Brazil coach Sundhage criticized over the team's lack of flair after Women's World Cup exit

Brazil coach Pia Sundhage is facing widespread criticism in the South American country after the team was eliminated in the group stage at the Women’s World Cup

Mauricio Savarese
Thursday 03 August 2023 02:35 BST

Brazil coach Pia Sundhage faced widespread criticism in the South American nation after the team was eliminated in the group stage at the Women's World Cup.

Commentators and fans complained about the team's lack of flair and Sundhage's tactics following a 0-0 draw Wednesday against Jamaica, a team Brazil beat 3-0 in the previous Women's World Cup four years ago.

The 63-year-old Swedish coach previously led the United States to two Olympic titles and has been in charge of Brazil since 2019. But her team lost in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and finished third in their World Cup group behind France and Jamaica. It is the first time since 1995 that Brazil didn't reach the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup.

The hashtag ParabensPia (CongratulationsPia in Portuguese) flooded social media channels in Brazil after the game, with many fans complaining that the team lacked creativity and that Sundhage was too cautious in making her substitutions. The 37-year-old Marta started for the first time in the tournament and played until the 81st minute but failed to add to her record tally of 17 career World Cup goals.

Eduardo Menegueti, 35, came to Sao Paulo's Paulista Avenue early so he could have breakfast at a bakery as he watched the women's national team. He brought a green and yellow vuvuzela — the horn instrument that became popular during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa — that he threw away after the match.

“This team was no fun to watch. Players don't dribble, don't decide for themselves," said Menegueti, who works as a clerk at a local office. “Brazil needs to be Brazil again, both in women's and men's soccer.”

Ana Thais Matos, one of the main soccer analysts for TV Globo, also criticized Sundhage's style of coaching but added that the players lacked the personality to go beyond the coach's advice and trust their skills.

“I have said this team had problems over the last four years. And all we heard was about renovation. The new thing Brazil brought was the mediocre soccer at the latest Olympic Games and now at the World Cup," Matos said. "What Brazil showed in this World Cup was disappointing. But our history is big and no coach should be bigger than Brazil.”

Former Brazil player Formiga, now a TV analyst, said she feels “the frustration of every one of these girls, because it is very painful to go out like this.”

The disappointment was painful for Brazilian children, too, especially girls.

A group of 16 girls and young women gathered in Rio de Janeiro’s working-class Manguinhos neighborhood to watch the match and pray for a win. When the final whistle blew, many of the girls sank their heads into their hands.

One of the attendees in Manguinhos was Kauany de Paula Souza, a 16-year-old who plays in the so-called Favela Cup that pits teams from different low-income neighborhoods across the nation against one another. Souza hopes to one day play for the Brazilian national team, and still believes that her country will some day lift the World Cup trophy.

“It didn’t happen now, but we have to continue with our lives and hope for the next time,” she said, adding that she also thought Brazil should have been more attack-minded against Jamaica. “Continue and persist, until we win.”

Nine-year-old Clarice Acayaba Moraes woke up early at her downtown Sao Paulo apartment, dressed in Brazil colors and bought chocolate truffles with green and yellow sprinkles. She expected to eat one for each goal her team scored against Jamaica. She watched Brazil fail again and again to score against their rivals and went more and more silent as the match approached the final whistle. At the end, Clarice ate the truffles in disappointment.

“I am upset that Marta will remain with her 17 goals,” said Acayaba, who started her Women’s World Cup sticker book weeks before the tournament began. “At least it is Jamaica going through.”

Despite the frustration, she kept her Brazil team jersey on and left for school. Later, she was going to play soccer with her friends.


APTN cameraman Mario Lobão contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.


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