Despite being a key figure in one of Planet Football’s strongest women’s national sides, as well as twice finishing in the top three of the FIFA Women’s World Player award, Brazil striker Cristiane has arguably not received the credit she deserves back home. The problem lies in that, in the fiercely demanding environs of Brazilian football, a position anywhere except the very top of the tree can fail to pass muster.
On the one hand, the 26-year-old does not let the situation get her down, instead choosing to thrive in her role as Marta’s less-heralded national-team strike partner. Indeed, the duo are a vitally important ingredient in A Seleção’s attacking armoury, with Cristiane dovetailing to great effect with the stellar No10 for years now.
However, what does hurt the Paulista-state native is the lack of recognition the Brazilian women’s senior side have received, despite their progression over recent years. And all because they have consistently been ‘one of the best’, without actually lifting a major trophy.
“We’ve already done so much to change the way women’s football is perceived and the backing it receives in Brazil: we’ve reached the final in the last three major competitions,” Cristiane told FIFA.com, in reference to runners-up finishes at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, as well as the FIFA Women’s World Cup China 2007™.
“But here in Brazil, particularly in footballing circles that have been spoiled with success over the years, nobody pays any attention to those results: they’re only interested in titles. I remember when the Germans, for example, ended up with bronze medals in Beijing and were welcomed back with an enormous party. Here though, the fact we lost the final took the shine off everything else we’d achieved.”
Cristiane is not wrong when she says that Brazilian footballing culture values silverware alone. So much so that, despite As Canarinhas’ spectacular upward curve in recent years, the real catalyst for the increase in popularity of the women’s game in Brazil has been Marta’s individual conquest of the last five FIFA Women’s World Player awards – a record tally.
Selected on the podium for said award back in 2007 and 2008 and the top scorer at the last two editions of the Olympic Football Tournament, Cristiane only sees the positive side of playing alongside a genuine superstar. “I’ve been in the running for individual awards on many occasions, so people tend to make comparisons between us,” she explained.
“But that makes no odds to me: Marta is a cut above and she has deserved everything that she’s won. What’s more, we’ve got totally different styles, which is a good thing because we end up complementing each other. Of course the fact that she’s so well known makes it harder for her, but she’s got more than enough talent to overcome that situation. And for the person playing alongside her it can be really helpful because she drags markers over to her, which means that I know there’ll always be a gap for me to exploit somewhere.”
As a player with first-hand experience of German football, having turned out for Turbine Potsdam and Wolfsburg during a two-and-a-half year sojourn in the country between 2006 and 2008, Cristiane knows very well what to expect from the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™. Drawn in a tough-looking Group D alongside Norway, Equatorial Guinea and Australia, the latter nation are the Brazilians’ opening opponents on 29 June.
“The World Cup in Germany is going to be spectacular. I played there and I know just how much passion they have for the sport and the structure they have at their disposal,” said the current Santos striker. “At this year’s Welcome Tour, we had a taste of that: the tickets for our opening game are already almost sold out. It’s going to be the best World Cup ever.”
That said, however unforgettable this summer’s showpiece promises to be, Cristiane is well aware of the pressure on A Seleção come Germany 2011. If, by her own admission, three major finals were not enough to revolutionise the women’s game in Brazil, it stands to reason that nothing less than the trophy will do this time around.
“To tell you the truth, we were even better prepared prior to (China) 2007 than we are now. To be honest, I think that we’re trailing a step behind teams like Germany or the United States,” she continued, as the interview drew to a close. “But now there’s a lot expected of us. For the sake of Brazilian women’s football over the next few years, we simply can’t afford to go backwards. Now it’s time for us to win it.”