Brazil-Canada Recap: Random Thoughts About A Random Game

Sorry I’m a little late with this, real life gets in the way sometimes. I didn’t do it intentionally to look disorganized as Brazil always seems to be in these situations. Normally it’s mostly off the field, as was the talk of the press box during the game Saturday in Foxboro, but this Brazil side looked particularly disheveled on the field as well, which is slightly disheartening. Even though they are a rival of the United States , no one likes to see tremendous talent go to waste, and it always seems like Brazil has a ludicrous amount of talent.

Rather than give you a boring game report that would tell you that Christine Sinclair scored twice and now has 133 international goals for her career and Canada won 2-1, I figured I’d just tell you what I found interesting:

  • Unfortunately, I was there to cover the New England-Portland MLS game which followed, so I didn’t have too much time after the game to talk to everyone involved. But it wasn’t the most organized operation in the world, at least for us people that don’t cover the teams on a regular basis. The media was ushered into a mixed zone, which isn’t all that unusual, but either we missed or didn’t see either head coach, which stinks. Karina LeBlanc, about as media friendly as they come, gave us some time. Christine Sinclair, also generally nice (and also used to talking to the media), came by. I awkwardly yelled out to Desiree Scott, more on that in a bit, but that was about it.

Some of this is understandable. There was no home team, and the game was somewhat hastily thrown together to help both teams. But, from a media perspective, it was just strange.

  • I still really have trouble with the Marta hate I see from time to time. First, she was clearly the best player either team had, and it wasn’t even close. From high up, her field vision, her positioning, her technical ability served to really change the game after Canada had dominated the first half. In a somewhat relaxed friendly atmosphere, it was a joy to watch.

Marta came down the tunnel after the game, laughing with LeBlanc, then saw the media waiting, and immediately had an uncomfortable look on her face. She took LeBlanc aside, chatted with her for another minute, then turned around to face the media, which – of course – was all there to see her.

Foreign countries are often different with their media, and in addition to answering questions, Marta was asked to pose for numerous pictures and sign autographs. She did so willingly and with a smile on her face, albeit somewhat reluctantly, long after every other player, Canadian or Brazilian, was long gone.

Marta is clearly the best player in the world, but she can’t find a regular team because everywhere she goes, the team seems to fold. Her national federation seems virtually invisible sometimes when it comes to their women’s team. And – as I alluded to – she’s just not someone who seeks out the spotlight, she just wants to play soccer.

So, excuse me for feeling a little sorry for her.

  • On the field, Brazil was dreadful tactically, as a back four of Maurine, Erika, Daiane, and Raffaele Sousa looked like they had never played together before. And maybe they haven’t. You may remember Brazil under Kleiton Lima played a sweeper, but Jorge Barcellos went flat, which takes time to develop. Of course, it takes practice to develop, too, and we’re not completely sure how much of that he’s going to get, although you’d think the upcoming trip to Japan will be huge for them. They were without Rosana, Cristiane, and Elaine for various reasons, so their depth was exposed a bit, too.

Canada really should have had three or four goals in the first 30 minutes. There was a scary moment at the end of the first half where goalkeeper Andreia, who played well, was involved in a nasty collision. She was eventually stretchered from the field, although they personnel didn’t seem entirely sure where to take her. She was eventually taken to the hospital, but for what we were told for precautionary reasons.

  • So, bottom line, as you might imagine, it’s hard to get a read on Brazil out of this game. They only had 17 players dressed and looked completely disorganized. But they will (I hope) have some time to clean things up by the summer with some more games, and with Marta on the field, I’m not counting them out of anything.
  • On the other side, John Herdman played a 4-4-2. It seems to me you can relate the present situation with the Canadian women with the problem the U.S. men have. Canada was able to get tremendous results using young players in the 2003 World Cup (and a couple of other tournaments in that era) under Evan Pellerud, but we know now that Pellerud probably wasn’t exactly developing creative players that would push Canada forward technically, was he? Obviously, like in the case of Kara Lang, injuries derailed promising careers, but – other than Sinclair – almost all of those players are gone, all but forgotten as we get ready for the 2012 Olympics.

