Brazilian midfielder Debinha is a name most in the National Women’s Soccer League are familiar with and, despite still being in Marta’s shadow, has been showing us her true talent for a while now through both club and international play. Brazil were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup in the Round of 16 and although Debinha was not as sparkling as she could have been for her country, there is credence to the thought that under a better coach, she could have helped Brazil progress even further.
Debinha first came to NWSL in 2017 after spending time in Brazil, Sweden, and China. Although new to the league, Debinha featured in every game for the North Carolina Courage, scoring four goals and picking up two assists as the Courage became 2017’s NWSL Shield winners and runners-up in the NWSL Championship. 2018 was even better for the Brazilian as she racked up eight goals and two assists in 22 appearances, all helping the Courage regain the NWSL Shield and win the 2018 NWSL Championship. 2019 shows that Debinha is only getting better and better, as she now has six goals and six assists in 15 appearances, all while having her season with the Courage disrupted due to being at the World Cup. She could easily hit the 20 goal mark for North Carolina in the coming weeks, especially considering how often she’s involved in the Courage’s offensive sallies.
What makes Debinha’s so special however is her movement on and off the ball. She already has plenty of technique and can pretty much score from anywhere in and around the penalty area, but her movement is what makes her such an interesting player to watch. Jessica McDonald, Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams may get most of the plaudits but it’s Debinha’s movement that gives them the space to operate at their best.
Notice in the video above, Debinha finds a pocket of space in between the defense and the midfield and stays there when North Carolina loses the ball and then regains possession. Once Crystal Dunn makes her run towards the penalty area, Debinha quickly gets forward as well, knowing that if Dunn’s cut back somehow misses Jessica McDonald, she will be in the right place to capitalize on it. McDonald makes a smart move by making a dummy run towards the ball, leaving Debinha unmarked to tuck the ball away.
As to where her ambitions could lie? Debinha is easily one of the best players the NWSL has to offer and as Marta gets older, there will be a void on the national team left by the legendary No. 10. This is where Debinha could step up and become even more of a creative force. Her ability not only creates space for her teammates but she can also pick out a pass with the best of them. Brazil need to find players who can at least plug the hole that Marta and Erika will leave behind once they retire and Debinha could be the answer to that problem. Once she steps up with the national team, or more appropriately, once she is used better on the national team, it would not be a surprise to hear Debinha’s name being mentioned as a potential Ballon d’Or Féminin winner. Yes, she has that much talent within her.
Under Paul Riley, Debinha has become an even better player than many could have imagined when she first came into the NWSL. Not only does she have the stamina to keep up with the high tempo that the Courage play at, but her late runs also allow her to score “poacher’s” goals. Her own game intelligence is evident any time the Courage are in full flight and with her ability to spot a teammate in space, North Carolina’s No. 10 is probably the most creative player in the NWSL right now. Not every player flourishes under Paul Riley (as shown by his time with the Portland Thorns) so it takes a special kind of player to take on his tactics and then execute them as consistently as Debinha and her teammates do.
In the same game against the Thorns, Debinha is still in that pocket of space when she receives the ball. She then has the awareness to drive the ball forward and make the Portland defenders move towards her. Knowing that Hamilton is now is space, Debinha chips the ball over the defender closest to Hamilton, giving her teammate the chance to be one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Debinha continues to grow as a player with each season and when on form, combines that Brazilian flair with the power and aggression associated with American soccer.
Paul Riley (in the post match interview after the Courage had demolished the Orlando Pride by six goals to one) has stated that she is the future of the Brazilian national team, but he believes in order for them to see her at her best, they need to play her in the middle and not out wide as they did at the World Cup. He noted that her play has grown especially since coming from the World Cup as she is not only a 90 minute player now but she’s also a shining example of how to work both ways on the ball. He believes that she’s always been great at going forward but now she comes back and helps in defense in the midfield. That willingness to work for the team and unselfishness has made her a massive piece for the Courage and a player that can unlock any defense.
At 27, Debinha is entering the prime of her career and is on the brink of becoming Brazil’s next superstar. She can prove it on the world’s biggest stage with the Olympics less than a year away, and with well-regarded head coach Pia Sundhage helming Brazil now, her moment may just be around the corner.