It's not often the Canarinho enter an international tournament as underdogs, or with hopes of surprising their opponents with success. But in the midst of the squad's worst run in history and ranked lower than ever, that's exactly what Brazil is hoping to do. Historically one of the most respected teams in the world, the team has lost some of its luster as of late. The one thing that hasn't dropped off? Their desire.
How they got here
Brazil breezed at the Copa America Femenina 2018 in Chile, winning all seven of their matches and taking the title for a record seventh time. The team scored 31 goals (that's 4.42 goals per game, also a record) and conceded only two, with 14 Brazilian players finding the net throughout the tournament.
One of the most experienced and successful teams in the world, Brazil's roster boasts the only six-time FIFA Women's Player of the Year winner (Marta) and the only player to be named to seven World Cup squads (Formiga). But with experience comes age. Marta is 33 and midfielder Formiga is 41; they will lean heavily on their young teammates, many of whom have never seen World Cup action.
But while Brazil has seen stability within its roster, the team has changed coaches five times since 2011. Their current head coach returned for a second go-round after Emily Lima, the team's first female head coach, was controversially dismissed in 2017 after only 10 months with the team. Her firing sparked a revolt by players, including Cristiane, who left the national team, criticized the federation's treatment of women and demanded a pay increase. She eventually returned in 2018, saying she will continue to fight for equality, but the team has yet to find its footing under Vadao.
Money Stat: 2
That's the highest Brazil has finished in a Women's World Cup or an Olympics, finishing runner-up once at the WWC (2007) and twice at an Olympic Games (in 2004 and 2008). Is this the year they become the bride?
Players to Watch
Although Brazil has a stable of exciting young players, including 22-year-old midfielder, Adriana, and 24-year-old forward, Ludmila, who both joined the national team in 2017, it's their veterans who draw fans to their games.
Marta has scored the most goals (15) in Women's World Cup history and is a true-blue-check one-name star. She has won the FIFA Women's Player of the Year award six of the 13 times she has been nominated, including in 2018, and is playing in her fifth World Cup.
Brazil is looking to stave off a 10-game slide. And fortunately for the Canarinho, Brazil opens play June 9 against Jamaica, the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the WWC, before facing longtime rivals Australia, the only team in the group they've lost to. (Brazil is 3-0 against Italy; 1-0 against Jamaica and 8-5 against Australia.) Brazil hasn't won a game since defeating Japan 2-1 last July, but a strong result against Jamaica could be the boost Brazil needs to remind them of the team's winning ways.
"We are aware this should be the last World Cup for several athletes: me, Marta, Cristiane, Formiga," veteran goalkeeper Barbara told TV Globo earlier this year. "We believe we have this World Cup and the 2020 Olympic Games. Then our cycle ends. Marta said she would give it all to Brazil while she has the strength and asked our help [to help her] to be the Marta we know."
One of only seven nations that has qualified for every World Cup, Brazil has yet to capture the title. In 2007, they came close, losing to Germany in their only appearance in the final. That isn't likely to change this year, although the team will be inspired to send Marta into retirement with a World Cup win. More likely, they'll advance out of the group stage, but fail to see the medal rounds.