- Brazil have been hit by injuries to influential players
- They recovered to inflict Italy's first defeat and reach the last 16
- Marta: "We've been through a lot already"
By Giancarlo Giampietro with Brazil
Brazil have had a lengthy list of injury problems to deal with in their ultimately successful bid to reach the Round of 16 at France 2019.
First of all, the veteran Formiga missed Tuesday’s defeat of Italy in Valenciennes. Though suspended for the game in any case, she was still carrying an ankle knock.
Andressa Alves, perhaps Brazil’s best performer to date at France 2019, then picked up an injury on the eve of the game and was later ruled out of the rest of the tournament. The unfortunate Andressa joins three other players who were initially named in Vadao’s squad but had to drop out through injury: midfielder Adriana, full-back Fabi, and the central defender Erika, who was sidelined the day before the tournament began.
Meanwhile, Rafaelle, one of the best centre-halves in the world, failed to even figure in the coach’s plans because of her injury problems.
Even then, Brazil’s woes were far from over, with both Marta and Cristiane requiring careful handling during the group phase. The two have proven to be vital to the Seleção cause in France but have been used more sparingly than Vadao would have liked.
And yet despite all these issues, Brazil have found a way, overcoming their notable absences and the frustration of losing a two-goal lead against Australia to advance from the group phase, something they have now done at every World Cup since 1999.
“We’re sad about losing so many players through injury, but we know we have to react to that with the quality players who can come in to replace them,” said Andressinha. “We’re showing that now. We have to play for those who are out of the competition.”
The 24-year-old midfielder, who stands 5’3 (1.61m) tall, helped her side recover from a shaky start to dictate the game against the Italians, especially in the second half.
“She was outstanding. She’s patient and knows how to set the tempo, by playing the right pass,” Marta told FIFA.com. Shaking off her injury worries, the Brazilian superstar convinced her coaches that she could last for more than 80 minutes against Italy, having managed just 45 against Australia.
Mission not so impossible
Now the leading scorer in World Cup history with 17 goals, Marta showed her faith in Andressinha in the second half. On being brought down just outside the box, the Brazil ace took hold of the ball and promptly handed it over to the midfielder, whose resulting free-kick dipped and swerved before clipping the crossbar and going over.
“She was annoyed it didn’t go in,” said the veteran. “It would have been a fantastic goal. She had a great game, though. Like I said, it’s not easy to replace Formiga.”
So how is Andressinha coping with the pressure of covering for a player appearing at her seventh World Cup? “A few people have been asking me about that and I’ve never thought for a minute I could replace her,” came the reply. “It’s virtually impossible to do that. I’m very happy to have had the opportunity though.”
A Seleção have grown accustomed to finding solutions, and at the Stade du Hainaut on Tuesday they showed how versatile they can be, continually switching systems until they gained the upper hand over the Squadra Azzurra. Brazil’s dominance was made possible by the intricate interplay between Andressinha, Marta and the outstanding Debinha. Together they gradually wrestled control and got the fans on their feet, showing the way forward for the rest of the team.
“Our goal was always to qualify, by winning the group obviously,” said Marta. “Things haven’t worked out that way but, then again, you don’t get to make that many choices at the World Cup. We’ve been through a lot already.”