Nathalie Quezada got her first taste of football when, as a kid, she accompanied her older brothers to training. Discovering she had a flair for the beautiful game, the striker took up futsal so as to improve her technique, and went on to play for Universidad de Chile and present side Union La Calera, where she received her first international call-up.
Now, at 19, Quezada is the stand-out forward in her country's squad for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, which will begin in her native Chile on Wednesday. "We're a little nervous, of course, but also anxious to start playing and showing the public what we've been working towards for so long," the player told FIFA.com after a training session.
"The team have had a very intense 12 months and experienced some very good times as well as difficult ones. On the whole, though, we're delighted that a World Cup is being hosted here, and our job now is to do all we can so that things go well for us."
Under the leadership of Spanish coach Marta Tejedor, Las Rojitas have suffered some recent setbacks with friendly defeats to Argentina, Brazil and France, but a win over Uruguay means they are still hopeful of a good performance at Chile 2008. "The mood in the camp is a little subdued, but what we need to do now is just keep on working. They were only friendly games so it's not a major problem. Next week we'll be giving our all out on the pitch to show everyone what we're capable of," Quezada affirmed.
Chile's first task will be to try to come out of Group A, where they have been drawn alongside England, New Zealand and Nigeria. "We've already faced New Zealand and England so we have an idea about how they play. ," insisted the striker. "There's a lot of skill in this side and we control the ball well. On top of that we have a lot of fight in us," she adds.
Winds of change
Chile's hosting of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup is helping to change attitudes in a country where, until recently, football was almost exclusively a man's game. "Before, you would rarely see women playing football, but not anymore," explained the Ronaldinho fan.
"You see young girls enjoying a kick-about a lot more and many clubs now have women's teams. All that is being boosted by the World Cup, which gives [the sport here] another dimension. What we've experienced this year has been like a dream; we never imagined how much this event would help us achieve."
With her goal of one day playing in a top league overseas, Quezada knows that Chile 2008 is the ideal stage to showcase her marksmanship to the watching world. "I've been working on my scoring instincts," he said.
"With time and practice you learn, just like everything else I just want to give everything I've got and for people to have faith in me, because I'm going to have a good World Cup."