2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview: Brazil
The 2019 Women’s World Cup is sure to be an emotional one for the Brazilian national team, as it is likely the final opportunity for Marta, considered by many to be the all-time greatest women’s soccer player, to finally lift the trophy, as previously covered by The Guardian. While a Brazil victory would bring a fitting end to the finest career in women’s soccer, the team they’re bringing to France will be far from the favorites.
The current Brazilian team is older and filled with veterans of previous World Cup disappointments. While they aren’t expected to disappoint, Brazil doesn’t have the same level of talent compared to squads that have entered the tournament in the past and will likely be a level below the teams that have strengthened since the 2015 World Cup. This talent gap was made clear in the run of friendlies that Brazil has participated in since winning the Copa America in 2018. Facing the likes of Japan, the United States, and Australia, the Brazilian women would go on to win only one of their 11 scheduled friendlies, which also included a shocking loss to Scotland.
While friendlies are often used for more experimental tactics and not exactly a clear definition of a team at its strongest, it did reveal a serious weakness in manager Oswaldo Alvarez’s gameplan. Alvarez prefers the old-school 4-4-2 setup, a style not suited to the current squad. This system has seen players played out of position, uncharacteristic defensive lapses, and Marta unable to be a threat on offense as usual due to the demanding work rate it demands.
The six-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year still possesses enough of her dynamism at 33 to be a constant goal threat, but Brazil’s inability to develop any players who could suitably cover her position — or place her in a system that would allow her to operate closer to the opposition’s box — will likely deny fans the opportunity to see her go on one more run of dominance. Still, if any player has shown that they could pull off the unbelievable, it is Marta.
Brazil’s defense has been hampered by Rafaelle’s knee surgery, as they have been unable to find a replacement while their star is out. Heath will be a major detriment in attack as well, with Bia Zaneratto and Cristiane struggling for fitness as they recover from their serious injuries. This will likely put a lot of the scoring pressure on the 21-year-old striker Geyse, who has been tipped as a potential breakout star in this World Cup.
While expectations for Brazil are always high regardless of the talent in the team, they should still be capable of making it through a group made up of Italy, Australia, and Jamaica. From that point on, it will take everything Marta has to pull off the storybook ending her career deserves.