Flamengo fire coach after finishing fifth

RIO DE JANEIRO - Flamengo, Brazil's most popular club, have fired coach Caio Junior after missing out on a place in South America's Libertadores Cup in dramatic fashion.

Caio Junior, who had been in charge for six months, was dismissed after his team drew 3-3 with Goias, after squandering a 3-0 lead, and then lost 5-3 to Atletico Paranaense in their final two games to finish fifth in the Brazilian championship.

They finished one point behind Palmeiras who took the fourth and final place in the Libertadores.

"The club would like to register our thanks to the coach for his great professional spirit," said vice-president Kleber Leite in a statement.

Flamengo, who in recent seasons have routinely been involved in the fight against relegation, led the competition for two months in its early stages.

But their challenge faded after several key players were sold during the European close season in July. The Brazilian championship runs from May to December.

Four times Brazilian champions Flamengo claim to have about 25 million supporters in Brazil and the pressure on the players and coach is notoriously high.

Caio Junior was the 35th coaching victim of the Brazilian season.