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Lima: Australia our biggest rival

Lima: Australia our biggest rival

Brazil coach Kleiton Lima has warned his side to take nothing for granted in their opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup against Australia tomorrow.

Brazil are among the Women’s World Cup favourites along with Germany and the United States but the South American coach wants his side to focus all their efforts on closing down the Matildas in their first Group D clash. “People only think about playing against Germany or the United States but before that we have to win (in the group),” said Lima.

Brazil are ranked third by FIFA and Australia 11th, in a group which also including 1995 champions Norway and debutants Equatorial Guinea. “Now our most difficult rival is Australia because it is our first match,” said Lima. “Before thinking about the others we have to get through the group stages first.”

Despite boasting star players such as Marta and Cristiane, Brazil’s women’s team have consistently failed to live up to their potential. The five-time South American champions’ best result has been a runner-up spot in China four years ago behind Germany, and they also settled for second on the podium behind the United States at the past two Olympics.

Five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta believes it is Brazil’s time to finally lift the title. “It’s time for us to add our name to the list of winners in this competition,” said Marta.

Asian champions Australia have won one, lost one in their last two meetings with Brazil. They fell 3-2 in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finals to the Brazilians but a year later scored a memorable 1-0 victory in the Peace Cup in Korea.

Matildas coach Tom Sermanni ranks two-time champions Germany “obvious favourites. Brazil and US are strong,” but he predicted “any team ranked in the top 12 are potential dark horses.”

And the Australians are high on confidence after a 2-0 warm-up victory over England last week in Wolfsburg. “Winning against a team like England, who by the way are highly fancied for this World Cup, is a boost,” said Tom Sermanni. “There’s a real sense of confidence around the team at the moment – a real self belief and buzz in the playing group.”

Much has changed in the Australia set-up since their career best run to the quarter-finals four years ago. This year’s squad has 13 World Cup debutantes, with an average age of almost 22 and nearly half the squad is 20 or under. Sermanni described the squad as “different” from four years ago. “Less experienced but great depth, greater mobility,” said Sermanni.

Only striker Lisa De Vanna, most-capped current player Heather Garriock, fellow midfielders Collette McCallum, Lauren Colthorpe, Sally Shipard, defender Clare Polkinghorne along with captain and goalkeepers Melissa Barbieri and Lydia Williams remain from the 2007 squad.

Sermanni said he was “still working on combinations” before deciding who would play up front against Brazil, but said Aussie spirits were high. “Very positive, lots of energy, enthusiasm, and noise. We are the loudest women’s national team,” he added.

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