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‘The USWNT said we deserved gold’ – Four-time Olympian Rosana on Brazil’s golden generation, Ronaldinho and being a medical marvel

15:00 BST 13/07/2021
Rosana Brazil Women composite
The former PSG and Lyon star went to four Olympic Games, winning two silver medals with one of the best international teams of all time

When an athlete has been to four Olympic Games, they have plenty of stories to tell.

The most incredible that Rosana, a two-time silver medallist and 112-time Brazil international, tells, however, is of how she should not have even made it to that fourth tournament.

“In the last friendly, I injured my hand. It was one week before [London 2012] and the doctor said I would be out,” she recalls in an exclusive interview with Goal.

“I sat down with him, and I said, 'doctor, look, I've been working for four years to come to these Olympic Games. Put yourself in my shoes. It's my hand. It's not my foot. It's not my knee. We can sort something out, you know? Just give me this opportunity'.

“He said, 'I'll put everything on the line here because I know how much you deserve to have your spot - but you need to have surgery tomorrow'.

“It was great strength and desire I had, and within 10 days of the surgery, I was playing. I missed the first two games for recovery, but the desire and the willingness to play [meant] in the third game, I came on and I played. I had protection over my hand, but I came on and did super well.”

The recovery was so miraculous that the doctor asked Rosana to be a case study - and such was the manner in which she got to London, the experience was taken in in a completely different way to her three previous tournaments.

It was worth her perseverance too. As well as getting to compete on the world stage yet again, Rosana was delighted to spend time with Real Madrid star Marcelo and her idol, Ronaldinho, who she met for the first time at her first Olympics, in Sydney in 2000.

“At the time, it was hard to find a female role model, so seeing these guys, managing to talk to them and spend some time with them was fantastic,” she says.

“A while after, [Ronaldinho] actually invited me to play in a charity match that he had organised too, so I also got the privilege to play with him. I didn't just tell him how much I admired him, but I also got to play with him on a pitch.”

When the pair met for the first time 21 years ago, Rosana was incredibly surprised to even be heading to Australia to experience what is “the pinnacle for any athlete”.

“I actually found out before the list actually came out,” she remembers, the memory of what was just her second ever senior call-up as fresh as ever.

“I saw the kit men preparing the bags for the uniforms and saw my name on one of the bags. I went down the corridor laughing and screaming and celebrating - and I went into my room and called my parents.”

Brazil would finish fourth that year, as they also did in 1996. After showing their promise in those two tournaments, they really announced themselves in Greece in 2004.

The Selecao had a new star in its ranks too, an 18-year-old by the name of Marta who would go on to be crowned the world’s best player on six occasions.

“People from the outside didn't know who she was yet,” Rosana remembers. “On a day-to-day, training with her and seeing her play, we knew she was going to be a phenomenal player.

“She came into the world and was on everyone's lips after the first game against Australia, where she really turned up and showed the phenomenal player that she had become.”

With plenty of other talent and experience to boot, Brazil made it to the final, where they faced the U.S. women’s national team. On another day, they could have emerged with the gold medal, too.

“We were not awarded a penalty that we strongly believe was a penalty,” Rosana says. “In that time, it was extra time and golden goal. If we had scored the penalty we believe should have been awarded, then we would have won gold.”

Instead, the U.S. scored five minutes later, and the glory was theirs.

Despite that, 2004 remains Rosana’s favourite Games “simply because of the low expectation that everyone had” for Brazil. “We believed ourselves what we were capable of,” she explains. “But no one else believed that we could get a medal.

“Funnily enough, even speaking to some Americans afterwards, they strongly believed that we deserved gold, by the way we were playing, the enthusiasm we had and the desire we had.”

The experience of being on the podium remains an incredible one that Rosana and her team will never forget, with all of them from those incredible few years still in touch to this very day.

“We were holding hands with everyone together and when we raised our hands, we knew the effort, the sweat, the willingness and the desire we had put in, even without having the investment maybe we should have had and what we deserved to have,” she says.

Runners-up was the reward for Brazil again at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, with Germany and then the USWNT triumphing on those occasions.

With a team that featured Rosana, Marta, Formiga – the 43-year-old set for a seventh Olympic Games, who “is not from this planet” – Cristiane, Pretinha, Daniela and more, it is “sad to think about” what could have been, Rosana admits.

“I strongly believe that the generation we had and the team we had was possibly the strongest Brazil had seen to this day,” she says. “Not having the investment come in before for us to be able to achieve [a gold medal or World Cup title] is disappointing to think of.

“In Brazil, you have to prove yourself and the women's game, for example, had to prove itself for the investment to come. It should be the other way around, like in other countries, but unfortunately in Brazil, it doesn't work like this.”