The samba queens pay the price

Brazil star Marta can hardly believe her World Cup adventure has ended at the first knockout round after a perfect group stage.
Brazil star Marta can hardly believe her World Cup adventure has ended at the first knockout round after a perfect group stage.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Australia forward and scorer Kyah Simon (centre) and midfielder Katrina Gorry combining to stop Brazil midfielder Formiga during the game.
Australia forward and scorer Kyah Simon (centre) and midfielder Katrina Gorry combining to stop Brazil midfielder Formiga during the game.PHOTO: REUTERS

Poor backing may cost them Olympic gold after they exit World Cup early

MONCTON (Canada) - Brazil coach Vadao has warned that the lack of attention paid to the women's game could cost them an Olympic gold, as his football team led by superstar Marta suffered yet another World Cup upset.

Marta claimed a record 15th World Cup goal, but the five-time World Player of the Year returned home without the ultimate accolade again.

A second-half goal from Kyah Simon in wet and windy Moncton on Sunday was enough to end Brazil's campaign and send Australia through to the quarter-finals following a 1-0 win.

POOR BUILD-UP

In Brazil, the (women's) championship does not offer the right conditions or give us the opportunity to test our athletes and this was proven here.

- Brazil coach Vadao, who is now concerned about next year's Olympics

PROMISING FUTURE

With such a young team, you just see so much growth and development in such a short space of time. If they keep growing, we can beat anyone in the world.

- Australia coach Alen Stajcic, who picked a youthful squad

"We asked the Brazilian football federation if we could have a permanent team so we can practise more," explained Vadao. "In Brazil, the (women's) championship does not offer the right conditions or give us the opportunity to test our athletes and this was proven here."

Brazil are two-time Olympic silver medallists with dreams of winning gold at home next year. But Vadao warned: "We have the Olympics coming up in Brazil. We need obviously to concern ourselves a bit more."

Brazil's long wait for World Cup glory stretches back to their 1991 debut opening-round exit in China. They finished third in 1999, second in 2007 and went home at the quarter-final stage in 2011.

Brazil changed their approach under Vadao, who took over in April last year, to prepare for this World Cup, implementing a residential programme since February. But Marta, who plays in the Swedish league with Rosengard, did not join the group until before the tournament.

The South Americans nevertheless got off to a flying start in Canada when Marta overtook Germany's Birgit Prinz as the scorer of the most World Cup goals, with 37-year-old Formiga becoming the oldest scorer in the tournament's history.

They won all their group matches without conceding a goal, albeit against lower-ranked opposition - Spain, Costa Rica and South Korea. Simon's goal was the only one conceded.

"Even now in defeat we are convinced we have the best attitude, physically we are one of the best teams," said Vadao.

Now 29, Marta, dubbed "Pele in skirts", looks set to finish her career without a world title.

The win left Australia's coach Alen Stajcic beaming and believing his side can make an even bigger statement after their first win in the knockout stage of a World Cup, which set up a quarter-final against either defending champions Japan or the Netherlands.

Australia had reached the last two quarter-finals but lost both.

"Obviously it (beating Brazil) is a big moment, but I don't think it is the biggest moment yet," he said. "There is still more to come."

Australia faced a tough group stage but emerged in second place - losing to the United States, drawing with Sweden and beating Nigeria. Against Brazil, they combined disciplined and solid defending with an aggressive and speedy counter-attacking game which ultimately paid off.

"I think we are one of the most dangerous teams at the World Cup, if not the most dangerous team, in going forward," said Stajcic. "Our defence was good again. We are an attacking team, but you are going to have to play good football to break us down."

A former coach of Australia's women's Under-20 team, Stajcic selected a youthful squad for this tournament and is being rewarded for that choice.

"With such a young team, you just see so much growth and development in such a short space of time," he said. "If they keep growing, we can beat anyone in the world."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'The samba queens pay the price'. Print Edition | Subscribe