Tamires: Women's football's popularity has rocketed in Brazil

  • Tamires discusses Corinthians’ Brasileiro final against Avai Kindermann

  • She hails the impact Pia Sundhage has had on Brazil

  • Corinthians-Lyon, Andressinha and The Best are also on the menu

It was the nutmeg that led to the Goal of the Tournament. Brazil’s left-back was cornered. Danger alerts flashed.

Tamires mocked them and the no-way-out sign, slipped the ball between a Matilda’s legs, and slid a defence-parting through-ball through to Debinha, who crossed for Cristiane to head home against Australia at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.

The player behind that piece of skill is no ordinary left-back. Pia Sundhage called Tamires “a fullback with the creativity of a [number] ten”. Arthur Elias employs his No37 in midfield to maximise that invention for Corinthians.

Another trademark Tamires nutmeg helped the team who set a world-record winning run last year reach the Brasileiro final, where they drew 0-0 in the first leg against Avai Kindermann, and the semi-finals of the Paulista, where they hold a 1-0 lead over Palmeiras.

The 33-year-old, who is married to former footballer Cesinha and quit playing for a few years to give birth to and bring up their son Bernardo, chatted to FIFA.com about Sunday’s showdown, her own form, how Corinthians would fare against Lyon, the growth of women’s football in Brazil, A Seleção’s superb form under Pia Sundhage and who deserves to be crowned The Best FIFA Women’s Player on 17 December.

FIFA.com: Tamires, you’ve just turned 33, but you’re been in superb form. Do you think you’re at your peak?

Tamires: I’m in a really special moment in my career. Physically, mentally and with the experience I’ve got over the years, I think so. When you’re older, you have to be more conscious of looking after your body.

Do you enjoy playing in midfield more?

No. I feel comfortable in the two positions. I love playing at left-back for the Seleção. Obviously I have a lot of freedom in that position, and I really enjoy getting forward. And I also love playing in midfield.

What’s Arthur Elias like to work under?

We were Brazilian champions together with Centro Olimpico in 2013. He really respects the players. He believes in women’s football and has helped it grow a lot. I was away from Brazil for a while. When I got back in 2019, I saw that he has evolved considerably as a coach – his ideas, his tactics. He’s done so much for Brazilian women’s football.

Andressinha has been in excellent form…

She’s a unique talent. Her game intelligence is very rare. She knows exactly where to find every one of her team-mates, she knows the right time to slow things down, speed things up. She’s a dead-ball specialist. She’s been a Seleção player for a long time – she has that experience, she carries that responsibility. She’s an incredible player and an extraordinary person off the pitch.

What do you think of Avai Kindermann?

They’re a really competitive team. They’re in the Brasileiro final on merit. They have a very strong squad, they have Jorge Barcellos, a really good, experienced coach. Their players understand their coach’s instructions, they play really well as a team, and mentally they are really strong at decisive moments.

You were recently on Brazil duty with Julia and Duda. What do you think of those two?

I know Julia more from playing against her in Brazil. She’s come on so much. She’s a great player. Duda surprised me a lot. She’s a superb player too. It shows how strong Brazilian youth football is. It’s not just Julia and Duda, but we have Valeria, Nycole, Giovana shining in the Seleção. They have good heads on them too. Football’s not just about talent, especially when you’re young. These players have their feet on the ground, they want to work hard, they want to improve.

Aside from Corinthians, who do you think is the best team in Brazil?

I think the Brazilian league is a very competitive league. I think there’s six, seven clubs who could fight for the title. I would say Avai Kindermann, Internacional, Ferroviaria, Santos, Sao Paulo Palmeiras. I don’t know how many other leagues have so many teams that could win the title.

What does Bernardo think of his mother being a footballer?

(laughs) I think he’s really proud, really happy. Bernardo always accompanies me – in Denmark, in Brazil. At first, when I returned to playing football from being a mum, he felt it a bit, he didn’t want to know about football. But then he began understanding it and liking football, enjoying going to the stadiums. Unfortunately this year he hasn’t been able to because of the pandemic, but he really supports Corinthians and me. I hope that, without actually saying it, I am passing an example to him: that he has to always believe in his dreams.

