Football legend Marta was moved to tears Tuesday as the Brazilian reflected on her career and legacy on the eve of what could be her final Women’s World Cup appearance.
Brazil face Jamaica in Melbourne in their final group match on Wednesday knowing they must win to guarantee they stay in the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
The 37-year-old Marta -- nicknamed “Pele in a skirt” by the late football great -- has already said this will be her last World Cup.
She is the all-time leading goal-scorer in World Cups, men’s or women’s, and if she adds to her tally of 17 she will be the first footballer in history to score at six World Cups.
“You know what’s good? When I started there were no idols in women’s football,” she told reporters on the eve of the match with Jamaica, tears filling her eyes.
“How could there be if you didn’t show women’s football? How could I understand that I would reach the national team and become a reference point?
“Now I go out on the street and people stop me, parents say to me, ‘My daughter adores you, she wants to be just like you.’”
Marta has spent a lifetime overcoming obstacles, from a childhood of poverty to sexism and, more recently, the worst injury of her career.
“It is logical that I am happy to see all this because 20 years ago, in 2003, nobody knew Marta,” she added, looking back at how far women’s football has come.
It is unclear if the attacker, who has never won the World Cup despite all her achievements, will start against Jamaica.
But she could be called off the bench by coach Pia Sundhage if Brazil are chasing the win they so desperately need to stay in the competition.
- ‘Lethal weapon’ -
Jamaica are second behind Group F leaders France going into the last round of games, and won their first Women’s World Cup game in history when they defeated Panama 1-0 last time out.
They were missing the prolific striker Khadija Shaw in the Panama win after she was sent off for a second yellow card in their opening 0-0 draw with France.
The 26-year-old Shaw, who scored 31 goals in 30 games for Manchester City last season, will be back to face Brazil and could have a major say in proceedings.
“She’s a lethal weapon, she scores goals and is the leading goal-scorer in Jamaica,” coach Lorne Donaldson said.
“She’s a very good leader and an outstanding footballer.”
Donaldson, whose side is ranked 43 in the world to Brazil’s eight, said his team were the underdogs despite being in a better position to make it out of the group.
But he called his players “resilient”, adding: “We know Brazil are going to come after us with everything they’ve got, but we have to be ready.
“We want to stay a little longer.”
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