2015 Women’s World Cup, day 4 review: The woman who upstaged Marta

“Brazil’s Marta breaks scoring record” headlined one version of the Associated Press report. The treatment was echoed elsewhere. It was easiest takeaway from what otherwise an unremarkable game – a famous player seizing one of the game’s most famous marks. Marta, five-time world player of the year, four-time runner-up, 11-time award nominee had converted a first half penalty kick, the first goal in Group E favorite Brazil’s 2-0 win over South Korea.

But this was the rare night when one of her teammates should have upstaged her. Not only had Formiga become the second player to appear in six World Cups but she was the undeniably best player on the field. Scoring the opening goal, drawing the penalty that led to the second, and setting up what should have been a third, …

https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608433400836448256

… the 37-year-old’s late runs out of midfield became Korea’s undoing. Narrow, compact and constantly conscious of Marta, Korea had no plan to deal with another threat. Formiga, now the oldest goalscorer in competition history, provided one.

Without her, it’s unlikely Brazil would have won, though you never know. Goals chance games, and given Formiga’s opened came in the 33rd minute, it’s easy to argue Brazil would have found another way to break through. But on a night when an organized Korean defense remained true to that underdog’s cliché, Marta was kept relatively quiet. So was the team’s through-the-middle striker Cristiane, with Brazil getting few threats from its other established goalscoring threat. On the right, 22-year-old Andressa Alves had plenty of space to sway the game, but when her teammates weren’t failing to find her darts into the left channel, she was coming up short in one-on-ones against left back Lee Eun-mi.

Brazil’s still got a group stage and a knockout round ahead of it. A number of its coming opponents could set up the same way. At least, it makes sense to. Head coach Vadão si going to have to be creative about how to get Marta involved, and if he can’t, Brazil will need production from someone else.

That’s why the team should be psyched by Formiga’s performance. The surging runs out of midfield, exploiting pockets of space left open when a devoted defense collapses on its target, that seems like a viable tactic. Except Formiga is 37. This tournament is being played exclusively on turf. And because it is a major tournament, the turnaround between games will be quick. Brazil only gets three days off between games one and two; three more days off before its group stage finale, before which it has to travel from Montreal to Moncton.

With 18 goals in 130 international appearances before the tournament, Formiga was never somebody that was going to provide more than the occasional offensive explosion. But if that explosion wins one game, it can make a big difference. And if Brazil can get a Cristiane brace in another, Alves leveraging her matchups in a third, the team can preserve Marta. Because ultimately, it’s hard to see the team making a deep run in this tournament without some Lebron James-esque performances from its star.

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 09:  Marta #10 of Brazil reacts to a call during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Group E match against Korea Republic at Olympic Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)Getty Images

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 09: Marta #10 of Brazil reacts to a call during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Group E match against Korea Republic at Olympic Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Oh, about Marta

Though Formiga deserved a few of her own, Marta’s headlines were certainly justified. Still only 29 – remarkable, since it’s becoming difficult to remember a landscape without her – Marta pocketed the 15th international goal of her career, breaking a tie atop the tournament’s all-time list with German legend Birgit Prinz. She’s now two ahead of Abby Wambach the sport’s all-time leading scorer.

Take in the context of Marta’s mark, and its most telling part may be her age. Prinz’s international career ended in 2011 at the age of 34 with 128 goals in 214 appearances, while Wambach, 35, has scored 182 times in 243 games. Both marks are well beyond Marta’s reach. Often neglected in the past, the Brazil national team doesn’t play enough games to allow Marta to challenge those totals.

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 09:  Marta #10 of Brazil celebrates a goal on a penalty kick with teammates in the second half during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Group E match against Korea Republic at Olympic Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)Getty Images

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 09: Marta #10 of Brazil celebrates a goal on a penalty kick with teammates in the second half during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Group E match against Korea Republic at Olympic Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Instead, consider the goal ratio. Since debuting for Brazil in 2002, she’s made 93 appearances, scoring 92 times – a ratio that puts the prodigious mark of Wambach to shame. Extend her career another six years and that rate will regress, but it would likely stay clear of Wambach’s.

That’s why Marta’s new record may be so important. Without a huge surge in games played, she’s never going to have a crowning moment like Wambach had when she passed Mia Hamm. Even when she scored her 100th goal, it will likely be passed over. But staying at the top of the World Cup charts ensures her name will come up with tournament. It will remind people there was a better, more potent player, one whose federation couldn’t get her to the top of the more celebrated list. And when, decades from now, women’s soccer has players as popular as Messi and Ronaldo, it will have a reason to remember its Pelé – a player whose been the standout star of her era.

Elsewhere

  • France, the last of the tournament’s three main favorites, kicked off its World Cup on Tuesday in front of a disappointing crowd in Moncton.

    https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608319328203767809

    While many were quick to make excuses for a city of around 64,000e dealing with a 2:00 p.m. local time kickoff, there were no excuses for the tournament organizers.Really, Canada 2015? You couldn’t help but set this one up to fail – a match between two of the top six teams in the world?Thanks to this Eugénie Le Sommer blast, …https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608327745299431427… France had enough to secure a controlling 1-0 win, but the bigger story may have been the atmosphere in New Brunswick.

  • Also controversial, albeit in a far different way, was the day’s second game in Moncton, one neither Colombia nor Mexico could afford to draw. Thanks to a controversial call that waved off a late Mexico goal, the game ended 1-1, leaving each team tied for second in the group with one point each. But with England and France on the horizon, both teams look destined for early departures.

  • And in the day’s first game in Montreal, a crowd that made Moncton’s look robust …https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608420837989953538… missed a disciplined Costa Rica shut down one of the day’s biggest stars.

    https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608380817262448642

    Though Spain’s Verónica Boquete found moments to break out in the second half, …

    https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608385150066544640

    … she never cracked the scoresheet. The team’s swap of first half held, with a 1-1 draw dealing a minor blow to Spain’s hope of stealing first from Brazil.

Quick but important

People are watching. A lot of people are watching:

So 3.5 million for a group stage game. Not even the team’s most important group stage game. Monday’s game is by far the most watched thus far this tournament, but it may also prove one of the U.S.’s least watched games in Canada. Sweden and the knockout rounds lie in the future.

Contrast with actual attendance

https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608317244175745025

https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608367651233112065

Official attendances at yesterday’s games:

  • The doubleheader in Montreal: 10,175.
  • The doubleheader in Moncton: 11,686.

Sure.

FFA be salty

Among the revelations from the Australian federation’s objective content was new the United States may not be “that good.” Fine, whatever – we obviously can’t disagree much. It’s the next item on the “4 things” list that’s mind-boggling. How can Australia be a “world-class team” if it didn’t beat the U.S. …

… and never does:

https://twitter.com/richardfarley/status/608351797720305664

It Australia truly believes it’s a world-class team now, it may never become one. As frustrating as it is to get beaten by a U.S. team with so many flaws, the Matildas were still beaten. Hopefully the players themselves are confused by the result.

Just a real good GIF

Today

Nothing. It’s a day off, not that we needed one. The tournament’s just started! But given the tournament’s surface, the players need all the rest they can get. If there’s one thing everybody seems to agree on, it’s the increased recovery time needed after playing on turf.

Where we stand

Like Sweden’s Monday draw in Group D, Spain’s draw dented the hopes of Group E’s main challenger, paving a path for Brazil. In Group F, France won its toughest match of the group stage and looks destined to finish first.

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