LockerRoom has partnered with The Guardian and news outlets across the globe to deliver comprehensive coverage of the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup. Leading up to the kick off on June 8, we will tell you all you need to know about all 24 teams competing for women’s football’s biggest prize.

Igor Siqueira previews Brazil.

This could be Marta’s last act with with Brazilian national team and the dream is still, of course, that the greatest ever player will be able to lift the World Cup. In reality, however, that is not very realistic.

This is a generation of footballers who have become sick and tired of their failures, traumatised by past disappointments – and who are still looking for a World Cup title. The psychological damage has been profound and this group of players also know that they are being left behind by teams who have improved. Sadly, they are no longer favourites.

The form since winning the Copa América in April 2018 is extremely poor, as the Canarinhas (Female Canaries) picked up only one win from the following 11 games, losing nine consecutive friendlies. It is true that the Brazilian FA (CBF) lined up some very strong opponents, such as Japan, USA and Australia, but they also lost against Scotland.

Part of this is down to the lack of tactical experimentation by the coach, Oswaldo Alvarez, and the fact that he often plays players out of position. In fact, his old-fashioned 4-4-2 appears more fitting for the Premier League 20 years ago rather than today’s international football. The system has made the team vulnerable defensively and also appears to exhaust Marta to the point where she is not able to be at her best in the penalty area.

The defence has struggled without Rafaelle, as she has been recovering from knee surgery in November 2018, and her replacement, Érika, has found it difficult at times. There are also concerns about the match fitness in attack with Hyundai Red Angels’s Bia Zaneratto breaking her fibula, while the experienced São Paulo striker Cristiane has had muscular problems and may struggle to be fit for the finals.

Having said that, there is still a lot of belief in Marta’s super powers and the indefatigable Formiga is showing no signs of slowing down. The 41-year-old recently signed a new two-year deal with PSG and, at the eve of her seventh World Cup. Formiga should also get some help in Brazil’s build-up play by Andressinha, who is set to play in her second World Cup. There is youth too in this squad with the forward Geyse (21, Benfica). Sadly, Adriana, who was in the final squad, has been ruled out with a serious injury.

The coach

Simply known as Vadão, Oswaldo Alvarez, 62, made his breakthrough in 1992 when his Mogi Mirim team took the São Paulo state championship by storm with their “total football”, which was likened to that of Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands (although it did help that they had a young Rivaldo). Vadão went on to coach several of the big clubs, including Atlético Paranaense, Corinthians and São Paulo between 1999 and 2001. He then managed a huge number of other clubs in Brazil and Japan, before being hired as the women’s national team coach in 2014. In the 2015 World Cup, Brazil were eliminated in the last-16 while they finished fourth at their home Olympics a year later.

He left at the end of 2016 and was replaced by Emily Lima, a São Paulo-born midfielder who played for the Portuguese national team. She became the first woman to coach the national team but when she was dismissed, in September 2017, the CBF opted for Vadão again.

Star player

With an extraordinary six Fifa awards as the world’s best player there is no doubt who is the main player in this squad: Marta. At age 33, the No. 10’s technical quality is still breathtaking and at the moment she has no heiress to her crown. She covers less of the pitch now and tries to stay nearer the box but that is sometimes difficult in Vadão’s system. She is still driven by trying to become a world champion but it seems as if the rest of the side is not good enough.

Did you know?

Daughter of a truck driver and a housemaid in the Greater São Paulo, Cristiane would often neglect her duties at home (such as doing the washing up) and play football with the boys outside. She also had an unorthodox way of playing with her dolls. “Everything was a football to me”, she says, recalling how she would chop off the dolls’ heads to play football with them. She always had a friend posted to tell her when her mum was about to come up, but admitted that “the dirt on my feet always gave it away”. She was so keen to play when she was younger she walked 50 minutes to training.

Brief history of women’s football in Brazil

First spotted in Rio de Janeiro as a circus feature in the 1930s, women’s football in Brazil was forbidden by a presidential decree signed by Getúlio Vargas in 1941 and that lasted until 1979, based on the reasoning that football was “incompatible with the conditions of the feminine nature”. So it was only in the 1980s that women’s football took off and started to spread.

The first national championship started in 1983 and lasted until 2003. After a three-year hiatus, the tournament became the Brazil Cup and many different formulas have been tested since 2013. Huge progress has been made, though, and the top league now consists of 16 teams with all the men’s teams obliged to have a women’s team if they are to keep their professional licence. This led to some of the bigger clubs joining forces with women’s teams that already existed.

The national team only made its debut in 1986, against the US and China, but it took them years to play once again. Brazil have played in every World Cup and finished second in 2007. The Canarinhas have also brought home two silver Olympic medals from Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

Which player is going to surprise everyone at the World Cup?

The Corinthians striker Adriana is 22 years old and one of the new stars of this team. Last year she was voted the best player in the Brazilian championship and, because of the injury problems for Cristiane and Bia Zaneratto, she earned a place in Vadão’s starting XI.

What is the realistic aim for Brazil in France and why?

Reaching the quarterfinals would be an outstanding result. The combination of Brazil and football always lead to huge expectations, but the last 16 seems a fair bet as they face Italy, Australia and Jamaica in the group.

Annual budget for the women’s national team (compared to men’s)

It is impossible to tell how much is invested in the national team. In its balance sheets, the Brazilian FA puts its outgoings in youth teams and both women’s and men’s football together. In 2018, that sum was £7.1m. As a comparison, the male national team costs £25,5m a year while the CBF reserved £2.2m a year for the women’s championship.

Registered female players

3,239 (source: CBF)

Igor Siqueira writes for O Globo. Follow him on Twitter here.

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