SPORTS

Less pressure, more relaxed feeling in Brazil women's camp this time at Olympics

07/30/2012 09:37 EDT | Updated 09/29/2012 05:12 EDT
MANCHESTER, England - Marta is feeling something different this time. She can tell by the way her teammates are acting. She can tell by how she is behaving.

This time, she says, there is a sense that things won't go wrong again for Brazil's women's football team — the way they have so many times before. There is a feeling that this could finally be the time Marta and her teammates can be the ones celebrating a major title at the end.

After two wins in two matches, Marta says the team is at ease, shrugging off the pressure and carrying just the right amount of confidence to go after the elusive title.

"I'm feeling more comfortable and the entire group is feeling more comfortable," the five-time world player of the year told The Associated Press. "We all know that we have the potential to win this gold medal. It's our dream, it has been our dream since we began playing together. And match after match we are becoming more and more confident."

On the eve of their final Group E match against Britain in London, Marta said the immense pressure that always rests on Brazilian football teams — men or women — doesn't seem to be affecting the squad as much as in previous tournaments.

"I don't think that this time the team is too nervous when it enters the field," she said. "I feel the girls are calmer, they are just really conscious of the work that they need to do. They know what this team can do, they know that we can go all the way."

Marta and her talented teammates have come agonizingly close to a major triumph several times.

Brazil has finished second in the last two Olympics, falling to the United States both times in the gold medal match.

It also had a heartbreaking defeat to the Americans in the quarterfinals of last year's World Cup in Germany, when the team allowed a last-minute equalizer in extra time before eventually losing in the penalty shootout. In the 2007 World Cup final in China, it was Germany which ended Brazil's dreams of victory.

Brazil was fourth in the 1996 Atlanta Games and in the 2000 Sydney Games. Brazil's triumphs in women's football are limited to South American championships and gold medals at the 2003 and 2007 Pan American Games.

"I can tell that it's different now by the way I'm feeling before the matches," Marta said. "I'm not getting into the matches as nervous as other times in my career in these important competitions. I used to be a lot more anxious, wanting the games to start as soon as possible. Now there is a greater sense of calmness about what we have to do here."

The team is filled with veteran players and having an experienced squad may be making the difference this time. Many of the players have been in at least three Olympics and some even more. The 34-year-old midfielder Formiga is playing in her fifth.

Marta, who won five straight player of the year awards until losing the crown last year, is in her third.

"We've all been here before and we all know what to expect," she said. "We are optimistic but at the same time we are not getting overly confident. It feels we have just the right amount of focus."

Marta got two of Brazil's goals in the team's debut at the London Games. The Brazilians opened with a convincing 5-0 rout of Cameroon, when striker Cristiane became the top women's scorer in the Olympics with 11 goals, surpassing retired Germany star Birgit Prinz.

Cristiane then gave Brazil the victory in the second match, scoring an 86th-minute goal when the game seemed headed to a scoreless draw as the Brazilians struggled to get through the tight defensive scheme of the New Zealanders.

"We are learning after each match and we will be improving as the competition goes on," Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos said after the win that secured the team in the tournament's quarterfinals.

Marta said the United States remains the main team threatening to keep Brazil from winning again, although she also expects problems in a possible matchup against World Cup champion Japan. Britain could also make it difficult playing at home.

"We know it's not going to be easy no matter which team we play," Marta said. "But this time the feeling is that we can handle it."

___

Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni

MORE:cpSports