Flamengo stocking up the trophy cabinet

Gabigol scores again, this time with a new haircut (pic: André Durão / GloboEsporte)

Flamengo won their third trophy in less than two weeks after pummeling Independiente del Valle at the Maracanã on Wednesday night.

Flamengo beat Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle on Wednesday to win the South American Recopa (the winners of the Libertadores against the winners of the Sudamericana). This was their third trophy in less than two weeks. Last Saturday they won the Guanabara Cup, part 1 of the 2020 Rio State Championship, and the weekend before that they beat Athletico Paranaense in Brasilia to lift the Brazilian Super Cup.

It has been a very impressive start to the season by Flamengo. There were fears that after last year that that the squad could be dismantled, and Jorge Jesus, the coach, could leave. But Jesus has stayed put (at least until May) and not only has the club managed to keep hold of its best players, they have also added quality to the squad.

Bruno Henrique resisted a big-money move to China and Gabigol has signed on a permanent deal from Inter Milan. The club has also added Pedro (on loan for a year), Michael, Thiago Maia, Gustavo Henrique and Leo Pereira – all top-quality players! The only player they have lost from last year’s side is Pablo Mari, who moved to Arsenal.

The side, of course, went toe to toe with Liverpool in the World Club Cup final in late December last year, which meant that the team had very little off before the start of the competitive games this year. Flamengo responded by fielding their youth side in the early rounds of the Rio State Championship, but the kids managed to pick up points and when the first team came back, they picked up from where they left off last year.

Flamengo breezed past Athletico Paranaense in the Brazilian Super Cup on 16 February, beating them 3-0. Bruno Henrique, Gabigol and Arrascaeta scored those goals. Boavista proved more difficult opponents in the Guanabara Cup final last weekend. Flamengo played mainly a reserve team in that match and had to come from behind to win 2-1, Diego and Gabigol with the goals, but although they suffered a scare, going behind, you never really thought that they wouldn’t win the game.

Sandwiched in between those two games was the first leg of the South American Recopa in Ecuador, in which Flamengo managed a 2-2 draw with Independiente del Valle (Bruno Henrique and Pedro with the goals). The second leg, held on Wednesday in the Maracanã, was a lot more one sided, even though Flamengo has Willian Arão sent off in the first half. They still won the match 3-0, with Gerson scoring twice and Gabigol also on the scoresheet.

It was a seriously impressive performance from Flamengo, in particular from Gabigol, summed up well by the Independiente coach, who said: “the team is capable of doing anything, anywhere, against any opponent”.

There is a lot to be said about Flamengo: their quality, their style and their players. More analysis to follow in the coming weeks, as the Copa Libertadores begins and the teams get ready for the national championship. The bottom line is that everybody else better watch out: Flamengo did very well last year – this year, they are even better.

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