What it's like to play against (and with) Brazil's Marta
Editor's note: With Brazil's 2-1 loss to France on Sunday, Marta completed her fifth, and perhaps final, World Cup. The Brazilian star scored two more goals, bringing her total to a record 17. Before the start of the tournament, we asked players what it has been like to play with and against one of the best female footballers ever.
Brazil's latest campaign for its first World Cup title might also be the Seleção's last to be captained by perhaps the game's greatest player. The team's all-time top scorer (and the World Cup's too) is the 33-year-old Marta, appearing in her fifth tournament wearing Brazil's iconic No. 10.
While some might believe she is no longer the attention-demanding force she was when she won the Golden Boot in 2007 after scoring seven times, Marta rebounded from an injury early in the tournament to help Brazil advance to the knockout round. In fact, her goal in Tuesday's 1-0 win against Italy made her the only player, man or woman, to score in five World Cups:
MARTA MAKES HISTORY! pic.twitter.com/OUNztHamH5— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 18, 2019
And as international stars past and present can attest -- she remains a fearsome opponent and fearless teammate, with a gargantuan legacy to boot.
What it's like to play against Marta
Hope Solo, former U.S. goalkeeper: "Like with all the great players, I didn't watch a lot of video on the best players, I just wanted to react. I needed to know nothing about her and just trust myself. ... I saw her kick up and over a defender in the 2007 World Cup. That was unbelievable. No one has the confidence to do that in practice, let alone a game. I wasn't in goal that game, and my mouth just dropped open. I think the camera caught me on the bench."
Kate Markgraf, former U.S. defender: "Defending Marta meant that you would go up against somebody and you most likely would lose that individual duel, because every time you match against a forward as a defender myself, you have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder. You have this self-belief that no one is going to beat me. ... I would just go into every 1v1 duel and be like, I'm just gonna do the best I can. That's all you can hope for, because you actually couldn't dictate or take the ball off her. ... It's not like you're getting pushed out. It was because she was just better than you in edge, agility, speed, footwork, and it's something that I prided myself on and no one else could beat me with that. She could."
Kelly Smith, former England forward: "Marta's always been a difficult player to stop because of her pace, vision and goal-scoring ability. She knew what she was doing in her mind before she got the ball. ... She had frightening speed from zero to whatever. She could cover ground so quickly with the ball and it was glued to her feet. She could run with the ball faster than somebody without the ball could run."
What it's like to play with Marta
Cristiane, Brazilian forward: "Playing together with her since I was 15 is easy. I don't need to talk with her, I just look. She'll understand how I want the ball, she'll understand where I want the ball, she'll understand my positioning. It's super easy to play with her."
Camilinha, Brazilian defender: "She is very hyperactive. We get out of training, she wants to play tennis. We get out of training, she wants to play badminton. We get out of training, she wants to go to a park. We get out of training, she wants to -- in the United States you can go shooting -- she wants to go shooting. I'm like, 'What? I'm tired from training and you want to do all this?' 'C'mon you're 24 years old. I'm as old as I am, with all the ball I've played, and I'm not tired.' ... Every moment she's plugged at 220 volts."
Fabiana, Brazilian forward: "I was always shy, and the first time she saw me ... I just sat there staring at her. I was watching her a while ago, and now I'm playing next to her. And she always told me to dance, because I'm from Bahia, from Salvador, and she used to say, 'Dance the arrocha.' I would say, 'No, no, I don't want to dance,' all shy. She'd be like, 'Dance, girl, let us see you dance.' Then I'd shake my hips a little and she'd say, 'See, you do know.' After that, we've had a 12-year friendship. She's a great friend that soccer gave me."
Vadão, Brazil national team coach: "When we persuaded [midfielder] Formiga to come back, Marta came to me and said, 'Let's give the captain's band to her, not to me. Formiga is coming back; let's lift her up with everything. I don't want to be the captain anymore.' Then I called Formiga, [who] said, 'No, while Marta on the field, the captain is her, not me.' It was such a beautiful thing, without vanity, without anything ... because the captain's band, for many athletes, it can make you pretty vain. And right there, there was great humility on both sides."
Fabiana: "Sometimes, even in a scrimmage, she loses and gets pissed. If she sees that she lost in the scrimmage and her training wasn't good enough, she leaves running and goes to train another 20 minutes. ... If you see Marta over there real quiet, you can be sure that she's thinking about something more. She isn't going to give up."
Kristine Lilly, former U.S. midfielder: "A player like Marta is like a player like Michelle Akers or Mia Hamm. When they step on the field, the other team is like, oh geez. She's just a creative player, plays with a lot of passion. Growing up in the streets of Brazil with nothing and coming out, and what she's done for the game and for her country and for herself has been amazing."
Camilinha: "I often see her as a second mom, because of all that she has done for me, because of the experience that she gives me, because of the conversations we have, because of the friendship we have built over time. I always say that I'm her fan. I'm a friend, but I'm a fan of her work, of the person that she is, of the professional that she is, of how much she fights for the sport, for women. ... She just wants me to try to reap everything she's already planted."
Cristiane: "She knows how important she is to the Brazilian national team and especially to women's soccer, because from the moment she uses what she has -- this voice, her experience, what she has achieved in her life and her life story -- she can transform the lives of other girls."
Markgraf: "I think what she taught me is that you can still respect somebody but absolutely hate them, in the most respectful way possible. Because she was angry and she was feisty, and she hated us and she wanted to kill us when we were out there."