Brazil boss Nelson Rodrigues is anything but surprised at his side's billing as favourites for the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 final against Mexico. "Brazil are always pre-tournament favourites, so we're not exactly strangers to the situation. You have to live with this special kind of pressure if you take on a coaching job with Brazil," Rodrigues told FIFA.com.
Understandably enough, the South Americans have become accustomed to coping with the permanent weight of expectation. "It's very simple. We have to live up to our role as favourites, so we work harder than other teams. All our opponents are more determined than normal against us. Everyone wants to cut the defending champions and the world's leading football nation down to size." Rodrigues is under no illusions as to what awaits his lads in the meeting with Mexico. "They're a very strong team, and it will undoubtedly be a tough match. They're tactically very advanced. They play with two four-man zones, and in Giovani Dos Santos they have a player who could turn the match on his own. There's no doubt this will be the most difficult match of the tournament."
The Brazilians have hardly cruised through the event so far, although following an opening 3-1 defeat against Gambia, the reigning champions have improved from match to match. They still needed a healthy portion of good fortune in the second half of the semi-final against Turkey as the Europeans battled back from three goals down and threatened to take the lead. "But I reckon we actually played well in the second half against the Turks. We simply failed to take our chances, while Turkey took everything that came their way."
Rodrigues had been expecting nothing less than a bruising battle all the way up to and including the final. "It's been a tough tournament for us so far. We were without Kerlon, the best player in South American qualification, so I'm hardly surprised we haven't had it easy up to now. But we bounced back from the opening defeat, won our group, and are now set on winning the trophy," the coach declared.
Brazil are perennial finalists at the FIFA U-17 World Championship after reaching the last two for the fifth time in the last six tournaments. The South Americans lifted the trophy in 1997, 1999 and 2003, but fell to Ghana in 1985. They have previously met the Mexicans just once at a FIFA U-17 World Championship, winning 2-0 in 1985.