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Remembering Liverpool’s FIFA Club World Cup victory over Flamengo


Ah, the Club World Cup season is upon us.

It’s the tournament that hardly gets attention in Europe unless your team qualifies for it, and if it does, it momentarily becomes the focal point of your existence for a week or so.

The 2020/21 edition comes a bit late (well done Covid x) and takes place in Japan, with Bayern Munich from Europe, Palmeiras from South America and Al Ahly from Asia among those competing for silverware and are adding this cute little gold badge to their kit for next year.

Clubs could be forgiven for struggling to get up. A trip to Japan for, let’s face it, a second-rate FIFA tournament could hardly be high on the agenda amid a pandemic that’s causing all kinds of problems.

But anyone who doesn’t quite feel it has to look back about 14 months, to the 2019 finals, to understand what that means.

Like Bayern now, Liverpool had bigger priorities back then. They had just won the Champions League and were looking on the horizon as a first league title in 30 years drew closer and closer. Yet they still found themselves caught up in the opportunity; By the time they had passed Monterrey to reach the final, fans watching them were desperate that they would return home as world champions for the first time.

They had only reached the final twice, losing to Brazilian clubs twice. In 1981, they lost to Flamengo, in one of the most famous victories in the history of the Brazilian club.

Guess who they were up against in the final this time around?

It would be Flamengo.

Jurgen Klopp meets Flamengo boss Jorge Jesus in Qatar | MUSTAFA ABUMUNES / Getty Images

And if the resulting finale was hardly a classic, it was certainly memorable.

We had Liverpool, at full strength, at the top of their game and for the occasion, against a Flamengo team who treated the game as the greatest in their history. The result was a real battle of attrition; the tackles were late, the tension was high and the football was lousy.

We had our momentary flash of VAR drama when, belatedly, Sadio Mane was taken out into the box, only for Jurgen Klopp’s team to (rightfully) get out of their tech penalty.

As the European champions dominated, Flamengo held on and must have thought the gods were with them given how many chances Liverpool were missing. There were 99 minutes on the clock, part of the stoppage time played, when Roberto Firmino offered a quality moment that ended with him circling the pitch with his shirt over his head .

The South Americans had a great chance to come back, but Lincoln, with the goal at his mercy, blew up. And there sank the hearts of Brazilian hopefuls, who knew their race was over.

Some in Europe had canceled Flamengo before kick-off, given the level of their opposition, but what we saw proved that the quality gap between Europe and the rest of the world is not so badly damaged. than the finance gap.

It was the 16th Club World Cup since 2000, but it was the eighth time that there had been a goal or less between the teams in the final.

It’s a bigger tournament and a tougher tournament to win than most Europeans realize. Liverpool’s victory over Flamengo should prove it to Bayern – take it lightly at your peril.