I cannot stop believing that this year is the year.
Sunday Flamengo did what no other team had done so far in the tournament – they played a game worth of a Brazilian Champion. At the home of another one of our greatest rivals – our great enemy of the 80’s – Atlético Mineiro, Flamengo showed that it has the will and the football to take back the Cup home after 17 years. This was THE game of this tournament.
This tournament, with no finals, came really close to having one in this game Sunday. It was a great football game, reminiscent of the confrontations between the Atlético of Reinaldo and João Leitte, and the Flamengo of Zico, Júnior Nunes and Andrade. Not technically, but in raw emotion and in the confirming of the absolute supremacy of the Flamengo over its old rival.
Much like back then when Zico led the charge from the midfield, this victory was constructed by the old warhorse Dejan Petkovic, scored his eight olympic goal in his career, the most of any player. The goal, that happened in the beginning of the first half, shook Atlético to its core.
And then the invisible man attacked. The Chilean defensive midfield Maldonado, nicknamed “the invisible man” for his effective and subtle style of play, decided to go towards the goal, passing the ball to Zé Roberto and receiving back face to face with the goalie. Mercilessly, he dribbled the defender, and, with the same skill and coolness that Andrade had when he was a player, kicked a cross ball that filled up Carini’s net. At their stadium with 60.000 of their fans watching, the first half ended Atlético 0x2 Flamengo.
On the second half, Petkovic could barely walked due to a recurring pain in his thigh. The wounded lion refused to leave the field. Aírton, our great Spartan and first defensive midfield, was also limping due to cramped legs. Atlético took the cue to advance; we lost the midfield and stayed back, only defending. But the fatal mistake of only defending is that one will eventually go through. A unpretentious ball was crossed into Flamengo’s penalty area, and danced in front of Ricardinho, their attacking midfielder. A former Would Cup winner (in 2002 with Brazil), Ricardinho did not miss that chance. Atlético 1×2 Flamengo.
But then Andrade was forced to substitute both Pet and Aírton, both from injury. And the game that seemed to be going now in favor of Atlético, switched again towards us. Toró, a defensive midfielder with a forward’s background, and El Joven Pistolero Fierro came into the game and soon we where in the offensive again. The game became frenetic, with both teams getting close to scoring goals. Then, after receiving a ball from our right-winger Leonardo Moura, the Chilean Fierro moved further along the right wing and sent a millimetric pass right into Adriano’s head. And then it was over for them, the memory of the horror they suffered in the 80’s came back and, while they desperately tried to show a reaction, the absolute silence of their 60.000 fans and the roar of the two or three thousand Flamenguistas decreed that once more, the Rooster became prey to the Vulture.
We are now perched in third place, breathing down the neck of the new leader of the tournament, the Evil Empire, São Paulo. The difference is of two points. If they fuck up, we take it in one round.
P.S.: Go get it in the net, Carini!
Forgive me a fan’s rant, but there wasn’t anything else of consequence that happened this weekend. Some times lost, other won, and some even tied, but Atlético and Flamengo was an absolute masterful display of football. If you care who won or lost, here are the scores:
Grêmio 1×1 São Paulo
Santos 3×1 Náutico
Vitória 0x1 Avaí
Sport 2×3 Cruzeiro
Corinthians 2×0 Santo André
Fluminense 1×0 Palmeiras
Atlético-MG 1×3 Flamengo
Barueri 1×1 Internacional
Atlético-PR 2×0 Goiás
Botafogo 2×0 Coritiba