Flamengo finished runners-up in the Brazilian league and Copa Sudamericana in 2040 but Robinho Lazaró had bigger ambitions. His sole remaining task was to win South America’s biggest prize, the Copa Libertadores, with a Club World Cup on the horizon.
To achieve this, Lazaró decided it was time to move on some of the dross at the club and start spending some money at the start of 2041. However, that was easier said than done as Brazilian players seemed to be horrendously overpriced, as proven by exciting centre-back Fábio Appolinário joining from Fluminense for £9.25 million. Although Lazaró did bring in £5 million for two 30+ centre-backs to offset that.
He also managed to loan in Ricardo, who was part of his Brazil squad (read more in part 42 on that) from Cuiabá, and looked beyond to Brazil to snap up wonderkid left-back Gonzalo Acedevo for £5.75 million from Rosario Central. And those two youngsters were named 6th and 14th in NxGn 2041.
With those players through the door, Lazaró decided to shift from the narrow formation he used last year to a wider, more positive 4-3-3 approach.
Rio State Championship
The season began with the Rio State, in which Flamengo’s main challengers were Vasco and Fluminense, who got relegated from Série A last season. The competition began with a 6-1 win over Americano, in which right-back Célio Carlos achieved the rarity of a hat-trick of free-kicks! Striker Gustavo Britos then bagged a club and league record five-goal haul as they made it back-to-back 6-1 wins at Boavista (RJ).
That set the tone for the introductory league as Flamengo won their first six games, scoring 29 in the process. They won the toughest game of the league 3-1 at Vasco, led by a Maicon brace, and beat Fluminense 3-1 at home to finish comfortably top with a 100% record.
That was followed by playoffs, in which they eased past Cabofriense 5-0 on aggregate to set up a final against rivals Vasco, which somewhat bizarrely was a two-legged tie both at neutral venues. The “away” leg was a 1-1 draw that had more bookings than shots then Carlos’ two assists inspired a 3-0 second-leg win to deservedly win the Rio State for Flamengo.
Lazaró’s 16th league title was largely thanks to Britos, who finished with twice as many goals as anyone else in the league! He bagged 19 goals in 12 games with a ridiculous league record 8.45 average rating! While right-winger Ever Esperidioni got a league-high six assists.
Copa Libertadores group stage
Lazaró was a little disappointed to miss out on a group that included América de Cali and Godoy Cruz. But he was happy with a relatively easy draw of Colo-Colo, Bolívar and Independiente Santa Fe.
They got a good start, as Ricardo’s first goal for the club earned a 1-0 home win over Colo-Colo then a Maicon double inspired a 2-1 win in Santa Fe. Britos bagged a hat-trick inside half an hour and came off after 54 minutes for hot prospect Adriano to score his first Flamengo goals in a 6-0 win over Bolívar, in which they racked up 42 shots to zero!
A fully rotated side drew 0-0 in Bolivia to confirm qualification and 1-1 with Santa Fe then won 1-0 in Chile to win the group. That set up a place in the knockout stages of the one competition Lazaró was most focused on winning, which will begin with a quarter-final against former club Alianza Lima!
Straight into Série A
There was no time for a break as the unrelenting Brazilian season rolled straight into the main Série A league. It began in style with Maicon bagging a hat-trick in a 3-0 win at Ituano. Remarkably, Flamengo were on a 30-match unbeaten domestic streak and hadn’t lost in 20 matches in 2041. And that continued with another 3-0 win at rivals Vasco led by a Britos brace.
Draws with former club Palmeiras and at Bahia took Flamengo to 30 games unbeaten in all competitions (earning the ‘Top Form’ Steam badge). A Maicon goal nicked a 1-0 win over surprise outfit Cuiabá, which took Flamengo second and just one point behind Corinthians with two games in hand. That took them into a world stage event in very good form indeed.
FIFA Club World Cup
For some reason, Flamengo were entered into the Club World Cup in Holland, where they were given a group of Al-Hilal and Monaco (whose place at the competition was also a little baffling).
They began against Monaco and came out absolutely flying with 14 shots to none in the first half! Maicon eventually made it count by finishing off a great move two minutes into the second half and the domination continued. Flamengo racked up 30 shots to one, 2.48 xG to 0.10, and won 1-0! What an amazing performance.
