“Every Brazilian coach dreams of being in charge of the national side, and I got that call,” enthused Oswaldo Fumeiro Alvarez, clearly revelling in holding the reins of Brazil’s senior women’s squad. “At a point in my career when I’d managed to build up a lot of experience, this role gave me a shot at a different kind of challenge. It has forced me to study, learn and work harder. It’s a great opportunity, both personally and professionally.”
The strategist better known in footballing circles as Vadão, who made the switch to the women’s discipline on the back of a 20-year career in the men’s game, has just celebrated his first anniversary at the helm of A Seleção. “Overall it’s gone very well,” said the supremo, in conversation with FIFA.com. “The team’s made a lot of progress and we’re expecting to be very well-prepared come the World Cup.”
Indeed, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ is the next major challenge on the horizon for the China PR 2007 runners-up, though the 58-year-old also has one eye on a certain other event next year: “For us, the 2016 Olympic Games are our primary objective. As we’ll be the host nation, there are huge expectations in Brazil surrounding all of those aiming to compete at the Games.”
The challenge of tackling both the Women’s World Cup 2015 and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament 2016, not to mention this July’s Pan American Games in Toronto, forced the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) to take exceptional measures to ensure *A Seleção *are up to the task. “Our domestic championships aren’t competitive enough,” explained *Vadão, *“So we decided that the only way to achieve peak levels in terms of fitness, tactics and intensity would be by training all together.”
Therefore, since the start of this year, Vadão has been working with a ‘permanent’ squad of players based at the Spa Sport Resort in Itu, with only those under contract at clubs abroad, such as Marta and Bias, excused from attending. “It’s a situation which can be somewhat wearing and tiring, but we’re handling it well thanks to a great deal of planning. The majority of the players are from Sao Paulo state, where we’re based, so they’re able to see their families during rest periods.”
A lack of competitiveness and solid infrastructure in Brazilian women’s football is just one of the obstacles in the path of a man who has been in charge of Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Bahia, Atletico Paranaense, Ponte Preta and Guarani, amongst others. “At first my main dilemma was a shortage of time. When I took the squad to the Copa America chasing qualification for the World Cup and the Pan American Games, it was only the second time I’d worked with the group. Fortunately everything went well and we were crowned champions,” said *Vadão. *
“Another challenge was learning more about the major powers in women’s football, so having the opportunity to go and take part in the Algarve Cup and see them first-hand was a big help. What impressed me most [about the top teams] is how tactically disciplined they are. Women players are very strong in that regard.”
Putting his stamp on Brazil
And speaking of tactical discipline, what kind of approach has he instilled in his Canarinha charges? “The main characteristic of Brazil’s play is our touch. We’ve got two very settled ways of playing: 4-4-2, with two banks of four, and 4-3-3, with three forwards. In any case, at the World Cup we’ll have to face up to very diverse styles of football, and in our recent friendly games we’ve learned that we have to able to various things, to change our play, whether that means using the full width of the pitch or going more direct – depending on what the opposition are doing,” explained Vadão, famed for giving a young Kaka his debut at Sao Paulo back in 2001.
In addition to the strides made in terms of tactical versatility, Brazil, who have yet to miss an edition of the Women’s World Cup, can also count on the talents of a Marta at the peak of her powers. “She is the standard bearer for women’s football, worldwide,” said Vadão, on his stellar No10. “She’s consistent, is always available for the team and always in good physical condition. She doesn’t rely on her name or her reputation to benefit herself, instead she plays for the good of the team as a whole. As well as being an extraordinary player, her character is exceptional.”
With the likes of Cristiane and Formiga also continuing to add the weight of their vast experience to the Auriverde cause, the inclusion of up-and-coming performers such as Andresinha can only help the balance and strength in depth of a squad aiming high at Canada 2015. “I think that the favourites to win this World Cup are those teams near the top of the FIFA Ranking and yes, I include Brazil in that list,” he continued.
“That’s what we’re working towards and I’m pretty confident we’ll go into the competition in good shape. But at a World Cup, as well as being well-prepared, you need to get the luck of the draw. Often you can end up getting knocked out because you find yourself up against a major power early on.”
Yet to even reach the knockout phase, Brazil will have to negotiate a Group E also containing Spain, Korea Republic and Costa Rica. “I think that, on paper, Spain will be our main rivals, because they’re a team that play one-touch football and put you under pressure,” concluded *Vadão, *before taking his leave. “That said, football can surprise you…”