Next generation: Brazil Women ready to build on legends' achievements – The Guardian

This week’s newsletter looks at Pia Sundhage’s exciting young side before the Copa América in Colombia
Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the Guardian’s new (and free) women’s football newsletter. Here’s an extract from this week’s edition. To receive the full version once a week, just pop your email in below:
“You never know if they’re ready, but you have to believe,” Pia Sundhage said recently. The Brazil coach was talking about her squad for the friendlies against Denmark and Sweden later this month, games that will be followed by the Copa América. The Swedish manager has been in charge of the Brazilian women’s national team for the past three years and leading them through a rebuilding process.
Having relied heavily on veterans such as Marta, Cristiane and Formiga to win seven out of eight Copas, this will be the first major tournament without any of them in a long, long time. Now younger players such as Kerolin, Geyse, Tainara and Giovana Queiroz have to pick up the baton.
“Yes, I feel this responsibility,” the 22-year-old North Carolina Courage midfielder Kerolin tells Moving the Goalposts. She is looking forward to the tournament, and not having some of her idols on the pitch will encourage her to look back at their legacy and what they achieved. “It also motivates us to keep them close, even from afar,” she says. “We’re always communicating and learning from them. It’s only fair that we do the same they did for the women’s game.”
The manager of the U-20 Brazilian national team, Jonas Urias, works closely with Sundhage to make sure there is a pathway for the best talents to reach the senior side. He says that the main challenge is to nurture the same toughness in this generation that the previous one had. “Previous generations were forced to be resilient to survive in an extremely hostile and prejudiced environment, but they still were able to win,” he says. “Younger players now have better work conditions, but they cannot settle for that.”
In Kerolin’s case she has already had a great start to her first season in the NWSL. She won the Challenge Cup with her club and has already seen a change in her football since the move from Madrid CFF, where she spent two seasons. Sundhage has seen it too. “Today, people in the US talk about Kerolin,” she says. “And there are certain things she does on the field, certain qualities that she has, that we want to encourage her to do more with. But it depends on how successful Kerolin will be with Angelina, with Duda, with whoever it is.”
Another important aspect of calling up younger players is that those who are based in Brazil are able to get together with those playing in Europe and the United States. The manager invited Duda Sampaio, the 21-year-old midfielder who plays for Internacional in the Brasileirão, to taste the environment of the seleção. Grêmio’s 25-year-old goalkeeper Lorena has won the coaching staff’s confidence after being in the squad for most friendlies this year.
Another player, Ary Borges, a 22-year-old midfielder who plays for Palmeiras, understands that the future of the team is in their own hands. “We talk a lot,” she says about her young colleagues such as Kerolin and Geyse. “We are young, but we’ve lived a little. Even the younger players are in big clubs here in Brazil, in Europe or in other places as well. So it’s kind of cool to have this pressure because it motivates me as an athlete.”
For Sundhage, looking at the players individually is not enough. She needs to know that, in this process of renewing a group that has played together for more than a decade, there is a balance too. “The key is juntas, the key is to work together”, she says, adding that this process takes time. “Whoever is taking over when we are gone, that will be a fantastic team.”
“When I first met with her, she looked at me cautiously. Like she was not sure if I was pro-war and considered Ukrainians enemies. I wanted to cry. I was thinking about her family and friends, and if they are OK. It was such a horrible feeling to understand that she could lose loved ones. I’m just overwhelmed with emotions. I still can’t believe sometimes that it is real, and it is happening” – Espanyol’s Russian striker Nadya Karpova about meeting teammate Tamila Khimych, from Ukraine, in March.
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