Jesus and Flamengo will give the wheel of destiny one more spin next month at the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar

The new Libertadores champions are just two games away from surpassing the achievements of the team responsible for the club’s zenith. Can they become world champions for a second time? Or is it an impossible dream?

Em dezembro de 81

Botou os ingleses na roda

3 a 0 no Liverpool

Ficou marcado na história

E no Rio não tem outro igual

Só o Flamengo é campeão mundial

E agora seu povo

Pede o mundo de novo

Dá-lhe, dá-lhe, dá-lhe, Mengo!

Et cetera, et cetera...

So goes the most sung Flamengo anthem of the last 12 months commemorating their famous Intercontinental Cup win over Bob Paisley’s all-conquering Liverpool side to officially be crowned world champions. It’s the reason for the single star shining out over their club crest. Translated into English the chant goes roughly like this:

In December of ‘81

They gave the English the runaround

3-nil against Liverpool

It went down in history

And Rio has no equal

Only Flamengo is World Champion

And now its people

Ask for the world again

Come on, come on, come on, Mengo!

And this is how it sounds in the stadium:

Sung on the Maracanã terraces, in the streets and at the recent Copa Libertadores homecoming celebrations, it shows how important the international club tournament is to the Brazilians. Flamengo are still the only Rio de Janeiro club to have won the title, including in its present incarnation, the FIFA Club World Cup. Incredibly, December’s showcase in Doha, Qatar, gives Jorge Jesus’ side the chance to face Liverpool again, if both teams get through their semi-finals. Win this game and they will go one better than the greatest team in the club’s history and pick up a third title of real significance. Zico’s men did not win the Brazilian Serie A in 1981, while Gabigol and the boys were crowned national champions a mere 23 hours after their Libertadores triumph, as Plalmeiras went down 2-1 to Gremio on Sunday. They now have the chance to fulfill their fans’ wildest dreams.

The first round of the 2019 edition of the Club World Cup sees the Qatari hosts, Al-Sadd, take on Oceania champions, Hienghene Sport to decide who’ll face Mexican side and CONCACAF representatives, Monterrey, in the 2nd round. The winner of that will play Liverpool in the semi-final.

Flamengo, meanwhile, will be up against the winner of Al-Hilal and Espèrance de Tunis who won the Asian and African Champions Leagues, respectively.

In another twist of fate, Colombian, Gustavo Cuellar, who left Flamengo for Al-Hilal in August could face his former teammates on December 17th if his current side progress to the semi-final.

South American teams have not had a huge amount of success in the Club World Cup.  Since it became an annual tournament in 2005, only Internacional, São Paulo and Corinthians have got their hands on the trophy.

Flamengo are not the only Brazilian team to ‘botar os Ingleses na roda’ however. In the first edition back in 2000, Flamengo’s local rivals Vasco da Gama gave Manchester United ‘the runaround’ in the Maracanã, which Gary Neville still says was the toughest game of his life. The strike partnership of little Romario and ‘Animal’ Edmundo was the best he’d ever had to deal with.

Not yet on the same level as those two Brazilian legends, the rubro-negro have the red-hot pairing of Bruno Henrique and Gabigol up front. Can they go one better than their fabled team of ‘81, with Zico, Adílio, Mozer and Júnior amongst their ranks?

It’s certainly possible, but it will need everything to come together at the right moment once again if they want to write a new verse for their favourite song.

For 70 minutes at least, Jorge Jesus’ men failed to deal with the magnitude of the occasion in Lima and looked rather shell-shocked as River Plate hassled them from their natural game not allowing them to dictate play. Flamengo did not respond well to River’s rapid, physical pressing and Klopp’s Liverpool are one of the primary exponents of this style of play in world football today. Moreover, one thinks that Mané, Salah and Firmino will not be as forgiving as Borré, Suarez and Palacios were in that first hour against the Brazilians. Liverpool probably have the best eleven on the planet right now and their midfield is starting to click into place with Fabinho a regular starter and Oxlade-Chamberlain back in the side. The strength and mobility of that team is a big step up from the Argentine champs.

On the other hand, Flamengo will certainly be more up for the game than Liverpool will. The Reds will be halfway through a congested Premier League season in which they are challenging for their first title in 30 years and that is their primary focus this year, even over and above the UEFA Champions League which they won in May. The Liverpool squad have two Champions League games, four Premier League games and a Carabao Cup fixture before their Club World Cup opener on the 18th of next month, while Flamengo have three remaining league outings in a competition they have already won and a full eight days rest before their first game in Doha.

And then you have Jorge Jesus. His steely determination to win will reach new heights as he may get a chance to avenge his two Europa League final defeats with Benfica against a European opposition. The Portuguese maestro has achieved wonders over the last six months and who’s to say he can’t pull off one more improbable victory. It might just be the last hurrah for this version of Flamengo as big money offers have already come in for him and his best young players.

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