Brazil Changing Attitudes with a Stunning 5-1 Win over Sweden

Andrew Gibney@@gibney_aFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2016

Brazil celebrate another goal against Sweden.
Brazil celebrate another goal against Sweden.Leo Correa/Associated Press

On Saturday night, the Brazil women's national team put the rest of the tournament on notice.

If you are going to win gold in their yard at this summer's Olympic Games, you are most likely going to have to go through the Canarinhas.

Sweden stepped up to the plate in Rio de Janeiro and were soundly dispatched by Marta and Co. in front of a noisy and passionate home support at the Olympic Stadium.

It wasn't just a convincing 5-1 victory but also the largest that Sweden have suffered at either an Olympics or a World Cup. That's an amazing result considering the Scandinavians have played at every edition of both tournaments since the latter began in 1991.

Brazil fed off the infectious crowd, and when Beatriz opened the scoring in the 21st minute, there was no way the home side were going to drop points.

With the men starting slowly, drawing 0-0 with South Africa in their opening fixture, the women's side have captured the imagination of the home support, and behind the inspired play of Marta, they are becoming the talk of the Games. It wasn't always this way though.

However, the hope is this tournament can go a long way toward changing attitudes around the women's game in one of the most passionate football-loving countries on the planet.

Just 12 months ago, Marta scored a penalty against South Korea to give Brazil a 2-0 lead at the Women's World Cup. With that strike, she had notched her 15th goal in the competition and became the leading goalscorer in the history of the Women's World Cup.

Sadly, as reported by Stephanie Nolen of the Globe and Mail, the national press in Brazil took virtually no notice of what the forward had achieved:

Some Women’s World Cup games are being broadcast on Brazilian cable channels—but no one appears to be watching.

The national newspaper O Globo did not report on Marta’s 15th World Cup goal the next day; coverage of a friendly game against Honduras by the national men’s team, however, made the front page on Thursday.

Slowly but surely, and with Marta back playing in the country of her birth, things seem to be starting to change. However, it's not because of a new policy or initiative but the performances the women are putting in on the pitch.

Opening the Games with a 3-0 win over China on Wednesday got the ball rolling. Marta then received an amazing ovation as she came out as one of the eight athletes to carry the Olympic flag on Friday before things reached fever pitch on Saturday.

Three first-half goals from Cristiane, Beatriz and Marta set the hosts on their way. Another two from the latter duo after the break extended the lead beyond doubt. Lotta Schelin added a late consolation strike.

Perhaps they were overawed by the crowd, but the Sweden defence looked all at sea early on, gifting Brazil the opener.

A long ball over the top by Rafaelle—who was excellent throughout the game—looked to find Beatriz. Nilla Fischer was caught under the ball and couldn't clear. There was then a misunderstanding between Emma Berglund and goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, leaving Brazil's No. 16 free to nip in and toe the ball into the net.

It was soon 2-0. Marta collected the ball out wide on the left, and her low cross was met beautifully by Cristiane, the Olympics all-time top goalscorer flicking the ball, via a deflection, into the far corner.

Brazil made it 3-0 before the break, when Magdalena Eriksson was judged to have pushed Cristiane over in the box. Marta stepped up, sent Lindahl the wrong way and the crowd went wild.

The game was over, and the pace dropped in the second half. Brazil were in control, but Marta and Beatriz were not finished.

Brazil's No. 10 pushed forward, her initial pass blocked by Elin Rubensson, but a deft and instinctive left-foot flick took the ball under control, and she flashed a low shot past the Chelsea goalkeeper.

The best was saved till last. Brazil moved the ball from left to right. Poliana looked to play a one-two with Beatriz, but the forward smelled a second. She used her team-mate's run to create space, moved the ball onto her left foot and curled a shot into the far corner.

Hope among the Brazilian Football Confederation will be that this victory and a potential gold medal at the Rio Olympics will spark a new-found interest in the women’s game, help propel the team back toward the top of the sport and perhaps inspire the next Marta to take up football.

Sweden haven’t had to deal with the same issues as the hosts. The women’s game is much more respected in Europe, and with the Scandinavians often tasting success, they are established as one of the cornerstone sides.

Schelin scored a consolation for Swede’s in the 89th minute, that being her sixth goal over four Olympics. The Rosengard forward, one of the game’s greatest players, will be understandably disappointed in the result but knows the tournament is far from over.

“What can you say after a game like that?” Schelin told FIFA.com after the game. She continued:

We were telling each other, and Pia [Sundhage, Sweden coach] told us too, to stay strong and keep our cool. It’s not an easy situation. We just have to help each other to be able to go forward and move on to the next game because it’s a pretty important match. We’re still in the tournament, we still have a good chance to go through and we just have to leave this behind.

Sweden play China in their last group game. China beat South Africa 2-0 on Saturday, and both teams go into Tuesday's fixture on three points.

We’ve got to go forward and focus on that match,” Schelin added. "It’s going to be a special situation, we’ve got to try and recover and we’re travelling to Brasilia as well. First of all, we have to watch out for our bodies, to get our strength back. We’re going to talk about China tomorrow and the day after that, focus and see what we can do to beat them."

Both Sweden and Brazil were eliminated from the Women’s World Cup in Canada just after the group stage. They wanted to come to the Olympics and prove they are still among the best teams in the game, after Saturday’s result, the Canarinhas have arguably moved their status up to tournament favourites.

Sweden, on the other hand, have work to do.

After their 3-0 victory over China to kick off the Olympic tournament, it was Marta’s face that was spread all over the front page of O Globo. Attitudes are changing in Brazil, and the further the home side go, the brighter the future could be.