Day after day, game after game, this tireless group of entertainers make it their mission to stir the watching fans into a frenzy of excitement, shouting and applause. No, we are not talking about the world's finest beach soccer players. While the soccer stars themselves are taking a well-earned rest, on come the beautiful Brazilian dancers to delight the Copacabana crowds during intervals in play.
Blondes, brunettes, red-heads…these talented performers, each with their own style, show just why the country's women are famed for being amongst the most graceful and sensual on the planet. Cacau, part of the choreography team, explained to FIFA.com just how the project came about: "We already did something similar at last year's tournament, with great success. We work with professional dancers who absolutely love their job. That's what really matters: that they enjoy themselves. They are out there in the public eye, in all that heat, for almost the entire day. You need to have a great deal of willpower."
No exaggeration there. On every matchday, in every interval, twelve dancers leap onto the sands ready to entertain the local fans and always with a broad smile on their faces. "Of course the fans are happy. They leap about and chant along with the girls, even asking them for their phone numbers. What do most of them say? Gostosas (gorgeous), but it doesn't bother us at all. Brazilian women like hearing things like this, and these girls are well-used to it by now," she adds with a grin.
Fellow choreographer Erica, who could just as easily be out there on the sand alongside her charges, is another of those responsible for the breathtaking moves on display. Proving especially popular is one of her own innovations: a group routine performed to the beat of traditional Brazilian music. "That really was something!" she admits, between peals of laughter. "We wanted to put together something that was typically Brazilian, which would reveal our girls' sensual side without being seedy. And it really seemed to work," she remarks, an opinion backed up by the crowd's vociferous reaction.
"We know that we've been one of a host of memorable moments at this year's competition. We've had loads of people congratulating us, and that makes us doubly proud. That means that we're doing our jobs well," she adds with a flourish.
'We love what we do'
Having spoken to the ladies in charge, FIFA.com's intrepid reporter decided to seek out the real stars of the show to find out what it is like for them performing in front of thousands of spectators enjoying the best of beach soccer.
According to 21-year-old Priscila, the fans are not shy in expressing their appreciation but keep their comments within the boundaries of good taste: "They make a lot of flirtatious remarks, but it's all good-natured. The odd one or two ask for your phone number, but it doesn't go any further than that." 23-year-old Carla meanwhile, whose stunning looks have not gone unnoticed by a passing group of construction workers, believes restraint is the key. "As long as they're respectful then there's no problem. What Brazilian girl wouldn't enjoy being called gostosa?" she laughs.
Not that being a cheerleader is all fun and games. The girls arrive each day at 8am to have plenty of time to get ready and rehearse any new routines before the action starts. Next up comes the serious stuff of the performance itself, while they are also obliged to mingle with the crowds and hand out free t-shirts. Given the level of exertion involved, the dancers need to be extremely well-prepared. "Of course, the sand makes things a bit more difficult, because your feet sink into it and it can sometimes burn. The heat can also cause problems, but the important thing is what we always say: we love what we do." If the reception they have had so far here in Rio is anything to go by, so does everybody else.