Palmeiras defeat Santos on penalties, win third Copa do Brasil
SAO PAULO -- Former Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto is celebrating another club title back home. At age 41.
The two-time World Cup player captained Palmeiras to their third Brazilian Cup title late Wednesday, helping them beat Santos 4-3 on penalties after a 2-1 win in regulation offset a 1-0 loss in the first leg last week.
Ze Roberto converted Palmeiras' first penalty in the shootout, then goalkeeper Fernando Prass saved one spot kick and converted the deciding shot to give the Sao Paulo giants their second Brazilian Cup trophy in the last four years.
Palmeiras had won the tournament under the command of former Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2012.
Striker Dudu scored in the 56th and 85th minutes at Palmeiras' Allianz Parque, but Santos forward Ricardo Oliveira netted in the 88th to send the game to penalties.
Ze Roberto, who played for Brazil in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, became a symbol of Palmeiras' resurgence after the team was nearly relegated in the Brazilian league last year. In a prematch speech to the squad in the beginning of the season, he passionately talked about Palmeiras' grandiosity, a video that quickly went viral and made sports headlines across the country.
"This club was going through a difficult moment and today we showed everybody that Palmeiras remains a giant," Ze Roberto said.
Palmeiras are the Brazilian club with the most national titles -- eight Brazilian championships and now three Brazilian Cups. Santos and Corinthians are next with nine national titles and cups each. Corinthians won their sixth Brazilian league title this year, while Santos won the traditional Sao Paulo state championship by beating Palmeiras in a final early in the season.
Palmeiras were relegated to the second division in 2012, the same year they won their second Brazilian Cup title with Scolari. But the club quickly returned to the top flight and were reinvigorated by the inauguration of their new arena late last year. Wednesday's triumph was the first at the 40,000-capacity venue in the heart of Sao Paulo.
Ze Roberto recently extended his contract with Palmeiras for another year, but after Wednesday's title he gave signs he might rethink his decision.
"Let's see, I'll enjoy time with my family and think about it," he said. "When I returned to Brazil in 2012 my goal was to win another important title, and I've achieved that now."
Ze Roberto returned to Brazil to play for Gremio before joining Palmeiras this year. He played for Real Madrid in the late 1990s and thrived with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich in the 2000s. Ze Roberto also previously played for Hamburg in Germany and Santos in Brazil.
Cruzeiro and Gremio are the most successful clubs in the Brazilian Cup with four titles each.