Canada will be a tough out, but you wonder how good Sinclair and Canada would be with a couple of creative players around her (as France, Germany, and a few others seem to have), players that should have been developing in the last decade.

While people are upset (rightfully so) that the U.S. men won’t be going to the Olympics, Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear that this is a long-term process, which the failure this week clearly showed. Patience is needed.

  • Anyway, Herdman seems to have a plethora of defensive midfielders, although he had Kaylyn Kyle on the bench for this game, and pushed Sophie Schmidt into a more advanced position, which she handled pretty well, better than I would have thought, including a beautiful assist on what turned out to be the winning goal.

I was very impressed with Desiree Scott, whom I thought was the player of the match in this game, a true defensive mid in every sense of the word, she controlled the midfield when Canada was at their best. She played a key role in Canada qualifying for the Olympics, kind of coming out of nowhere, as in we saw her in a wide position in last year’s World Cup.

“The new coach coming in has helped,” Scott said. “I’ve gone from a sub to a starter, he’s brought something out in me that I’ve never seen before.”

  • I still, though, think when push comes to shove, that Canada may be a creative player or two short when you’re talking about taking down a France or (a full-strength) Brazil, host Great Britain, or the United States right now. But they’re not that far off.
  • LeBlanc (as well as Scott and Sinclair) talked about beating a Tier 1 team (which I guess Brazil is) as significant, and also talked about Herdman emphasizing attacking play, which we kind of saw, but I didn’t exactly see the ball pinging around the field. Baby steps, I guess.

LeBlanc did have the quote of the day when she reminded me that Canada played at Gillette Stadium (then brand new) in the 2003 World Cup.

“We’ve played here before in 2003,” she said. “I lived in Boston for three years, played for the Breakers. Tom Brady? Love him. It’s an honor to be on a field like this. What a great place to get my 100th cap.”

  • Brazil’s goal scorer, Gabriela Demoner was called Demosier on the roster given out, and I think a couple of other names by the end of the day. Luckily, Jeff Kassouf was on the case, and knew who she was and sorted out the problem. Brazil evidently took on Demoner’s former college team, Franklin Pierce, in a friendly on Thursday. While a thrill for those kids and Franklin Pierce is a very good Division II team, it will be a little step up when they get to Japan.
  • One final story (and feel free to ask questions or point out my mistakes, this is a pretty interactive site): It was definitely a partisan Brazil crowd, as there are plenty of Brazilians in the Northeast. In 2008 I went to a friendly (on the back of an MLS game) between Brazil and Venezuela, and the place was just about sold out, people arriving hours before, craziness. Somehow Venezuela actually won the game 2-0, by the way.

But I think back to that game, and to the brilliance that Marta shows every time she steps on the field, and the difference between the couple of thousand people at Saturday’s game and the chaos of that 2008 night.

I just hope in time Marta gets the credit she deserves.

 

10 thoughts on “Brazil-Canada Recap: Random Thoughts About A Random Game

  1. Anna

    It was an *extraordinarily* partisan crowd. As encouraging as it was to see fans going into raptures of delight over Marta, it was also disheartening to hear the level of verbal abuse being thrown at Canadian players. Honestly, the Brazilian fans got a little farcical at the end when it was evident they were going to lose. But it’s sad that all that energy and excitement doesn’t seem to translate as much into support at home, if the way Santos got disbanded is any evidence.

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  2. Joshua

    With regards to Marta, I think it’s a matter of perceptions. Too bad she doesn’t speak any English and isn’t more savvy to the American media. I think it would make a world of difference. From what (little) I have seen of her on Brazilian TV, she’s like a different person in Brazil.

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  3. Greg

    Great piece, Ray.

