Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the new (and free) women’s football newsletter from The Guardian. Here is an excerpt from this week’s edition. To receive the full version once a week, simply insert your email below:
“You never know if they’re ready, but you have to believe it,” Pia Sundhage said recently. The Brazil coach was talking about his squad for the friendlies against Denmark and Sweden later this month, matches which will be followed by the Copa América. The Swedish coach has been in charge of Brazil’s women’s national team for the past three years and led them through a rebuilding process.
After relying heavily on veterans such as Marta, Cristiane and Formiga to win seven of eight Copas, this will be the first major tournament without any of them in a long, long time. Now younger players such as Kerolin, Geyse, Tainara and Giovana Queiroz have to take over.
“Yes, I feel that responsibility,” Kerolin, the 22-year-old North Carolina Courage midfielder, told Moving the Goalposts. She is looking forward to the tournament, and not having some of her idols on the pitch will encourage her to look back on their legacy and what they have achieved. “It also motivates us to keep them close, even from afar,” she says. “We always communicate and learn from them. It’s only fair that we do the same thing they did for women’s football.
Brazil U-20 national team manager Jonas Urias works closely with Sundhage to ensure there is a pathway for top talent to reach the senior team. He says the main challenge is to cultivate the same tenacity in this generation as the previous one. “Previous generations had to show resilience to survive in an extremely hostile and prejudiced environment, but they still managed to win,” he says. “The young players now have better working conditions, but they can’t be satisfied with that.”
In Kerolin’s case, she’s already had a great start to the NWSL season. She won the Challenge Cup with her club and has already seen a change in her football since leaving Madrid CFF, where she spent two seasons. Sundhage saw it too. “Today people in the United States are talking about Kerolin,” she says. “And there are certain things that she does on the court, certain qualities that she has, with which we want to encourage her to do more. But it depends on Kerolin’s success with Angelina, with Duda, with whoever it is. that is.
Another important aspect of calling young players is that those based in Brazil can reunite with those playing in Europe and the United States. The manager invited Duda Sampaio, the 21-year-old midfielder who plays for Internacional at the Brasileirão, to sample the environment of the selection. Grêmio goalkeeper Lorena, 25, has won the trust of the coaching staff after being in the squad for most friendlies this year.
Another player, Ary Borges, a 22-year-old midfielder who plays for Palmeiras, understands that the team’s future is in his hands. “We talk a lot,” she says of her younger colleagues like Kerolin and Geyse. “We are young, but we have lived a little. Even young players are in big clubs here in Brazil, in Europe or elsewhere. It’s pretty cool to have that pressure because it motivates me as an athlete.
For Sundhage, looking at players individually is not enough. She needs to know that in this process of renewing a band that has been playing together for over a decade, there is also a balance. “The key is juntas, the key is to work together,” she says, adding that this process takes time. “Whoever takes over when we’re gone will be a fantastic team.”
quote of the week
“When I first met her, she looked at me cautiously. As if she wasn’t sure that I was pro-war and considered Ukrainians enemies. I want to cry. I thinking about her family and friends, and if they are okay. It was such an awful feeling to understand that she could lose loved ones. I’m just overwhelmed with emotions. Sometimes I still can’t to believe it’s real, and it happens” – Espanyol’s Russian striker Nadya Karpova on meeting teammate Tamila Khimych of Ukraine in March.