Brazilian forward Marta is back from a year-long injury, and her availability for this summer’s Women’s World Cup, potentially her last, boosts Brazil’s outlook.
”(To) be around such a good player and a competitive player and a team player, that is something that will help this team going forward, absolutely,” Brazil coach Pia Sundhage said. ”I think it’s pretty cool to be around Marta.”
Brazil will face the United States in the final match of the 2023 SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.
”She, in some ways, redefined this game,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. ”Her creativity and ability to change the game in a moment is absolutely amazing.”
The 37-year-old, who has played in five World Cups, is regarded as one of the greatest female football players of all time. Marta is the all-time leading international goal scorer for Brazil with 115 goals. She also holds the record for the most goals scored in either the men’s or women’s World Cup with 17.
”I think she deserves every applaud, every `great Marta,’ because the way she’s been doing good things for the women’s game is something that I admire,” Sundhage said.
Canada star Christine Sinclair remembers playing against Marta before the 2012 Olympics. Canada tied the match late, and Marta came back and scored the winning goal.
”She’s just one of those individuals that can just single-handedly change a game,” Sinclair said.
Marta sustained a season-ending ACL injury in March 2022 while playing with the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, resulting in a 327-day absence.
Brazil’s opening SheBelieves match against Japan in Orlando was her first match back. Four minutes after entering the match, the midfielder set up Debinha’s game-winning goal in the 1-0 victory. While Brazil was unable to secure a win against Canada in the next round, Marta played more minutes.
It’s been difficult getting back into match shape, she said, but ”the feeling to be back and be here in this environment, doing what I love, it’s like, incredible.”
Marta’s efforts off the field have complemented her innate talents on it. She is a six-time FIFA World Player of the Year.
”I can only imagine what it’s like in Brazil, being a young girl and having Marta to look up to,” Sinclair said.
It feels the same as it did 20 years ago stepping on the pitch, Marta said.
”I’m still hungry to win, doing things on the field to keep people screaming my name,” she said.
Marta worked hard to recover from her injury, and Sundhage was pleased to see her play more minutes against Canada. She described her as a role model who is humble.
”Everyone knows in just one word – you say Marta, and the world knows,” ESPN broadcaster and former U.S. soccer player Julie Foudy said. ”I mean, everyone wants to watch Marta.”
Savannah Hernandez is a student at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.