By Andrew Downie
SAOPAULO (Reuters) – Once one of the most feared nations in women’s football, Brazil head to the World Cup in France in the midst of their worst run in history.
“We need to be unified,” midfielder Erika told Reuters after Brazil’s last warm-up game, a 1-0 loss to Scotland.
“Nine defeats in a row for a Brazilian team that always wants to win is not normal but we are working hard and I think that whoever goes to the World Cup will go there stronger and more experienced and I am sure that we will go with a new mentality.
“This is the preparation phase,” added the Corinthians midfielder. “When we get there it will be 0-0 for everyone.”
Brazil are in Group C alongside Jamaica, Australia and Italy and will be aiming to surpass their best-ever finish in 2007 when they lost to Germany in the final.
Since beating Japan 2-1 last July, Brazil have failed to win any matches either at home or away. That streak includes losses to World Cup favourites United States, France, Japan and England.
They are now 10th in the world standings, their lowest ranking, and Erika acknowledged that will encourage their opponents.
“The other teams will see that we are weaker psychologically more than on the field, and they will not respect us as much,” she said.
“I think they can see that we are a bit weak and they will feel emboldened but that will change, we will have to make the other teams fear us.”
Part of Brazil’s problem has been the instability common at all levels of the game in South America.
They have changed coach five times since 2011, with the current boss back for a second stint in three years, and the only female coach controversially dismissed in 2017 after just 10 months in charge.
They may also be struggling to cope with a changing of the guard.
Star striker Marta, the only person to win the FIFA Player of the Year award six times, is still a force to be reckoned with but is now 33.
Stalwart midfielder Formiga is 41. Only five of the starting 11 against Scotland were in the 2015 World Cup squad.
Erika, however, insisted the South Americans are capable of springing what some might see as a surprise.
“We never go to a tournament thinking about qualifying from the group or getting second place, we think of winning the gold medal and that is still our objective,” she said.
“I agree that we have lost that essence in our last games but we’ll get it back… We’ll surprise a lot of people.”
(Editing by Ossian Shine and Pritha Sarkar)