The Flamengo Men Who Defeated Liverpool To Reach The Top Of The World In 1981

The Flamengo Men Who Defeated Liverpool To Reach The Top Of The World In 1981

By Emmanuel do Valle.

The emphatic and yet almost effortless 3-0 win over Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in Tokyo on December 13, 1981, is regarded as the highest landmark in Flamengo’s history.

The victory — which brought the Intercontinental Cup (or World Club Cup, as it was often called at the time) to the Rubro-Negros — is arguably the peak moment of a golden generation.

The squad, based mostly around players raised in the club’s youth ranks throughout the 1970s, prompted the best-supported team in Brazil to its greatest winning period, which started right after the 1978 World Cup and ended with the selling of Zico to Udinese, in June 1983.

During this time, they amassed three Brazilian national championships (1980, 1982 and 1983), four Carioca state championships (1978, two in 1979 and 1981), the Libertadores Cup and the World Club Cup in 1981, plus many other minor trophies.

They were a group of players who could match the much-celebrated Brazilian 1982 World Cup squad in class and skills. In fact, all but one of these 11 players have worn the Seleção shirt at least once between 1980 and 1983.

And, as a team, they were better organized and well-balanced tactically, while keeping attractive, attacking football as an ideal.

Here are short profiles of the eleven men who played in that final, and their manager.

RAUL – Goalkeeper

Raul Guilherme Plassmann
Antonina (PR) – 27.09.1944

By far the most experienced player of the squad, the only one who had already been playing professionally since the 1960s, hence the nickname O Velho (“The Old Man”), made his name with Cruzeiro for more than a decade, winning the Libertadores Cup in 1976.

In August 1978 he was already considering retirement at almost 34 when he got a call from Flamengo, whom he joined and found a new lease of life.

A goalkeeper in the Italian mould — elegant, sober, relying much more on positioning and coolness than on acrobatic saves, Raul was able to establish himself as first-choice for most of his time at the club — including the string of big achievements from 1980 to 1983, including another Libertadores Cup — despite facing fierce competition from homegrown keeper Cantarele.

When Telê Santana was appointed the national team manager in 1980, he brought back Raul — then his favourite name for the position — to the Seleção. However, after a few friendlies, an argument over training put the keeper out of contention when he could easily have been the number one for the World Cup in Spain.

But Raul merely shrugged his shoulders: “Those who play for Flamengo don’t miss playing for the Seleção”, he once remarked. He hung up his gloves at the end of the 1983 season, aged 39.


LEANDRO – Right-back

José Leandro de Souza Ferreira
Cabo Frio (RJ) – 17.03.1959

His somewhat discreet performances for Brazil in the 1982 World Cup and his controversial last-minute giving up before the trip to Mexico four years later would deny him bigger international acclaim, which is unfair: in Brazil, he sits upon the very top shelf of fullbacks in the country’s football history. Unanimously.

His outstanding skills – with both feet – meant he could play as an attacking midfielder if he wanted to. Paulo Roberto Falcão, his team-mate in that revered 1982 World Cup squad, claims Leandro was the most technically gifted player of that brilliant side. In fact, he excelled in almost everything, both defending and attacking: tackling, heading, dribbling, ball control, passing, and crossing — always with a touch of pure class.

A passionate Flamengo supporter since his childhood days, Leandro played his entire club career at the Rubro-Negro, which gave him a uniquely close relationship with the fans. A sensitive character in a time when football world was growing demanding, he also suffered with persistent physical problems, especially in his knees.

Debuted for the first team in 1978, at 19, and in the following year had already undergone surgery, which hampered for a while his consolidation as a first-team player. His reputation grew higher in 1981, when he was appointed the best “newbie” of the season and also made his debut for the national team.

By mid-1984, as he could no longer constantly patrol the right flank, he moved inside to the centre-back position, displaying the same classy football and highlighting some qualities not so often praised until then, like his great positioning and anticipation.

In this role, he won another national title in 1987, his last great achievement for the club before slowly bowing out due to injuries in his later years and finally retiring in 1990, at only 31. He also earned 27 full international caps for Brazil from 1981 to 1986.


