For decades a powerhouse of Brazilian and South American football, Sao Paulo have been going through a dry run. A lone local state championship aside, their last title of note came back in 2012, when a young Lucas Moura was the leading light in the team that won the Copa Sudamericana, a Europa League equivalent.
Now back with Sao Paulo after more than a decade in Europe, Lucas has made a big impression since his return, enjoying the space to run at defences that is often abundant on Brazilian pitches. And his comeback has coincided with another major title -- on Sunday Sao Paulo drew 1-1 with Flamengo to win the highly prestigious and lucrative Brazilian Cup 2-1 on aggregate.
In truth, Lucas was not the star performer -- although in the second leg he nearly scored with a fine overhead kick and almost clinched matters when he laid on a chance for strike partner Luciano right at the end. Perhaps he was feeling the heat. Played over the last Sunday in winter and the first in spring, both matches took place in temperatures so fierce that breaks for drinks were needed.
The second leg kicked off with the thermometer around 98 degrees, and it stayed hot and dry over the course of the match. This was a worry for Sao Paulo. Away from home in the first leg, they had been much the better side in the opening half, but wilted badly after the interval. In the sweltering second leg, would they be able to hold the dangerous Flamengo attack all the way to the final whistle?
And it was a far better Flamengo team this time round. Always pacing furiously up and down the touchline, their Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli has been floundering while he sifts through his options, desperately searching for the right blend. The goal that cost his team the first leg was predictable -- Sao Paulo had too much space down their left flank, and rehearsed the goal a few times before one time West Ham striker Jonathan Calleri headed home. This time Flamengo had plugged the gap, and in true Sampaoli style they set about imposing themselves on the game.
Sao Paulo came up with flickers of danger on the rare occasions they were able to play their way down the field. But for the most part the action took place in their half, and it was no surprise when Flamengo took the lead and levelled the aggregate scores. Slipping into the penalty area Chilean midfielder Erick Pulgar shot low across goal, as keeper Rafael tipped the ball onto the far post and Bruno Henrique arrived to it over the line.
But just a few minutes later, on the stroke of half time, came the moment that ended up defining the destiny of the trophy. A Sao Paulo free-kick from the right was punched out by keeper Agustin Rossi, and at the far edge of the area Rodrigo Nestor fired back a superb left footed volley that flew through a crowd of players and whistled into the far corner.
Flamengo were back where they had started, needing a goal to force a penalty shoot out. They dominated the second half. Sampaoli ran through his attacking changes, introducing club idol Gabriel "Gabi-goal" Barbosa, Éverton Ribeiro from Brazil's World Cup squad and Luis Araujo, a winger signed from Atlanta United. There was lots of pressure but no penetration. The rhythm was continually interrupted as, using the justification of the heat, Sao Paulo did their best to run down the clock, and at the end the celebration was theirs.
This was sweet revenge for their coach Dorival Junior, who a year ago won this competition with Flamengo, and went on to take them to triumph in the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League. Even so, he was shown the door at the end of the year. He will feel that he has proved his point -- although his team now face a potentially worrying battle against relegation.
For Flamengo, meanwhile, the result is a disaster, and the knowledge that they probably deserved better luck on the day will come as no consolation. Their year is effectively over. Eliminated from the Libertadores in humiliating fashion, they are 11 points off the pace in the domestic league, with just 14 games left to put things right. As the Rio de Janeiro giants, everything is placed under the microscope, and explosive reactions are common place.
Between the two games there was an incident in a Rio shopping centre where Flamengo vice president Marcos Braz got into a fight with a fan, Leandro Campos, who alleges that Braz bit him in the groin. There could well be more drama over the next few days, with Jorge Sampaoli unlikely to survive the cut.