From the moment Brazil took the field at the Millennium Stadium for their opening game against Cameroon, a record was already on the way to being broken. As soon as the whistle blew, Seleção midfielder Formiga became the only player to have appeared in at least one game at every Women’s Olympic Football Tournament since the inaugural edition at Atlanta 1996.
Yet there was still one more record left to be broken during an emphatic Brazilian win in Cardiff. Ten minutes from full time with the score standing at 3-0, striker Cristiane, brought off the bench at the interval in place of Thais Guedes, got on the end of an accurate pass from Marta before dribbling round keeper Annette Ngo Ndom and firing home. That goal was Cristiane’s 11th in the history of the Games, taking her beyond the ten-goal record she had previously shared with Germany’s now-retired Birgit Prinz and clear in first place as the competition’s all-time top scorer.
After the game, smiling from ear to ear, the prolific front-runner explained just why she was so thrilled to have got on the scoresheet. “Well, of course it’s brilliant to get the record. I knew that I was level in the standings and needed one more to go clear, but that’s not the only reason I’m happy,” she told FIFA.com.
“I’d spent four weeks on the sidelines and I came really close to missing the cut for this Olympic squad, so I just wanted to get back to playing again – to feel what it’s like to be in a match again. I’ve been doing well in training, but playing in a competitive match is totally different,” added the 27-year-old goalgetter, who was out with a right-shoulder injury, the same one she dislocated back in late 2010.
Let the good times roll
Though it was just Brazil’s first group game, the fact remains that the latter stages of the 5-0 drubbing of the Cameroonians gave off a heady sense of the good times being back for A Seleção. And this kind of morale-boosting result at a major finals came at an ideal time, with many involved still affected by their frustrating quarter-final exit at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™
A first-hand witness to most of the ups-and-downs of the Brazilian senior women’s team since the Olympics at Atlanta in 1996, Formiga has her hopes set on crowning her epic journey with success at London 2012. “To tell you the truth, I’d forgotten that today I’d set the record of playing at five Olympics, but of course it makes me happy,” she told FIFA.com. “That said, what would make me really happy would be to finish this campaign with a gold medal, which is what we’ve been striving for since those early days.
“Football has changed so much since then,” continued the 34-year-old, who has managed to move with the times as well as maintaining fitness levels that keep her right up with the best. “There used to be those that said women’s football was slow and predictable and that nobody could beat Germany and USA, but nowadays that’s far from being the case. That’s why I need to keep training so hard to keep being a part of this evolution. If I’d taken my foot off the pedal at any time, I’d have been left behind.”
Led by Jorge Barcellos, the coach that oversaw Brazil’s silver-medal winning campaign at Beijing 2008, this display sent a message that echoed both A Seleção's fine recent past and promising present: veteran Formiga running the midfield and three late goals from combinations between Marta and Cristiane.
“In the dressing room they’re already saying that the [Marta-Cristiane] double act is back,” said the latter with a smile. “Let’s just hope that, finally, it’ll take us all the way to gold this time. That’s what we’re all wishing for.”