MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Before what could be her last Women’s World Cup match, Marta reflected on her last 20 years playing for Brazil and the fight to advance women’s soccer worldwide.
“We are aware of everything we have been building in our careers,” Marta said. “I try to focus on the whole picture.”
After thinking more about the growth of women’s football, Marta teared up.
“When I started playing, I didn’t have an idol – a female idol,” she told a news conference, responding to questions ahead of Wednesday’s must-win game for Brazil. “You guys didn’t show any female games. How was I supposed to see other players?”
With retirement on the horizon, Marta can see that the game is in a better place than when her career began.
“In 2003, nobody knew Marta,” she said. “Twenty years later, we have become the reference for many women all over the world. We opened doors for equality.”
More than 1.6 million tickets have been sold for the biggest Women’s World Cup ever staged. The tournament is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand and 32 national teams have played in the group stage, including eight on debut.
Brazil began the tournament on an emotional high after beating Panama 4-0. Then followed a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to France, a team that Brazil has yet to beat in 12 attempts. Now, Brazil faces the pressure of a make-or-break against Jamaica to advance out of the group stage.
“The day after the game against France, I think all of us went through a couple emotional roller coasters,” coach Pia Sundhage said.
The last time Brazil exited the tournament before the knockout stage was in 1995. Its best finish to date was third place in 1999. Marta made her tournament debut in 2003, and now holds the record for most goals scored by any player in the men’s or women’s tournament with 17. She has been a member of every World Cup roster since her first appearance in ’03 and has led Brazil to the knockout stage in each tournament.
Marta announced before the tournament that this would be her last World Cup. Even though her role has changed over the years, she knows she still has a role to play in Wednesday’s game.
“We need to play together,” Marta said. “Many times it is the communication in difficult moments that makes the difference. I think this is somehow what my role is going to be on and off the pitch,” Marta said.
Despite the passage of time, one thing that has not changed over six World Cups is Marta’s drive to win.
“There’s nothing preventing me from coming onto the pitch tomorrow and giving my very best,” she said. “Can I play 90 minutes? I will struggle, but I will fight to play 90 minutes. I’m ready.” Marta said.
Molly Lee and Savannah Hernandez are students at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.
AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup
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