The journey of the Brazilian women’s national football team toward the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has been defined by challenges and profound transformations. Ever since Pia Sundhage took over as the head coach, the team has undergone a process of restructuring and evolution, aiming to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in women’s football.
Pia Sundhage assumed her role as the head coach of the Brazilian national team in 2019 following Brazil’s elimination in the Round 16 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup against France.
The appointment of the renowned Swedish coach, who had previously achieved Olympic success with the United States national team, brought a renewed sense of hope to Brazilian women’s football.
The Pre-Sundhage Era: Brazil’s Football Legacy
Image Source: US Soccer
Before 2019, Brazil had already left a significant mark on women’s football, despite facing challenges in its pursuit of titles and international recognition. The country has always been renowned for its passion for football, and women’s football has also enjoyed its share of the spotlight.
The Brazilian women’s national football team achieved excellent success in international competitions, finishing as runners-up at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup—reaching the tournament’s finals but falling short against Germany. This campaign remains a significant milestone in Brazilian women’s football history, showcasing the team’s talent and potential.
Brazil has also achieved remarkable results in the Olympic Games. The country’s women’s football team won silver medals in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, demonstrating their competitiveness on the global stage.
However, despite these achievements, women’s football in Brazil faced structural and investment challenges. Support and encouragement for the development of the sport were more limited than men’s football.
Finding sponsorships, financial support, and adequate infrastructure to train and compete at the highest level was often challenging for Brazilian women’s professional football players.
Another challenge was the need for an established women’s professional football league, limiting growth and player development opportunities within the country. That often led to difficulties in retaining players in Brazil, as many sought opportunities abroad.
Despite these limitations, Brazil always possessed standout individual talents, such as Marta, a six-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, and Formiga, one of the greatest players in the history of women’s football.
However, regarding the overall results and the evolution of women’s football, it was evident that changes were necessary. In this context, Pia Sundhage’s appointment as the Brazilian women’s national football team coach in 2019 was seen as an opportunity for transformation and growth.
Restructuring the Paradigm: Pia Sundhage’s Approach
Image Source: Agência Brasil
Pia Sundhage’s arrival brought a fresh perspective to women’s football in Brazil. With her vast experience and success with other national teams, she faced the challenge of implementing structural and tactical changes to elevate the Brazilian women’s national team’s level of play and make it a dominant force internationally.
Since then, Pia Sundhage’s work has focused on tactical evolution, nurturing a new generation of talented players, and seeking higher support and investment in women’s football in the country. The expectations are that these efforts will result in
a competitive performance at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and strengthen Brazilian women’s football.
One of Pia’s primary missions has been to facilitate the transition from the previous generation of players, represented by names like Formiga, Marta, and Cristiane, to emerging talents seeking a place in the national team. The retirement of Formiga from international duty, Marta’s injury, and Cristiane’s exclusion from Pia Sundhage’s plans marked the beginning of a new era for Brazilian women’s football.
In addition to managing changes in the squad, Pia aimed to address one of the identified weaknesses of the Brazilian women’s team: a lack of tactical organization.
While the team had always been known for individual tactics, the absence of a cohesive playing system often undermined their performance on the field. Pia Sundhage advocated for an approach that valued speed, aerial prowess, and the players’ determination—elements she considered crucial for improving the team’s overall game.
In an interview with RFI, Pia discussed her decisions while leading the Brazilian women’s national football team. She emphasized recognizing that the team is young but possesses abundant talent and quality.
Pia highlighted the need to maintain discipline and work ethic and seek improvement in all aspects, both physical and technical, to compete on an equal footing with powerhouse nations in women’s football, such as France and the Netherlands.
Revamping the Brazilian Football Landscape
Image Source: Olympics
Apart from the on-field work, significant changes have taken place within the structure of Brazilian women’s football. The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) began to view the women’s game as a lucrative opportunity.
It announced in 2020 the equal distribution of prize money and daily allowances between the men’s and women’s national teams. Furthermore, youth championships and the Supercopa do Brasil were created to strengthen player development from the grassroots level.
Pia Sundhage’s experience in nurturing young talents is also reflected in her approach to integrating the U-20 and the senior national teams. With the support of psychologists and a specialized team, Pia aims to facilitate a smooth and fruitful transition for the younger players. This strategy has already yielded positive results during her tenure in Sweden, culminating in a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics.
It is crucial to comprehend that all the puzzle pieces must align to achieve success in women’s football. Pia Sundhage is vital in fostering unity and leading the Brazilian team toward the next level of evolution and competitiveness.
Women’s football constantly evolves, becoming more competitive, physical, and fast-paced. The sport’s visibility has also increased, and Brazil must embrace this transformation and strive to stand out. Losing is not an option, and hiding behind inconsequential matches will not lead to the necessary progress.
Pia Sundhage has consistently demonstrated courage in facing formidable opponents and seeking challenges. The positioning of the Brazilian women’s national football team can be evaluated through these challenges, paving the way for the future.
With Pia Sundhage at the helm, the Brazilian women’s national football team has undergone crucial transformations, both tactically and structurally.
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup represents a significant opportunity for Brazil to showcase its evolution and compete with the world’s best women’s football players. The journey toward claiming the title demands dedication, discipline, and continuous improvement, and Pia leads Brazil along this path.