Reporting on the ground from Melbourne, Australia — On a cool and breezy Wednesday evening one of the greatest players to lace up a pair of football boots watched as Brazil was eliminated from the World Cup.
Marta sat on the bench for the final nine minutes of regulation, and four minutes of stoppage time, as the seconds slowly ticked away on her sixth and final World Cup.
Brazil needed to beat Jamaica to advance to the knockout round and they came up short. A 0-0 draw sent the Reggae Girlz to the World Cup Round of 16 for the first time in the nation’s history. In fact, it was Jamaica’s second World Cup, after qualifying for his first tournament in 2019.
The six-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year has spent more than two decades playing football for her country, growing the game not only in her native Brazil, but all across the globe.
It is poignant that on a night when Brazil needed someone to deliver like Marta has done on so many occasions for Brazil, that there was no answer.
The Brazilian offense that looked so promising in the teams opening 4-0 win over Panama sputtered against France and Jamaica.
The Brazlians needed some flair, creativity, and a jolt of energy.
It never came.
Ary Borges, Debinha, Adriana, Andressa Alves and Kerolin were unable to break through Jamaica’s 4-5-1 shutdown defense — a defense that has yet to allow a goal at the World Cup and will see Jamaica play the winner of Group H on Tuesday in Melbourne.
“Marta is an inspiration for all of us,” Ary Borges told The Equalizer via translator in the mix zone postgame. “We all wanted to reach the final and be champions for her. It’s good that she continues and doesn’t stop here. She’s a woman that will continue to inspire, she won’t disappear, and will inspire future generations. Unfortunately her time playing for the national team is over, but she will continue to be a role model for future players of the national team. She’s a great model both in Brazil and I think globally.”
The growth of women’s football is evident by the progress of teams like Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Haiti, Portugal and South Africa. There are so many players at this World Cup who grew up watching Marta, 37, play football.
The development and resources of women’s football still faces challenges in countries like Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria and Canada to name a few, but it’s night and day from when players like Marta first started playing.
You can’t talk about the history and growth of the sport without mentioning Marta. Jamaican forward Bunny Shaw is one player that grew up watching Marta.
The two captains embraced and shared a few words following the final whistle.
“I was just telling her congrats on a wonderful career that she’s had,” Shaw said postgame in the mix zone. “She was my inspiration growing up and she still is. The way she carries herself, and the leader that she is. I told her that she’s an inspiration for me, but a lot of young girls in the Caribbean and around the world. She just said that she’s watched our journey ever since we qualified and she credits us because every time we’ve got knocked down, we still get up and keep pushing. The fact that we’re here. We’re here for a reason and we just have to keep going. She said that she’s now supporting us moving forward.”
Marta, Sinclair end World Cup runs in the group stage
The page has not only turned on the World Cup career of Marta but also Christine Sinclair.
Both players were looking to become the first player of any gender to score in six World Cup tournaments. However, neither player was able to set that historic World Cup scoring record.
They didn’t have a Lionel Messi and Argentina like fairytale ending — Argentina won the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup — but, instead, they’re going home without winning a World Cup.
Toronto native, and Jamaican international, Tiffany Cameron has watched Sinclair and Marta set records and help take the sport to the next level.
“She was actually one of my favorite players,” Cameron said in the mix zone, when asked about Marta. “Her and Christine Sinclair. I think she’s been an inspiration to the younger generation and also to myself. It was actually an honor to play against her today. We’ve got to live on the legacy. Do the best that we can and get to her level one day.”
It has been a historic World Cup not only for the teams like South Africa and Jamaica, but also for some of the top players the sport has ever had. It’s up to the next wave of footballers to help take the sport to even further heights like Marta did and women’s football is in position for that to happen because of Marta who has help pave the way.
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