Fed up coming home with only runners-up medals to show for their spectacular displays on the world stage, Brazilian stars Marta and Cristiane are determined not to let another golden opportunity pass them by at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008.
And the FIFA World Player 2006 and 2007, a three-time Swedish league champion and 2004 UEFA Cup winner with club side Umea, would surely swap her already vast collection of individual prizes for the one thing she is yet to achieve in her career: a global competition win with Brazil.
Marta and her
Canarinha squad-mates have already come agonisingly close
to capping their remarkable progression with a trophy success away
from South American shores. Indeed, the
Seleção reached the finals of both the Women's Olympic
Football Tournament Athens 2004 and the FIFA Women's World Cup
China 2007, only to lose to USA and Germany respectively.
With those defeats still painfully fresh in their collective memory, perhaps the most gifted crop of Brazilian women's footballers to date see August's showpiece in Beijing as their chance to finally set the record straight. Lining up on Chinese soil will be virtually the same group of players that reached the China 2007 final last September, with the exception of captain Aline Pellegrino, stuck down by a knee-ligament injury during a recent friendly in Korea Republic.
"This team has enough talent to win the gold medal. We just need a little bit of luck, which we haven't had up to now," said Marta, currently enjoying a well-deserved break back home in Brazil. "The team is more mature than it was in 2004, we've made a lot of progress over these last few years," added the Umea midfielder, whose club will provide the opposition for a pre-tournament friendly encounter on 24 July.
Brazil have firmly established themselves as contenders for Olympic gold, having finished fourth at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 before a new generation of up-and-coming talents went all the way to the final in Athens. And even that silver-medal prize appeared scant reward for a performance that had a US side featuring Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Shannon Boxx and Julie Foudy on the ropes for long periods of the decisive match.
"What really struck me in Greece was how united the whole group was," says Marta of that Athens 2004 squad. "We were all in it together, battling for a common goal."
Team-mate Cristiane has formed part of a lethal double act with Marta throughout all these trials and tribulations. In December 2007 she even joined her friend on stage at the Zurich Opera House, having come third in the voting for that year's FIFA World Player award.
And just like her more-lauded compatriot, the goal-getter feels
Brazil have what it takes to win the title in Beijing. "The
time is ripe for Brazil. I'm already dreaming about the Olympic
Games. We've got a real chance of bringing home the gold,"
said the striker, who also plays in the Swedish league with
Linkopings. "But we need to be both strong and determined if
we want to do things well."
She is not wrong, as awaiting the Seleção in the first round are Nigeria, Korea DPR and reigning world champions Germany. Nevertheless, the Brazilians should at least have the home crowd in their corner, having won the hearts of the Chinese fans at last year's FIFA Women's World Cup.
Top scorer in Athens with six strikes to her name, Cristiane has steadfastly refused to set any individual targets this time around. "I only think about working for the good of the squad. Whether or not I finish top scorer will depend on how well I work for my team-mates."
Should the dynamic duo once again fire on all cylinders in Beijing and build on their stellar displays at China 2007, this could prove to be a golden summer for Brazil.