednesday was not the worst part, but rather how it happened. In stark contrast to previous games where Palmeiras concede the first goal and then, obliged to risk it a bit more chasing the equaliser, are punished a few more times, against Vasco Palmeiras opened up the scorecard midway into the first half. However, the Verdão showed no ability to take advantage of the situation: instead of carefully tightening defence and exploring the spaces to counter-attack, Palmeiras conceded the equaliser only minutes after the goal and the squad turned into a house of cards a la 2009/2010. We were “lucky” not needing to see Bruno scoop out the ball more than three times from the back of the net.

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Luiz Felipe Scolari is known for standing his ground but not even a World Cup champion coach, an outspoken supporter and winner of several titles for the club – the latest less than two months ago – will save you in the world of Brazilian football. Yesterday afternoon it was announced that the club’s directors and Scolari had reached an agreement where he leaves Palmeiras together with technical assistant Flávio Murtosa and without the club having to pay any fines (for prematurely terminating the contract). That’s the third major coach (Luxemburgo and Muricy previously) in a relatively short period of time leaving Palmeiras through the back door. Draw your own conclusions.

Scolari’s second period at Palmeiras was undoubtedly much less successful than expected: 69 victories, 49 draws and 45 defeats: a measly 52 per cent of available points concurred. His tactical choices have often been questioned, as well as some players brought into the squad (or left out, as the case with promising kids from the youth academy never given the opportunity). Even so, Scolari brought us the first national title in 14 years – the seventh title in his two passages through the club – and will always be intimately linked to Palmeiras, the club’s history and its glories. Felipão has always worked hard and with Palmeiras’ best interest in mind, including having to pick fights that wasn’t his. For that, he deserves our outmost respect.

No matter how you feel about Big Phil’s exit, the focus now must be on finding a replacement. There’s one candidate worse than the other being mentioned. Without having any idea about real possibilities, personally I’d go after Jorginho (ex Palmeiras, currently at Bahia). It seem however more likely that Tirone will opt for giving Narciso, recently brought in to take care of the Palmeiras sub-20 group, an initial shot at it. Depending on how things go, Narciso mighty even stay on the job for the rest of the season.

The non-spoken goal is for Palmeiras to win the remaining seven home games and nibble one or two points in the away games, summoning enough to stay clear of relegation. Considering Wednesday’s result, what are the odds Palmeiras will run all over Corinthians on Sunday?

As hope is the last thing that abandons us, Avanti Palestra! Or, as Gabriel Santoro puts it in his tasteful homage to Scolari and his legacy at Palmeiras below: as long as there’s 1 per cent of a chance, we’ll remain standing.
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Only wins by Palmeiras and Vasco would ruin Corinthians’ day. Vasco had the upper hand on Flamengo and so did Palmeiras on Corinthians before some 40.000 spectators, but in the end neither of the results materialised, giving Corinthians their fifth Brazilian Championship title (1990, 1998, 1999, 2005 and now 2011).

There’s a lot of palmeirenses complaining today: Corinthians are a weak team composed of cowards; the long season and the competition’s format benefited a team that had few/no other obligations (especially at the beginning of the year); the competition’s format is soulless, as it deprives supporters from the classical “grand finale” against the soon-to-be champion and the runner up. In addition and in relation to yesterday’s clash, Palmeiras was robbed by the judge (Valdivia received a questionable red card); Corinthians player Jorge Henrique was disrespectful (imitating Valdivia’s “vacuum shot” at the end of the second half) and the fight between players that followed was a logical and necessary progression of events.

You will find the game highlights at the very end of this post; make up your own mind in regard to the arguments above. Personally, I disagree of every single one of them. I don’t find Corinthians particularly weak, although they did get lucky on several occasions during the championship, wining matches by the smallest of margins. I also stand by the format chosen for the Brazilian Championship and think that the adopted formula – with derbies in the last two rounds – was a particularly good idea; it’s been many years since we had such excitement and team disposition, all across the board.

In regard to the Corinthians vs Palmeiras derby, I didn’t find the referee at all biased. True enough: Valdivia might not have deserved the red card, but neither did Corinthians player Wallace, sent off some 15 minutes later. I didn’t find Jorge Henrique disrespectful; he made sure to keep the clock ticking as he exercised control of the ball and was clipped by a frustrated João Vítor. Such is Brazilian football mentality of today: everything just a little out of the ordinary is considered an offence, a provocation, something disrespectful. We’ve come to the point where a player during an interview can’t say “we’re confident of winning” without being accused of “lacking respect for the opponent”.

It’s a long championship, the Brasileirão. Corinthians was the most consistent team and in the lead for 27 of the 38 rounds. Palmeirenses should get over it, reload, re-aim. 2012 is around the corner.

