The day after the opening match for the women’s Seleção, a 3-0 win against China, the subject of the women’s game, and how the women’s national team compares to the men’s, came up during an evening football chat show on ESPN Brasil. One of the talking heads opened his mouth and out came the following observations in an interminable stream (which I have condensed significantly): women should play on smaller pitches, preferably the size of a seven-a-side field; they should make the goals smaller as it’s currently far too easy to score; the skill levels are too low; they can’t kick the ball far enough; they shouldn’t even call it football because it doesn’t look like the sport the men play.
His aim in this defamation was to try to diminish the achievements of the women’s team to make excuses for the pathetic performance of the Brazilian men in the damp squib of a 0-0 draw against South Africa. The women only won because it’s so easy for them, the men face a real challenge and thus failure is more acceptable.
Unfortunately these sorts of attitudes towards women’s football are far too common in Brazil. Fortunately for their supporters, however, the Brazilian women’s team keep producing the sorts of classy performances that will eventually make idiots like these shut up once and for all.
On Saturday night they brushed aside a Sweden team that are themselves no slouches, 6th in FIFA’s world rankings, two places above the Brazilians. The final score line was 5-1 to the Seleção, with two goals from Beatriz, one from Cristiane and two from Marta.
The first chance of the game fell to the Beatriz after four minutes but she was off balance as the ball dropped to her and was unable to get any purchase on her shot which was saved comfortably by Lindahl in the Swedish goal.
One of Sweden’s few forays into opposition territory followed. They broke down the right with Rubensson the right back playing in Seger to cross low to Asllani in the middle. Her low shot was well saved by Bárbara but had it been more powerful she would have levelled.
From then on it was a Brazilian onslaught, with the directness and pace of this Brazilian team too much to handle for the opposition. The first goal game after twenty minutes; a long ball over the top led to a mix-up between the Swedish centre-half and goalkeeper and Beatriz pounced to toe-poke the bouncing ball into a gaping onion bag.
The second followed less than five minutes after. Formiga swept a long ball out to Marta, who was moved to play on the left in this game after being deployed on the right against China. Marta beat her marker before looking up and spotting Critiane making a run across the near post, a low cross and a delightful flick of the heel from Cristiane and the ball was again in the back of the Swedish net. The trio of Cristiane, Marta and Formiga combining once more as they have to such devastating effect over the last ten years. This goal took Cristiane on to 14 in the Olympic Games, making her the joint record scorer for men or women in Olympic football.
The only downside of the game for Brazil came when the same player hobbled off injured in the second half, with what appeared to be a hamstring problem. She will be replaced in the game against South Africa by Debinha but head coach Vadão said that he hopes she will return for the knockout phase.
The third came from the penalty spot just before half-time. Marta again played a terrific dinked through ball to Cristiane who received a push in the back from left-back Magadalena Ericsson. It was soft but, as they say, you’ve seen ‘em given. Marta stepped up and of course made no mistake from twelve yards, sending the keeper the wrong way.
The game was over by the interval and from then on it was an exhibition, o canarinho giving their home fans exactly what they had come to see. Wonderful skill and pacy, exciting, attacking football were on display for all to see and the other countries will be looking fearfully at the prospect of facing this talented team in the knockout stages.
Two more goals followed in the closing stages. Marta grabbed her second ten minutes before time flicking the ball over the outstretched foot of the helpless Swedish defender with her heel before meeting it viciously on the half volley, leaving Lindahl with no chance. Beatriz placed the cherry on the icing five minutes later, receiving the ball from Polianna just inside the area before turning and stroking the ball into the top corner with her left foot.
Swedish captain Lotta Schelin managed a consolation in the 89th minute with a good finish to beat Bárbara but by then the game was long gone for her and her team mates.
It was another impressive performance from the Seleção, and in the second half they really looked as if they were managing to enjoy themselves despite the weight of expectation of 200 million people bearing down on their shoulders. If they continue like this they have a real chance of taking home the as yet unconquered Olympic football gold and fulfilling the hopes of the nation.