Russians hope to counter Brazilian attack
Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the Brazilians in full flow at the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in Thailand will know that they possess more than enough attacking flair to trouble any side. But, as Sunday's quarter-final clash with Russia draws near, Luiz Ferreira's team will be aware that their continued presence in the tournament could well depend on how they cope with Russia's ruthless counter-attack in Bangkok.
Both sides know that the margin for error they were afforded in their group games - for Brazil, a surprise defeat against Nigeria, and for Russia the good fortune to go through with just their opening day win - will be non-existent on Sunday. With a World Championship semi-final place up for grabs, it is a simple case of win or bust.
In their emphatic opening day win against the Spanish , Russia proved themselves to be masters of the quick counter-attack. There is no reason to think that it could not be used with equal efficiency against the often cavalier South Americans, who have at times seemed to place too much emphasis on forward play to the detriment of their defence.
Though delighted to have made the knockout stage, Russia coach Valentin Grishin was far from pleased with his side's capitulation in their third group game against Korea Republic (0-2). The side have been working furiously since then to try and remedy the problems which that game exposed. With two days less than their Brazilian counterparts to prepare for the game, fatigue could well be a factor. However, the immense desire of the European girls to continue their Asian odyssey should efface the pain of tired legs.
Nonetheless, there is good reason for the Russian delegation to be pleased with their tournament so far. It was no mean feat to survive a group containing the defending champions USA as well as the respective winners in Europe and Asia (Spain and Korea Republic) and make the quarter-finals at their first attempt. But for all that, the European side know they will have to raise their game after twice being beaten in Group C.
"Playing Brazil will be tough. As we haven't seen them play here, we're not entirely sure what we're going to be up against. But we'll watch their videos and try and dissect their game. I know they've had a good team for some time now. Once my girls recover, they will be raring to go. I can assure you they will make things difficult," said the Russian coach when asked about his rival.
The best form of defence is attack
With the defender Elysa serving the second of her three match ban for a red card against Nigeria , Ferreira badly needs to shore up the back line to fend off any lightning breaks from Russia's pacy wingers. The coach was not entirely happy with his team's performance in their last two games and has plenty to worry about ahead of the Russian match. "We have to battle two things on Sunday: the opposition, and our own tiredness. Thankfully we have a few days now to regain our strength. I know it will be a difficult game, but I have the utmost faith in my players."
If the potent Marta-Kelly-Cristiane attacking trio play like they did in their last Group B game against China, then their coach's worries may well prove unfounded. Once again, the player to watch is Marta. As undisputed leader of the Auriverde strike force, she will be hoping to coax the best Samba football from her team-mates.
For a team that has within its ranks four players who won silver at this year's Olympic Football Tournament in Athens, and several veterans from the inaugural FIFA World Championship in Canada 2002, to go out so early in the tournament would be a huge disappointment. The goal they have set themselves is to improve on their fourth place of 2002. On that occasion, luck seemed to abandon the South Americans when they lost both their semi-final match against Canada and their third place game against Germany on penalties. This time, they are praying things will be different.