Sunday, July 3, 2011
Pele or Messi?
Is Marta enough?
Marta is the greatest female footballer in the game today. She might be the best of all time. Of course, she's just 25, so it's a little early to tell, but she padded her resume very nicely again on Sunday as the Brazilians destroyed the Norwegians, 3-0. Marta scored two goals and got the assist on the other. She clearly committed a foul that wasn't called on the first one, but that doesn't take anything away from her talent or accomplishments.
For people who don't "get" soccer, think about Jerry Rice. When the ball was passed, he'd be a step behind the defender. When the ball got to him, he was a step and a half ahead and off to the races. He had a fifth gear that none of the guys defending him had, with the possible exception of Deion Sanders.
And then there's the task of putting the ball in the back of the net. Marta has 78 goals in 71 international matches. That's flat out reee-donkulous. For comparison, Mia Hamm had 158 goals in 275 international appearances.
A goal a game is just crazy.
She's been compared to Pele. Pele agrees. But when Pele showed up, suddenly Brazil was the best team in the world and won three of the next four World Cups, in 1958, 1962 and 1970. This is Marta's second World Cup. Brazil lost in the final four years ago to Germany when the matches were in China. Now the matches are in Germany. It will take something close to a miracle for the Brazilians to pull it off this year.
Marta might be more like Lionel Messi, the Argentine superstar. He is the spark plug for FC Barcelona, the greatest pro squad in the world right now, but he's not enough to make Argentina the best national team. Unless things change dramatically, he probably won't be enough for them to win in 2014. The Argentines have the advantage in 2014 that the games will be played in South America, but the disadvantage that they will be played in Brazil.
Brazil's real problem is that the national organization does not take women's football seriously. Other squads playing in Germany this year played six or seven warm-up matches. Brazil played one. Their defense is haphazardly organized and eventually a team with real firepower, not a counterpunch team like Norway, is going to make the Brazilian goalkeeper's day a real challenge.
Still, whenever it's possible, I'm going to be in front of a TV when the Brazilians play for the rest of the tournament. The probability of Marta doing something amazing in every game she plays is so close to 100%, it's not worth mentioning the difference. Mathematicians call that epsilon. I compared her to Jerry Rice, Pele and Messi, but let me also compare her to Willie Mays. Like with Mays, on any given day you might see Marta do something you have never seen before and will never see again.