There isn’t any spin to be placed on this, no ‘positives to be taken’ from Brazil’s exit from the Girls’s World Cup. The workforce had a full cycle of preparation, with unprecedented assets, beneath the command of a prime class coach in Pia Sundhage — and can now go away after the group stage for the primary time since 1995.
It’s an unmitigated catastrophe. It’s also a melancholic finish to the World Cup profession of the good Marta — nearly as melancholic as her performances on this match.
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However Jamaica had been in a position to smother that hazard, as opponents have been in a position to smother Marta on this competitors. Her sixth World Cup could effectively have been one too many. It has been a while since she has been in a position to tip the steadiness on a person stage. Tellingly, 14 of her 17 World Cup objectives got here within the first three tournaments she performed. The ultimate three introduced only one aim from open play.
But when she has been overtaken, that isn’t solely the consequence of the inevitable decline of age. It’s also the product of the speedy improvement of the game — one thing that she did greater than anybody else to result in. In that sense, she is a sufferer of her personal success — which could give a small crumb of comfort on the lengthy journey again from Australia.
Brazil met Jamaica of their opening recreation of the earlier World Cup. Brazil gained 3-0, with all of the objectives coming from veteran striker Cristiane. Sundhage took cost after the match. She ditched Cristiane and stored Marta. That may have been a mistake. Sundhage’s total reign will now come beneath the microscope — which is acceptable, for the reason that total course of was set as much as be judged on outcomes on this match.
The game has developed to the extent the place there’s usually a high quality margin between successful and shedding. Brazil produced a wonderful opening win (4-0 over Panama) adopted by a slender defeat to France after which a deadly draw towards Jamaica the place they’d all of the play however created only a few possibilities. The Panama recreation was very a lot her triumph. The workforce performed as a collective block, squeezing the opposition into their half of the sector, working laborious to win again possession and protecting the stress on.
The France match didn’t go so effectively. Sundhage was out-thought. She thought that France had been gradual to recompose their defence, and went with two fast strikers to reveal them on the transitions. However it left Brazil too stretched out, and France took benefit of the house. Which brings us to the Jamaica recreation, the place the workforce’s limitations had been uncovered, in two key areas.
Firstly, their artistic repertoire proved closely depending on firing in crosses towards weak groups unable to defend within the air. As quickly as they got here up towards extra competent and higher organised defences then they bumped into issues. That is particularly worrying since, after a few years when defence was the main target, Sundhage had not too long ago been concentrating on widening the attacking repertoire.
After which there’s the workforce’s emotional state. In opposition to Jamaica, because the clock ticked away the workforce received worse by way of the course of the sport. The primary half at the very least introduced the occasional half probability. After the break, when the screw actually ought to have been turned, there was subsequent to nothing. Underneath scoreboard stress, the workforce didn’t carry out.
Was there an excessive amount of emotional dependence on a Marta who was now not in a position to ship? Or was there an inadequate emotional connection between Sundhage and her gamers? One problem which has been effervescent beneath for some time now — and which got here to the floor after the defeat to France — was Sundhage’s lack of proficiency in Portuguese. After 4 years she nonetheless doesn’t converse the language in public and is, apparently, hesitant and halting in personal. She generally appears mystified by her gamers, complaining in the course of the course of this competitors that generally they go an excessive amount of, and generally they don’t go sufficient.
The combination of Scandinavia and South America was at all times stuffed with attainable alternatives and threats. In some methods it has labored. The gamers most likely suppose extra collectively than earlier than, and are much less liable to go to floor in search of low-cost fouls. However perhaps, when it got here all the way down to it there was a scarcity of an emotional connection when it mattered most.
What occurs now? Marta leaves the stage, and it will likely be fascinating to see what she does subsequent. Will Pia keep? She is beneath contract till the 2024 Olympics in Paris, however nothing is assured.
Brazil’s greatest participant within the Jamaica recreation was skilled centre again Rafaelle. After the sport she was requested if Sundhage must be changed. “I feel we’ve to consider what’s greatest for girls’s soccer,” she stated. “If there’s somebody higher, with extra high quality, then the game deserves it.” It’s hardly a ringing endorsement.