Amanda savours surprise strike
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Affected by the heat and overpowering humidity during their FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup clash with Italy in Saitama on Sunday, Brazil were growing increasingly desperate to score so as to avoid kicking off the tournament with a defeat.

With an extra player on the pitch and the end of the game fast approaching, Caio Couto’s charges appeared nervous, hoping to be rescued by a piece of individual brilliance from one of their recognised stars. With 92 minutes on the clock, they finally got their wish, but the goal itself did not come from the boot of Thais Guedes, Beatriz or Ketlen.

Wearing No14 on her back, it was Amanda, a newcomer to the squad, who emerged as A Seleção Brasileira’s unlikely saviour. The midfielder, filling in at left-back following the substitution of Andressa, chose the perfect moment to make her mark.

Picking up a pass down the left-hand side, she flicked the ball over the head of an Italian defender, controlled it with her chest, and from the tightest of angles, fired a looping volley into the back of the net, leaving opposing goalkeeper Laura Giuliani with no chance.

Notably, it was the second eye-catching goal of the tournament’s opening match, both of which will doubtless go down as two of the competition’s finest. And just like her scoring counterpart, Elena Linari, who notched the first goal for the Italians, Amanda was barely able to describe her remarkable feat to FIFA.com.

“Well, it’s the kind of goal that just comes naturally,” joked the 19-year-old, smiling from ear to ear.

“The match was very tense, and we needed that result. When I got the ball, I didn’t really think about it that much. I just wanted to hit the target, and I finished it off well in the end,” she said, keen to stress the importance of the tactical adjustments made by Brazil’s coach.

“I started off playing in midfield, but when our full-back went off, he asked me to cover the left flank. I did, and it worked well,” continued the Foz Cataratas player.

Unforeseen opportunity
Amanda’s outstanding strike transformed her into the star of the day in Japan. She took part in the press conference usually reserved for coaching staff, and was the last player to reclaim her seat on the team bus, at which point she promptly received a standing ovation from her team-mates, who had been waiting patiently for her.

It is an unexpected turn of events for someone who, until recently, could not have imagined being part of the Brazilian U-20 squad or appearing on the world stage at Japan 2012, let alone scoring so spectacularly in her country’s opening encounter.

“This is just my second cap for the U-20 side – the first came in a warm-up match ahead of this tournament, after which they told me that I’d be part of the final squad,” said Amanda, who until early 2011 was still playing Futsal for Assai in the southern state of Parana.

“Then I was invited to join Renata Costa’s academy – she plays for the Brazil senior team. I did a bit of growing up there, and now here I am,” she explained.

Amanda, visibly delighted at Brazil’s last-gasp salvage operation, remains somewhat disappointed and concerned by certain aspects of her team’s play during their initial match. “There’s no doubt that our first-half display was quite a bit poorer than we were expecting. There just wasn’t the usual Brazilian rhythm,” said the young South American.

“Luckily, in the second half our coach got it right and we got back on track. I hope we can continue to head in the right direction,” she said. Against a formidable Nigeria side on Wednesday, Brazil may well find themselves in further need of Amanda’s inspiration.