Lulinha: We're very confident

The moment of reckoning has almost arrived for Brazil's U-17 side, who will tomorrow kick off their quest to conquer the world. They will, nonetheless, take to the field against New Zealand under the burdensome weight of expectation.

This is a not only a circumstance of their status as three-time FIFA U-17 World Cup winners and reigning continental champions, but also a consequence of the immense talent at coach Lucho Nizzo's disposal.
The most illuminative star in the Seleção's glittering galaxy is undoubtedly Lulinha, and on the eve of his country's curtain raiser, the 17-year-old with the mouth-watering skills and unmistakable smile sat down with to discuss the mood in the Brazilian camp, his team's chances of success, their chief rivals for honours, and his desire to use the competition as a platform to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Lulinha, how have Brazil's preparations been going for the FIFA U-17 World Cup?
The preparations have been very good. We're very confident. The training has been going really well. We've been training hard to make sure that when we arrive on the pitch, we'll be ready.

What's the spirit like within the squad?
The spirit is as good as it could possibly be. There is a great togetherness within the squad. We all have a lot of confidence in each other and in the coach.

You won the South American title in March with Edgar Pereira as coach, but he has since been replaced by Lucho Nizzo. How has this affected the team?
We are still the same team who won the South American Championship. The players are accustomed to playing together as we have done for a long time now. One good trainer has been replaced by another but if anything, we have had the benefit of learning from them both. We will now set out to win the World Cup in the same way we set out to win the South American title.

Brazil have been grouped with New Zealand, England and Korea DPR - do you feel this is a difficult group? What do you make of your rivals?
Yes, I think it's a difficult group. New Zealand are a good side, a well organised side who mark well and can hit you on the counter attack. Korea DPR are playing close to home and, without doubt, will be a difficult team to play against. And everybody knows about England. They have a very good side and will be a force in this World Cup.

I haven't seen too much of most of our rivals, so it's difficult to say. I think it's an open tournament, a number of sides have a decent shot at the title. But I think Spain will be very strong. They have a lot of great players, big names in their squad. England also have some very good players and Korea Republic, with home advantage, will be strong.

Let's talk a little bit about you individually. Who are your idols in football?
Ronaldinho Fenomeno and Ronaldinho Gaucho. Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

What is your preferred position: attacking midfield or up front?
Attacking midfield.

You've been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe, such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and the Milanese giants. Is it your ambition to join one of the Old Continent's major forces?
Every player dreams of playing for a European giant like Barcelona, Real Madrid or any other big club for that matter. I'm no different. I would like to play there, but right now I am just concentrating on the U-17 World Cup and doing everything I can to help Brazil realise their goals.

Do you think the FIFA U-17 World Cup helps prepare players for the FIFA World Cup?
Certainly, we have seen this over the years. Great players have made this transition, even Ronaldinho Gaucho. He played in the U-17 World Cup in 1997 and then played for the senior Seleção at the 2002 World Cup, becoming a world champion in both categories. This tournament (FIFA U-17 World Cup) provides players with invaluable experience and this has helped a lot of them adapt to playing in the principal World Cup.

Which of your team-mates do you think will shine in Korea?
We have so many players who have the ability to shine. Brazil have a very talented squad but the wingback twins (Rafael and Fabio) are excellent players who are sure stand out, as will Alex of Vasco and Tales. We have a lot of outstanding players in the squad who I know will impress in Korea.

Finally, do you believe the Seleção will lift up the trophy on 9 September?
We're very confident that we can do it. We have to be confident. There are a lot a good sides in the World Cup so we know it will be difficult, but we are confident that we can reach the final on the 9th of September and win the trophy.