Precisely two years ago, when some of her team-mates in today’s U-17 Seleção were just starting out, the midfielder Andressa was preparing to take part in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Trinidad & Tobago 2010, then the high point of her burgeoning career.
And although the then 15-year-old had a rude awakening when As Canarinhas were dumped out in the quarter-finals by Spain, it proved a valuable lesson for the seasoned youngster, who already has three South American titles (two U-17s and one U-20) to her name. This vast experience, rare for someone still only 17, allied to her talent and innate leadership has seen Andressinha become one of the most potent weapons in coach Edvaldo Erlacher’s side as they bid to break new ground in Azerbaijan.
This impressive maturity, which enabled the Roque Gonzales (Rio Grande do Sul) native to hold down a starting berth in Trinidad & Tobago, continues to be her most notable trait. It has also made her captain and figurehead of a team that will kick off their Azerbaijan 2012 adventure on 23 September against a strong Japanese side.
“I’ll be trying to pass on some of that experience and give a little more stability to the team, who are very good,” said the Brazil No8. “They’re asking me a lot of questions about the tournament, the teams and how they play, and I tell them about the atmosphere they can expect at a World Cup.
"I’ve also warned them that the games are going to be very tough, while doing all I can to instil confidence in them,” added the player, who will be trying keep her team-mates’ feet on the ground after a flawless South American U-17 Championship at Bolivia 2012. “I’m forever telling them that it won’t be as easy as the Sudamericano, where we had some really emphatic victories. Every player will have to give her all and we can’t afford to be blasé about it. Everyone needs to be prepared for tough games at every juncture.”
The fixture that Andressinha remembers most clearly from Trinidad & Tobago 2010 also happened to be Brazil’s most difficult one – the 2-1 quarter-final defeat to then European champions Spain. Yet it has become a source of motivation for the captain and her team with the 2012 event just weeks away.
“This will be my second chance so I need to work a great deal, as that was the worst defeat I experienced," said the player. "It was especially painful because I believe we had the better team but didn’t play as well as we could have. Their goals stemmed from our mistakes, so what hurt wasn’t so much the fact that we lost, but the manner in which we did.
“This time I’m even more determined and will do everything in my power to prevent that happening again. My dream is to bring this trophy back to Brazil for the first time, as we could really use it to help [the women’s game here] grow even more."
For Andressinha, doing ‘everything in her power’ is not just about trying to win games with trademark Brazilian creativity. It includes a total dedication to football, even in her free time. When she is not playing, the midfielder often spends hours in front of the computer screen watching videos of leagues around the world in her quest for more tactical nous.
“Yes I research a great deal as I’m trying to understand the different systems that teams adopt," she explained. "[Coach] Edvaldo talks a lot about that, saying that everybody knows how to play. What can set other sides apart is that they're [more] disciplined and tactically organised, whereas we can end up disorganised and lose games because of it. That can really make the difference in games, even if individual skill will always be potentially decisive and a feature of Brazilian football.”
Erlacher, who first called the player up to the Seleção when she was 14, was fulsome in his praise of the captain, although he avoided placing too much responsibility on her shoulders.
“Andressa is a very young girl who happens to have a lot of experience. However, she’s an ordinary person and I always try to minimize the responsibility placed on her,” he said. “I always say to the girls that, instead of expecting so much from Andressa, I want them to strive to reach a comparable level. In Azerbaijan, there will be a lot of attention on Andressa, who will be marked very closely, so others will have to step up.”
“People love her – she has amazing charisma," went on the coach, who finished by restating his faith in his No8. "What's more, she isn’t the slightest bit conceited and takes responsibility in her stride. She’ll crack a joke when it’s the right moment, but also call for everyone to be responsible when needed. She’s a key member of the group and, because of her track record, she’s also a figurehead of the team off the pitch and an example to follow. She’ll deliver the goods!”