By Louis Smith.
101 days on from their Copa Libertadores win in Guayaquil, Flamengo are preparing to take on the world as they enter the Club World Cup in Morocco.
It is a tournament in which they have a history, and one their fans have been gearing up for since the final win in Ecuador.
This will be Flamengo’s third appearance in the intercontinental competition having done so in 1981 when they ran rings around Liverpool in a 3-0 victory to become world champions.
38 years later, it was Liverpool who would earn revenge in a 1-0 victory in Doha, thanks to an extra-time winner from Brazilian Roberto Firmino.
With the 2022 edition of the tournament taking place in 2023 due to the World Cup, Flamengo will play the at the beginning of their season rather than the end of their campaign.
The benefit this brings is that players will go into the tournament fresh and not fatigued after playing 50+ games, but the negative aspect means that the Rubro-Negro have seen many changes since their Copa Libertadores triumph, whereas they normally would have gone into the event with pretty much the same squad.
To the displeasure of the Flamengo faithful, at the end of the 2022 campaign, manager Dorival Junior said he would not be leading the team in 2023, meaning the Flamengo board immediately had to find a new coach, and one who was willing to jump straight into the deep end.
At the turn of the year, Flamengo reached an agreement with Vitor Pereira, who had left Corinthians a few weeks prior.
Pereira would become the man tasked with leading the most supported club in Brazil. As expected, the move to Flamengo sparked anger from Corinthians fans.
On January 27th 2022, Pereira spoke to English media outlet Sky Sports stating he wanted to take the Everton job, and that fans should respect him, but the Toffees’ board opted for Frank Lampard instead, which left Pereira to look for other options.
Just a few months following that interview with Sky, Pereira made his first venture into South American football by taking the Corinthians job.
Under his guidance, Corinthians reached the Copa do Brasil final and finished fourth in the league, earning a place in the 2023 Libertadores group stages.
His record at Corinthians reads; 26 wins, 21 draws and 17 defeats. Over the course of 64 matches, his side scored 75 goals, whilst conceding 57.
His game plan was for his side to be in control of the ball and dictate play. Throughout the 2022 campaign, Corinthians had the fifth-highest average possession in the league with 54.8%, something he’ll be hoping to emulate at Flamengo.
In the recent January transfer window, Flamengo lost a key asset in the young midfielder, Joao Gomes, who joined Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers, but the Rubro-Negro managed to strike a deal to bring Gerson back to the club from Marseille.
Gerson was part of the 2019 Flamengo side that won the Copa Libertadores and Brasileirão title back in 2019 under Jorge Jesus.
Another first-team player to depart was Ramon, who joined Olympiacos, but the team already has plenty of cover at left back in Ayrton Lucas and Filipe Luis.
So far in 2023, Flamengo have played seven matches: six in the Carioca and once in the Brazilian Super Cup. Their state championship form has been relatively good. In two of the matches they played a youth side in order to give their first-team regulars an extended period to train and the other time to prioritize the Supercopa match against Palmeiras.
Their first match under Pereira saw Flamengo win 4-1 against Portuguesa in what was a clinical performance from Flamengo.
However, in their first real test of the year, they suffered a 4-3 loss to Palmeiras in a thriller, something they will have to put behind them rapidly coming into the Club World Cup. The game itself was a fairly even contest with Flamengo prone to Palmeiras’ counterattacks. Flamengo dominated the ball and created chances, but equally allowed Palmeiras to have many opportunities at their goal, despite having only 39% of the ball.
Flamengo’s first game will see them take on Al-Hilal in a repeat of the 2019 Semi-final. The Rubro-Negro players will know all about avoiding complacency as they fell a goal behind in that fixture before three second-half goals ensured their place in the final.
In 2020, fellow Brazilians Palmeiras suffered a 1-0 loss to Mexican side Tigres at this stage, showing that a Europe v South America final is not always a guarantee.
Al-Hilal earned their place in the semi-final by overcoming Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca in a penalty shootout on Saturday.
Their squad features several of the players who stunned Argentina in the World Cup, including the man who got the winner, Salem Al-Dawsari. Also in the Al-Hilal contingent is Michael who played for Flamengo in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, helping the club lift six trophies.
Having only had a handful of matches to prepare the side, Vitor Pereira has trialled a 4-2-3-1 formation which is likely to be the system they will play in the Club World Cup. They have not just a solid first XI, but a strong squad, something which has grown in importance since the introduction of five subs.
Flamengo fans at the airport as they prepare to give their squad a traditional send off for their upcoming Club World Cup campaign.⚽️ pic.twitter.com/wlApbKGpbj
— Louis Smith (@louissmith22) February 2, 2023
In that squad, there’s a mixture of experience with the likes of David Luiz, Filipe Luis and Arturo Vidal.
Silky playmakers in Everton Ribeiro and Giorgian De Arrascaeta who can turn the game on its head in seconds.
Then there are Gabi and Pedro who have deadly finishing abilities, especially when it matters.
Everton Cebolinha and Marinho are players who are likely to come off the bench and, on their day, can be match-winners.
Flamengo have announced their squad for the Club World Cup.
Nice to see Bruno Henrique included after a year out with a knee injury. pic.twitter.com/v6vz5PJgxu
— Louis Smith (@louissmith22) February 2, 2023
Flamengo will be eager that they can end their 42-year wait to rule the world and if they do lift the Club World Cup on February 11th, there will be a colossal ‘festa na favela’.
HOOOJEEE TEM FESTA NA FAVELA!!! 🔴⚫ pic.twitter.com/Y4d91iDpjC
— Os Flanaticos (@OsFlanaticos_) August 29, 2019