Brazil sneak over the line as Puerto Rico give them a lesson in how to be a hero

February 22 – Brazil stuttered to a 1-0 win over Puerto Rico to open their W Gold Cup campaign on what for them was a chilly evening for the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, but for lovers of the beautiful game a heart warming reminder of why this is truly the world’s game.

There are 92 world ranking positions between Brazil and Puerto Rico. For 80 minutes of this Group B encounter those positions meant nothing.

Brazil are ranked 11th in the world, they are footballing rock stars from the nation that everyone else in the world wishes they could play like. Puerto Rico are ranked 103rd and they are… Puerto Rico.

Brazil arrived in San Diego with all the swagger as Copa America champions, while Puerto Rico had to battle through a qualifier against Haiti to earn a spot in the group stages, a remarkable feat in itself.

Brazil have a squad drawn from professional leagues in the US, England and Spain, as well as from their domestic competition. Puerto Rico are drawn predominantly from US colleges and even have a coach whose full time job is as a college coach – just up the road road from the Snapdragon Stadium at UC Riverside.

For 80 minutes Puerto Rico held football’s royalty to ransom, they almost took it all the way.

Brazil started fast forcing Puerto Rico’s play off goalkeeping hero Sydney Martinez into action in the third minute with a sharp save from Bia Zanaretto.

Martinez, who plays her club football in Norway, is an imposing presence in Puerto Rico’s goal and has repeatedly proven she is never beaten easily.

Puerto Rico could have had the lead on six minutes but Juelle Love headed over. On 13’ Brazil’s keeper Luciana is forced to push a shot over her bar. Brazil had been warned.

As the half progressed the Brazilians increased their pressure if not their threat. Beatriz Ferreira hit the ball wide of Martinez on 20 minutes but though chances were gently coming, they were being gently not taken.

On 21’ Brazil had the ball in the net. A cross to Ary Borges was headed in only for the assistant referee to flag for offside.

Puerto Rico responded with Love chipping over the bar. On 35’ Adriana Leal sidefooted wide. Brazil were guilty of overplaying in the Puerto Rico box, but the Puerto Ricans had backed players behind the ball and Martinez was voraciously devouring anything that was loose.

With the half running out and Brazil failing to create clear cut chances Puerto Rico missed two of their own with Love scuffing a shot in the box and then heading over.

In added time Brazil hit the post, the closest they had come to breaking the deadlock.

End of half stats showed Brazil leading possession with 59% and on shots 16-6. But at this point, like the difference in their world rankings, they meant nothing.

The second half resumed the pattern of the first.

Puerto Rico packed their defence in front of a Brazilian forward line that had the ball but too often not an awful lot else

Brazil almost had the lead on 53’. Zanaretto chipped the ball to Duda Santos who headed the ball against the post. On 64’ Zanaretto had a shot pushed wide by Martinez. On 68’ Ary Borges headed wide. Brazil were edging closer as Puerto Rico dropped deeper. At the

70’ mark Debinha hit a shot from the edge of the box that was gathered low by Martinez. Five minutes later she headed over.

Just as it looked as though the impossible was possible am 80th minute Brazil counter attack saw Puerto Rico’s defence stretched and a ball across the box met by a sliding Gabi Nunes – 1-0.

Puerto Rico qualified from the preliminary round but they clearly don’t see themselves as being here just to make the numbers up.

Brazil will have to find an edge if they are going to progress all the way in this tournament – perhaps they could borrow some of Puerto Rico’s.

Both teams will be back in two days time. Brazil to face a rampant Colombia in an all-Conmebol classic, Puerto Rico to meet Panama in a Concacaf battle for bragging rights.

That is a double header that shouldn’t be missed.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1711651467labto1711651467ofdlr1711651467owedi1711651467sni@n1711651467osloh1711651467cin.l1711651467uap1711651467