Ary Borges has come a long way in a short time, achieving a feat not even Pele or Ronaldinho could manage and winning high praise from Brazilian superstar teammate Marta in the process.
The 23-year-old burst on the scene as Brazil opened their Women’s World Cup campaign with a 4-0 thumping of Panama in Adelaide, scoring three goals and setting up the other.
It made her the first Brazilian, man or woman, to score a hat-trick on their World Cup debut, according to governing body FIFA.
Her idol growing up was Marta, widely seen as the greatest women’s footballer of all time and now playing in her sixth World Cup.
The two embraced when Borges made way for her 15 minutes from time, and the 37-year-old was impressed.
“Scoring three goals on a debut is not easy, but she was on a different plane,” said Marta, who has netted 115 times for Brazil.
“She scored a hat-trick and came up with an assist, so it was nearly four. I was honoured to come on for her.”
Attacking midfielder Borges had a tough upbringing, with her parents leaving her aged 10 at her grandmother’s while they moved to Sao Paulo seeking a better life.
When she finally joined them, her father Dino toured the city looking for a club where she could fulfil her talent, opting for Centro Olimpico, where Borges had her first taste of competitive football.
Spells at Sport Recife and Sao Paulo followed before signing with Palmeiras, where she scored 34 goals in 83 appearances over three years.
Her strikes in the semi-final and final pushed Palmeiras to the Copa Libertadores trophy in 2022 and attracted the attention of American club Racing Louisville, where she moved in December.
Racing teammate Jess McDonald, in Australia as a pundit, said she knew immediately that Borges was something special.
“I’m super stoked for her. I couldn’t wait for the world to know who she truly is,” McDonald said on broadcaster Optus Sport.
“I’ll never forget her first training session for us at Racing Louisville. She scored a banger of a bicycle kick, and we said ‘Oh, the Brazilian is in the building’.
“She’s been on fire ever since pre-season and I’m so proud of her. You could tell from the moment she started crying after her first goal just how passionate she truly is about the game.”
Seen as one of the leading stars of Brazil’s next generation of talent, Borges, who made her international debut in 2021, admitted it had been a lot to take in.
“It’s very emotional for me to look back on everything I’ve done to get this far,” she said.
“There have been smiles, there have been tears, and I’ve thought about my family and where I’ve come from. It’s a dream for me to be here.”