For more than a decade any mention of A Seleção Brasileira was sure to include the words “the Brazil of Marta and Cristiane”. And with good reason, for among the pair’s achievements, one has been named FIFA World Player of the Year more times than anyone else, and the other is the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament’s all-time top scorer. Together they form one of the most respected strike duos in history.
Or formed, to be more accurate. Not because the two will not be together again in Rio 2016, but because they are no longer just a double act.
In Brazil’s 3-0 win over China PR on their tournament debut, coach Osvaldo Alvarez’s side displayed impressive attacking prowess while employing a tactical system that was markedly different from that for which the team has been known for so long.
“We’ve changed our 4-4-2 shape a little at the Olympics. For a long time, Marta played up front with me, but now, to take advantage of her speed and vision, Vadao is playing her a little further back, in a more open role,” Cristiane told FIFA.com. “When we play like this we can field four attackers and make the most of Andressa [Alves] and Bia, who is a more physical player, and can move the defenders around and form a partnership with me.”
The explanation makes sense on paper and worked to perfection against China PR. Despite making their Olympic debuts, neither Beatriz, 22, nor Andressa, 23, were intimidated by the thought of sharing attacking responsibilities with two legends of Brazilian football. All four were vital as Brazil pressurised the Steel Roses throughout the 90 minutes.
“Of course it’s an honour to play alongside Marta and Cristiane at the Olympic Stadium, but Bia and I already know what we need to do to help the team," said Andressa, who scored Brazil’s second goal. "The idea is to run hard throughout the game, and help form a strong attack.”
Now aged 31, Cristiane makes it clear that the support of quality young players up front is all that she and Marta, 30, could have wished for in their fourth Olympic adventure. "Bia and Andressa make our attack more complete, and just as importantly, they help out the 'old ladies' up front," joked the striker, who now has 13 Olympic goals to her name after scoring against China. "It's great to have company and know that we’re going to get good service, especially when you think how young they are. They’re players who will defend Brazil for a long time.”
So the next time that Brazil take the field – on Saturday against Sweden – it will be worth carefully checking the team’s line-up, especially its attack. For while people still talk about “the Brazil of Marta and Cristiane”, increasingly, they’re talking about the Brazil of Beatriz and Andressa Alves as well.