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Rafaelle Souza, Ole Miss alumna and holder of most of the Rebels’ all-time records in soccer, made her World Cup debut Tuesday night as her Brazil team defeated Korea Republic, 2-0, in opening action of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
(Click here for the complete match report.)
Wearing No.16 for Brazil, Rafaelle lined up as a defender, specifically as a center-back to the left of the goalkeeper instead of at the forward position Rebel fans will recall her playing. But because of her size and athletic ability, “Rafa,” as she is affectionately known, will be able to make the transition to this new position.
Ole Miss Head Women’s Soccer Coach Matt Mott, Rafa’s college coach, was understandably thrilled at seeing his player compete on the world stage and tweeted the following before the game:
— Matthew Mott (@CoachMattMott) June 9, 2015
Coach Mott had to be pleased with what he saw from the star player he brought to Oxford. While Rafa’s first time out of the gate was against a Korea team known for crisp passing, slick movement, and being technically gifted, she and her Brazil team won and made it look relatively easy. The full-time residency program Brazil has constructed for its players definitely seems to be working. Brazil dominated possession and really did whatever it wanted to do.
Specifically for the former Ole Miss star, the positives were definitely there. Rafa’s passing was accurate and clean, and she definitely helped to facilitate action from the back.
Brazil sent the outside defenders forward in their offense, so Rafa tended to hang on the outside by design. She was also inside of the attacking side for Brazil during set pieces, hoping to head a ball in with her size and leaping prowess.
Rafa made one play in particular that will not show up in the stats but was quite impressive, nonetheless. In the 62nd minute, Korea sent a ball in that one of its players almost reached. But Rafa calmly got in front of the player, acting as a barrier so that Brazil’s goalkeeper Luciana could easily pick up.
Rafa’s play was akin to a basketball player boxing out a defender to let a teammate grab a rebound. In this play, she showed the savvy of a seasoned defender and looked nothing at all like someone who is just making the switch from a forward spot. Those little plays will help in the long run.
Brazil’s back line was not as cohesive as it will need to be. To be fair, the team has suffered some injuries and has not played together much—which showed at times. Korea did not challenge much in the 1st half and only put up a small challenge in the 2nd half, but they did have a couple of chances to score.
There was an offsides call in the 72nd minute that could have easily been a score, as the ball got behind Brazil’s defense. Had the Korea player timed her run a split second better, she could have had a scoring opportunity. Communication is vital.
Again, it is important to point out Rafa is learning a totally new position—and it is certainly a testament to her athletic skill and soccer acumen that she is able to do so while competing on such a large stage. Her anticipation needs to develop a bit. “Anticipation,” here, means beating a player and/or the ball to a certain location and regaining possession for your team. Defenders learn this after years and years of training and playing, but there is little doubt Rafa is picking it up quickly with her characteristic determination.
What to watch: Spanish midfielder Vicky Losada and forward Veronica Boquete will definitely pose a challenge to Brazil; however, if Brazil can at least get a draw, they will be in great position to advance to the next round.
Ole Miss’ Rafa Souza should continue to be a key contributor to the Brazil team as it competes for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Click here to keep up with Rafa and all the 2015 Women’s World Cup action.