While South America has produced nine Men’s World Cup champions since 1934, the women’s game has lagged far behind. Sure, the Brazilian women – led by five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta – has had some great success, but the rest of the continent is just recently starting to throw more support behind its Women’s National Teams.
It’s for that reason that the trips to South America for the U.S. WNT have been rare. In fact, in its 29-year history, the USA has visited South America just twice – both to Brazil – in 1996 and 1997. The USA’s trip to the International Tournament of Brasilia, a four-team competition played at the National Stadium Mane Garrincha (a 2014 World Cup venue) is a bit of a novelty.
The WNT has played six matches in Brazil, which is also its total games played in South America, and hasn’t been to Brazil in 17 years. The last time was for a pair of games against Brazil in December of 1997, a 2-1 win in Taubaté and a 1-0 loss in São Paulo.
The only player still active from that trip is U.S. captain Christie Rampone who was then competing in her first year of international soccer. As Christie Pearce, she played 90 minutes in both games.
U.S. WNT captain Christie Rampone helps the USA collect a 2-0 win against Brazil on June 23, 2007 in East Rutherford, N.J.
As the USA winds down 2014 and gets ready for an exciting 2015, U.S. head coach Jill Ellis wants to play as many top teams as possible, and it remains a given that a game against Brazil in Brazil is one of the toughest challenges a team can face. The USA will get one match against Brazil, and possibly two, as this tournament pits the top two teams after group play in the championship game.
“We are looking forward to playing against the different styles that each of the three teams present,” said Ellis. “China and Brazil are also preparing for the World Cup, and to get games against World Cup teams prior to the tournament is one of our goals. Knowing the history with Brazil, games against them are always exciting for the players and fans.”
The USA will open the tournament Dec. 10 against China PR (4:20 p.m. ET), face Brazil on Dec. 14 (3:45 p.m.) and finish group play on Dec. 17 against Argentina (4:20 p.m.). The final match day on Dec. 21 will feature the top two teams after round-robin play squaring off for the tournament championship while the two countries that finished third and fourth will battle for third place. The USA, Brazil and China PR will be participating in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup next summer in Canada.
Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha is also one of five venues for the 2016 Olympics. With qualifying for that tournament beginning shortly, this trip will be valuable on multiple levels.
“It’s a chance to travel to a new environment and play international matches in unfamiliar territory, which is always valuable when getting ready for a World Cup,” said Ellis. “It’s pretty exciting to get to play in a World Cup stadium and many of our players have never played or even been to Brazil before. It’s a unique opportunity to go to a fantastic soccer country, have a great cultural experience and get four competitive games to end the year on a high note.”