MARINHO – Centre-back

Mário Caetano Filho
Londrina (PR) – 27.02.1955

One of the few starters not to come from Flamengo youth ranks, having signed from his first club, Londrina, early in the 1980 season.

He also had a short spell on loan at São Paulo in 1977. Not the most skillful player in a team crammed with virtuosos, but a solid stopper, impressively quick for his height (at 6ft2, the tallest player in the starting eleven) and, naturally, good in the air.

He earned his single full international cap against Chile in May 1983 during Carlos Alberto Parreira’s first tenure at the helm of the national team, and left Flamengo for Atlético Mineiro in April 1984.


MOZER – Centre-back

José Carlos Nepomuceno Mozer
Rio de Janeiro (RJ) – 19.09.1960

Started as a tiny attacking midfielder as a boy, but moved to defensive midfielder and finally centre-back as he grew older – and taller, standing at 6ft1in – through the club youth ranks. His technique, though, remained undisputed – even though he was said to be a little flippant on-field sometimes in his early years as a professional.

A very strong tackler and imposing defender who also loved going forward. A remarkable blend of strength and technique. Moved abroad to Benfica in June 1987. Later on, he played for Marseille in their halcyon days.

Debuted for the national team in July 1983 and went on to gain 34 full international caps (most of them as a Flamengo player) until 1994. Played at the 1990 World Cup but missed the 1986 and 1994 editions on the brink of both tournaments through injury.


JUNIOR – Left-back

Leovegildo Lins Gama Junior
João Pessoa (PB) – 29.06.1954

A midfield player in the youth ranks, he played as a right-back in his early years in the first team before moving to the opposite side in 1976. A right-footed left-back, he used to join the midfield as a playmaker in his attacking efforts instead of raiding down the left flank.

Born in the Northeast of Brazil but raised in Copacabana, Rio, he developed his outstanding skills and stamina playing beach football.

A brilliant passer, he could move the ball to almost anywhere he wanted, which always put him in the highest positions in the club assists ranking. He was also a very good free-kick taker.

Junior holds the appearances record for the club with impressive 876 matches divided into two spells, split by the five seasons he played in Italy with Torino and Pescara. The first one from 1974 to 1984 and the second one – now definitely converted into a midfielder – from 1989 to 1993, when he retired at 39, one year after being the key figure in another national championship title.

He debuted for the national team in 1979 and played in two World Cups, 1982 and 1986, making him one of the highest regarded players in that fantastic Brazil team in Spain.

Retired from international football after Mexico, but was surprisingly – though deservedly – called up again for his last caps in 1992 – aged 37.


ANDRADE – Defensive Midfielder

Jorge Luís Andrade da Silva
Juiz de Fora (MG) – 21.04.1957

Calm and elegant defensive midfielder who made up for his lack of pace with his superb passing, clean tackling and very good reading of the game.

His shots from outside the box were also a kind of secret weapon: earlier in his career, he spent two seasons (1977 and 1978) playing in Venezuela on loan in an attacking midfielder role – and ended up being the league’s top scorer in the second of these.

Despite his qualities, he wouldn’t get a call-up for the national team until 1983 – strangely enough, Telê Santana, Brazil manager from 1980 to 1982, would give chances to his reserve at the club, Vítor, instead of him.

In 1987, he provided the inch-perfect assist for Bebeto to score the national championship-winning goal against Internacional.

The following year, he scored a remarkable solo goal for Brazil against Austria in a friendly in Vienna and then was sold to Roma, with whom he had, at 32, his sole, unsuccessful season in Europe.

After finishing his playing career, he worked in the club’s youth ranks and ultimately guided the first team to another national league title in 2009, ending a 17-year drought.


ADÍLIO – Midfielder

Adílio de Oliveira Gonçalves
Rio de Janeiro (RJ) – 15.05.1956

A genuine product coming from two of the greatest footballer hotbeds in Rio and Brazil: the favelas and futebol de salão.