2011 being a year we’d rather forget, at least the last few rounds proved that Palmeiras already hit bottom and are again moving in the right direction. Palmeiras finished the championship at 11th place with 50 points. Beating São Paulo in the penultimate round was important, not least for depriving the enemy of participation in next year’s Libertadores Cup; the last spot went instead to Internacional.

Four teams will find themselves in the second division next year: Avaí and América/MG were joined by Ceará and Atlético Paranaense. Cruzeiro saved themselves by applying an unbelievable 6-1 on Atlético/MG in the local derby.

Finalising, I’ll take the opportunity to pay my respects to Vasco da Gama, current South America Cup champions and a team with plenty of garra, i.e. guts and stamina. They took a risk by going full throttle in all three competitions in pursuit of the grand slam, the so prestigious “triple crown”.  They fell short, but they did it with undeniable style.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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Only a few weeks back, palmeirenses had nothing to look forward to and 2011 was a lost cause. The arrival of Cesar Sampaio and the exit of Judas30 provoked changes, with the away draw against Grêmio serving as a first indicator of possibly better days. The subsequent and convincing win against Bahia distanced Palmeiras from any risk of relegation and brought the team well into next year’s South America Cup zone.

Yesterday, act one of the Grand Finale was delivered to stunning effect as Palmeiras beat São Paulo Futebol Clube 1-0 (watch the highlights below) and dramatically reduced the enemy’s chances of qualifying for next year’s Libertadores Cup. Simultaneously Corinthians beat Figueirense 0-1, while a last minute goal from Vasco sealed their 2-1 away victory over Fluminense, postponing the title decision to the very last round and propelling Palmeiras’ status from extra to lead supporting role: Corinthians need at least a draw against Palmeiras to secure the title; a loss combined with Vasco beating Flamengo would hand the title over to the Maltese crusaders.

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It’s in moments like these that Valdivia stands out. Not only does he cope well with pressure, tension and provocations: he feeds from it. He’s the kind of player you love to have on your side and loath when playing for the enemy. Yesterday he was on fire, playing well and driving the opponent insane with his cocky attitude. Thankfully, the referee was in a good mood; he could have chosen to show Valdivia the yellow card, taking him out of the final game against the skunks. No such (bad) luck: Palmeiras will come armed and ready. Any corintiano claiming to be calm and confident is a liar.

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The weekend proved a source of joy also for all of us who have been following the Palmeiras sub-17, or the “Verdãozinho”. On Saturday, they played Santos for the second leg of the Paulista Championship title. The 2-1 advantage from the first game was enough to secure the novel title, as the youngsters lost by the same score but had the advantage due to a better overall campaign. And what a campaign! 32 games, 25 victories, 3 draws and 4 losses – a total of 86 goals scored and only 26 suffered. Congratulations to everybody involved in this great achievement, not least upcoming stars like Bruno Dybal, Luis Gustavo, Hugo Ragelli, Bruno Sabiá and goalkeeper Vinícius; for sure these kids and others will attract even more attention as from now on.

The pictures below are courtesy of the “Instituto Palestrina de Estatística – IPE”. Even further down, game highlights and post-game commemoration courtesy of Antena Verde.

  

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Against strong title contender Vasco da Gama, Palmeiras did what any true palmeirense would expect from the team: went out and did their best, honouring the jersey and the club’s history. The draw was a fair but not great result, as it didn’t completely (i.e. mathematically) save Palmeiras from relegation but instead allowed Corinthians to open up a two points advantage in the run for the championship title. While Vasco confront Avaí, Fluminense and Flamengo in the last three rounds, Corinthians take on Atlético/MG, Figueirense and Palmeiras. On paper Corinthians have the easier path, but in this Championship one can expect anything to happen.

While Palmeiras are not mathematically safe, the danger is now minimal.  At 12th position in the tables, and even if losing the last three remaining games, only an extremely unlikely combination of results would bring about disaster.

Yesterday’s game against Vasco was surprisingly even, with Palmeiras showing a lot of spirit and heart but not much else. After suffering an early goal, the turning point for the Verdão came when Scolari substituted Patrick and Ricardo Bueno for Pedro Carmona and Dinei. The two, and in particular Pedro Carmona, came on hungry and chances started to materialise. Assunção, as always dangerous, took the corner that led to the equaliser by Luan. Again, Palmeiras are showing certain progress; looks like we hit bottom and are slowly finding our way back to the surface.

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Pre-game there was a certain amount of speculation regarding what attitude to expect from Palmeiras, considering archrivals Corinthians’ interest in the outcome. Could the white pigeons look forward to a peacefully rest on Vasco goalkeeper Fernando Prass’ crossbar all night? The highlights below will give you the full story: it was full throttle from start to finish.

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This coming Sunday, Palmeiras travel to Salvador to face Bahia. Three points would surely boost morale and scare São Paulo and Corinthians shitless; can you imagine Palmeiras in the last two rounds depriving the former of a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup and the latter of the title? I imagine it when I’m awake and dream about it at night.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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