People turn and smile when they see him walking through the stadium. But then again, this is the Netherlands, and Branco is one Brazilian that Dutch fans have engraved on their memory. The former star of the selecao is best remembered in these parts as the scorer of the 81st-minute free kick that sent the Dutch crashing out of the FIFA World Cup™ semi-finals at USA 94. Currently in the Netherlands in his role as General Coordinator of the Brazilian Federation's youth sides, he says with a smile, "Many people come up to me and remind me about that goal in 94. They are usually very nice though. It was the best game of that World Cup."
As he caught his breath after a friendly match with the volunteers working in Doetinchem for the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005, FIFA.com took the opportunity to ask him about his thoughts on the tournament.
Have you had the chance to watch many of the games so far and, if so, what do you think of the standard of play at the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005?
I've seen some top quality performances from physically strong and technically proficient sides. I've also seen a lot of beautiful goals. It's clear that many of the Confederations have made considerable progress, for example Asia, who has three of its sides in the last 16. South America has maintained its high standards with all of its sides progressing.
Has there been any team in particular that has caught your eye?
Well, what has struck me is the degree of parity between all the sides. Nonetheless Spain have looked particularly impressive - they are a side with a lot of tradition - and then of course you have the Netherlands, who are also doing well. But without a doubt the surprise package thus far has been China, who have won their opening three games.
And what about a standout player?
It's obvious that the players have been giving it everything, and that they see this World Championship as a great chance to showcase their talents and an opportunity not to be missed. I'd single out the Spanish centre-forward Fernando Llorente, and also the Dutch star Quincy Owusu Abeyie, who has pace and talent to burn. Then there's Ukraine's Olexander Aliiev, who scored two against Turkey. I'd also have to give a mention to Argentina's Messi who, more than a revelation, is now a well-established figure. I'm sure though that we'll see a lot more before the tournament is over.
Have you noted significant progress in the standard of youth football?
Yes, it's getting better all the time. I think that the gap between the Confederations is closing, which is great for the tournament as it makes it more competitive. Every side that have made it here are capable of winning (games).
How would you rate Brazil's performance to date?
They didn't play that well in their first two games against Nigeria and Switzerland, which is understandable as they played only one friendly in the build up. By their third game, they looked better, more relaxed - and that against a tough Korea Republic side that were full of running and tactically very disciplined. Next we play Syria, another dangerous side, and we'll need to keep our wits about us.