Football Features

Palmeiras Club World Cup preview: Brazil’s most-decorated domestic team looking to join elite set

By Mohamed Moallim

Palmeiras Club World Cup preview: Brazil's most-decorated domestic team looking to join elite set

Published: 18:51, 2 February 2022 | Updated: 17:33, 7 February 2022

Founded nearly 115 years ago, Palmeiras are looking to become South America’s fourth Club World Cup champions.

The Big Green registered back-to-back Copa Libertadores successes which has given them a second chance to follow in the footsteps of Brazilian rivals Corinthians, Internacional and São Paulo by winning FIFA’s annual tournament.

Due to higher seeding, Palmeiras enter at the semi-finals and will take on the winner of Al Ahly and Monterrey, before potentially facing Chelsea or Al Hilal/Al Jazira/AS Pirae in the final.

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Five things to know about Palmeiras

  • Manager: Abel Ferreira, the third coach from outside South America to lift the Copa Libertadores and he recently became the eighth manager to win back-to-back titles.
  • Captain: Gustavo Gómez, the Paraguayan international centre-back spent two seasons at AC Milan, where he played 18 times in Serie A, before joining Palmeiras initially on loan.
  • Goalkeeper: Weverton has kept 36 clean sheets across 77 appearances in all competitions since Ferreira took over.
  • Most recent Club World Cup finish: 4th (2020)
  • Key team stat: Palmeiras are Brazil’s most decorated club in terms of domestic competitions, they’ve won a record 10 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A championships.

More on the Club World Cup

Best defender

Near ever-present in their successful Libertadores run — only missing the round-of-16 games against Chilean outfit CD Universidad Católica — Luan, an Olympic gold medalist, is expected to marshal Palmeiras’ backline alongside their skipper. A one-time capped Brazilian international, the 28-year-old had been linked with an overseas move to Benfica and Udinese in the past, but nothing came of it. Once derided by supporters, Luan enjoyed a redemptive campaign and was the undisputed leader when it came to ball-playing defenders in the Copa Libertadores.

Best midfielder

A lot of attention is understandably coming Danilo’s way, the 20-year-old defensive midfielder is among the many exciting prospects in this current Palmeiras squad, and is reportedly wanted by a host of European clubs. However, the club’s recent international successes couldn’t have been achieved without experienced heads. Patient central midfielder Zé Rafael is among those leading the way. Capable of playing in a deep-lying role or behind the centre-forward, Ze Rafael bagged two goals as well as creating a further two en route to Libertadores glory last year.

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Best attacker

Since returning in 2016 from Club Athletico Paranaense where he enjoyed a brief loan spell, Raphael Veiga has become a key fixture in this Palmeiras side. The attacking midfielder, who is comfortable playing on either flank, amassed five goals in their successful Libertadores run including an effort against national rivals Flamengo in the final. His performances subsequently earned praise from his coach who has described him as a complete player. “He is a player that the best teams in the world want,” Ferreira said before adding that an international call-up wouldn’t be far off if he continues to keep up his current level.

Possible lineup

After managing Braga in his native Portugal and Greek side PAOK, former Sporting CP youth coach Abel Ferreira followed in the path of compatriot Jorge Jesus by taking his coaching talents across the Atlantic and joining Palmeiras where he would make an immediate impact. A pragmatist, Ferreira isn’t fixated with one system, and has instead used various during his tenure so far. Initially a believer of utilising wingers in support of a target man Ferreira dabbled with a 4-2-3-1 before switching to a back-three.

It’s been his formation of choice lately but Ferreira is expected to revert to the back four against international opposition. No matter the lineup, and how they are set up, the White-Green’s preferred style of play — defending close to their goal and taking advantage of space to launch their counters — remains the same. It’s fundamentally what won them successive Copa Libertadores crowns. But there is an obvious issue with a system of play that depends on defending so close to the goal: the slightest misjudgement or lapse in concentration can prove costly.

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