Singing it proud

There's a song Liverpool fans sing about conquering all of Europe, you may have heard it once or twice.

It is a rousing, anthemic terrace tune that proudly boasts of the Reds' continental prowess. Unrivalled on these shores, Liverpool have in fact won the European Cup six times; their tub-thumping pride is not without its foundation.

Never before, however, have Kopites been able to brag about being world champions. Until now, that is.

Liverpool were left in doubt about their previous shortcomings in the Club World Cup during their near week-long stay in Qatar. Flamengo supporters, of which there are thousands in Doha, have repeatedly hammered home the triumph in their last meeting way back in 1981.

"In December ‘81 we ran rings around the English," Flamengo followers sang in Doha's Souq Waqif earlier this week.

Bragging rights, for 38 years, have been theirs. Not anymore. An old score, one which had laid dormant for nearly four decades, has been settled decisively. Flamengo's gloating is done.

Liverpool may not view this competition anywhere near as importantly as their South American counter-parts, but the opportunity to pick up the only trophy that had previously eluded them was not to be passed up on here.

It was not without an almighty fight though as the stubborn and durable Flamengo side pushed the Premier League leaders to the limit in the Khalifa International Stadium.

Eventually - despite the curious performance of hapless referee, Abdulrahman Al Jassim - the Champions League holders ground their opponents down. They were not at their free-flowing best, but after an energy-sapping December, that was to be expected.

In truth, their performance mattered little here; the task was simply to return from the Middle East with the world title. Job done for Jurgen Klopp and his players.

It's now 47 major trophies for this football club, three of them have been picked up since the beginning of June. This is what Klopp's Liverpool do now, the silver glean is being added at an increasingly impressive rate.

This wonderful team that the manager has constructed deserve nothing less. For the first time in 127 years of the most storied, glittering and trophy-laden of histories in English football, Liverpool are finally, belatedly, champions of the world.

They've conquered all of Europe...and now the rest of the world have bowed down, too. Bring on the martians.

There might be a song about all this, one day.

Midfield minefield

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain receives treatment on the field during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Final football match between England's Liverpool and Brazil's Flamengo at the Khalifa International Stadium
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain receives treatment on the field during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Final football match between England's Liverpool and Brazil's Flamengo at the Khalifa International Stadium

It was a bold statement from Jurgen Klopp to name both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita in his midfield three.

A rarely-used duo, the attacking combination hinted that Klopp felt he could blow away the Brazilians with the sheer amount of firepower on display.

Jordan Henderson would be the fall guy, worked into defensive overtime as a result of the natural adventure both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita bring to this Liverpool side.

Keita, who is arguably in the form of his Anfield career, deserved to keep his place from Wednesday night's win over Monterrey, but the decision to opt for Oxlade-Chamberlain over James Milner was a brave call from the manager.

As a result, Liverpool were left a bit too open as time again Flamengo were allowed to swarm forward and put their opponents' rearguard under real pressure. With just the one firefighter in the engine room in the form of captain Henderson, the Brazilians poured forward throughout.

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FIFA Club World Cup

Unfortunately, it would be a game he would not complete. Worryingly, Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off with what looked like a possible ankle problem in the dying embers of normal time.

At a time when injuries and niggles are piling up for Klopp, he can ill-afford to be without more of his players, even in a midfield area where the stock is usually plentiful.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is certain to join Fabinho in the treatment room in the coming days. At such a crucial period of the season, the selection headaches are coming thick and fast at Anfield.

The midfielder, a player who has battled back so admirably from a career-threatening injury over 18 months ago, left the stadium on crutches and in a protective boot.

Now, perhaps more than ever, Liverpool will need Keita.

Brazilian brilliance

This game just had to be decided by a Brazilian, didn't it?

With Liverpool's spine now fused with some Selecao superstars in the shape of Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino, it was fitting that it was one of the Samba stars who did the damage to Flamengo in Doha.

A obstinate Flamengo side held firm for so long and caused the European champions several problems of their own through the impressive Bruno Henrique and Gabriel Barbosa.

The Brazilian in Liverpool's goal, Alisson, had to be alert to keep out his compatriots as they sensed a repeat of the 1981 triumph they so loved to shout about.

That particular success for the South Americans will now fall on deaf ears after Firmino's extra-time winner. That goal was enough for Liverpool to add the world crown to their European trophy they picked up in Madrid back in June.

It's been a strange sort of season for Liverpool's No.9. The stats and figures marked the striker down for just four goals before this tournament in Doha.

Yet to find the net at Anfield, the Brazil international recorded no goals in any competition for over two months prior to the winner against Crystal Palace on November 23.

Yet still so much depends on Firmino and his ability to knit play and use his intelligence to the benefit of others. He wasted a glorious early chance here when he fired over from the inside the penalty box before a lovely piece of skill didn't get its reward as his shot struck the post after the break.

Unperturbed, Firmino pushed on and grabbed a priceless goal after 99 minutes of play. Now up to a half-dozen for the season, his vital contributions against Monterrey and Flamengo can become the catalyst for a goal-laden 2020.

His Anfield hoodoo will surely be over soon, but first, Firmino will take himself to the King Power where Liverpool have a chance to open up a 13-point gap on Boxing Day.