| While the brilliant Marta remains her country's principal star, she will be joined in China by a crop of emerging Brazilians.|
(AFP) MICKAEL KAPPELER
In a country where you practically cannot turn without seeing a football, it was inevitable that Brasileiras would succumb to the passion and charms of the game and seek to emulate the men. No longer content to just cheer on their heroes from the stands, the country's women are now striving to make a name for themselves on the pitch.
Of course, the women's game has faced tremendous obstacles establishing itself in a region where the majority still feel that football is a man's sport. Nevertheless, as has been shown so often before, talent always comes through in the end.
The continued progress of the women's national team is a case in point. The Canarinhas have never failed to qualify for a FIFA Women's World Cup, whether at senior or youth level, and have also been ever-present at the Olympic Football Tournaments.
The ladies can proudly point to two bronze medals - from the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 1999 and the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006 - as proof of their potential, as well a silver medal from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
The inspiration of Marta
Propelling Jorge Barcellos' current side to new heights is 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year Marta, who finally landed the prestigious award after finishing third and then second in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
While unquestionably the team's standout figure and talisman, on this occasion FIFA.com would like to focus on some of the other Verdeamarela players who have grown in the shadow of the Umea star and have not been the subject of as much media attention.
Take, for example, Cristiane, one of Marta's most effective strike partners. Particularly quick and skilful over short distances, the Brazilian also possesses the strength and timing to make surging breaks from deep, and is capable of getting her shots off from almost any angle. Currently winning plaudits with Germany's Wolfsburg, the striker's powerful shooting and aerial prowess make her a genuine predator in the box.
Russia 2006 brought several Auriverde players to the world's attention, not least Barbara, the team's prodigiously talented goalkeeper. The youngster previously told FIFA.com that she chose the position because she loved football but didn't like to run all that much. Still, with great reflexes, speed of movement and an imposing physique, she can leave the running to her team-mates. Moreover, she has a strong and expressive character, something very much in evidence when she is organising her defensive line, with a fire in her eyes during games displaying her intense focus and passion.
Fabiana was another to make a big impression on Russian soil. Frequently deployed in attack, the youngster has all the ingredients of a typical Brazilian player, being not only fast and enterprising up front, but also adept at dribbling and shaking off her marker. Her superb mobility and running also make her extremely useful when it comes to carving out openings and unlocking the tightest defences.
As a veteran of USA 2003, Thailand and Athens 2004, and Russia 2006, Renata Costa is another key member of national team. The player is equally comfortable in a creative or holding midfielder role and has the fire power to trouble keepers from long distance. Still only 20, Costa already has a wealth of experience under her belt and looks certain to become one of the pillars of the side.
|Cristiane has formed an impressive partnership with Marta.|
Nine months of preparation
A measure of the CBF's (Brazilian Football Confederation) total commitment to the women's national team can be seen in the detailed plans set in place for 2007. From April to December, the squad named by Barcellos will take up residence at the Granja Comary complex, where they will begin work in earnest for the challenges ahead.
The first stage of their preparations will include a tour of the USA for a series of friendly games. Then in August they will begin an intensive training programme for the FIFA Women's World Cup, to be played between 10-30 September in China. Shortly after that, the girls will return to their camp to prepare for the next stage of their qualifying bid for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The 25 players set to be called up will not include several key figures whose club commitments preclude such an extended stay with the national side, but who will nonetheless be present at the year's most important international fixtures.
After their painful defeat at the hands of Argentina in the final of the South American qualifying tournament for China 2007, Brazil are leaving nothing to chance, putting their faith in an exhaustive programme to try and ensure a podium finish on Chinese soil.