Marta's mercurial talent and ever-improving form ensured that she was always a likely recipient of the FIFA Women's World Player 2006 award, and only marginally less predictable than her collecting the trophy were the tears that followed.

Emotion had, after all, overcome the brilliant Brazilian in the build-up to last year's Gala, so precious few eyebrows were raised when the weight of the occasion and - the honour bestowed upon her - began to register with the talented youngster this time around. Later, following a kiss and some warm words of congratulation from a delighted comrade, Ronaldo, Marta took time to explain why this award is of such personal significance, and how it reminded her of the support she received when starting out on her journey to the top.

"I cried because I was thinking about my family, my mother, and how they have supported me all through everything," she said. "I also thought about how I had been here three years now and that now I have made it all the way to the top.

"I suppose because I had won the bronze two years ago and the silver last year, you think you have a chance, but I don't know. Everyone would ask me about it and say about this being my year, and although I never wanted to seem too confident, deep down inside I did have a feeling that this might be my time. Right now, I am so grateful and thankful."

The 20-year-old Umea star also expressed a hope that the award and resultant publicity might help to raise the profile of the women's game in her homeland, where she believes a lack of encouragement is currently stifling many aspiring female footballers.

"I felt sad earlier in the day when I was sitting beside Kristine Lilly and Renate Lingor as they were talking about the great support that women's football and young players receive in their countries," she said. "The problem in Brazil is not that there are no girls playing football, it is that there is no support for them to become like me. I don't know if this award can help me become an idol to those young girls and give them strength, but I hope so. That would make me very happy."

So, too, would professional fulfilment in 2007, a year which will see Marta go into European battle with her club against Arsenal, and then on to China for a FIFA Women's World Cup which she considers Brazil well capable of winning.

"Next year is a massive one for me," she said. "There was not much chance for me to play with my country this year, but next year there is the World Cup in China and I am looking forward to going there very much. I don't know if we can win it, but we will go there believing and anything is possible. With my club, Umea, I also have a UEFA Cup final against Arsenal to come and that is a huge thing for everyone - that is my target at the moment. For now, I will celebrate, but very soon it will be back to working extra hard and preparing for those challenges."