Two games into the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup meant that most players had shaken off some rust in their game and when the North Carolina Courage faced the Washington Spirit, most expected it to be a routine win for the Courage. It did not turn out that way however as it took well into the second half for the Courage to find the opening goal. Despite the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, everything good that the Courage did that night came through Debinha.
With a “lesser” cast around her (Paul Riley had decided to rest the likes of Samantha Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper, etc.), the Brazilian still shone just as brightly as she does with the best starting eleven the NC Courage can call upon. Her ability to combine natural talent with energy, drive and a willingness to track back and defend just as well as she pushes forward allowed the Courage to start strong, and had they had better finishing on the day, would’ve been in the lead at half-time.
It didn’t take long for Debinha to make her mark on the game. In the fifth minute, after a turnover in midfield, Debinha spun quickly and played a lovely through ball for McKenzie Meehan to race on to. Meehan failed to make the most of that chance but the SPirit had received a warning early on in the game. Debinha was here to play just as well as she had started the tournament.
A few seconds later, from the resulting throw-in, Debinha had everyone jumping out of their seats. She picked up the ball unmarked at the corner of the penalty area and proceeded to bend the ball as deliciously as you can from that angle, looking for the top corner. Luck wasn’t in her favour that day as the ball cannoned off the far post but that attempt on goal was a showcase of not only Debinha’s ability to find space but her utmost belief in her own technique to even try something like that from that angle.
In less than 30 seconds, Debinha had announced, once again, just how good she is and how fortunate we are to get to see her play regularly in the National Women’s Soccer League.
That was the offensive prowess of Debinha on display. The Brazilian is just as effective in her defending as well. With the way the Courage are set up (4-2-2-2), the midfielders are required to do a lot of running in not only creating space for their fullback to exploit out wide but to also race back and cover if the Courage lose the ball or if their opponents are in possession. Time and time again, you will find Debinha constantly harassing her assigned opponent, making it difficult for them to progress or play the easy pass. She will even track back into her own area if the need arises and she will not stop. running. whether it’s the first minute of the game or the 95th. Her total buy-in into what Paul Riley wants from his players has seen her start in every match so far at the Challenge Cup and will most likely see her feature again once the quarter-finals kick off. Debinha isn’t just a talented maverick, she’s also one of the hardest working attacking midfielders in the game today.
Paul Riley himself has stated that Debinha is the “best Brazilian player right now by far” and that isn’t hyperbole. Riley has every right to make that claim as his No. 10 continues to get more and more impressive with each season in North Carolina. If I was a Brazil fan, I’d be hoping that Pia Sundhage’s been paying attention to how Riley has utilized Debinha and ask her to do the same for the national team. It can only be a positive to showcase Debinha that way for the Seleção.
The way Debinha has evolved her game is how most No. 10s across the world have evolved theirs. Soccer these days requires even attacking players to do their bit defensively and most of the top teams expect their attackers to track back and defend just as well as they attack. Debinha does all of that and more.
With players ahead of her that include Lynn Williams, Kristen Hamilton, Crystal Dunn or Jess McDonald, Debinha is the perfect foil for strikers as she gives them the platform to go for goal any time she’s on the ball. Her runs from midfield have no hesitation and she has the ability to keep her head on a swivel even at that pace so she can pick out a teammate in a better position. On top of that, Debinha can score goals in any which way.
She may not be the tallest player on the pitch but her dynamism shows up even then as she picks the right moment to race forward and meet a cross before the usually much taller defender can get to it.
Then she can do something like this:
That’s the mark of a player who’s 100% in control and has absolute confidence in herself and her team. It also shows that she truly believes her head coach backs her completely, as evident with his comments about her, and thus makes her unafraid to try anything as long as it benefits the team. Debinha isn’t flashy for the sake of being flashy but when she turns on the imagination and creativity that Brazilians are known for, you can’t help but admire it. Even if the NC Courage are the team you hate the most.
It’s not often in the women’s game that players like Debinha come around but any time she plays, viewers can expect to see a player who encapsulates not only the best of the NC Courage but also the best Brazil (currently) has to offer. Marta will remain the greatest player that Brazil has ever produced but right now, it’s Debinha that makes your heart rate speed up whenever she gets on the ball. If anyone out there who plays at the No. 10 position is looking for someone to emulate to better their game, look no further than Debinha. She makes watching soccer fun, every single time.