Tactical shift propels Palmeiras to Copa do Brasil glory

Palmeiras are one of Brazil’s most prestigious football clubs, but since the start of the 21st century, they have been sorely starved of success. The end of the last millennium was a different story though, and with the backing of Italian food corporation Parmalat, Palmeiras amassed a wide range of trophies in the 1990’s: two Campeonato Brasileiro wins (1993 & 94), three Campeonato Paulistas (1993, 94 & 96), the Torneio Rio-São Paulo (1993), the Copa do Brasil and Copa Mercosul (both in 1998), and of course, the Copa Libertadores of 1999.

However, at the turn of the century the Parmalat partnership came to an end. The Italians upped sticks and so, it seemed, did Palmeiras’ winning attitude. The Verdão fell on hard times, even suffering relegation in 2001. Years of mediocrity followed, and their only notable honour in the 2000’s was the Campeonato Paulista of 2008.

Now, nearly 20 years on from their momentous Paulistão triumph over rivals Corinthians in 1993, Palmeiras are showing tentative signs of recuperation. Luiz Felipe Scolari (or Felipão as he is known in Brazil), the coach who led Palmeiras to those famous Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores triumphs, is back in charge, and despite constant behind-the-scenes power struggles, they are managing to build a competitive squad once again. Wednesday evening’s Copa do Brasil victory was as a testament to that. Continue reading Tactical shift propels Palmeiras to Copa do Brasil glory

Copa Libertadores final: Corinthians x Boca Juniors preview

The 2012 Copa Libertadores comes to a close tonight with the decisive second leg of the final between Corinthians and Boca Juniors. The first leg finished a 1×1 draw last week in La Bombonera, and now Corinthians have the chance to win their first Copa Libertadores trophy with a victory in front of their home fans in São Paulo.

The question is: do Corinthians really have a significant home advantage? In terms of the aggregate score, they do not. The tie is levelled at 1×1 and in the Libertadores final the away goals rule does not apply, meaning Corinthians’ task is the same as ever, they need to win.

In form terms, perhaps they do hold a slight advantage playing at home (they won all but one of their home games in this year’s tournament), however Boca have a superb away record, especially when playing in Brazil. Just ask Palmeiras, or Grêmio, or SantosContinue reading Copa Libertadores final: Corinthians x Boca Juniors preview

How will the Copa Libertadores semi finalists line up?

Only four months after the first round, the 2012 Copa Libertadores has already reached the semi final stage. We’ve had a wonderful tournament so far, full of drama, tension and some superb football, but oddly enough there have been very few surprises. In a setting that usually throws up a fair amount of shock results, we have seen the better sides prosper, and this year’s semi final quartet are arguably the continent’s four best teams.

From Brazil, we have last year’s winners Santos and the current Brazilian champions Corinthians, and they are joined by Boca Juniors and Universidad de Chile, the champions of Argentina and Chile respectively. Thanks to CONMEBOL’s ruling that pairs together clubs from the same nation in the semi final draw, the two Brazilian sides will face each other in the first semi, while Boca and Universidad de Chile will battle it out for the other place in the final.

The semi final draw has came out perfectly, as in each tie we will be treated to a mouthwatering clash between one flamboyant and expressive attacking side, and one solid and organised defensive unit. Continue reading How will the Copa Libertadores semi finalists line up?

Boca Juniors 2×1 Unión Española: Late Silva header saves Boca’s blushes

In my opinion, what makes the Copa Libertadores such an intriguing tournament is the constant clash of styles from around this fascinating continent. In Europe, the playing style is, on the whole, rather homogenised. For example in this season’s Champions League group stages, Group F comprised of Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Olympiakos and Olympique Marseille, four teams that play very similar styles in the popular 4-2-3-1 formation.

In the Libertadores though, tactical variation is alive and well. In fact, it is very rare for a Copa Libertadores match to include two teams from different countries playing the same formation. Continue reading Boca Juniors 2×1 Unión Española: Late Silva header saves Boca’s blushes

São Paulo 1×3 Santos: Poor Piris positioning sinks sorry São Paulo

Brazilian football is certainly not short on rivalries, ranging from the friendly to the somewhat poisonous. In São Paulo state, the most populous of Brazil’s 27 federative units, the biggest clásico is between Corinthians and Palmeiras, two blue-collar clubs with huge fan-bases. The state’s other two grandes – São Paulo and Santos – class Corinthians as their biggest rivals, but while the Timão are more bothered about their green neighbours across town, São Paulo and Santos have resolved to forge a rivalry of their own, the San-São.

While the San-São falls far behind the Dérbi Paulista (Corinthians vs. Palmeiras) in intensity and cultural importance, it often totally outstrips the Dérbi in terms of quality and excitement. On Sunday the two sides faced each other in the semi-finals of this year’s Campeonato Paulista at São Paulo’s Morumbi stadium, adding yet another decisive clash to the history of the San-São rivalry. Continue reading São Paulo 1×3 Santos: Poor Piris positioning sinks sorry São Paulo

Atlético Nacional 3×0 Peñarol: Verdolagas continue to impress

After a brief pause in operations, Game of the Week returns to run the rule over Tuesday’s Copa Libertadores Group 8 clash between Atlético Nacional and Peñarol in Medellín. After an impressive start to their group campaign, the home side just needed to avoid defeat in order to seal qualification to the knock-out stages, while the underachieving Peñarol were already eliminated going into this match, looking to exorcise the demons of the 0x4 home defeat in the reverse fixture.

This turned out to be yet another admirable performance from Santiago Escobar’s Verdolagas as they secured a comprehensive three-goal victory in front of their home fans, securing their qualification and putting them atop Group 8 with eleven points in five matches. Continue reading Atlético Nacional 3×0 Peñarol: Verdolagas continue to impress

Game of the Week: Arsenal de Sarandí 1×2 Boca Juniors

Another Copa Libertadores tie for Game of the Week and from last week’s all-Brazilian clash between Santos and Internacional, we go to an all-Argentine affair as Arsenal de Sarandí hosted giants Boca Juniors in El Viaducto.

Boca, the undisputed champions of the 2011 Apertura, came into the match on the back of two consecutive defeats (the last time that happened was in March 2011) and it appeared that cracks were beginning to appear in Julio César Falcioni’s previously watertight Boca team. Continue reading Game of the Week: Arsenal de Sarandí 1×2 Boca Juniors