Brazil still not sharp enough

June, 29, 2011

MONCHENGLADBACH -- It was a slow start for two technical teams expected to score big when third-ranked Brazil faced 11th-ranked Australia on the fourth day of World Cup play. In the first half, the Matildas not only held their own but dominated offensively, delivering the fourth straight match with a halftime score of 0-0, nearly keeping up with five shots on goal to Brazil's six. Marta started especially slow with a few strong runs up the sideline that fizzled and looked frustrated after most plays.

"I was really pleased with the way we defended against Marta," Australian coach Tom Sermanni said. "I don't think she shot a goal the whole game." That spells trouble for Brazil, which relies on its one-named wonder.

Australia seemed more in the groove of Joga Bonito than Brazil. Even after the halftime break, Marta looked perturbed with her strike partner Cristiane walking back on the field, arm over Marta's shoulder, talking intently. For Brazil, playing only two friendlies leading up to the World Cup does not help and only running set pieces in practices the day before (all centered on Marta) doesn't help. Brazil seems to lack camaraderie, confidence and consistency on the field.

But in spite of a lackluster performance, Cristiane, practically running a juggling clinic with five straight touches on one possession, eventually lobbed the ball to Rosana, who turned it around to curl in the first and only goal of the day. Nice foot work, great ball handling and for all intents and purposes maybe even a small blessing that it wasn't Marta who saved the day. Confidence in other players can only help in the quest for the cup.

Here are three things we learned from the game:

1. Australia is young and restless

The Matildas are hungry and they're just getting started. The Australian team is not just rebuilding, it's rebuilding with wunderkinds. Aside from veteran keeper Melissa Barbieri, 31, the rest of the team is younger than 22. On Wednesday, Sermanni started the squad's youngest player, 16-year-old Caitlin Foord, at right back after having played just one full international game previously. "I'm very pleased with the way we played today. It's a style of football that's attractive and attacking," Sermanni said.

2. All eyes will stay on Marta

Marta started slow and managed to dribble her way out of traffic early in the first half. Maybe she's a bit dramatic, but at the end of each run, she seemed frustrated by what looked like a lot of miscommunication with her teammates, who run the gamut in terms of talent and ferocity. At the 32-minute mark, Marta had 24 touches and was 11-for-12 in passing. All that's great, but you can win the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball and still not be crowned world champion. It's happened before to ... Marta.

3. Youth is a double-edged sword

Minutes before the final whistle blew, Australia had a gilt-edge chance to tie the match. With time on the ball, Lisa De Vanna shot high and wide to miss a goal by three feet. While you might praise the team's youth movement, it's moments like these when inexperience can cost you. But the Aussies weren't the only ones who looked inexperienced. Brazil's defense lacked structure and consistency, and its sweeper Daiane was continually jersey-grabbing in the box, begging for a yellow card.

Jaime Lowe played AYSO soccer for eleven years and never scored a goal. She still loves the sport. She has written for ESPN the Magazine and is the author of Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB (Faber & Faber) and a contributor to Fathers & Daughters & Sports (Random House).



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?