Holders Flamengo storm into DIFC semis - GulfToday

Holders Flamengo storm into DIFC semis

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Players of Flamengo and Al Nasr in action during their 9th Dubai International Football Championship match on Saturday. Supplied photo

Defending champions Flamengo are through to the semi-final of the 9th Dubai International Football Championship (DIFC)  following a 3-0 win over Al Nasr on a rainy evening at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Stadium in Al Mamzar.

The Brazilians, who blanked Atletico 4-0 in their opening match, scored all three of their goals inside the first 34 minutes of the game on Saturday, with Joao Pedro Da Cruz giving them an early 6th minute lead.

Pedro Henrique Fonseca Martins then made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute and 12 minutes later, Kaky Brum Veloso added a third to Flamengo’s tally.

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.

But in recent times they have given priority to sorting out their affairs and giving themselves a platform for long-term success. Part of that process is the investment in the Ninho do Urubu training centre, where the first team can prepare and the stars of the future can be developed.

Two of their recent graduates have recently made it to big European clubs. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta is settling in well at AC Milan, and teenage winger Vinicius Junior is already making a huge impact at Real.

Paqueta and Vinicius came through the ranks at Flamengo. They know the scene of the tragedy, and probably knew some of those who have lost their lives.

In the second match of the day, Atletico bounced back from their loss against Flamengo to drub Hatta Club 7-0, with Marcio Vidal, Jose Maria and Lucas Serrano scoring two goals apiece, and Samuel Hernandez one.

Atletico will now face Al Nasr in their final match of Group B on Monday with a draw being enough to take them through to the last four.

An Al Nasr win will, however, see the Spaniards return home early and the Dubai club, who drew 2-2 with Hatta in their opening match, will be playing for a place in the final instead.

“We still have everything to play for,” said Faisal Mohammed, the Al Nasr head coach. “We still have a chance of reaching the semis and we know what we need to do to get there. Our target is very clear: to go for three points against Atletico and we will do our best. We know we will be up against a quality opponent, but we will keep fighting until the final whistle.”

Shabab Al Ahli also have a chance of reaching the last four, despite their 4-0 loss to Al Hilal, who have confirmed their spot in the semis from Group A. The Dubai club, who have three points, need a draw against Borussia Dortmund to make the grade. The Germans, who have one point, need a win to progress.