BRAZIL’S ONCE DAZZLING FORM HAS FIZZLED. A team that was a revelation in 2003, a difficult obstacle in 2004, a thorn in 2007, and a worthy opponent in 2008, became a sad villain in 2011. And, with disappointing results at the 2011 Women’s World Cup and the 2011 Pan-American Games, Brazil’s federation sacked head coach Kleiton Lima and brought back Jorge Barcellos, who led Brazil to a silver medal in 2008, and went on to coach the WPS’ St. Louis Athletica.
- How They Qualified: Top 2 finish in CONMEBOL’s 2010 Campeonato Sudamericano Femenino (tournament champion)
- FIFA Rank: #5
- Previous Olympics: 2008 (Silver), 2004 (Silver), 2000 (4th), 1996 (4th)
- 2011 WWC Performance: Quarterfinals, lost to USA on penalties
- Key Players: Marta (forward), Rosana (midfielder), Formiga (midfielder)
- Head Coach: Jorge Barcellos (Brazil)
- Team Captain: Aline
- Recent Form: W, W
- Group Finish Probabilities: 1st, 40%; 2nd, 35%, ; 3rd, 20%; 4th, 5%
- Medal Chances: Decent
Barcellos, with less than nine months back at the helm, has tried to steer Brazil back onto the path to gold, but after a rocky Spring which saw Brazil lose three straight matches to Canada, the United States, and Japan, the Seleção Feminina have won their last two international friendlies, although narrowly, by 2:1 margins. Each time, Brazil let their opponent equalize before eventually getting a go-ahead goal.
The losses during the Spring can be partly explained by a lack of Brazil’s European-based players, along with Barcellos experimenting with a 4-4-2 formation, rather than a three-back formation, which was used under Lima. And, since at least June, Barcellos has returned to a three-back formation.
But, Barcellos has made a few changes to Lima’s usual line-up. Erika, in perhaps some delayed karma, finds herself riding the pine, as late-bloomer Bruna Benites has taken her spot at centerback. Joining Erika on the bench is Marta’s usual strike partner, Cristiane, who at just age 27, seems to be past her goal-scoring prime. Another regular from 2011, sweeper Daiane (or Bagé), who was captain of the team earlier in the year, has also been benched, in favor of Renata Costa. (Neither Erika, Cristiane, or Daiane have been used in Brazil’s three tune-up matches: vs. SC Kriens, vs. Colombia, vs. Canada.)
Replacing Cristiane up top will either be U-20 standout Thais Guedes or 31 year-old journeywoman Grazielle (who is incorrectly listed as a defender on FIFA’s micro-site for this tournament).
Five-time FIFA World Women’s Player of the Year, Marta, should be dangerous as always, but even her form, at just 26 years, seems less impressive. Marta’s luster was tarnished some in the last Women’s World Cup, where she apparently shoved Norway’s Nora Berge en route to scoring a goal (ESPN.com), and was booed by fans during the USA/Brazil quarterfinal (Yahoo.com).
Goals this year have been a premium for Brazil, who have not scored more than twice in an international match since December. So, Barcellos will need other players to step up. One veteran who has done so is the 33 year-old Formiga, for whom this is her fifth Olympics, who has a goal in each of Brazil’s three tune-up matches. Meanwhile, Marta has not scored a goal in the three tune-ups, but she has set-up at least two goals.
GROUP CHANCES — Thus, given all of their struggles in the past year, Brazil seems unlikely to win all three group matches. Brazil could very well win their first two matches, against Cameroon and New Zealand, then draw with or lose to Great Britain at Wembley. Although, if Brazil gets off to a slow start in their opener with Cameroon, then a 1:1 or 2:2 draw become a decent possibility. And, if Brazil and Great Britain finish as the top two teams, but tied on points, Great Britain’s (by way of England’s) better scoring prowess would appear to give the home team an edge on goal difference.
RECENT MATCHES — Outside of in-camp scrimmages, Brazil has only played three tune-up matches, with one of those being against a Swiss women’s club team, SC Kriens. That match was won 2:0 via goals from Thais Guedes and Formiga. Next, Brazil played fellow CONMEBOL squad, Colombia, 2:1 on goals by Rosana (28′) and Formiga (65′). Brazil followed this up with another 2:1 win over Canada, in which Canada equalized in stoppage time, but Brazil got a late ‘winner via Grazielle (90+4′). The first goal was scored, once again by veteran Formiga (44’).
ELAINE OUT, DANIELLI IN — On Monday, July 23rd, a last minute roster change was made due. Versatile midfielder Elaine has been replaced by fullback/wingback Danielli Pereira. Elaine apparently has some sort of muscle bruise (“contusão muscular”) according to a CBF news item (in Portuguese).
PROBABLE STARTERS — The two least certain positions are (1) Marta’s strike partner, which will likely be Thais Guedes, although Grazielle could get the nod, and (2) the attacking midfielder spot, where either veteran Formiga could get a start, or Rosana. If Formiga does start, then Rosana will be used as the left ala (“wingback” in British English), Otherwise, if Rosana is used as the attacking mid, then Maurine would be the left ala. And, for the first match, versus Cameroon, Rosana seems more likely for the attacking mid spot, then Formiga. Goalkeeper is another position that seems less than certain, as both Andreia and Barbara have started tune-up matches. But, the veteran Andreia is more likely to get the start in the opener.
As a 3-4-1-2:
Aline (CB) — Renata Costa (SW) — Bruna Benites (CB)
Fabiana (RWb) — Ester (HM) — Francielle (CM) — Maurine (LWb)
Thais Guedes (FW) — Marta (FW)
* * *
* * *