06 Feb Palmeiras enter Membership World Cup with hopes of returning to Brazil with silverware to silence their rivals
The Membership World Cup is big in South America, in no small half as a result of it’s a continuation of native rivalries by different means.
That’s very true of the membership representing the continent on this yr’s competitors, which has kicked off in Qatar. The stress is on Palmeiras of Brazil. All of their native rivals can declare to have been world champions. Santos, the team Palmeiras beat in Saturday’s remaining of the Copa Libertadores, gained the previous Intercontinental trophy twice within the early-’60s. Sao Paulo did the identical factor three a long time later, after which emerged victorious within the first model of the present format in 2005. And, particularly vexingly for Palmeiras, in 2012 the trophy went to Corinthians, their most conventional rival.
Palmeiras attempt to argue that they deserve the title of world champions for having gained a event staged in Brazil again in 1951, that includes eight teams from seven completely different nations, the place they beat Juventus within the remaining. However the desperation of their claims is liable to depart them open to mockery from different Brazilian teams.
The standard team of Sao Paulo’s large Italian neighborhood, Palmeiras was once referred to as “Palestra Italia” till the Second World Struggle. The brand new identify took on a pleasingly tropical contact; “palmeiras” interprets as “palm timber.”
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Final yr, when Flamengo of Rio have been in Qatar to play the event, lots of their travelling followers took photographs of palm timber within the space and joked that this was as shut as Palmeiras would ever get to the Membership World Cup. However right here they’re, attempting to shake off the consequences of a 12-hour flight and dreaming of a remaining on Thursday towards Bayern Munich — however first having to focus on Sunday’s semifinal vs. Tigres of Mexico.
Ever for the reason that present format was adopted in 2005, this semifinal has all the time been a tricky hurdle for the South American champions. On 4 events, the champions of the Libertadores have been overwhelmed at this stage. Each different time they needed to battle their manner by means of to the ultimate, whereas the European champions have all the time breezed by means of to the decider.
There are two explanations for this. One is psychological. For the South Individuals, the semifinal is a sort of torture. They dream of taking on the glamorous winners of the Champions League, and right here they’re, so near a shot of glory — however even nearer to the humiliation (as a result of again residence it is going to be seen as such) of dropping the semi to rivals with comparably little custom. It’s an apparent recipe for rigidity.
And there may be additionally a technical and tactical facet. The very best South Individuals are enjoying in Europe. The membership sides can not boast the standard of, say, 25 years in the past. Their triumphs on this format of the Membership World Cup — Sao Paulo in 2005, Internacional the next yr, Corinthians in 2012 — have been all single-goal, backs-to-the-wall victories, absorbing the stress from the European champions and breaking out to win with a uncommon assault. In opposition to fellow continental champions, the South Individuals are happier sitting again than taking the initiative. They’re merely not constructed to take the semifinal by the scruff of the neck and impose themselves on the sport.
Palmeiras are very a lot a counter-attacking team. Even within the excessive warmth of final Saturday’s Libertadores remaining, they have been fairly completely happy to take the sport to extra-time if obligatory and wait for his or her second to come back — because it did so dramatically within the 10th minute of stoppage time. However they might have gotten fortunate with their opponents on Sunday, after Tigres beat South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 on Thursday with a pair of objectives from French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac.
The Asian champions are one other counter-attack aspect, the kind of rivals with the potential to frustrate Palmeiras. The Mexican aspect, in the meantime, is extra expansive, and — with some ageing limbs within the lineup — might supply Palmeiras the house to launch their fast breaks.
That may very well be excellent news for Luiz Adriano, the Palmeiras centre-forward. He has completely happy recollections of the semifinal of the Membership World Cup. Again in 2006 he made his identify with the winner for Internacional towards Al-Ahli of Egypt.
However Palmeiras won’t be able to rely on the shock hero of the Libertadores win. Breno Lopes got here off the bench within the second half towards Santos to attain the late winner. He would nearly definitely not have seen motion had extremely rated teenage winger Gabriel Veron been match. However he will not participate within the Membership World Cup, having signed for the membership on the finish of final yr — too late for the competitors’s cutoff level.
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Palmeiras are racing to get well Veron from a muscular harm. He will not be match to face Tigres, and whether it is determined that he can not make Thursday’s remaining then he shall be dropped from the squad 24 hours earlier than the primary recreation. The probably substitute can be Wesley, one other flying winger, who suffered a critical knee harm final yr however has since recovered.
So no Breno Lopes and no travelling followers, which is a major loss for the competitors. The very best factor in regards to the Membership World Cup is the environment created by the South American supporters, who typically make extraordinary monetary sacrifices to comply with their team on the massive day. Pandemic restrictions have dominated that out this time.
There shall be some Brazilians within the stadium, which is allowed to obtain 30% of its capability. Many Brazilians dwell and work regionally, and a few will go alongside to a semifinal with a really South American flavour. Half of the Tigres team are from south of the border. Coach Ricardo Ferretti is Brazilian, as is his central midfielder Rafael Carioca, who was briefly in competition for a spot within the nationwide team.
So there shall be some Brazilian participation in Thursday’s remaining of the Membership World Cup. However there shall be no comfort for Palmeiras if Ferretti and Carioca are those combating for the title.