Brazil coach says Marta could start Women's World Cup on the bench

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Head coach of the Brazilian women's soccer team, Pia Sundhage, gives an interview at the Granja Comary training center, as she prepares her team for the FIFA Women's World Cup tournament in Teresopolis, Brazil, Friday, June 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

TERESOPOLIS – Brazil striker Marta could start the Women's World Cup on the bench while she continues to recover from a left knee injury, Brazil coach Pia Sundhage said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday.

Sundhage does not know how long the six-time FIFA player of the year will be able to play in each match of the tournament that starts next month in Australia and New Zealand. Brazil's first game is against Panama on July 24 in Adelaide.

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“I don't know whether she will be in the starting lineup. She could come off the bench as well. I am sure she will give everything,” Sundhage told the AP at Brazil's training ground in Teresopolis, 95 kilometers (60 miles) outside Rio de Janeiro. “We have a couple more days to put this team together. It is not only about Marta.

“Let's say she was the best player in the world. You are still a team and you have to build that team. Some of the players just get connected,” the 63-year-old Swedish coach said. “Depending on what is happening out there we have some options. One of the best things of this team is that we are flexible and can still keep our confidence.”

The 37-year-old Marta is playing in her sixth — and possibly last — World Cup for Brazil, which has never won the tournament. Marta went through surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament last year after injuring her left knee during a club game in the United States. She returned to the national team after an 11-month absence in February against Japan. She did not play in Brazil's two friendlies against England and Germany in April.

Brazil is one of three South American teams in the tournament, along with Argentina and Colombia. Brazil is in Group F with France — the team that eliminated the Brazilians four years ago in the last 16 — Jamaica and Panama.

Brazil will announce a final squad on Tuesday and play a last exhibition in front of home fans on July 2 against Chile in Brasilia.

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