Whether they win a third-placed playoff in opposition to Al Ahly or not, Flamengo will return residence to Brazil from the Membership World Cup licking their wounds. Flamengo went to Morocco with excessive hopes of profitable the Mundial – a contest that’s not all the time taken critically by Europeans however that is still the holy grail for South American golf equipment.
“We’re arriving with lots of expectations,” mentioned Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa earlier this week. “The Mundial is a championship all of us dream about. Our squad is robust, with skilled and nationwide crew gamers. Now we have to place our sport on the sphere and do our greatest: one sport at a time, with out dashing.”
Whereas Gabigol’s perspective was fairly humble, Flamengo vice-president Marcos Braz went viral when a video emerged of him calling out the crew they anticipated to face within the remaining. “Actual Madrid, your time will come,” chanted Braz in a clip that got here again to hang-out Flamengo after their embarrassing 3-2 defeat to Al-Hilal within the semi-finals. The Saudi crew apparently used the clip as motivation, unimpressed by the vanity of opponents who presumed that they had already reached the ultimate.
Zico, who wore the Flamengo No10 shirt lengthy earlier than Gabigol, didn’t approve of the cocky locker room conduct both. “If followers are singing, OK, I don’t see any drawback. Followers are followers, that’s regular. What can’t be performed is for professionals to do that. You must be respectful, particularly with a crew like Actual Madrid,” he insisted. “Flamengo is on the stage it’s in the present day thanks to 2 gross sales to Actual Madrid, which made it potential for them to assemble an important squad. The departure of Vinicius Jr and Reinier yielded effectively for the coffers, in order that they needed to respect Actual Madrid. These days, adjustments come shortly.”
They definitely do on the Maracanã. As Gabigol identified after we spoke to him earlier this week: “2022 completed in an excellent method for us. We landed two massive titles.” Regardless of profitable the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, although, the membership determined to exchange Dorival Júnior with Vítor Pereira, the supervisor Júnior had crushed when Flamengo defeated Corinthians within the Copa do Brasil remaining.
A couple of causes have been put ahead to elucidate Flamengo’s poor efficiency in opposition to Al Hilal. They could be victims of Brazil’s packed calendar, which was supplied as a cause when Palmeiras misplaced their Membership World Cup semi-final in 2021. Flamengo performed 77 video games final yr – not less than 9 in most months – and are at the moment of their close-season break.
They’re additionally coping with out João Gomes, who joined Wolves for €18.7m within the January switch window. The 21-year-old made 64 appearances final season, providing safety to centre-backs David Luiz and Léo Pereira. Flamengo have struggled of their two video games to this point with out him, shedding the Tremendous Cup 4-3 to Palmeiras after which failing to beat Al Hilal in embarrassing trend. Not solely did they lack depth in opposition to Al Hilal, however errors value them dearly, with two of the three objectives they conceded coming from the penalty spot.
Flamengo additionally performed the whole second half with 10 males, with Gerson despatched off for 2 bookable offences within the first 45 minutes. Reasonably than pointing fingers at people, Zico thought one thing was off with the entire crew. “Flamengo was not Flamengo on the sphere and lots of issues made that occur,” he mentioned. “I didn’t see Flamengo blissful, cheerful, with that starvation and spirit that we’re used to seeing.”
There has additionally been criticism of Pereira, with many followers baffled by his choice to exchange his two most inventive midfielders – Giorgian de Arrascaeta and Éverton Ribeiro – when Flamengo have been chasing the sport. De Arrascaeta was hooked at half-time for the extra defensive Erick Pulgar, and Everton Soares – who didn’t stay as much as his potential at Benfica and is now again at Flamengo – got here on for Ribeiro simply two minutes earlier than Luciano Vietto scored Al Hilal’s third objective.
The defeat has been robust for Flamengo followers. They’re being mocked each by supporters of rival golf equipment equivalent to Palmeiras – who’ve by no means received the Mundial themselves – and those that have received the competitors greater than Flamengo’s one title, equivalent to Corinthians and São Paulo. Some Flamengo followers are already calling for Pereira’s head.
Zico sympathised with the followers who made big sacrifices to journey to Morocco. Brazil is an costly place to stay, however there are lots of tales of fanatics promoting their homes or supply drivers promoting their bikes to finance journeys to the Mundial, as was seen when Corinthians beat Chelsea within the remaining in 2012, nonetheless the final time a South American aspect has received the competitors.
“The defeat has introduced nice disappointment, particularly for the followers,” mentioned Zico. “The gamers and training employees are extra used to those blissful moments and troublesome moments, so they’ll overcome them. However the followers right here in Morocco have been very hopeful and excited. I’m very sorry for the followers, as a result of individuals got here right here from throughout Brazil, a unbelievable factor. You see 15,000 individuals with tickets already purchased for the ultimate. Given the power and high quality of the crew, no one anticipated the defeat. However we weren’t effectively ready for that type of sport.”
Flamengo have a tough street forward. The crew can obtain a light type of redemption by beating Al Ahly within the third-place playoff. Pereira will most likely maintain job, however he might want to retain the Copa Libertadores and overcome Palmeiras within the league to win over the followers. Mauro Cezar, one of many largest pundits in Brazil, thinks his fellow Flamengo followers ought to present extra religion in Pereira. “He’s a world coach with a really broad understanding of what Brazilian soccer is. He has the next stage than what Flamengo had below Dorival Júnior, who entered an emergency scenario that labored out for him by profitable titles.”
Cezar compares Dorival’s success with Flamengo final yr to what Roberto Di Matteo achieved at Chelsea when he received the Champions League in 2012. “Dorival inherited an excellent squad by South American requirements, adjusted, and was champion. However on the finish of final yr, his method to video games was already exhibiting put on and tear. The crew suffered some ugly defeats and didn’t play effectively. He didn’t appear to have the ability to make the crew evolve and that’s why they appeared for an additional coach. Flamengo had the most effective automotive and employed a driver who was not the most effective however managed to maneuver that automotive ahead. They crossed the end line as if it had run out of gas and dragged themselves to succeed in the end line, and it wasn’t meant to be like that.”
Cezar factors out that the season has not even begun but and followers ought to decide Pereira on the Libertadores, Brasileirão and Copa do Brasil. “The season is much from being outlined,” he says, however issues can go south very simply in Brazil. If Flamengo don’t win the Campeonato Carioca – the Rio state championship – Pereira could possibly be proven the exit door earlier than he has had an opportunity to progress within the larger competitions. By the point the supervisor returns to Rio, town might be sweltering in 40-degree warmth and approaching the peak of carnival season. However he might be on skinny ice.