    On the issue of Marta, and her place in the women’s soccer sphere, I believe there is a bit of a disconnect between her wants and desires as a footballer, and the needs of the women’s game in general. Like you mention, she doesn’t seek out the spotlight and often seems uncomfortable with so much focus and responsibility on her shoulders. The fact that – despite her apparently great English speaking skills – I’ve rarely heard her speak in English is a little troubling for me. Three years in the WPS and the world’s best women’s player really did little to capitalize on her great personality in the one country that has given a fully pro league two attempts (and the truth is that to grow the game, you need more than skills on the pitch – Hope and Alex are garnering as much, if not more, attention off the field than on it). Also, the mention of so many of her club teams folding (with the implication being that her heavy salary and list of perks play a large part – an implication I concur with) while she continues to demand salaries in excess of $250k is an important one to make. What she seems to want, and what teams/leagues can give her don’t seem to work out in the end.

    What Marta, and other top stars in the USA and abroad, need to understand is that no one is obligated to support women’s soccer – you have to make them want it; this is how every professional sports league in existence has ever succeeded. And in a world where there are exactly ZERO fully professional women’s leagues, sacrifices have to be made to grow the game, including taking pay cuts so that your team can achieve financial stability, and shaking off your discomfort and doing a few more interviews and other promotional events. I can’t really work up any sympathy for her not because I don’t like her but because she is reaping financial rewards from her playing that, so far, have far outweighed her impact on the growth of the women’s game. It sounds harsh, but it’s true.

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  4. John F

    You hope Marta gets the credit she deserves? She won 5 consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year awards. She earns exponentially more than any other woman player. I assume you mean from the (North) American public. I love Marta, she is a thrill to watch. I saw her score 2 against the Magicjack down here in Boca Raton and it was very exciting to watch. We even changed seats at halftime so we could be on the side of the field where Marta, Morgan, Sinclair were attackng. That said, you have to admit that the WC QF played a major part in creating the role of Marta as villain. One of the best parts of the women’s game is that it eliminates some of the worst parts of the men’s game – the dramatic flopping, the hostile attitudes between players, the unsportsmanlike conduct. Yet the Brazilian side including Marta,brought that part to the women’s game in the WC. The announcer had a funny quote- after they were praising Marta’s game and how she learned to play so well from growing up playing with boys, Marta flopped dramatically and the announcer said, “I guess she learned some other things from playing with the boys as well.” I’m looking forward to the US vs Brazil match in Japan and hopefully another one in the Olympics. But, I do hope the women’s game keeps the positive vibe, mutual respect and good sportsmanship that makes their game so special.

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  5. sec

    Thanks for this very thoughtful post. “Random thoughts” are better than a simple match report. Interesting analysis on the play of the canWNT, strengths/weaknesses, etc.

    However, regarding your points about “Marta hate” — surely that is unrelated to her play. Nobody seriously disputes the qualities you mention – technical abilities, vision, positioning, etc. And as 5-time player of the year, she has received ample credit, so I don’t see why you suggest she’s not received credit she deserves. (She was second place last year, I believe, given Sawa’s incredible play in the WWC).

    Also strange that you feel genuinely sorry for a person who is only age 26 or so, and has probably made well over $1 million in salary, alone, in the past few years, in a sport that merely provides a living wage to most of her pro competitors. Whatever “hate” she endures, she can also laugh about it on the way to the bank. Plus, Marta played on two championship teams in WPS, playing with greats like Sinclair. Yes, the Brazil women’s soccer team is apparently quite inept/underfunded, but that’s probably the case with many women’s soccer teams. And that team made it to the 2007 WWC final and the 2008 Olympic final, so Marta has been supported by quite a talented cast (better than the canWNT gives Sinclair, for example).

    Anyway, the location of this match was confusing at best. Not surprising, therefore, that the media presentation was also lacking. Brazil made another confusing choice in sticking around to scrimmage Franklin Pierce. I know they have the player connection (Demoner), but it still seems a real waste of time (the score was 8-0). Why not fly to Japan earlier, and scrimmage a pro team over there?

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  6. Joshua

    “ZERO fully professional women’s leagues”(?) WTA (?) LPGA (?) maybe even WNBA (?)

