Dubai: Flamengo coach Mario Jorge can see a near-total evolution of his young team by the time they make it to the knockout stages of the ongoing Ninth Dubai International U16 Football Championship.
Coming in as the hot favourites, the defending champions from Brazil toyed with Al Nasr before winning 3-0 while Atletico Madrid made their intentions clear with a 7-0 swamping of Hatta in the second match on Saturday.
The Brazilians led 3-0 by half-time, after which they sat back and soaked in the pressure from Al Nasr to take full points and become only the second team after Al Hilal to book their spot in the semi-final with a match in hand.
Flamengo arrived in Dubai for their first-ever competition after a fire had claimed the lives of 10 teenage players at the club’s youth team’s Ninho de Urubu training centre in Rio de Janeiro in February.
Of the 10 dead in the fire defensive midfielder Rykelmo Viana was part of the side that beat Spanish giants Real Madrid in last year’s final.
And another three — Samuel Rosa Thomas (right back), Jorge Eduardo (defensive midfielder) and Christian Candido Esmerio (goalkeeper for club and country) — would have been in Dubai along with the squad this week.
Flamengo took their time to re-build the training facility and it was only three weeks back that they re-started activity at the centre. “We’ve had just 20 training sessions with this team, and that’s certainly not enough for an important competition like this,” coach Jorge told Gulf News after his team’s second straight win.
“But we are learning and we are growing as a team. We don’t want to look too far ahead and speculate who our semi-final opponents will be. That is not our philosophy at the club. We would rather prefer to take one match at a time with only a win giving us total satisfaction,” he added.
All three goals came in the first half. Joao Pedro Da Cruz Oliveira curled in a free kick from well outside the box in the sixth minute to give the Brazilians the lead. Arthur De Souza Lessa doubled the score in the 22nd minute with an easy tap-in from a Wiverson De Oliveira Baptista delivery from the right flank and Kaiky Brum Veloso’s pile-driver from 35 metres in the 34th minute gave no chance to the home team custodian.
In the second half, the Brazilians were content keeping possession while also trying out a few substitutes. Al Nasr did make use of the spaces towards the opponent’s goal, but the Flamengo defence stood tall as goalkeeper Hugo Moraes De Frias Carvalho maintained a second clean slate.
Flamengo next face Hatta, while Al Nasr will take on Atletico Madrid on Monday to decide the second semi-finalist from Group B. In the other group, Al Hilal have already entered the last four while Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Borussia Dortmund and Al Wasl are in the running for the second place.
“We still have one more group game. We never choose our opponents. This is our way and our sights are always on a win every time we enter the field,” Jorge related.
Results: Flamengo 3 Al Nasr 0
Atletico Madrid 7 Hatta 0
Hatta vs Flamengo (4.45pm); Al Nasr vs Atletico Madrid (7.30pm)