Seleção stars promise 'real Brazil'
Torpedo Moscow's stadium is the place to be this Saturday as Brazil take on Nigeria in the first quarter-final match of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006.
The Canarinhas booked their place in the last eight as Group A winners after picking up goalless draws against Russia and New Zealand, and a 2-0 victory over Australia . Yet, while there has been little sign as yet of the Auriverdes' world-renowned jogo bonito (beautiful football) thus far, one look at the steely determination in the eyes of Fabiana and Barbara tells you that their best is yet to come.
"We're very pleased with what we've done so far," the striker said with a relaxed grin. "We've not been getting carried away in the group stages, but we've still got plenty more to offer. We still haven't played as well as we know we can. Now, in the decisive game against Nigeria with a semi-final place at stake, we're determined to show some real Brazilian-style football. The moment has arrived."
When questioned about the team's lack of goals thus far, Fabiana is quick to respond: "The marking throughout this tournament has been very fierce. There are some top-quality players at this world championship. There are teams capable of scoring nine goals, but that's an exceptional case.
"Brazil are working very hard, but we don't head out onto the pitch thinking of scoring hatfuls, we think about winning first. You get the same three points for a 1-0 win, so there's no need to score nine."
One area of the side where everything seems to be going extremely well is between the sticks, with goalkeeper Barbara yet to be beaten. Saturday's game should, though, provide a tough test for the gifted custodian, as Nigerian strike duo Cynthia Uwak and Maureen Eke both have three goals to their name here at Russia 2006.
"They are a very strong, very good team," said the talented keeper, a big fan of Sao Paulo's Brazil international Rogerio Ceni . "We know that they are natural-born goalscorers but we are totally focused on winning this match. They don't scare me, I'm more than ready to take them on. We saw their game against Finland, and we didn't see anything out of this world."
Different backgrounds, common dream
The background of these two players is nearly as different as the players' contrasting personalities and the position they play out on the pitch.
Barbara, who is naturally chatty and vivacious, caught the football bug via her father, a budding full-back who gave up the game to start a career in the military. His daughter turned out to be a little more reluctant when it came to running around, and tended to favour a place between the sticks when kicking a ball about with family and friends.
"And that's where I stayed," summarised the talkative youngster. "I then started training to be able to make a career out of playing in that position." At the age of 12, she joined Sport Recife, where her ability was soon recognised by a Brazil scout, who invited her into the national team set-up.
As for the more thoughtful and softly-spoken Fabiana, the path to the top was not quite so simple. "My mum was the only one who supported me," she recalled. "My dad didn't like me playing because he said it was a boys' sport, so she used to help me get to training sessions. Finally, she convinced my dad to come and see one of my games and he really enjoyed it. Then it was him who helped me find a team. He's really happy now."
The diminutive front-runner began kicking a ball around at just seven years of age, back at school in her native Bahia. At 15, she moved to Rio de Janeiro, where she now plays for America. "I've always loved playing up front and I scored loads of goals right from the start," says Fabiana, a keen devotee of O Fenômeno, Ronaldo .
As the interview draws to a close, the friendly pair reveal the war cry that reverberates around the Brazilian dressing room in the moments prior to every game: "We're going to play, we're not going to lose, we're going to fight our hardest to win... Brazil!"
The squad have spent nearly a year-and-a-half training together at their base in Granja Comary, interspersed with short holidays spent at home. This intensive and all-consuming training camp has turned the national side into one big family. "We have a great spirit of togetherness," said Fabiana. "It'll be very sad when all this is over because we'll have to go our separate ways and we won't see some of our team-mates again."
Nevertheless, such thoughts of separation will be far from the players' minds at the moment, with the members of the Brazil squad fully expecting to spend another week together ahead of the final on Sunday 3 September.