Few would dispute that the main attractions of the Brazil women's national team are Marta and Cristiane, two immensely talented players who boast a celebrity status to match. But while the gifted duo undoubtedly merit their star billing, there are a host of other Seleção girls with many attributes of their own, notably Rosana and Daniela Alves, the two remaining members of Brazil's fantastic four.
"Everyone always talks about Marta, but people shouldn't overlook how much help her team-mates give her on the pitch," stressed Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos, a man determined to take the pressure off his standout player and focus the spotlight elsewhere. And well he might. Brazil proved they were no one-girl show at the recent Pan-American Games in Rio, storming to the gold medal after winning every game, scoring 33 goals and conceding none. Understandably, confidence is high in a group that has been together for many years, their unity and almost telepathic understanding the keys to continued success on the pitch.
Rosana, the left-footed Ronaldinho
Defender Rosana, who plies her trade with Neulengbach in the Austrian league, is a self-confessed admirer of Ronaldinho and has spent many an hour studying her idol's dead-ball technique. And if her performance in Rio is anything to go by, she certainly seems to have mastered the art of taking a free-kick, stroking the ball into the top left-hand corner against Canada and repeating the trick against Mexico - two sublime strikes that gave her a deserved share of the spotlight.
Despite three years away from home, she still retains a characteristically Brazilian joie de vivre, and the experience she has gained in Europe has helped her become one of the leaders in the dressing room and a vital cog in the team. "She's an offensive full-back who is a very powerful attacking weapon for us," said Barcellos. However, the 25-year-old is still recovering from an operation on her shoulder and though she is now near full fitness, Barcellos has been experimenting with other players in her favoured position just in case. All the indications are that although Rosana will not be fully fit in time for Brazil's opener against New Zealand, she should make Saturday's clash with the tournament hosts.
Daniela Alves, the Amazonian warrior
Daniela Alves' rise to prominence has very little to do with being a near namesake of Sevilla's buccaneering Brazil full-back. "She is dedicated and very skilful. The perfect player if you ask me, a real midfield battler," said her coach. As well as her deadly shooting skills, particularly from outside the box, it is Daniela's perpetual movement that makes her such a valuable asset, continually creating space for her colleagues up front or ghosting unmarked into the box to coolly finish off a flowing move.
Although still only 23, she has already acquired a wealth of experience, appearing in two Women's Olympic Football Tournaments (winning a silver medal at Athens 2004), and a FIFA Women's World Cup, and enjoying a season in the United States in 2003 followed by another in Sweden the following year. Like many other women players in Brazil, she was discouraged by her family from taking up the game, the main reason being that her father did not like her playing football with boys. As a 13-year-old, the determined Daniela joined club side La Portuguesa, spending many years there before moving on to Saad E.C, her current employers. And after picking up Olympic silver and Pan-American gold medals, there is no doubt her father is now very proud of his daughter's talent and tenacity.
Debut day nearing fast
Following their stunning Pan-American success, the Canarinhas, minus one or two of their stars, limbered up for China with a one-week training camp at Granja Comary in the middle of August. The squad travelled on to Sweden to link up with Marta, Andrea, Elaine, Simone Jatoba, Rosana and Katia Cilene, where they played a friendly with Marta's club side, the mighty Umea. A brace from Pretinha helped the South Americans to a 2-1 win, and they continued to warm up in fine style with a 6-0 defeat of Esklstuna United, the goals coming from Marta (2), Formiga, Cristiane, Katia Cilene and Michelle.
The squad of 21 then flew out to Asia to face Japan in their own backyard, but lost 2-1 with Cristiane scoring their only goal. And after jetting into Wuhan last week, the Brazilians have been battling to overcome jet lag as they prepare for a debut outing against the Kiwis on Wednesday, the start of what they hope will be a victorious campaign.