With the defeat to São Paulo in the Copa do Brasil final, Flamengo lost 5 finals this year. Now, the only remaining hope is the Brasileirão, where the Rubro-Negro currently sits in 7th place and sees the leader Botafogo at a distance.
Photo: Ricardo Moreira/Getty Images / Esporte News Mundo
Start of the season with high expectations
At the end of last year, Flamengo were the champions of the Copa do Brasil and the Copa Libertadores. Dorival Júnior, who had arrived in June 2022 to replace Paulo Souza, did a spectacular job, restoring the team’s confidence and leading them to the mentioned titles.
However, at the end of the year, with the aim of arriving stronger for the Club World Cup, the board decided to change the coaching staff. The choice to replace Dorival was Vítor Pereira, a Portuguese coach who had led Corinthians in 2022.
The new coach’s first challenge was the Supercopa do Brasil at the end of January, contested by the Copa do Brasil champion and the Brasileirão champion. Palmeiras and Flamengo played an epic match, which ended 4-3 in favor of Verdão. In a game with many twists and turns, Palmeiras emerged as champions.
The following week, Flamengo traveled to Morocco in pursuit of the long-awaited Club World Cup. The coaching change had been specifically planned for this tournament, but Flamengo didn’t even make it to the final. In their debut, they were defeated 3-2 by Al Hilal and ended up in 3rd place after defeating Al Ahly 4-2.
To make matters worse, the club continued to accumulate failures under Vítor Pereira’s leadership. They were defeated on penalties by Independiente Del Valle in the final of the Recopa Sudamericana and let the Campeonato Carioca title slip away to rivals Fluminense. After winning the first leg 2-0, the Rubro-Negro lost 4-1 in the return leg, losing the title, which resulted in the dismissal of Vítor Pereira.
Photo: Maga Jr/Agencia Enquadrar/Agencia O Globo
Sampaoli’s arrival at Flamengo
For the club’s coaching position, Flamengo opted for a heavyweight name, who had coached Chile and Argentina in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups respectively. Jorge Sampaoli, who had done good work in Brazil, leading Santos and Atlético-MG.
The Argentine had just been fired from Sevilla after a poor performance and signed with Flamengo until the end of 2024.
His time at the club was marked by never repeating a starting lineup, strained relationships with players and club staff, and the failure to lift a trophy.
Performance in the Brazilian Championship was decent, considering Flamengo’s expectations, hovering around the top positions but far from the leader Botafogo. The disappointment came in the Libertadores, as the club was eliminated prematurely by Olímpia in the round of 16. After building a considerable lead on aggregate score, the team conceded three goals and was eliminated from the competition.
In the 39 matches played under Sampaoli’s leadership, the team had 39 different lineups. If we think about a sequence of games, even a short one, looking from one game to another, the changes were always drastic. In these five months of work, Sampaoli only changed a single player between one match and the next on two occasions.
Sampaoli’s work was a laboratory of ideas, in which, in addition to the various lineups, the playing style changed from game to game. In this regard, Flamengo had good performances under the Argentine’s guidance, such as the matches against Fluminense in the Copa do Brasil, the first leg against Grêmio in the tournament’s semifinal, or even the victory against Botafogo, the Brasileirão leader, at the Engenhão.
However, there was no consistency for these successful ideas in the mentioned matches. In the end, Sampaoli’s work was disastrous at Flamengo, after high expectations with his arrival, everyone was disappointed due to the limited performance that the Rubro-Negro demonstrated throughout the season.
Photo: REUTERS/Carla Carniel
To “help” with such on-field instability, Flamengo faced various off-field problems. First, in July, Gabigol and Marcos Braz had a confrontation in the locker room. The number 10 suffered an ankle sprain and blamed the poor Maracanã pitch, confronting the club’s leader during halftime.
Frustrated by the injury, Gabigol wanted to leave, but Marcos Braz prevented it because the player could be selected for a doping test, and his presence would be required. This made the player even more agitated, leading to a heated argument. “Want a good pitch? Go to the Premier League,” Marcos Braz said. Promptly, Gabigol questioned the executive: “What are you doing here?” But the response would cause lingering resentment: “What have you done in Europe?”
At the end of July, in the match between Atlético-MG and Flamengo, Pedro was punched in the face by Jorge Sampoli’s team’s fitness coach, Pablo Fernández.
Pedro refused to warm up in the second half of the game. In the locker room, Pablo Fernández allegedly shouted, claiming that Pedro had disrespected the coaching staff. Pedro reportedly retorted, saying that there is no respect from the coaching staff toward him, and that’s why he doesn’t respect them.
Fernández’s response was a series of slaps to Pedro’s face, followed by a strong punch that hit him directly in the face.
According to Jovem Pan Esportes, during the incident, Gabigol and Jorge Sampaoli allegedly had a heated argument, as in the eyes of the players on the team, the Argentine coach did not show complete condemnation of the assault.
The fitness coach, Sampaoli’s right-hand man, was dismissed, while the coach retained his position.
In August, another case of aggression, this time involving Varela and Gerson. The two players argued during training, and the Uruguayan full-back went after the midfielder, who landed a punch on his teammate. Varela was subsequently taken to the hospital. After examinations, it was confirmed that he had a fractured nose.
Flamengo issued a statement after the incident, calling it a “scuffle” and stating that “the players understand that the episode is part of competitive training.” In the following match against Grêmio, both were in the starting lineup.
Finally, on the eve of the Copa do Brasil final, Marcos Braz, along with security personnel, cowardly assaulted a fan at a shopping mall. From the footage, you can see a young man on the ground, being kicked by about three large men.
The victim claimed that the city councilor had bitten his groin in the midst of the brawl, leaving a severe injury and marks on the area.
Photo: Marcelo Cortes / Flamengo
Disappointment in Flamengo’s season
With the defeat in the final, as São Paulo secured their first-ever Copa do Brasil victory, Flamengo’s last hope for 2023 lies in the Campeonato Brasileiro, where they currently sit in 7th place and see the leader Botafogo at a distance.
The Rubro-Negro has experienced a string of failures this season, losing their 6th title opportunity in 2023. Now, the club has a significant chance of going trophyless for the first time in 5 years.
Photo: Ricardo Moreira/Getty Images
Written by Henry Miller.