He has some pretty strong genes. Is one of those dreams to become a pro footballer?

(laughs) He’s a good player, he’s very sporty. He plays football, he cycles, he skates. He’s still discovering what he likes. We’re always supporting him in whatever he wants to do and whatever dreams he wants to chase.

How much has Brazilian women’s football grown in recent years? Do you recall any wow moments?

Women were banned from playing football in Brazil by law from 1941 to 1979. The generation of Sissi, Michael Jackson, Roseli, Pretinha showed that Brazilian women’s football had potential. The media didn’t give them the value they deserved, but we owe them a lot. Watching Sissi on television made me want to become a footballer and to wear the Brazilian shirt. Another wow moment was in 2004, when the girls played extraordinarily, played beautiful football and reached the final of the Olympics. Even then they didn’t get the attention they deserved, but they inspired, gave an example to future generations. The Pan-American Games in 2007 – 70,000 in the Maracana for the final against the United States. That was a huge moment. I think the Women’s World Cup last year gave a big boom to women’s football. We went from having one reporter covering our matches to having this immense visibility. That was another wow moment. It’s helped rocket the popularity of women’s football in Brazil, but it’s important that we continue growing the sport year by year.

How do you think Corinthians would do against European champions Lyon?

Lyon are a global benchmark in women’s football. What they’ve achieved, over so many years, is incredible. They’re an example for everyone. I can’t tell you how much respect and admiration I have for them. Corinthians aspire to do the same. We don’t just want to be a benchmark in Brazil, but over the world too. We have to keep working hard, learning so that, if we get the opportunity to face Lyon – and other great teams in women’s football – we’ll be prepared. I think we’ve both done great work in our own countries and it’s difficult to predict what would happen if Corinthians faced Lyon.

Brazil have won eight, drew four and lost only one under Pia Sundhage. What do you think of this Seleção?

We’ve grown so much. Pia has added a European element to our game – the intensity and pace of our play. We can relax with the ball, but Pia doesn’t want us to play a slow-paced game. She wants us to be intelligent on the ball. I think we’ve improved with every get-together. It’s not just Pia but all her backroom staff – they have fit in perfectly, they get on so well with all the players, we’ve adapted really quickly and we work so well together. I think we’re seeing that in our results. Pia’s done an outstanding job.

Brazil finished as runners-up in the battle for major titles in 2004, 2007 and 2008. Can you win Olympic gold next year?

We’re confident in the process. We’re working towards that and we’re on the right track. When we get to the Olympics, we want to be at our best physically, mentally, technically and tactically. We’ve got great players and I think this Seleção has come on a lot under Pia. I think we have great hope of having an excellent campaign and fighting for an Olympic medal. Of course the dream of every player is an Olympic gold – we will go there with that target.

USA are the big favourites. What do you think of the Americans?

The United States are another global benchmark. They’ve been playing and winning together for a long time. You look at how many players they have coming out of universities – it’s so different from Brazil. But Brazil have so much talent. We’ve evolved a lot. If we continue the way we have been under Pia, I think we can compete against anyone.

We see a lot of dancing, singing, joking around and laughing in the Brazil squad…

Pia has brought a lot of this to the squad. It’s a really relaxed atmosphere. But we’re not dancing, joking about, laughing the whole time – there are times to have fun and there are times to work seriously. But it definitely helps mentally. The happiness in the squad brings everyone together. Sometimes in a meeting before training, Pia will play a song that spreads positive energy and motivates you. All of the players love being with the Seleção.

Finally, who do you think deserves to win The Best FIFA Women’s Player this year?

Debinha had a magnificent year. I really wish there were more South American players on it. But of the girls listed, I think Delphine Cascarino or Vivianne Miedema deserves it. They are both outstanding players and had great years.