Of the 22 players that take to the field in the Final of the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE on 19 December, one is going into the game with mixed feelings about his opponents. Brazil's main man and right-back Daniel will be squaring up to the representatives of the country he has lived and worked in for the last year. FIFA.com spoke exclusively to the Auriverde rising star ahead of the eagerly-anticipated showdown.
It only takes a few minutes' chat with him to realise: Daniel is one happy young man. Not just because he is a member of the Brazilian squad that is 90 minutes away from yet another World Championship title. The South American is also over the moon about how life is treating him in Seville, his adopted home and workplace: "The city came as a real surprise to me. I was expecting something colder, but it's a lot like the place I lived in when I was in Brazil." So settled is Daniel in the south of Spain that he can even afford to joke about missing the little things from back home: "True, there's no Caipirinha, but I can get by without it for now!"
Following his outstanding performance in the South American Youth Championship Uruguay 2003, Sevilla CF swooped quickly to sign him up for the current season: "It's something that filled me with pride at the time and it still makes me really happy even now. I just hope I can stay there a lot longer," says the young promise.
A huge admirer of Cafú, Daniel is well aware he is living a highpoint of his career so far: "Today was a nightmare of a day with the journalists. They've all been on the phone from Spain because they know it's going to be a special game for me." And far from shunning all the media attention, the young wing-back responds to each request to talk with a courteous smile.
"I was speaking to a Spanish friend of mine today and there's a slap-up meal riding on the winner. I hope we do it. In the U-17 Final, I didn't bet and Brazil won, so I hope we can beat Spain again," he says.
“Better that it's Spain”
Unlike a lot of footballers, Daniel does not switch to autopilot when it comes to answering the journalist's questions. He laughs a lot, hardly hesitates and shoots from the hip with the first thing that enters his head. That is why this confession comes as no surprise: "It's better that Spain are our rivals. The others would play from deep in defence and it'd be hard to find space. But it'll be different with them."
But while the curly-locked youngster fancies his side's chances, he knows full well what the Iberians are capable of: "They're tough customers, with a lightning-quick forward line. They could cause us problems, so we have to make the most of every chance we have. If we manage to do that, and stay sharp right down to the final whistle, we could take the title."
If Brazilians in general are known for their happy-go-lucky approach to existence, what can be said about this group of young men who are only hours away from the biggest games of their respective careers to date? Ear-to-ear smiles, pranks and roars of laughter are the order of the day: "This is an incredible bunch of lads. I've known nothing like it. It's impossible to see any of us without a smile on our faces or up to some sort of trick. It's what sets us apart from the rest and we'll never lose it. I hope we're just as happy after the Final so we can go bonkers there!"
A lot has happened to Daniel in his 20 short years: "I began playing when I was a little kid. Just like in every family, my dad bought me a ball because he dreamed of having a footballer for a son," he remembers. "Then it all happened really quickly: playing in the street, in Bahía, the South American Youth Championship and the move to Spain. I hope my family can keep on enjoying this as much as I am," says a guy who six months ago entered a whole new ball game: married life: "I know I'm only young, but when you're in love you don't think about these things. My wife makes me really happy and she's always there for me."
Of course, it is not all roses living as a twosome: "Football is my life, my passion. When I'm not playing, I sit down and watch football on the television. If it's not on, I start playing football videogames with my mates. My wife's not too happy about that!" he guffaws.
Since he seems more than happy to answer any question that is fired at him, FIFA.com attempts to squeeze a scoreline prediction from the number 2. But like so many opposing forwards when they come up against the young defender on the pitch, the attempt comes to nothing: "Don't ask me for a result, I don't like to tempt fate with things like that. Let's hope Brazil win! As long as it’s at least 1-0 to us, I don't mind!"