2004: Marta and new-look Brazil scale Olympus
Marta's true high water mark so far came at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Athens this summer, where she dragged an impressive Brazil to their first-ever Women's final.
With reputable new boss Rene Simoes at the helm, the South Americans were suddenly imbued with a tougher sensibility to match their sumptuous skills always evident in the past. The coach, who at one time held the reins of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago's men's sides, brought an element of professional fitness and mettle to the undoubtedly talented Brazilian women.
With a team patched together only six months before the tournament got underway, the eventual silver-medal achievement looked a turning point for the women's game in Brazil - always taking a back seat to the fabled Selecao. With a side forged from players that cut their teeth at Canada 2002 and USA 2003, and Marta leading the way, they got off to a thrilling start and came within a whisker of edging out favourites the U.S. in the gold-medal match.
Scoring the only goal in the team's first win over Australia in Thessaloniki the team's first win over Australia in Thessaloniki, Marta set herself apart as the team's focal point. But it soon became clear that this Brazil was far from a one-trick pony.
And despite a valiant effort, questionable refereeing and an opponent intent on flexing their group-stage muscles, the States won the day 2-0 . Though they stretched the North American giants and tournament favourites, the result left the Brazilians reeling.
In their final group outing, the Samba Queens uncoiled their springs and hammered outmatched hosts Greece to the tune of 7-0 . It was a stern warning to the rest of the field, and Cristiane's hat trick, put her in line with Marta - who also grabbed herself one on the night.
With Daniela, Pretinha, Marta and Cristiane all in scintillating form, the knockout rounds proved Brazil's true showcase.
The quarter-final against Mexico saw Marta cap off a stylish night with the last goal in a 5-0 rout, after setting up another brace for smashing Cristiane. Brazil were all of a sudden looking unbeatable, and in the semi-final with USA 2003 finalists Sweden, a Pretinha goal put the sultry South Americans into a first-ever gold medal match - where they would again meet the fancied U.S. It was a bit of sweet revenge , as the Scandinavians had put them out in the Last Sixteen of the FIFA Women's World Cup one year before.
Now on an absolute tear, without conceding a goal since losing to the States in their second group-stage match, Marta was quick to tell FIFA.com about an indelible sense of Brazilian flair in the camp. "It's the Brazilian way of playing," she laughed. "It's just the way we are, and we couldn't change it if we tried. Style, movement, class and rhythm, that's how we learn to play in Brazil. It's true that against the United States they made it hard for us to play our way, but we are learning more in every game, and getting better every day."
And they would have to be better if they were going to beat April Heinrichs' U.S. Desperate to go out on top, the North Americans had more than a handful of motivated, ageing stars in the side including Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly. But after being shoved off the ball by the Americans in the first round of play, Brazil were not about to be bullied again. Only a sniff away from unseating the long-time standard bearers of the female game and a gold medal, the Brazilians played with a toughness to complement their unparalleled technical ability. And after going down to a long-range Lindsey Tarpley strike in the first half, they showed their mettle with a Pretinha equaliser to force extra time.
But after Brazil twice hit the woodwork agonisingly, the fortunate Americans were saved by a thundering header from towering Abby Wambach in minute 112 - it felt like a case of deus ex machina if ever there was one.
"We're leaving Athens a little sad because we could have won the gold, but we know we've achieved something really important for Brazilian women's football. We deserved better luck," said Rosana after a proud but tearful medal ceremony.
It was temporarily the end of Brazil's bright rainbow, but surely the beginning of a new movement in women's football in the land of Samba . Even with Simoes headed back to the men's game, this taste of glory will have the young ladies - led by new sensation Marta - believing in themselves for some time to come.