Tuesday 21 January 2020, 14:10

Emily Lima: I'm excited by Ecuador’s aspirations 

  • Emily Lima named new Ecuador coach last month

  • Former Brazil and Santos coach excited by new challenge

  • Lima: "We must have ambition to qualify for the 2023 World Cup"

Emily Lima could not hold back the tears during her unveiling as the new coach of the Ecuadorian women's national team. The trigger, the Brazilian admitted to FIFA.com, was the message left by her brother in a video shared with the media.

"He and my father had a lot to do with my love of football. From the day I made my professional debut at 17, I knew this would be my life. Because of all that, and because Ecuador have put their faith in me to change their fortunes, it was very emotional."

During her playing days, Lima was a midfielder who had spells in Brazil, Portugal, Spain and Italy. She would eventually become a nationalised Portuguese citizen and wear their colours internationally until her retirement in 2009.

Two years later, she embarked on a coaching career in her homeland and would make history in 2016 by becoming the first woman to coach the Brazilian women's national team.

Although she was only in charge for 11 months, her work was highly praised by Seleção stars such as Marta, Cristiane and Formiga. After her departure, she took up the reins at Santos, where she managed impressive results in both the Brazilian league and the Copa Libertadores Femenina.

Now, she is about to take on what she calls "her biggest challenge": guiding Ecuador back to the FIFA Women's World Cup™ after their debut at Canada 2015.

FIFA.com: What was your motivation for accepting the Ecuador challenge?

Emily Lima: It was the project as a whole, which I'm now a part of. As well as coaching the senior team, I will be co-ordinating the youth sides and form part of the Women's Football Committee. During the two months that the appointment process took, I studied Ecuadorian football and am excited about the change the federation aims to bring about.

During your presentation, you spoke at length and in glowing terms about the whole process. Why was that?

Because the federation didn’t just call and say, 'Emily, come and do this.' They were looking for someone to fit their project. Initially, there were 20 people being considered, then ten, then three, until finally just me. We're talking about football, of course, but we're also talking about people and ideas. That's not very common.

Brazil has a large pool of technically-gifted players. What’s your first impression of the standard of players available in Ecuador?

I am working with the U-17s, who are preparing for the South American Championship, and there is a technical level there comparable with that of Brazil. The point is that there [in Brazil] they are more advanced – the girls start playing earlier and have more weapons in their arsenal by that age. That's part of what we're going to try to change. Having said that, this group of girls can qualify for the [FIFA U-17] World Cup in India this year. Now, I just need to convince them of that.

What’s your impression of the senior team, who finished last in the 2019 Copa America?

We must work hard and change their mindset as well. The results could have you thinking that they cannot succeed, but it is always possible. I’m someone who looks forward and, if I do look back, it's for material to help me do my job. The goal is always to move forward: we have three years to try to qualify for the World Cup, so the team must forget the past, understand this new opportunity and go after it.

How do you intend to manage the expectations your appointment has generated?

Expectation creates big responsibility, because Ecuador brought in Emily Lima to get results. We'll be careful in what we do with women's football in general – not just the senior team. We won't try anything until we know it’s the right time for it. We'll take it step by step, with a view to getting the result we want in three years’ time.

In terms of football, how do you want your Ecuador side to play?

I like collective play and building possession-based moves, while also being organised when we don’t have the ball. I want my players to be attack-minded and direct, but also aware of what to do in transitions. And when it comes to defending, they must be willing to put their bodies on the line.

How long do you expect it will take to get to where you want to be?

I'm still getting to know the attributes of the players, so that [skillset] has to be taken into consideration. However, as I’ve already said, I like a team with a good short passing game that only goes long when necessary, and which constantly pushes towards the opposition goal. To get this, I need a change of attitude from the players, and that will be one of the biggest challenges.

Can you see Ecuador reaching the 2023 World Cup?

Yes. We must have ambition. Ambition to work, to win and to qualify for the World Cup. I know it's hard, but I'm convinced that we're going to put together a very tough team – one which our rivals will have to work very hard to beat. After that, the results will be down to the work we do over the next three years.