But finishing runners-up to Germany in 2007 proved a turning point for them.
Until then, and despite having won gold at the Pan-American Games the previous year, women footballers in Brazil were treated with some disdain. The sport was merely suppressed by the Scottish FA for 50 years until the early 1970s, but it was banned completely in Brazil's between 1965 and 1982.
Even after 1982, women's football suffered abject sexism. The Sao Paulo region once tried to organise a tournament involving only "attractive" women.
Now attitudes have shifted. Marta, the best-known Brazilian woman footballer, is one of six ambassadors for next year's World Cup, alongside male stars.
She was in the side which lost 2-0 to Germany in the final in 2007, then with the rest of the squad signed a letter from the team in Shanghai to the Brazilian Football Federation.
It demanded fairer treatment and forced the authorities to act. Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was moved to state: "We need to give more attention to women's soccer, because by their own efforts they have become a motive of pride for all of us."
One of many outcomes was the start of the four-nation annual tournament each December. Staged in Sao Paulo three times, it switched to Brasilia and the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha this year.
Brazil and Scotland have not met in a women's international, but do so this evening at one of the World Cup venues, the 71,000-seater Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia. They had contrasting fortunes in the opening games of this four-nation tournament which ends a week today: Scotland lost 2-0 to Canada while Brazil beat Chile by the same scoreline.
Brazil, fourth in the Fifa rankings, and Canada, seventh, are expected to contest the final next Sunday, with Scotland and Chile playing for third and fourth. The assessment was not shifted by the results on Thursday, with Canada and Brazil both winning comfortably.
Marta, who has played most of her club football in Sweden and the US, was prominent in the win over Chile. The 27-year-old was Fifa world player of the year from 2006-2010 and is a strong candidate for the 2013 award.
The home federation have paid all Scotland's travel and hotel costs for the two-week trip. The invitation recognises the Scots' progress, with their 20th place in the Fifa rankings retained on the new list on Friday.
Anna Signeul's side lost to Canada on Thursday without three top players - central defenders Rachel Corsie and Jenny Beattie, and attacking midfielder Suzanne Lappin. Corsie had work commitments, but has now flown out and is available for today's game.