Thanks to her skill, prolific goalscoring and magical displays, the women’s game in Brazil has become synonymous with one name: Marta. Yet the Seleção Canarinha that is bidding for glory here at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ is not just about the mercurial No10 and her fellow attackers. Indeed, the defensive solidity of the side coached by Kleiton Lima has particularly caught the eye, with the Brazilians the only team not to concede a single goal in the group phase.
Lining up in front of powerful goalkeeper Andreia is a three-pronged backline of Erika, Daiane and captain Aline. One of the team’s most experienced performers, the latter boasts runners-up medals from both the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004 and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China four years ago.
“I’m going to make this clear right now,” the Santos player, who turned 29 on 6 July, told FIFA.com. “To all those who are expecting to see plenty of fancy football from Brazil, what they’re going to see is a national side that covers plenty of ground and will fight hard to win every game. Putting on a good show is irrelevant, we’re here to be champions and winning all our games 1-0 would be fine with us.
“That said, if we can win and put on a show then great,” continued the Brazil skipper with conviction. “If the circumstances of the game enable us to play jogo bonito at certain times that’s fine – but winning’s what matters. We’re not bothered about the fancy stuff, let the fans worry about that.”
A little like Lucio
A fervent admirer of the rugged style of fellow defender and countryman Lucio, Aline stated that “the girls say that I’m like him. And because I’m big, they even say we’re similar physically! I used to wear the No3 shirt too, so I was even more like him. He’s a warrior, a great example to follow,” added the player, who has opted for the No4 here at Germany 2011. “I’ve always used the No3 but, because I was hoping this World Cup would end differently, I started playing with a different number instead.”
Having been beaten in the title decider at China 2007, as well as at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, it is easy to see why A Seleção are desperate for this major tournament tale to have a happier ending. Yet, despite winning all their Group D matches, their quarter-final opponents are none other than USA – the No1 side in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking. What's more, it was the US Girls that sank Brazil in both the aforementioned Olympic finals, though Marta and Co demolished the North Americans 4-0 at the semi-final stage of China 2007.
“It’s always very tough against a team as good as USA,” said Marta, scorer of a brace in that semi success four years ago. “The players might change but the recipe stays the same: strength, skill and teamwork. They’re a very powerful side.”
Aline, for her part, preferred to focus on the standard of play at Germany 2011. “This World Cup is different. We’ve noticed a really big improvement overall. It’ll go down as one of the most evenly matched tournaments yet,” continued the captain, who incidentally is one of few Brazil players not involved in the musical performances the squad put on prior to matches. “It’s because I can’t play any instrument! So I just record everything and conduct a bit. It’s our way of getting rid of any tension and being in the best possible mood when taking the field.”
Captain must communicate
Not only does she conduct the improvised musical group, in her role as captain Aline also sets the tempo in the dressing room. “It’s a big responsibility. You have to be aware of everything that’s happening out on the pitch, you have to communicate constantly with your team-mates,” she explained. “But it’s a role I’m very grateful for and one I enjoy, even though I might have to give a team-mate a ticking-off every now and then.”
And is the reigning FIFA Women’s World Player ever on the receiving end of a dressing down? “Yes, I don’t have any problem at all in saying no to Marta, or telling her something’s not right, even though she's been the world’s best player for the last five years. Everyone’s equal here, we’re a very tight group and everyone respects each other, has a voice and is free to give their opinions.
“If Marta has to tell us off she does, but we also yell at her if she deserves it. It’s as simple as that,” concluded Aline, though she is sure to hope for less in the way of cross words, and more in the way of celebration, come Sunday’s quarter-final in Dresden.