As Canarinhas legend Formiga retires with feats that will go unmatched – appearing in 12 consecutive major international tournaments.
Last night at the Arena da Amazônia, football fans said goodbye to Miraildes Maciel Mota, known simply as Formiga. The 38-year-old pulled on the sacred yellow and green shirt for the last and 160th time after helping Brazil beat Italy 5-3 to win the Torneio Internacional de Manaus tournament.
The year is 1995. The Dayton Agreement is signed in Paris. O. J. Simpson is found not guilty of double murder for the deaths of former wife Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The Bosman ruling rules that all EU footballers have the right to a free transfer among member states at the end of their contracts. And Formiga makes her Brazil debut on 11th April 1995, aged 17 – Stina Blackstenius and Vivianne Miedema were not yet born. The Brazilians beat Argentina 4-0 that day as Sissi scored a brace.
The longevity of her professional career is amazing: Formiga made her national team debut a year after Dunga and Brazil lifted the World Cup in US. Some 21 years later, Formiga is Brazil’s most capped player with 160 caps.
Former Brazil captain Dunga is one of the biggest influence on her playing style. Formiga, or ‘ant’ in Portuguese is a nickname that she picked up because of her hard-working style of play. Formiga is a tireless worker and always taking it for the team. She has pretty much seen and done it all, from her first international tournament in Sweden, the heartbreak of 2004, the embarrassment of 2007, Beijing’s ‘almost moment’, Abby Wambach’s late goal, the mediocrity of 2015 to her last one in Brazil. Formiga helped lead Brazil to their best-ever World Cup result, finishing third in 1999.
She is the player with the most Olympic appearances (29) and the only player to have participated in all six editions of the Olympics. Formiga helped Brazil win two silver medals at the Olympics, in 2004 in Athens and in 2008 in Beijing. She won three gold medals (2003, 2007 and 2015) and a silver (2011) at the Pan American Games.
The oldest goalscorer in the history of the World Cup has participated in six editions of the tournament, having only missed out on the inaugural edition in 1991. The 21-year veteran with the national team became the World Cup’s oldest goalscorer with her strike against South Korea on June 9, 2015 at 37 years, three months and six days old. Formiga has played in 24 World Cup games. Only Kristine Lilly (30) and Abby Wambach (25) have played more games. Lilly holds the competition’s all-time appearance record after playing 30 games for USA across five tournaments.
If there’s any blemish on Formiga’s sterling resume, it is that she never won a major international tournament. Brazil head coach Emily Lima was reduced to tears during the post-game interview. That sums up the impact Formiga has had on Brazilian football.
Brazil is behind times when it comes to embracing women’s football and that makes Formiga’s records even more impressive. Almost a quarter of a century in the national team looks unmatchable. Formiga is not as popular and famous as Marta, but she is a silent leader on and off the field and Brazil’s unrecognizable star. Even without the trophies and awards, the girl from Salvador de Bahia remains one of the all-time greats. The impact that she has had must never be forgotten. It extends far beyond the sports world.