It might be stretching the truth a little to say that the progress made by the Brazilian national women’s team is all down to Jorge Barcellos. After all, it is a view that not even the coach himself agrees with. The fact remains, however, that it is under him that A Seleção have achieved their finest ever results: runners-up at the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007 and the country’s second consecutive silver medal at Beijing 2008.
Back in charge again at London 2012, and after having gone so close on those two occasions, Barcellos is now aiming to turn silver into gold, as he explained to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Tell us about your departure from and subsequent return to the Brazil team.
Jorge Barcellos: Well, after the Beijing Olympics I had an offer from Saint Louis Athletica of the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer, the now-defunct USA women’s league). It was funny because after I decided to leave, I realised I hadn’t made a very good decision. It was only when I was in the USA and I’d cut my ties with A Seleção that I saw that though.
Do you regret it now?
At the time I was sad. I did the deal a fortnight after the Olympic final. I was still getting over it because we had one hand on the medal and we let it slip. It was a huge blow. I ended up staying there for two years but the start was very painful.
When you returned to Brazil, you took charge of the U-20 women’s team, didn’t you?
Yes. The team hadn’t done too badly in the 2010 World Cup in Germany, and in fact my first national team job had been with the U-20s, with the side that finished third at the 2006 World Cup in Russia. The CBF [Brazilian Football Association] offered me the job and I didn’t think twice. When it comes to A Seleção, I’d even coach the U-10s (laughs). I was with them for a year and then went back to the senior job in December 2011 after they lost to Canada in the Cidade de Sao Paulo Tournament, went out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Germany and missed out on gold at the Pan-American Games. Fortunately, since then we’ve warmed up for London by winning the Cidade de Sao Paulo and the Switzerland Cup. It’s incredible to be competing in the Games again, and not many coaches achieve the honour of taking part in two Olympics. The girls are happy, and that’s what makes me happy more than anything else.
Why do you think the players were so pleased to see you back?
Because I know each of them very well. Almost all of them came through the U-20s with me, players like Fabiana, Renata Costa, Erika and Francielle etc. Then there’s Cristiane and Marta, who appeared at the 2007 World Cup with me. I’ve had a hand in bringing virtually the whole lot of them through.
Does the fact Brazil were beaten in the quarter-finals at Germany 2011 rather than in the Final mean there is less pressure on them here?
I don’t think so because the people of Brazil and Brazilian women’s football need this gold medal. That generates pressure in itself. The thing is, we’ve inherited that pressure from the men’s team and everything they’ve achieved, even if women’s football only started in the 1990s and is still relatively young. That said, though, we’ve already made a lot of history. Now we want to round it all off with the gold medal.
Talking of history, the group match against Great Britain at Wembley is sure to be a special one isn’t it?
No doubt about it. Playing at Wembley for the first time in history is also a fantastic step forward for women’s football. It’s a final for us too. That’s the way we’ll be looking at it. We need to take every game that way if we want to win gold.