That meant a draw with Al-Hilal would be enough to win the group. And that proved to be a doddle as Carlos gave them a great start, Britos and Ricardo made it three inside 20 minutes and midfielder Damián Parisi nodded home a fourth just before the break. Adriano came on to score but captain Frantisek Stovicek was player of the match with an assist hat-trick.
Elsewhere, River Plate beat European champions Chelsea 1-0, Palmeiras beat Barcelona 2-0, Santos beat Sevilla 3-2, Guadalajara thumped Man UFC 4-1, and Boca drew 1-1 with Man City! So have South American clubs become overpowered because we don’t have European leagues loaded?
The quarter-finals teed up a mouthwatering Brazil v Argentina clash as Flamengo took on River. The rest of the draw had Real Madrid v Bayern, followed by the more surprising clashes of Boca v Santos and Palmeiras v Guadalajara!
Both teams came into the big game absolutely exhausted due to the dumb scheduling of the competition. But Flamengo absolutely dominated again, reining in an outrageous 35 shots on the River goal. They managed to convert one through substitute Esperidioni but allowed River a completely undeserved 90th-minute equaliser. They also dominated extra-time but again couldn’t score, so it went to penalties. And Sasa Mucibabic stepped up to save two penalties and send his team through to the semis.
Frustratingly, Flamengo drew Real Madrid in the semi-finals, with Santos facing Palmeiras in the other semi. So could they make it an all-Brazilian final? The first half was very even with Britos hitting the bar and Mucibabic making a good save. But it swung on Madrid’s midfielder getting a straight red for a two-footer from behind on Parisi just before the break. Flamengo kicked on from there and won a penalty that Stovicek coolly tucked home after 78 minutes. Madrid offered nothing before substitute Ricardo raced through to make sure of it late on. Flamengo were in the Club World Cup Final!
It was written in the stars wasn’t it? After seeing off Madrid, Flamengo then took on Lazaró’s former club Palmeiras, who beat Santos on penalties, in the Final! And that offered an opportunity for revenge after Palmeiras beat them in the Copa Sudamericana Final last season. This was Flamengo’s second CWC final and Palmeiras’ first. Lazaró went with a lineup of:
Mucibabic; Célio Carlos, Lorival, José Mário, Luciano; Stovicek, Rojas, Parisi; Ricardo, Maicon; Britos
Subs: Adriano, Muller, Appolinário, Vitinho, Esperidioni, Luiz, Nathan, Acevedo, Iago, García, Silva
The first half was pretty quiet but Flamengo probably edged it and got their reward as Parisi tucked home in the 65th-minute. But then all hell broke loose. Palmeiras were given a penalty for no reason in an off-the-ball incident but Mucibabic brilliantly saved Jonathan Bernardo’s effort. Six minutes later, Stovicek was sent off when he was fouled from behind, which carried him into the back of a Palmeiras player!
Lazaró went fully on the defensive until a dreaded injury-time highlight. Mucibabic booted the ball up field (despite being told to take short kicks), it came to Bernardo on the volley and he spanked it into the empty net from 50 yards! What an outrageous goal! Left-back Luciano idiotically got himself sent off at the start of the second period of extra-time, sending his team down to nine men! But they somehow held on for penalties.
That man Mucibabic yet again came up huge, making three penalty saves as his teammates tucked home all of their spot-kicks. Flamengo were Champions of the World!!! And this game was so crazy, we thought we’d create a little highlight package of the match:
Lazaró was over the moon with this success. He didn’t fancy their chances of getting through the group ahead of Monaco, let alone winning the whole thing! It was interesting to see how poorly the European sides performed and whether that’s because we don’t have European leagues turned on, or because Brazilian teams were in the middle of their league compared to European teams being on summer holiday. But becoming world champion wasn’t even an achievement Lazaró had even contemplated at the start of this journey.
In other news, the latest success saw him become the greatest Colombian manager of all time!
Lazaró’s next task was to try and become champion of South America in Copa Libertadores. But first, he also had to try and lead Brazil to the World Cup. Join us next time to discover if he can achieve it!