Brazil captain Andressa has led her side with pride since the moment they began preparing for Azerbaijan 2012, passing on the experience she acquired at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 to the rest of her team-mates.
She did so by giving a few inspirational words to the players in the dressing room before each game. More often than not she would end her address in tears at the memories of Brazil’s agonising elimination at the hands of Spain in the quarter-finals two years ago.
And though the South Americans went out of Azerbaijan 2012 at the same stage on Friday, beaten this time by Germany, there were no tears in the midfielder’s eyes when she departed the 8km Stadium.
The score remained that way until deep into the second half, and just when it seemed as if Edvaldo Erlacher’s side had done enough to take the game to penalties, Rebecca Knaak made the most of some confusion in the Brazilian box to volley home following a corner.
Though Germany’s heartbreaking winner came two minutes into added time and though the outcome was the same as it had been two years earlier against the Spanish, Andressa was adamant that defeat did not hurt as much this time around.
Produced at their peak
“As strange as it may seem, it’s not as painful,” the skipper told FIFA.com minutes after the final whistle had sounded. “We produced our very best football against Germany and I think we outplayed them for most of the game.
“We had a bad break and it cost us, but that’s football and that’s why it’s such an exciting sport. They didn’t play as well as us, but they still managed to win with the last kick of the game.”
She added: “We did everything we could and we trained as hard as we could. We dug deep, got the ball into their box and defended well, but it wasn’t enough. Our feeling is that we did what we had to do.”
There is also solace in the way A Seleção recovered from a 5-0 defeat to Japan in their opening game, the Brazilians slowly rediscovering their best form before peaking against one of the powerhouses of women’s football and pushing them all the way.
“We’ve come on tremendously,” she continued. “I’ve never experienced anything as intense or as tough as this and yet I’ve never felt so happy. I think that’s what we’ve got to take away with us, that you learn more when you lose than when you win.
“We’ve learned that even when things get tough, we can always dig deeper and find more strength from the inside. More than anything else, though, we’ve learned that the game’s only over when the final whistle sounds.
“You have to give it your all right till the end and you can’t relax for a second, especially in a World Cup. We have to realise, though, that this is not the end. It’s only the beginning.”
Coach Erlacher took a similar view in assessing Brazil’s progress at Azerbaijan 2012, and described the last-eight duel with the Germans as one of the most exciting games of the competition:
“It was one of the best games of the World Cup to my mind,” he said. “Both sides defended well and were always looking to score. We were the better team in the first half. Germany gave us a bit more space but we didn’t make the most of it. Even so, you have to understand that there’s a lot of pressure on these girls.”
He rounded off by saying: “I’m very proud at everything they’ve done. We didn’t lose to any old team, but to a side with one of the strongest traditions in women’s youth football.”