Epic clashes are football’s biggest niche. Those matches deliver endless drama and euphoria to all spectators. They divide the football public, media and ardent game followers across the opinion gauge. One such occasion is the collision of African and South American continental club champions at the FIFA World Club Cup.
The tournament (FIFA World Club Cup) is currently underway in the United Arab Emirates and has dished out a tasty clash between Al Ahly (CAF representative) v Palmeiras (Conmenbol representative). This semifinal tussle is a repeat of the 2021 edition, where Ahly overpowered the Brazilians to claim an important bronze medal.
FARPost Technical Study Group (TSG) will look closely at the Copa Libertadores (South American) club champions (Palmeiras), leading to their rival match with Ahly on 08th February 2022.
1. Who are Palmeiras?
Palmeiras is one of the giants of Brazilian football. Based in São Paulo, where they share the football habitat with Corinthians and São Paulo, to name but a few clubs based in the city. They participate in the explosive and competitive Paulista Championship renowned for producing the best ‘Selecao’ products, e.g. Neymar and Willian.
The Brazilian team are currently the two-time defending Libertadores champions. To achieve this difficult feat, they had to beat fellow-natives, Flamengo (2-1), in extra-time, and the process annex their third Libertadores trophy in the illustrious club history.
2. Impeccable pedigree
As indicated before, Palmeiras recent pedigree is unparalleled in South America. By consistently winning the Copa Libertadores (x3), the team essentially join the elite football teams in the tournament history, the likes of Santos, Flamengo, Boca Juniors and River Plate. They are the dominant forces in the prestigious competition.
But perhaps the biggest distinction for Palmeiras is their international standing. According to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), Palmeiras was ranked the second-best club in 2020. Only behind Bayern Munich and the sole representative of South America in the world top ten.
3. Preparation for Ahly
Preparation for the Ahly match has been difficult. The Paulista Championship has not yet started, throwing the preparatory phase into disarray. Compared to Ahly, who leads the Egyptian league and has several games under their belt, Palmeiras has had to undergo friendly matches with lesser quality opposition.
So far, Palmeiras have played three matches against Novorizontino, Ponte Preta and Água Santa. They have won all the three games without conceding a single goal. However, their problems continue to escalate. Two of the key playing personnel, namely, Piquerez and Veron, have been struck by Covid-19. Although the medical team kept a closer look at these infected players, their availability and participation in the UAE remain in jeopardy.
4. Tactical manifestation
Under the tutelage of Abel Ferreira, the Brazilian side have been enterprising. The Portuguese mentor has combined the European defensive discipline with the Samba flair to create a troublesome tactical framework. Although some critics have lambasted Ferreira’s lack of tactical aggression, results support his overall strategic approach.
Palmeiras loves to unfold in a 1-3-4-3 attacking scheme that allows technical dominance and tactical maturity. A solid and precise build-up mantra is well encouraged. This is supported by a vicious inclination to recycle the ball quickly and with suitable incision upon desirable opening.
In defense, Palmeiras remains steady and compact. A low compact defensive block has been observed in matches against Flamengo and Agua. The coach prefers a 1-4-3-3 defensive shape with strict tactical responsibilities outlined within a group and team structure.
5. Expected starting positions
From the analysis of matches played at home, Palmeiras has a standard starting line-up. Unless the Covid-19 scenario changes within the next 24-hours, Palmeiras will send the following troops to confront Pitso Mosimane’s ‘Red Devils’:
Possible starting line-up:
Weverton; Marcos Rocha, Gustavo Gómez, Luan, Piquerez, Zé Rafael, Danilo, Raphael Veiga, Scarpa, Dudu and Rony.
An intriguing confrontation awaits us in the semifinals. Palmeiras has already reported 10 Covid-19 cases before their preseason schedule, whilst Mosimane will welcome ten stars from the 2021 AFCON tournament.
Still, history beckons for either team that progresses. Furthermore, one thing is for certain, either Mosimane or Ferreira will contest the first Club World Cup final. It’s a match stitched with endless possibilities and difficult to predict.