Born and raised at the Cruzada São Sebastião, a ghetto stuck in the middle of the high class, luxury neighbourhood of Leblon and only a block away from Flamengo, he came to the club at a very young age to play what is now called futsal, the kind of indoor soccer so often played (and much appreciated) in Brazil.

A natural-born footballer with astonishing skills, he could dribble on the tiniest corner of the field or carry the ball stuck on his feet like glue even on a rather unplayable pitch.

He could be even deadlier when playing on the left-wing, with plenty of space to run, but he reportedly disliked that position: he felt he was taking the place of his boyhood friend and neighbour Julio César, a tricky winger (nicknamed “Uri Geller” for the way he twisted his markers) who was also raised at Flamengo but left in mid-1981.

Adílio was also a very good passer (both short and long), had good stamina and a penchant for scoring in decisive matches (including at the World Club Cup against Liverpool).

A Flamengo supporter since his childhood, he has the third-most appearances for the club having played more than 600 matches from 1975 to 1987. A local lad made good, he kept his ties with both the club and the community in which he was brought up after he retired.

It remains a mystery, though, how he managed only one full international cap — a friendly against West Germany at the Maracanã, in March 1982.

Brazil won a tight warm-up match for the World Cup 1-0 and Adílio provided the wonderful lob-pass assist for Junior to score the only goal, finishing a one-two move. But that was it: amazingly, he was never called up again, not even as a backup player.


ZICO – Attacking Midfielder

Arthur Antunes Coimbra
Rio de Janeiro (RJ) – 03.03.1953

Flamengo fans – in their traditional joking mood – usually celebrate Christmas on March 3. Because that was the day their Messiah was born: Arthur Antunes Coimbra, nicknamed Zico.

Arguably the club’s greatest player, idol, and icon. An attacking midfielder with talent in spades, breathtaking vision and exquisite technique. One of the all-time greatest free-kick takers.

A complete footballer, Zico was, as a famous Brazilian singer/songwriter said, “both the bow and the arrow”. He could create goals as easily as he could score. And he scored, indeed: Zico found the net 508 times for Flamengo in 730 matches, topping the club’s all-time goalscorers list.

He also comes first on the Maracanã stadium scoring charts. In his entire career, the count goes to over 800 goals, scored in any way one could think of.

A livewire attacking player in the 70s, he matured into an even more cerebral organizer in the 80s, as he has shown at the World Club Cup final against Liverpool in 1981.

He didn’t lose his goalscoring knack, though: he netted all four Flamengo goals in the three-match Libertadores Cup finals earlier that year.

A dedicated sportsman, Zico had a touching will to win in a career marred by multiple injuries, including a shocking knee injury in 1985 caused by a far-too-over-the-ball crunching tackle by a Bangu defender.

Some of these injuries hampered his contribution in two of his three World Cups: only in 1982 could he show his best form: four goals, four assists and loads of magical moments.


TITA – Right-winger

Milton Queiroz da Paixão
Rio de Janeiro (RJ) – 01.04.1958

Originally a central attacking midfielder in the youth ranks, he had to switch to the right as soon as he was brought up to the first team in 1977, as Zico was already the club’s big name. But even though he spent most of his time at Flamengo claiming (and complaining) he played out of his natural position, he never lacked enthusiasm.

In fact, Tita was a rather feisty competitor, combined with his very good technique. A free-kick specialist (again, eclipsed by Zico) and a very good header of the ball.

Tita could have shown up at the 1982 World Cup hadn’t he temporarily retired from international football right after the Qualifiers because he no longer wanted to be called up as a winger – Leandro surely missed their right-flank combinations.

Loaned out to Grêmio in early 1983 after a fall out with manager Carpegiani, Tita went on to win his second Libertadores Cup, leading the gaúcho club to his first victory in the competition. Then Flamengo called him back later that year to – at last – wear the #10 shirt after Zico had gone to Udinese.

Tita left the club permanently in September 1985 to Internacional after yet another rant about his role in the team, now outshined not only by the returning Zico but also by the up-and-coming Bebeto.

Later, in 1987, he moved to bitter rivals Vasco, scoring the goal which gave them the Carioca title over Flamengo, marking him out as a controversial name among fans.

