2011 Women's World Cup Preview - Brazil

Jun 25, 2011 - 9:47 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is absolutely no debate over who is the best women's soccer player on the planet, with Brazil's Marta having been named the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year for the past four years.

The 24-year-old is a tremendously gifted attacker who has transformed Brazil from the best team in South America to one of the best in the world, capable of challenging teams like Germany and the United States for supremacy.

And while Marta's star may shine brighter than any other women's player on the planet, for Brazil to finally lift its first major trophy, even its superstar forward will need some help.

Luckily for Brazil, Marta should get plenty of assistance with Cristiane partnering her up top and giving the team one of the most lethal forward pairings at the 2011 World Cup.

The 26-year-old Cristiane doesn't receive nearly the kind of attention that Marta does, and she also realizes that her team doesn't either despite making some serious strides in recent years.

"We've already done so much to change the way women's football is perceived and the backing it receives in Brazil," Cristiane told FIFA.com.

"But here in Brazil, particularly in footballing circles that have been spoiled with success over the years, nobody pays any attention to those results, they're only interested in titles. I remember when the Germans, for example, ended up with bronze medals in Beijing and were welcomed back with an enormous party. Here though, the fact we lost the final took the shine off everything else we'd achieved."

One such achievement was reaching the final of the 2007 World Cup before losing 2-0 to Germany. And while the Germans will once again be favored to claim the title along with the United States, the fact that Brazil also got to the final of the Olympic soccer tournament in 2004 and 2008 shows just how close they are to breaking through.

On its best day, Brazil is capable of beating any team in the world, and having coasted through the qualification phase for the World Cup in South America by outscoring its opposition 37-3 in 10 games, it's time for Brazil to turn its attention to the big prize.

The Brazilians will be clear favorites to win Group D, which also includes Norway, Australia and Equatorial Guinea, but the real business begins once the team reaches the knockout round.

Cristiane knows her side needs to lift a major trophy to receive any kind of recognition, and she also is aware that a step back is not an option.

"Now there's a lot expected of us," she said. "For the sake of Brazilian women's football over the next few years, we simply can't afford to go backwards.

"Now it's time for us to win it."


-- FIFA World Cup qualifier: 1991, 1995, 1998, 2003, 2007.

-- FIFA World Cup second: 2007.

-- FIFA World Cup third: 1999.

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