Brazil finally overcame Germany in their FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005 quarter-final thanks to a lashed extra-time strike from Rafael. For all the excitement of Friday's victory, however, the tough right back was calm and serene as he spoke to ahead of his team's final training session before their semi-final with Argentina.

"I am very happy to have scored the goal that took us through. It was a critical moment in the game, with the score level at 1-1 in extra time, and it was a really big moment for me," said the 19-year-old, smiling at the memory.

Not that it was the first time the Coritiba player has stolen the glory in Brazil's march to the last four. His solitary strike, from the penalty spot, settled the round of sixteen tie against Syria.

"All of my team-mates have had their moments here. This was my second goal [of the tournament] and that's great, but I'm not getting carried away by it," the full-back said of the attention his goalscoring has earned. "We have to keep our feet on the ground and stay humble. We have to take one step at a time and remain calm, because we still haven't won anything," he adds, suppressing any vestige of euphoria.

Perhaps he is right not to get carried away. There has been little of the usual swagger and polish about Brazil's performances at these finals - witness a return of six goals in five games. "We have had a lot of chances in all our matches, at least five or six clear ones over 90 minutes, but the ball won't go in for us," Rafael explains. "All the opponents we have faced so far have been very defensive and have just sat back, so it's been hard to get through them."

Brazil's lack of cutting edge doesn't worry him, however. "Even if it was 1-0, the important thing was to get the victories we needed to reach the last four," says Rafael, who has also caught the eye with his forays up the right flank and his strength of character.

Nonetheless, Rafael and company may need to be more precise in their finishing in Utrecht on Tuesday, when they come up against Argentina. Francisco Ferraro's team leave little room to play, creating a blanket across the middle of the park that can smother the opposition. Add to that the often lethal attacking incursions of playmaker Lionel Messi, and Brazil should beware. 

"We can't just focus on one player [Messi]. Football is a team game and there are eleven players to look out for. Messi is excellent, but Argentina have other very good players and we have to watch them all. A single player never wins anything, it has to be a team effort," insists the flaxen-haired defender.

A tough contest awaits, yet Rafael is excited at the prospect of taking on his country's great rivals. "Yes, we are calm and happy, but we cannot wait for this game which is huge for all of us because of what the fixture means. Argentina-Brazil is always something special, but the fact that it is at a World Championship makes it like a final. With it being a derby we'll be even more motivated and even more determined to win," he admits.

The Brazil squad here in the Netherlands have been following the fortunes of their counterparts at the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005 - so Rafael is well aware that Tuesday's semi-final precedes another 'clásico' in the senior final 24 hours later. "We are watching all the games and it is strange that Brazil have been playing the same teams as ourselves. First it was Germany [in their semi-final], now Argentina. I just hope both teams win."

The eternal - irreconcilable, even - rivalry weighs heavily on both sets of players, although 'Rafinha', as the teenager is known, believes the pressure is even greater on Brazil. "We are five-times world champions and we have to win every match. Because of our tradition, we can't even contemplate losing, never mind against Argentina," he laughs.

Those expectations are something he would like to live with, though. Rafael dreams of following his heroes, Cafú and Denilson, into the full national team - and, of course, of representing his country at a FIFA World Cup. "All of us want to reach that level, but we still have a long way to go," he says. "I would say that the players in the Under-20 side all have a chance, and sufficient quality, to go to the very top of the game. That is why we work hard every day at our clubs," he adds, with a glint in his eye.

What currently sustains Brazil's young hopefuls is the knowledge that their efforts are not going unnoticed back home. "To know that the fans are with us, supporting us from Brazil gives us extra strength. Everyone is putting their faith in us, and we have to show our gratitude by our performances."

So the onus is on the holders to regain their title. "You can be certain that that's all we are thinking about," declares Rafael, "and now we are just two games away. I would love to do it, but we have to stay calm. First there is Tuesday to take care of, and that should be some match. Then, God willing, we'll get to the final and win the trophy."