Brazil starts the Women’s World Cup trying to remain undefeated in opening matches, and then take superstar Marta deep into her sixth and final tournament.
It shouldn’t be difficult to move to a 9-0 record in opening matches for the Selecao, who start Group F play on Monday against tournament newcomer Panama in Adelaide, Australia. Brazil is one of seven teams to qualify for all nine Women’s World Cups, while Panama is one of eight teams playing in the tournament for the first time.
Marta’s sixth World Cup will be her last, but she has a chance to make history as the first player — male or female — to score in six tournaments. She’s already the all-time leading scorer in the Women’s World Cup with 17 goals.
But more important to Marta is winning the World Cup, something the women’s national team has never done. Brazil lost in the 2007 final to Germany, made it to the quarterfinals in 2011, but was eliminated in the round of 16 in the next two tournaments.
Marta was in tears after the 2019 loss to France and pleaded with the next generation of Brazilian football players to take their country to the next level.
“It’s about wanting more,” Marta said four years ago after Brazil’s elimination. “It’s training more. It’s taking care of yourself more. It’s about being ready to play 90 plus 30 minutes. This is what I ask of the girls.”
The national team has seemingly answered her call under coach Pia Sundhage, who as a player retired as Sweden’s top scorer and as a coach led the United States to two Olympic gold medals. Sundhage has made Brazil more balanced, which was shown at the Women’s Finalissma in April when the South American champions lost in a penalty shootout to European champion England.
Brazil rallied just five days later to beat Germany in a friendly, and notched a 4-0 win over Chile earlier this month to head into the tournament on a roll.
Marta has experience around her in Debinha and Rafaelle, but it is 23-year-old Kerolin who is poised to become Brazil’s breakout star. The midfielder has scored eight goals this season for the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL.
“We have taken big steps in these four years,” Sundhage said. “We’ve brought in new players and I think we are in a good place. We have got a chance.”
Panama, meanwhile, most recently faced a South American team in June in a 1-1 draw with Colombia, but has been routed twice since, giving up 13 goals in a 7-0 loss to Spain at the end of June and a 5-0 loss to Japan earlier this month.
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