A few years ago, Brazilian women’s national team was known as the team with the best offence in women’s football.
This is because the Brazilian squad had the best attacking duo in the world, Marta and Cristiane. The success of Brazilian women’s football owes a lot to the talent and engagement of these two strikers. Together they have scored (and assisted) many goals and achieved a lot of individual awards.
The best phase of Brazilian women’s football occurred in 2007/2008 when the team were runners-up of the World Cup and Olympics. Brazil has never won a major tournament. Despite having the best attack in the world and the best individual talents at that time, this was not enough for Brazil to beat teams who were more tactically organized and more physically prepared such as USA and Germany.
Statistics – Women’s World Cup 2007 source: Fifa.com
Statistics – Olympic Games 2008 source: Fifa.com
We can say that Brazil’s decline began at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011, and since then, the team has never recovered. Before, the South American team occupied the top 3 of the best teams in the world, today they are far from the top.
Statistics – Women’s World Cup 2011 source: Fifa.com
Statistics – Olympic Games 2012 source: Fifa.com
Statistics – Women’s World Cup 2015 source: Fifa.com
We can cite several reasons for the decline of Brazilian national team as, for example: (1) the retirement of key players, as Daniela Alves; (2) the lack of talented players to be included in Brazil national team; (3) the development of women’s football in many countries across the world while in Brazil it remained stagnant; (4) and the lack of chemistry between Marta and Cristiane in the last years.
Brazil WNT Starting lineup against USWNT – Women’s World Cup 2007
The first three reasons are facts that can only be solved through time and hard work (investing in the Brazilian female youth teams, national public policies to encourage girls to practice football, developing national championships, professionalization of the female players, etc). Already the latter is a matter of tactical formation of the team that can be fixed before Rio Olympic Games.
The changing of tactical formation in Brazil began in December 2012, when Marcio Oliveira, then coach, moved Marta to the midfield and kept Cristiane next to Debinha, in attack.
Brazil WNT Starting lineup against Portugal in International Tournament of São Paulo 2012
After that, there were several tactical changes and replacements in the Brazilian attack, due to Cristiane and Debinha injuries and the need of a creative player in midfield. The solution found by coaches was to leave that role to Marta.
The current coach of Brazil, decided to “innovate” with Cristiane playing as a central forward and kept Marta in midfield in the last World Cup. It didn’t work. Brazil was eliminated in the knock-out stage by Australia and almost didn’t score goals.
Brazil WNT Starting lineup against Australia – Women’s World Cup 2015
After a long time without scoring goals for the national team, Cristiane finally performed at the Pan American Games 2015 when there was a change of tactical formation due to Marta’s absent from the games.
She scored five goals against Ecuador and said in a post match interview: “It was a relief, actually, I took off the heaviness I was carrying. (In the World Cup) I had a lack of match fitness and the formation, 4-1-4-1, did not favour me. I was very isolated in attack. Now in the 4-4-2, I feel comfortable…”
After this match against Ecuador, Cristiane appears to have recovered her eye for goal, since she became the top scorer of PSG, her current club, with a lot of chemistry with her team-mates, especially Mittag. While Marta does not seem very pleased to not score as many goals this season playing a less offensive role for Rosengard.
The friendly against the USWNT would be a good opportunity to test Cristiane and Marta playing side by side like they worked well-oiled formerly.
Unfortunately, the head coach continues to set Marta up as a midfielder and Brazil will not have Debinha, recovered from injury, to compose the team offensive sector (she was not called-up to the national side).
Instead of calling Debinha and Marta as strikers, the coach prefers to test some midfielders as forwards (Gabi Zanotti and Rafa Travalão). The question is if they can score goals and feed Cristiane like Marta and Debinha are able to do. In my view, they can’t.
I only hope it will not be too late to change tactics before the Olympic Games. The failure of the Brazilian attack in the last World Cup was already enough for the Brazilian fans.
Gold seems a distant dream but the Brazilian people deserve at least a bit of Marta and Cristiane’s talent (and goals!) in Rio 2016.
Women’s football enthusiast based in Brazil. Supporting and raising the profile of the women’s game.