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Brazil's Rafaelle: 'We want to win World Cup for Marta'

Matt Pearson Melbourne
July 26, 2023

Brazil captain Rafaelle does not feel her side are among the favorites for the World Cup. But the defender knows that Brazilian football, and its leading light Marta, demand only the best.

Rafaelle de Souza in Brazil training
Rafaelle has just signed for Orlando Pride and captains Brazil in the World CupImage: MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP

The weight of the yellow shirt has sometimes hung heavy on the shoulders of Brazil at World Cups.

It certainly felt that way four years ago, when a quarterfinal defeat by hosts France saw forward Geyse sob uncontrollably on the turf and goalkeeper Barbara dumbstruck, sitting against her post.

After a 4-0 opening win over Panama in Adelaide inspired by an Ary Borges hattrick, Pia Sundhage's team have an early chance at a measure of redemption against the French in Brisbane on Saturday.

But captain Rafaelle insists the players aren't feeling weighed down.

"I think, being Brazilians, we have that pressure from our country, because we love football, it's always the number one sport in our country," she told DW.

"But we're not one of the top teams in the FIFA rankings. So we don't feel that pressure. We're going to fight until the end, but it's not our job to win the tournament, we're just going to run around and maybe get a chance to put a star on our chest [symbolizing a World Cup win]."

Brazil and Argentina: A tale of two teams

Perfect preparation

Brazil arrived early to Australia for a two week training camp at a luxury resort on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia. The venue, and location, was carefully selected to allow the players to feel at home in warm conditions, which the former Arsenal defender said allows them to express themselves, particularly in the pre-training warm ups.

"I feel like it's a Brazilian vibe," said Rafaelle. "We're Brazilian, we really love football and we have fun playing. So that's [the best] warm-up for us. It's like we're kids, playing like that, and we feel great when we're out on pitch when we can play and have fun in the warm up."

Yet beneath the relaxed exterior beats a serious will to win a maiden World Cup. A squad with a blend of experience in Debinha, Rafaelle, Tamires and Andressa Alves supplemented by emerging talent like Geyse, Borges and highly-rated 17-year-old Aline Gomes certainly has the potential.

But there's little doubting their talisman. Marta, 37, is playing in her sixth World Cup and will be looking to add to her 115 goals from 175 caps. Perhaps the first global superstar of the women's game, Marta has announced this World Cup will be her last. It's difficult to overstate her impact on the game and the squad, according to Rafaelle.

Marta an example to follow

"She's really important to us, not just on the pitch but off it too, because she's a big marker for the women's game."

Brazil's assistant manager Lilie Persson added that even at her advanced age, and with injuries beginning to mount, Marta remains a perfect example.

"She's so competitive. During every practice, she always does her very, very, very best in every single detail. But at the same time, she's such a humble person. I think that's what made her the best."

Though Marta, like Megan Rapinoe of the USA, has made her post-tournament intentions clear, Rafaelle revealed that she will spend the tournament urging her to reconsider. If she doesn't succeed, she at least wants to send her teammate out on a high, with a maiden World Cup win for Brazil.

"We're talking about this a lot," she said. "And it would be good to end with this star for her. But I hope it's not her last World Cup. She's such a good player, and I hope she can play a little longer with the national team."

Brazil have prepared well for this tournament. Their dominance in South America has long been assured, but those top training facilities, a win over Germany and a narrow penalty loss to England in the Finalissima have increased their confidence against European sides, too.

Whether this team can send Marta off into the Sydney sunset with a first World Cup final since the 2007 loss to Germany or not, her legacy is ensured. For Rafaelle and the others following her on the trail she blazed, there is a determination to burnish it still further.