    I grant you the WTA and LPGA are not leagues but “tours” but at least a few of the players make bank. The WTA even lists out the winnings of each player during the current season on their website. According to their site, as of 3/19/2012 the #100 player on the list has earned $55,510 and the season is only three months old. The Tour runs through to the end of October. I’m not even going to do #1 or #2. What they have won so far is sick.

    Nobody draws the negative publicity like Serena Williams and she has made bank. Need I do a rehash of past incidents?

    Of course there is Figure Skating. A few skaters make bank. It also has a history of “incidents”. Some people have argued that it isn’t a real sport.

    Compared to other sports, I think Women’s Soccer has been pretty good and pretty clean.
    Even Marta (at least in Brazil). However, in terms of players making bank, unless there is something or someone I don’t know about, it comes no where near other women’s sports.

    Dare I mention that other women’s “football” league? I’ll leave it with the acronym “LFL”. Google it if you don’t know what I’m referring to.

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  7. Joshua

    “ZERO fully professional women’s leagues”

    Upon reflection, I now know what you meant. ZERO profession women’s SOCCER leagues.

    Still one should only expect so much “sacrifice” from players. There are greener pastures elsewhere in other occupations if not in sports. In professional male sports, male athletes get compared by what they are getting in terms of compensation and perks with what other professional athletes are getting regardless of whether they are in the same sport or not. It’s no different in women’s sports. In the larger picture, Marta really isn’t getting all that much compared to what the top women are making in other professional sports.

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    1. Greg

      It’s not what we expect them to sacrifice, it’s what they HAVE to sacrifice. They learned the WUSA model was too expensive, so they sacrificed. They are learning that the WPS model is still too expensive, so they are sacrificing again to continue playing in semi-pro leagues. The market always dictates the numbers. It’s why in the early days of baseball, basketball, and American football players often weren’t payed or payed so little they had to take second and third jobs – the audience wasn’t there yet. Yet they continued to play because they loved the game and wanted to see it grow. I would like players to be a little more realistic, and look at the situation with a little more perspective and realize that they shouldn’t necessarily be playing for themselves, but for those young girls who will be the Solos and Morgans and Rapinoes of a generation from now and may not have to worry about whether the market is there because Abby and Sydney and Heather sacrificed to build up that market. The game of women’s professional soccer doesn’t need Marta to make $250k/yr, it needs her to get people to pay to watch.

      The rate at which Marta is paid compared to what her teams/leagues generate in revenue far outstrips what top female athletes in other sports make. Top tennis players, the gold standard for high-salaried women’s players, make as much as they do because the ad and broadcast revenue is there to support it. The Damallsvenskan and WPS were thinking in reverse, that overpaying for the best player would bring the dollars in…and it failed (but at least the Swedish league’s moderate spending in their semi-pro model allowed them to survive, whereas the WPS, like its predecessor, couldn’t last long at those salary rates without a quick increase in revenue, which they never achieved). Again, this doesn’t make Marta a villain, but if she is to ask so much of women’s pro soccer in terms of monetary compensation, a lot will be expected of her in terms of selling and growing the game to eventually justify that compensation.

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  8. Ray Curren

    Re: Marta

    If indeed Marta has priced herself out of the market that exists, then it’s hard to feel too sorry for her for that.

    My thought, though, is that I watch all the adulation Lionel Messi gets and Marta is basically the Messi of the women’s game, clearly the best and most entertaining player in the world. And, although I certainly know it’s not realistic, I wish more people could see the simple beauty of her game.

    Instead, the beauty that gets the headlines comes from Alex Morgan and Hope Solo (both great players, granted, don’t get me wrong).

    Obviously, the people reading on this site know that, but still women’s soccer is women’s soccer to the mainstream.

    As for the Marta “hate”, I wrote about it during last year’s World Cup on this site if you want to look up my views on that.

    Brazil looked flat out disinterested against the U.S. yesterday, does not bode well for the near future, methinks.

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