RIO DE JANEIRO: Women’s football legend Marta insisted the Brazil team will keep getting better despite an agonising semi-final Olympic exit on penalties to Sweden, which goalkeeper Barbara described as being like losing a family member.
Despite dominating for 120 minutes at a packed Maracana stadium in Rio on Tuesday, Marta couldn’t unlock the defensive-minded Swedes as both sides settled for their second consecutive penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw.
However, it was Brazil’s luck that ran out as top scorer in Olympics history Cristiane and youngster Andressa saw spot-kicks saved to hand the Scandinavians a place in Friday’s gold medal match against Germany.
“Nothing will take the shine off the work we did during the whole year,” five-time Player of the Year Marta told SporTV.
Marta won two Olympic silver medals when Brazil lost to the United States in the 2004 and 2008 finals. However, with Sweden having shocked the Americans in the quarter-finals, Brazil’s women looked set to win a major title for the first time in their history.
Instead, they will have to pick themselves up for a bronze medal contest with Canada in Sao Paulo on Friday.
“It’s very hard to think of what to say to them (the younger players) now.
“We have to try to pick up the pieces of everything and be strong again to go and fight for the bronze,” added Marta.
Barbara was the hero of Brazil’s marathon 7-6 shootout win against Australia in the quarters, but her save from Kosovare Asslani wasn’t enough to book Brazil a return to the Maracana for the final as Sweden secured their first ever women’s football Olympic medal.
“It’s as if we’ve lost a family member,” said the 28-year-old.
“We know how hard we fought to get here. We know that we had the game to win the gold medal, but football is decided on the pitch and we weren’t lucky today.”
Outspoken American goalkeeper Hope Solo had described Sweden as “cowards” for their defensive tactics in the quarters, but there were no such sour grapes from Brazil for their failure to score having thrashed Sweden 5-1 in the group stages.
“We knew they were going to go that way,” said Marta, who was consoled by the Swedish players at the end when in tears having played her club football in Sweden for the past four years.
“For them this is the only way to try to get as far as possible. We should have won during the match, because penalties are a lottery.
“As we got lucky against Australia, they did against us.”
Brazil coach Vadao also refused to criticise Sweden’s approach, but called on Marta, Cristiane and 38-year-old Formiga to remain with the national team to continue with the momentum built up for women’s football in Brazil over the course of the Games.
“It is not for me to criticise the opponent, especially because their strategy worked and they had good results in both matches,” he said.
“If we lost Formiga, Cristiane and Marta it is a huge loss,” said Vadao. “There is little support for women’s football in Brazil so the process for replenishment is slow.”
Cristiane has scored 14 goals across four appearances at the Games, but was only introduced for extra-time due to a thigh injury which kept her out the quarter-final.
“It’s hard to think about it right now,” said the Paris Saint-Germain striker.
“It’s hard when the responsibility of a whole country is weighing you down.”