As one of Portugal’s most historic and successful clubs, a lot was expected from the women’s team when its formation was announced in July.
Under local regulations, however, Benfica were forced to enter the league system from the bottom, in Group D of the Second Division. It has become clear that the Lisbon side are rather more powerful than their hapless opponents.
Incredibly, the team coached by Joao Marques have now scored more than 300 between league and cup competition while not conceding a single goal, with promotion to Portugal’s top flight essentially guaranteed for the coming season.
They currently enjoy a decisive nine point advantage over nearest rivals, Lisbon neighbours Sporting, at the top of the table after 14 games, with a healthy goal difference of 257 scored and zero conceded.
Even Sporting were unable to resist the Aguila’s dominance: in January’s derby they were humbled 10-0, a relatively close game by Benfica’s excellent standards but easy enough to ensure they maintain bragging rights in the Portuguese capital at least until next season.
Marques has a proven track record in women’s football, having previously led Braga to a runners-up finish in the top division. The coach, however, has the luxury of an all-star team, with Benfica investing heavily in international talent in an attempt to launch the new program in style.
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The club can boast three members of the current Brazil squad that will gun for the title in this year’s World Cup: midfielder Rihany and strike pair Darlene and Geyse. In the Portugal team, too, Benfica stars loom large. It is a team designed to take on the elite and win, and that is the project everyone at the famous club is working towards.
“One of the objectives is to look any world team directly in the eyes,” Marques signalled upon taking up his duties at the start of this season.
“Benfica want to be a powerhouse at a national and global level in women’s football. That’s what we’re going to work for.”
There is a long way to go, of course; and Benfica will certainly find things harder once this formality of a season is completed and they move up to Portugal’s top table. For now, however, the goals are flowing – and Aguilas fans are fully behind the newest team to make up this proud Lisbon sporting institution.