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Brazil women to focus on defense in London Games


AP Sports Writer

Updated June 29, 2012

SAO PAULO (AP) Brazil women's coach Jorge Barcellos selected the 18 players for the London Olympics and said tough defense will be key if the team wants to have a chance of winning its first major title.

Marta was included in the team as expected, but Barcellos said the offensive prowess brought by the five-time world player of the year won't be enough if Brazil can't improve its defense.

The coach said a lot of the work in Brazil's final stages of preparations was to try to make the team more conscious defensively so its players can do what they are used to up front.

"This preparation period was important because it allowed us to pass along our work philosophy to the players," Barcellos said. "Today Brazil is a team which defends much better, which marks really well all the time. In modern football, any space you give to your opponent can become a scoring opportunity and that's always a problem."

Brazil has come close to a major title. It finished runner-up to the United States in the past two Olympic Games and lost to Germany in the final of the 2007 World Cup in China. Last year it was eliminated from the World Cup quarterfinals in Germany after allowing a last-minute equalizer to the U.S. in extra time and eventually lost in a penalty shootout.

The team has always produced many talented forwards such as Marta and Cristiane, but their offensive skills haven't been enough to give Brazil significant results.

Its triumphs in women's soccer are limited to South American championships and gold medals at the 2003 and 2007 Pan American Games. Brazil finished fourth in the Olympics in 1996 and in 2000.

Barcellos released seven players from the group of 25 that had been practicing together for nearly a month in Rio de Janeiro. Marta and other players from European clubs joined the squad with preparations already under way.

Defender Thais was injured in the team's final practice match on Friday and was initially listed as doubtful to stay on the squad, but eventually doctors said the ankle injury she sustained against Brazil's Under-20s was not serious and wouldn't keep her from playing in London.

Most of the players selected by Barcellos were in last year's World Cup.

He said the pressure to win the first title should not play a significant role and is not expected to become too much of a distraction to the Brazilians in London.

"That's not going to be a major factor, these players have enough experience, they have been playing together for a long time," he said. "When it's time to get on the field, they'll know how to handle this."

Brazil will travel to Switzerland for friendlies against Ireland on July 11, Colombia on July 14 and Canada on July 17.

"The next few matches will be important to help us keep improving so we can be in position to win this elusive gold medal for the women's national team," Barcellos said.

The Brazilians will debut at the Olympics on July 25 against Cameroon in Cardiff, Wales. It will also play New Zealand and host Britain in Group A.


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