Flamengo defeated at home, 0-1, by São Paulo in the first leg of the Copa do Brasil final.
Join us as we review the game and the moments after the match, filled with controversy.
Image: Estadão Conteúdo
Flamengo vs. São Paulo
On the afternoon of Sunday, September 17, 2023, Flamengo and São Paulo faced off in the first leg of the Copa do Brasil final.
The current situations of both teams were reflected in this first game between them.
Much of the first half was marked by a meticulous study of each other’s strategies. However, at the 16th minute, Calleri had his first opportunity to score. With a cross from the left, the Argentine striker slid to make contact with the ball but was denied by Matheus Cunha’s save.
Flamengo’s only dangerous moment in the first half didn’t even result in a shot on goal. The Flamengo attack orchestrated a good play that ended with Gerson passing to Bruno Henrique inside the box, but Beraldo made the crucial interception. The ball fell comfortably to goalkeeper Rafael.
From the 35th minute onward, São Paulo increased their intensity and began creating chances. In the 39th minute, the São Paulo team moved the ball around at the entrance of the area with some freedom until it reached Nestor, who delivered a powerful cross. The ball passed by Calleri and Rato, posing a threat.
In the following play, Flamengo’s goalkeeper, Matheus Cunha, who hasn’t been performing well lately, attempted to play the ball from the back. However, he didn’t anticipate São Paulo’s high press. Lucas Moura contested and the ball fell to Alisson, who played a first-time pass to Lucas, who was in a position to score. Nevertheless, he was blocked by Pulgar.
The São Paulo goal was brewing, and it indeed happened. Caio Paulista received the ball unmarked on the left side. The full-back dribbled towards the center, leaving space on the wing for Nestor, who received and delivered an excellent cross. The ball found the goal scorer at the far post. Calleri headed it into the net.
It’s worth mentioning Matheus Cunha’s mistake here, as the ball traveled high and without much force, crossing almost the entire penalty area. The goalkeeper rushed out in an uncontrolled manner, leaving the goal almost wide open for São Paulo’s center-forward, who broke the deadlock at 45+1′.
Image: MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP
In the second half, Flamengo managed their first shot of the match. In a good play, Everton Ribeiro crossed to Pedro. The striker rose to head the ball, but it was blocked by São Paulo’s defense, almost on the goal line. Goalkeeper Rafael was already beaten in the situation.
After this chance, Flamengo managed to level the game, and São Paulo seemed to feel the physical aspect. Nevertheless, Flamengo hardly threatened São Paulo’s goal, with their shots mostly limited to long-range efforts. Dorival Junior had set up the team well to prevent penetrations and ball movement in the final third.
Image: Getty Images
Behind the Scenes of the Final
This final will be remembered for a long time. One of the main reasons is the atmosphere surrounding this game.
It’s worth remembering that Dorival Junior was sacked from Flamengo after winning the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, making way for Vitor Pereira.
Dorival now leads São Paulo to the Copa do Brasil final for the second time in the club’s history and is close to securing this unprecedented title for the Tricolor Paulista.
On the other hand, Flamengo is experiencing an absolutely disastrous year. They haven’t won a single title so far. Vitor Pereira lost all the finals he participated in and was replaced by Jorge Sampaoli.
The Argentine coach has been unable to make his mark, despite having the best squad in the Americas at his disposal. Rumors suggest he’s on a collision course with the Flamengo squad since his arrival.
Sampaoli is known for his explosive temper and excessive demands. Such an attitude doesn’t seem to sit well with the Flamengo squad, filled with club idols and stars. The situation, which was already bad, is said to have become unsustainable after Pedro was allegedly punched in the face by Sampaoli’s fitness coach, Pablo Fernandéz.
There have also been comments that not only the players but also the club’s staff, in general, miss Dorival Junior’s coaching and strongly dislike Sampaoli’s behavior.
Some of these rumors were evidenced when, during Dorival Junior’s post-match press conference, Gabigol opened the door and blew a kiss to the opposing coach.
Another noteworthy event was Sampaoli leaving the field and heading to the tunnel before the end of the first half, leaving his players without a coach in the final moments of the first period after conceding a goal. An action that requires little analysis to demonstrate the lack of unity between the squad and coaching staff.
Furthermore, after the match, Sampaoli was caught in another fit of anger, kicking the tunnel gate at Maracanã.
Another curious event, to say the least, was an audio leak during the Globo network broadcast. The renowned journalist from Brazil’s largest network, Eric Faria, allegedly made the following informal comments to his colleagues in the booth, Luis Roberto (narrator), Roger Flores, and Ricardinho (commentators):
“If you want to remember, Flamengo’s two best performances with this idiot… Botafogo and Grêmio. He has problems seeing the game, understanding what’s in front of him. It’s unbelievable, guys. This must be a cognitive issue. It has to be. He could have used the same lineup that played well 15 days ago (against Botafogo). He can’t replicate it. It must be some sort of OCD of his. He can’t repeat half, underwear, nothing in life.”
At the end of the match, Flamengo’s fans, who filled Maracanã and generated the highest revenue in Brazilian football history, an incredible R$ 26 million (€5 million), protested against Sampaoli, Marcos Braz (director), and Landim (president).
Football, as everyone knows, is extremely unpredictable. However, given the scenario described here, only a catastrophe would prevent São Paulo from winning the title. In any case, Flamengo can rely on the technical quality of its players, which is not insignificant.
Who will be the champion? Comment below!
Written by Vitor F L Miller.