The cowardice of Uruguayan coach Alexander Medina was useless when he asked that the pitch at Estádio José Almafitani be precarious for the first leg of the Libertadores semifinal.
Especially because Flamengo is used to facing the Maracanã floor, worn out by matches of the team itself, Fluminense and even eventually Vasco, not to mention other stadiums in Brazil. Including Nílton Santos, against Botafogo last Sunday.
Vélez Sarsfield needed to attack, advance the mark. Dorival Júnior’s team responded by alternating the ball out – sometimes sustained, with the sides Rodinei and Filipe Luís closer to the defenders, sometimes with Thiago Maia retreating to assist David Luiz and Léo Pereira creating numerical superiority against Lucas Pratto and Walter Bou.
Overcoming the advanced lines, it was just a matter of finding Everton Ribeiro or Arrascaeta in the back of the midfielders, or the support of an increasingly better João Gomes offensively, in addition to health and precision in the tackles, and making the ball reach Gabigol and, mainly, Pedro.
The Libertadores absolute scorer is a separate paragraph from the 4-0 that put Flamengo in their third Libertadores final in the last four years. Strong, fast, technical, accurate. Three goals, reaching 11 in the competition. More participation in Everton Ribeiro, the second at the end of the first half that silenced the stadium and made the Argentines practically throw in the towel. Still a spectacular pass for Filipe Luís to get scared with the freedom inside the area and kick with his ankle, weak, in the hands of the goalkeeper Hoyos.
Absolute dominance, with 58% possession, 15 shots. Ten on target, four on nets. Gabigol could have scored one of the three he lost and Flamengo would repeat the 5-0 in a semifinal, as he did in 2019 against Grêmio. Only this time on Argentine soil.
A victory to consolidate the work of Dorival Júnior and the clear evolution since the “discovery” of the 4-3-1-2 in the 7-1 over Tolima. The team was mature, technical and efficient.
But the triumph with spectacle will only be historic indeed if the club’s third title is confirmed, against Palmeiras or Athletico, on October 29, in Guayaquil.
Because in 2021 there was also an undefeated campaign until the decision, with 100% success in the knockout stage. There was also a spectacular goal in the semi-final, against Barcelona in Guayaquil, with Bruno Henrique completing a string of passes from goalkeeper Diego Alves through the ten outfielders. Had Renato Gaúcho becoming the coach with the most wins in the history of the continental tournament.
As well as the favoritism attributed by all, even with Palmeiras holding the title and being the opponent in the decision in Montevideo. It all came crashing down in Andreas Pereira’s grotesque failure that Deyverson did not forgive. Does any red and black fondly remember the first Libertadores in which Flamengo reached the final and was defeated, just by the biggest national rival in recent years?
That’s why it’s necessary to ratify the fantastic moment with the cup. Or cups, since the spot in the final of the Copa do Brasil is also very close. Untitled, what’s left is the champion meme. In the case of Flamengo, the return of the “smell” talk.
Without the cup, the show in Buenos Aires will only be a “flash in the pan”, an “illusion” that ended in disappointment. Vélez will be reduced to a timeco and Flamengo will be condemned by the “yayyyyyy”. The story is told by the winners. In war and also in football.
The achievement will put a generation in history that undoubtedly changed the club’s level on the South American scene. Now feared, though sometimes disrespected, as “Cacique” Medina did when suggesting in an interview that it was an “accident” in 2019 to win over River Plate in Lima.
Only trophies end arguments. Sometimes they turn average professionals, or just promising ones, into gurus, geniuses. This time they can consecrate a team that imposes itself in any stadium and builds an unlikely trajectory of recovery in the season, after the disaster of Paulo Sousa.
Merits of Dorival Júnior, mainly. But coach and club need the titles to remove asterisks. There are two finals on the horizon and a “mission impossible” at the running points. It’s time to not let history slip through your fingers.