Luciana: Dida and Taffarel are big inspirations to me

📸 Jonatan Dutra/Ferroviária

  • Luciana saved three penalties to snatch Ferroviaria a Libertadores final place

  • She discusses the dramatic night and upcoming opponents America

  • Luciana recalls almost quitting football in 2015

Euclid of Alexandria wrote a book about mathematical exceptions. Luciana of Araraquara is penning its sequel.

Indeed, while arithmeticians say around 75 per cent of penalties are successfully converted, Luciana says, ‘Not while I’m in town’. Deep into Thursday evening, for the umpteenth time in her career, the 33-year-old emerged as the shootout hero, keeping out three spot-kicks to snatch Ferroviaria a place in the Copa Libertadores final.

Luciana, Brazil's first-choice goalkeeper at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Canada 2015, spoke to about the showdown with America on Sunday evening, her semi-final heroics, learning from Dida and Taffarel, the Ferroviaria fans and a special tattoo. In sudden death, Rebeca Fernandez had a penalty to put Universidad in the final. What was going through your mind as she was walking up to take it?

Luciana: I heard Luana screaming, ‘It’s not over, Ana Alice.’ I looked over and Ana Alice was distraught. Luana was screaming, ‘Don’t cry, (raises voice further) this is not over.’ I said to myself, ‘I cannot let this happen.’ Ana Alice has been tremendous for us in this Libertadores. Game after game. I couldn’t let her be the villain, it would have been a great injustice. I was absolutely determined to save it. I prayed to God, waited till the last moment so that I could go the right way, and thank God I managed to save it.

Did Ana Alice thank you after the game?

She came to me saying thanks, but I told her, ‘It’s me who has to thank you. You never let the ball get near my goal.’ When it does, I have to do my best just like Ana Alice, the defenders and the rest of the team does all game.

How did you feel when you saved the last penalty to put Ferroviaria in the final?

Immense happiness. Such gratitude to God and my team-mates. We lost our first game 4-0. We were one penalty away from losing [in the semi-final]. All that goes through your head. What a moment.

Have you seen the reaction of your coach Lindsay Camila when you saved that penalty?

(Laughs) I saw, I saw! Down on her knees, crying. I thought it was really cool. Football is so emotional. We received a lot of criticism at the start of the campaign, so it was a moment of great relief, happiness. It’s really emotional watching her get emotional!

Is your penalty-saving expertise a natural gift or something you have worked on?

Penalties are so decisive in football. How often do they determine championships? So I have practised facing penalties a lot, and I have also studied some of the great penalty-savers a lot – not just female ones but male too. Dida has always been someone I’ve admired a lot. Dida was always so emotionless, you never saw any expression in his face. I think I managed to get some of that from him. It’s a big advantage because you need to be emotionless when you are a goalkeeper and even more so when you are facing penalties. I’m also a big fan of Taffarel. I’m old (laughs), so I was fortunate to see a lot of Dida and a bit of Taffarel. I’ve studied videos of Taffarel too. Dida and Taffarel are big inspirations to me. I really like and have tried to learn from Alisson, Weverton and Tadeu too. I believe the more you study and practice, the better you become.

You mentioned losing your opener 4-0, and you were on the cusp of going out after drawing your second outing. Can you believe you're reached the final?

We didn't expect to be thrashed in the first game. But it happens in football. You can let it drag you down, or you can be united and say, ‘Let’s go out there and put it right’. We had a chat in the dressing room after the game and it made us stronger. Nobody else believed in us, but we believed in ourselves. The draw wasn’t the result we were looking for either, but we were calm, confident going into the third game, and we played really well and got the big victory we needed.

How important is Luana for Ferroviaria?

She’s an outstanding player. She’s not in the running to be the competition’s best player for nothing. She’s so determined, dedicated. She’s an example to all of us. It instils us with great confidence having her in the team. And she’s a really humble person, always willing to help her team-mates.

Corinthians, the overwhelming favourites to win the Libertadores, lost on penalties in the semi-finals. Did you feel a sense of relief that you wouldn’t have to face such a strong team?

No, we wanted Corinthians in the final, we wanted another Brazilian team in the final. I have some good friends at Corinthians, and I was really sad they didn’t reach the final. The same goes for Kindermann – we always want the Brazilian teams to do well. Corinthians are a magnificent team – there’s no words to describe them. I hope they can put it behind them and win the third-place playoff. I know they’ll be really cheering for us in the final. It doesn’t matter if it’s us, Corinthians, Kindermann. What matters is that we win this trophy for Brazil.

What do you think of America?

A really tough side. They’re such warriors – they never give up until the very end. They have a lot of quality and we know they have so much fight in them, so we will have to match this. But we’re very confident we will emerge victorious.

Can you tell us about the affection the Ferroviaria supporters have for you?

It’s really moving. Ever since I first arrived in Araraquara in 2013, they have been so nice to me. When I was down and needed it, they showed me affection. The Ferroviaria supporters are really special. ‘Love’ – that’s the only word I can use to describe the relationship between us. It feels really great to make them happy, and I really hope we can win this title for these incredible supporters.

One of them, Rafael Zocco, has a huge tattoo of you on his leg…

(Laughs) It’s amazing. They told me about it and I didn’t believe it. So they sent me a WhatsApp photo and I still thought it was fake, a photoshop. I didn’t think any more of it but they me to see it in person and I couldn’t believe my eyes! I never, ever imagined a fan would get a tattoo of me, yet alone one so big. I was really emotional when I saw it. What an honour!

All this may not have happened had you quit football in 2015…

I was really sad, really down. I’d had a tough time. I’d had enough of football. I wanted to walk away, but my family wouldn’t let me. They supported me so much and, thank God, I returned to training and am here today, very happy to be doing what I love. I hope I am evening happier after the final!