Brazil is renowned as a country bursting with joie de vivre, pulsating with laughter, dance and samba rhythms.

In this sense, the Brazilian party at the U-20 FIFA Women's World Championship Russia 2006 are typical representatives of their country; night and day, a vibrant current of high spirits and music pervades every corner of their team camp.

In terms of results, Brazil share top spot in Group A with hosts Russia after two matches. The teams played out a goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament before the Auriverde, coached by Jorge Barcelos, ran up a 2-0 victory over Australia. It was a win which prompted the South Americans to race home from the Petrovsky stadium in St Petersburg, pick up their percussion instruments and pound out a noisy samba beat.

There was more to the impromptu concert than a simple celebration of victory. "We make music as a team-building exercise, to bring us closer together," captain Renata Costa told "We play samba at the hotel from morning to night, and it makes us stronger."

The 20-year-old is an accomplished performer on the bandeiro, a traditional drum, and as striker Stephane, all Brazilians are born with music flowing through their veins. "It's a Brazilian tradition, we believe in a life full of joy," she grinned. 

Favourites? Brazil, of course
For all the revelry, the South Americans are deadly serious about sporting success. Costa, practically a veteran in an exceptionally young team, is taking part at her fourth world championship after contesting the FIFA U-19 tournaments in Canada 2002 and Thailand 2004, and the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003.

The player's determination to lead her team to glory in Russia is reflected in her unashamedly confident answer to the question of the tournament's most likely winners. "Brazil are the favourites," she says, convinced that it is her side's destiny to lift the trophy.

Brazilian confidence is partially based on the presence of the in-form Fabiana, the FIFA Technical Study Group's Player of the Match against Australia. The lightning-fast striker earned a penalty, safely converted by Francielle to hand her side the lead, before settling the issue after half-time with a neatly-worked goal.

The player herself refused to get carried away. "I have to thank my team-mates for their part in my goal. I reckon we all played well today," the scorer insisted, looking forward to the final group fixture with cautious optimism. "We mustn't underestimate New Zealand, they'll do everything they can to finish their World Cup campaign on a winning note."

Brazil are consumed by a passion to win the tournament after falling to China PR in the Thailand 2004 semi-finals, having previously exited at the same stage two years earlier against hosts Canada. "Winning the tournament would be extremely important for the team - we want to be in the final," Costa confirms.

The midfielder took up the game as a nine-year-old and was coached in a boys' team by her father, who first recognised his daughter's talent and ability. Stephane's background is perhaps more typical of Brazilian footballers of both sexes.

She simply started kicking a ball about in the streets with local lads at the age of seven, before her impressive talent won her father to her side. "My dad always told me I was good and had the potential to do more," she explains. "Family support is extremely important for a player's development." 

Moscow without Marta
The squad flew to Moscow on Monday for their final group match, and have every intention of staying for as long as possible.

"We're looking forward to playing in Moscow because we know victory over New Zealand would put us in the quarter-finals," the team captain declares, naming the players she most admires as men's international Ze Roberto and prodigiously gifted women's star Marta.

"All the women love Marta," Renata Costa said of the player who missed out on Russia 2006 after her club, Umea, refused to sanction her release. "It's important for women's football that we have shining examples like her. It helps increase the sport's popularity."

Russia 2006 represents an outstanding opportunity for players like Costa, Stephane and Fabiana to show off their skills to the wider world. "It's a big help for Brazilian players to improve our profile and attract interest from European clubs," Costa points out.

She could imagine following in the footsteps of Marta to Umea in Sweden, or Cristiane to German side Turbine Potsdam, but success in Russia is of primary importance for now. All three players are confident of success. "Our squad is like a large family," explains Fabiana, the third-youngest player in the team. "The age differences don't matter. We're all important, young and old. We've set ourselves the target of winning the U-20 World Championship."

If Brazil do go all the way, the good citizens of Moscow will no doubt be treated to even longer and more boisterous samba rhythms than normal.