With the Club World Cup final just around the corner, Palmeiras hope to return home from the UAE as world champions for the first time in their 107 year history.
After a 1-0 victory over Santos in the 2020 Copa Libertadores, Palmeiras competed at the 2020 Club World Cup where things did not go according to plan for Verdão.
Full of hope and excitement, Palmeiras suffered a shock loss in the semi-final against Mexican outfit Tigres. A single goal from Frenchman André-Pierre Gignac was enough to defeat the Brazilians.
Four days later in the third-place match, things got even worse for Palmeiras. After 120 minutes of football, they failed to find a way past African champions Al-Ahly. Misses in the subsequent penalty shootout from Rony, Luiz Adriano and Felipe Melo saw Al Ahly stun the South American champions who were unable to score a single goal in their two games.
The defeat even saw Flamengo star Gabriel Barbosa mock Palmeiras, as their wait for a world title continued.
Palmeiras fan Thiago Seixas gave an insight as to why he believes Palmeiras performed so poorly in the competition.
“I believe that due to the Pandemic and with that the tight schedule, Palmeiras travelled to the world championship right after the Libertadores title without the necessary preparation — still celebrating the most important title on the South American continent,” he tells WFi.
Palmeiras managed to redeem themselves a month later when they completed a triple crown by lifting Copa do Brasil with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Gremio, to add to their Copa Libertadores and Campeonato Paulista triumphs.
Their 2021 season didn’t start exactly as they would have hoped. They lost in the Recopa Sudamericana final and the Brazilian Supercup, but their form on the continent in the Copa Libertadores remained good.
Paired with Defensa y Justicia, Independiente del Valle and Universitario; Palmeiras breezed their way into the knockout stages, winning five of their six matches, scoring 20 goals and only conceding seven.
They enjoyed a routine 2-0 victory over Chilean side Universidad Católica in the round of 16 and despite their league form being nowhere near consistent enough to maintain a title charge, Verdão saw off familiar foes in, São Paulo and Atlético Mineiro to reach the showpiece event of South American football for the second year on the spin.
In their way stood 2019 champions Flamengo. The Rubro Negro had not lost to Palmeiras in the last nine matches and had already beaten them four times in 2021. They went into the game as underdogs but knew if there was ever a time to end their hoodoo, it was in the Libertadores final.
Raphael Veiga got Palmeiras off to a stunning start, putting them 1-0 up in with only five minutes on the clock, they held on until the 72nd minute when Gabriel Barbosa levelled the game for Flamengo, sending the game to extra time.
A mistake from Manchester United loanee, Andreas Pereira was punished by substitute Deyverson who remained calm enough to put himself in Palmeiras folklore, as the side from Sao Paulo retained their Libertadores crown.
Coming into the 2021 Club World Cup, things are completely different for Palmeiras compared to 2020. Last time they were at the backend of a gruelling season — this time they have had the luxury of a break and have just begun preparations for the 2022 campaign.
Their Paulista campaign began in late January and Palmeiras have used this time to build fitness for the tournament in the middle east. Normally in the early stages of the state championships a mixture of fringe players and first-teamers are used to build momentum for the latter stages, but this time, Palmeiras have gone full strength in all but one of their games. During this period, they have won three and drawn one, scoring seven and conceding just once.
“The team this year is going to dispute the Championship better prepared and more experienced,” adds Seixas.
“The fans trust the work of the players and especially the coach Abel Ferreira. The expectation is high for us to have a good championship.”
The tactics of Abel Ferreira have drawn credit for the way has set up his Palmeiras side in cup competitions.
He has the ability to set up a well-drilled game plan depending on the opponent. In the Libertadores semi-final against Atlético Mineiro, Palmeiras played with a back five out of possession and a back three when they had the ball, this saw them soak up pressure and hit Galo on the break, which worked to a tee.
In the final, Ferreira sprung a surprise. When everyone expected Palmeiras to adopt the same game plan as in the semi-final stage, he set up with a back four and decided to go after Flamengo from the off, which turned out to be a massive success.
The attacking trio of Rony, Dudu and Raphael Veiga are likely to cause teams problems when Palmeiras are attacking, but with everything at stake, Palmeiras are likely to adopt a 3-4-3 system which will see them adopt a back five when defending.
Goalkeeper Weverton has been key to the club’s recent success and his saves could prove vital in the upcoming tournament.
When Corinthians lifted the trophy in 2012, their keeper Cassio earned man of the match by making several key saves against Chelsea in the final — Weverton would love the chance to replicate this.
Palmeiras have already improved on their 2020 by defeating Al-Ahly 2-0 in the semi-final. It was a repeat of the 2020 third-place play-off.
They will face Chelsea in Saturday’s final, where they will be hoping to create history.
“For me, it would crown the rebirth of the club in the last five, six years and a title that will mark an entire generation of Palmeiras,” Seixas says on what it would mean for Palmeiras to become world champions.
If all goes to the script, Palmeiras will meet Chelsea in the final and the London club, suffered defeat the last time they met Brazilian opposition, could lightning strike twice?