Formiga: Brazil’s most capped footballer announces retirement 26 years after debut


The majority of professional footballers aspire to play in at least one World Cup during their playing days. Brazilian legend Formiga has played in seven.

The 43-year-old made her international debut in 1995 and has amassed 233 international caps for her country –– the most of any Brazilian player, male or female.

Now, after 26 years of playing for the national team, the women’s football icon is finally calling time on her international career.

Formiga was born in Salvador in 1978, during a period where it was illegal for women to play football in Brazil.

Citing the great Brazilian World Cup winner, Dunga, as her inspiration, Formiga was not deterred and started playing at the age of 12.



Just five years later, she made her debut for the national team, featuring at the 1995 World Cup in Sweden.

Her real name is Miraildes Maciel Mota but the nickname Formiga was established because of her playing style. The word means ant in Portuguese and relates to unselfish play reminiscent of the way ants work together as a colony.

The midfielder went on to feature in every World Cup thereafter and also competed in seven Olympic Games.

But while the Brazilian men’s team remains the most successful international side in history, Formiga never quite managed to win a major tournament, despite coming close on a number of occasions.

In both 2004 and 2008, Brazil finished runners up to the USA at the Olympics. In 1999 they finished third at the World Cup and in 2007 they were defeated 2-0 by Germany in the final.

Having competed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer, where Brazil were knocked out to eventual winners Canada in the last eight –– Formiga has now officially announced her final game will be against India on November 25th in Manaus.

In total, she has played 233 matches for Brazil –– putting her more than 50 appearances ahead of Marta in second place.


Though Mota is retiring from internationals, this is not the last we will see of the football icon. The Brazilian has returned to girlhood club Sao Paulo from PSG –– her fourth stint with the club.

And while it seems her final game for Brazil will be at the end of the month, this is not the first time Formiga has retired.

Back in 2016, the midfield maestro stopped playing for the national team before returning in 2018 to compete in the Copa América Femenina, which Brazil went on to win.

With two years to go until the 2023 Women’s World Cup, this may well be the end for now, but it’s not necessarily the end forever.

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