The Brazilian women’s football team will face their Chinese counterparts in the Rio Olympics opener on Aug. 3, setting up a challenging start to the global competition, Brazilian media reported on Saturday.
The Brazilians know what they are up against, according to the reports, since five of the 22 team members currently play for Chinese clubs, including Fabiana and Debinha, who play for Dalian Quanjian, and Rafaelle, Raquel and Darlene, who play for Changchun Yatai.
They might also have some valuable insight into what to expect from individual players, since Changchun Yatai’s line up includes four players that are on China’s national team.
Speaking to reporters in Itu, in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo, where the team is currently training, Darlene said her Chinese teammates “are very good.”
“I have talked with my Brazilian teammates quite a lot about how things are over there, but everything on our side is going well,” said the Changchun Yatai striker.
Asked how she will react to seeing her Chinese teammates on the field, Darlene said “in the match, there is no friendship, there is rivalry. Outside or after the match, we talk a little, ‘hello’, ‘ni hao’ (hello in Chinese). But inside we will be focused.”
Team director Marco Aurelio Cunha denied that having players that play for Chinese clubs will be an advantage.
“It’s not just a one-way street, it’s a two-way street,” he said. “Just as we have information about the girls who play there, China will have information about us,” said Cunha.
The Chinese team “has a very good offensive,” he added. “It has tall, capable players with good technique.”
Cristiane, the national team’s lead striker and player for French club Paris Saint-German, said she was well familiar with the Chinese team from friendlies and watching videos of matches.
Despite being the host team, Brazil won’t have it easy against China, said Cristiane, “but our goal is to get medals, have a good first match and try to reach the final.”
Several days ago, when the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) first released the women’s lineup, head coach Oswaldo Vadao said the two teams have faced off on many occasions, and Brazil’s team knows its Chinese rival “very well.”
“It’s a very competitive team, with exact shots and an efficient counter attack. Brazil is aware of the difficulty it’s facing,” said Vadao.
The pressure is on Brazil, as the host, to bring home the gold, but is the pressure overwhelming?
“The fans, the field, the weather won’t be playing. Who will be playing are the athletes (and) what is going to determine the victory is the effort, the inspiration, the best timing,” said Vadao.
The match will take place two days before the opening ceremony on Aug. 5, at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Joining Brazil and China in the women’s Group E are Sweden and South Africa.