Brazil coach Edvaldo Erlacher is such an admirer of the abilities of his U-17 women’s team that he describes them as “the most talented players in the world.” But despite his confidence in their technical attributes, the Seleção boss is the first to admit that his side are not yet the complete package and still have ground to make up on the favourites to win next month’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Since May 2009 we’ve been working to a very definite plan, getting the ball out to the full-backs as much as we can, hitting long balls and switching play from flank to flank,” he explains. “Brazilian women’s teams maybe haven’t used those kinds of tactics before but they’re the biggest differences we find whenever we come across European and North American opposition.”
The Brazilians will face two such rivals in the Caribbean: Group D rivals Republic of Ireland and Canada. “We’ve been focusing on those aspects in training recently, trying to improve our game,” he continues. “The big difference between this side and the youth teams we had in the past is versatility. Even so, we’re still a bit behind other teams like Germany for example, and then there are some really talented sides like Japan and Korea Republic, although they play more of a passing game, one that’s similar to ours.”
Erlacher’s main objective in the build-up to the world finals has been to strike a balance in his team between the traditional strengths of their opponents and the inherent and unique abilities of the Brazilian footballer. “We can’t turn our back on our talent and creativity, which are two things our players certainly do not lack,” he comments. “At the same time though, we have to learn how to use the weapons that European teams have always employed so effectively. That’s what I’m hoping to see.”
If their performance in the South American Championships earlier this year is anything to go by, A Canarinha seem to be on the right track, conceding only three goals and scoring an unlikely 41 in their six games, including a 7-0 romp against Chile in the final. Contributing to that amazing goal haul was a sizeable posse of players, with forward Paula and gifted understudy Glaucia both scoring seven, Thais five, the quartet of Andressa, Beatriz, Ingrid and Jucinara all hitting four, and Julia and Luana chipping in with three and two goals respectively.
Despite those impressive statistics, the man at the helm is not getting carried away: “We know that if we’re going to compete with the world’s best we have to really stand out in South America. There’s no going back for us now. We won the championship and we did so with plenty to spare. The pressure is only going to increase from here on in.”
Since swatting away their continental rivals, the Brazilians have tested their mettle twice against USA in the Dallas Cup in April, losing 4-1 in their first meeting and following up with a 2-2 draw. After digesting the lessons of that double-header, Erlacher’s charges met up at a two-week training camp on home soil in mid-July, ending the get-together with a brace of friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago, drawing the first 1-1 and winning the second 7-1.
Yet, as the coach concludes, the time for fine-tuning is almost over: “The World Cup is our only focus now and we need to be ready to face the atmosphere and the pressure. I’m sure we’ll see a more mature team out there, one that’s confident and ready to show what makes Brazilian football different, and to do so with style.”