He had a long, if intermittent, career in the national team, playing from 1979 to 1990 (when he, at 32 and playing for Vasco, took part in his sole World Cup finals as a backup player).


NUNES – Striker

João Batista Nunes de Oliveira
Feira de Santana (BA) – 20.05.1954

A brave, fearless, “crazy horse”-type of striker. Played for Flamengo in the youth ranks but left the club before turning professional to build up a successful career in his native Northeast region.

Injury put him out of the 1978 World Cup while playing for Santa Cruz, before making an expensive move to Flamengo rivals Fluminense, which ended up in failure.

In early 1980, after Flamengo’s bid for Barcelona’s (and former Vasco idol) Roberto Dinamite collapsed, manager Coutinho – the one who gave him his international debut – turned to Nunes. And the striker paid back in goals – deciding ones, mostly.

He grabbed the title-winning goals in both the 1980 and 1982 Brazilian championships, in the 1981 Carioca state league and scored twice in the 1981 World Club Cup.

But, just like Tita, he fell out with Carpegiani and was loaned out (to rivals Botafogo) in early 1983. After this, he came back for the 1984 season but left again at the end of it. His third (and last) spell at the club came in 1987, as he played a bit part in another national title.


LICO – Left-winger

Antônio Nunes
Imbituba (SC) – 09.08.1951

Just like Tita, he wasn’t a proper winger, being, instead, another playmaker with a fine touch.

Lico was virtually unknown nationally when he signed for Flamengo at the old age of 29 in August 1980. Before then, he had developed a career in his native Southern state of Santa Catarina, playing for a handful of clubs, apart from a brief, indifferent spell at Grêmio.

When arriving at Flamengo, he had a hard time finding his space through the first team. He was even loaned back to his former club Joinville for the first half of the 1981 season. It would take until November that year – roughly a month before the match against Liverpool – for him to get a chance by manager Carpegiani playing the role in which he would make history.

His simple but subtle and rather effective style on the pitch made things easier for his teammates, adding cohesion to the creative engine. The final piece of the jigsaw was also the man who oiled up the machine.

Flamengo would be his last club, hanging up his boots at the start of the 1985 season following a persistent knee injury.

He played his last match on July 1984, a few weeks before turning 33. His relatively low profile personality made him the only player in that starting eleven never to get a call up for the national team.


Paulo César Carpegiani – Manager

Erechim (RS) – 07.02.1949

As a player, he was a brilliant midfield schemer with a distinguished career. Born in the south of Brazil, he started with Internacional in the late 1960s, winning seven Gaúcho state championships and two Brazilian championships (1975 and 1976), featuring also in the 1974 World Cup finals for Brazil.

Flamengo bought him early in the 1977 season to add experience to a young, flourishing team under revolutionary manager Cláudio Coutinho.

Carpegiani captained Flamengo from the moment he arrived until he hung up his boots, in July 1981, winning – up to that point – three Carioca state leagues and another Brazilian championship in 1980.

In September, he had a testimonial match in a friendly against Diego Maradona’s Boca Juniors at the Maracanã. Flamengo won 2-0 with Zico scoring twice.

Carpegiani had already been appointed manager then, after the club didn’t enjoy a most successful time under the men who succeeded Coutinho in that season – former Flamengo player and youth team coach, Paraguayan Modesto Bria, and then former Brazilian international Dino Sani.

Carpegiani put the team back on track while retaining many of Coutinho’s football concepts, but also had his own fingerprints on that team.

Bringing Lico to the first team was his greatest contribution: that was when Flamengo defined his flexible 4-1-4-1 formation, giving up on orthodox wingers to add a bunch of creative midfielders floating behind striker Nunes, while also providing space for the full-backs to move forward.

His first tenure at the helm lasted until March 1983, when he left for Saudi Arabian soccer in the middle of Flamengo’s third Brazilian title campaign – the second one also won under Carpegiani the year before.

He had some other spells as the club manager, the last one in early 2018, but none of those were nowhere near as successful as that first one.