Firmino the hero as Liverpool are crowned FIFA Club World Cup champions in Doha
The wait for a world title is finally over for European champions Liverpool as they emerged the last men standing, courtesy of a Roberto Firmino extra-time strike, at the end of the final match of the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Qatar at the Khalifa International Stadium yesterday.
Brazilian star Firmino struck in the 100th minute to send shock waves throughout Brazil and consequent celebrations across England as Liverpool beat Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo 1-0 to win a competition that had seen them beaten in previous finals three times, including by Flamengo in 1981.
Despite Liverpool being English champions a record 18 times and the European champions on six occasions, the 127-year-old club had never had the opportunity of laying hands on a world trophy before, at least not until yesterday night when Firmino ensured they avenged the 3-0 drubbing the club suffered in the hands of Flamengo on the only occasion they have met until now.
Prior to the match, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp had compared the mission against the Brazilian team to the historic 1969 moon landing, and just like he predicted, history was scripted before the more than 45,000 fans who thronged the venue to watch arguably the biggest match ever played in the Qatari capital.
The tightly contested match, watched by President of the Qatar Olympic Committee HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, who also crowned the winners, was a fitting end to a tournament that has been applauded by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who was also in the VIP stand on the night, and several leading voices in world football as one of the best in recent times.
Firmino, who had seen an earlier second-half effort rattle the post, finished confidently after a fine move involving Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane. Flamengo might have equalized in virtually the final action of the match, but substitute Lincoln blazed over from close range.
“I couldn’t be more happy for him (Firmino) that he could score that goal because ... (of) what this competition means to Brazil, to South American people,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said.
The 28-year-old Firmino, whose injury-time goal against CF Monterrey was also all it took to settle the difference between the two sides in the semis, could have put the game to bed long before he eventually did but the usually reliable forward twice missed the target when well placed.
The Merseyside team also had a 90th-minute penalty call struck off after a VAR review to give Flamengo, who came to Doha with a 15,000-strong contingent of traveling fans, a lifeline.
Mane looked to have been tripped by Flamengo defender Rafinha as he was about to shoot but on VAR review Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim overturned his original decision.
Firmino, who has been described by Klopp as the "engine" that propels the club's counter-attacking system', could and probably should have had Liverpool, who welcomed their defensive strongman Virgil Van Dijk back into the team after illness had prevented him from featuring in the Monterrey’s match, ahead inside the first minute. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s sensational lofted through ball got the Brazilian in behind Flamengo’s backline, only to blaze over under pressure.
After a shaky opening, Flamengo settled, with both sides well-drilled and looking to nullify the other’s greatest threats. Bruno Henrique was the one who was least contained as the Brazilian side grew into the game, with the 28-year-old a fulcrum for much of what they did to threaten the European champions.
While the game had ebbed and flowed engrossingly, once again it was Liverpool who almost started a half with a bang. For the second time, it was Firmino, flicking the ball smartly over Rodrigo Caio, before volleying onto the inside of the post.
Flamengo replied, pouncing on an error by Alexander-Arnold to see Gabigol draw a low save out of Alisson. Both sides prodded and pried with the hope of teasing open a clear chance, but neither could unlock the door.
Finesse was tossed aside for brute strength when, with extra-time looming, Jordan Henderson hit a thunderous, curling drive from 25 yards, only to force a largely-unchallenged Diego Alves to pull a save out of the top drawer.
Once into the additional 30 minutes, Firmino finally broke the deadlock. A sublime pass by Henderson released Sadio Mane, who cut the ball across to his Brazilian strike partner. He coolly shimmied onto his right, leaving himself an unguarded net to fire into. It proved enough, becoming a goal that will go down in Liverpool folklore.
“To be world champions is incredible," said the obviously elated Firmino. "It’s a unique feeling. Wearing the badge of world champions for the next year will be amazing. I think this may be the only trophy the club hasn’t won, so to be able to do it today is huge for us, putting ourselves in the history books and making sure we’re remembered as a really good Liverpool team. It’s an exciting time to be a Liverpool player,” the match winner added.
Aside from the trophy, Liverpool also scooped most of the individual awards with “Egyptian king” Mohamed Salah receiving the prestigious Adidas Golden Ball as well as the Alibaba Cloud Player of the Tournament.
Now that the tournament is over, the English Premier League table toppers return to England where they are away to Leicester City on Thursday as they remain in the hunt for their first title in the Premier League era as well as the first domestic cup title since they last won in the old First Division in the 1989-90 season.
Make sure to check out our social media to keep track of the latest content.
Instagram - @qatarliving
Twitter - @qatarliving
Facebook - Qatar Living