Marta's golden goal

A sinewy bundle of nerves off the pitch, hardly able to sit still for 30 seconds, Brazilian phenomenon Marta is the picture of pure elegance with a ball at her feet. At just 22, she may well be the greatest female footballer of all time, and she is keen to turn her side's fabulous play so far here in China into a golden run to Beijing.

Standing in the way are Norway, always a force to be reckoned with in women's football. "We know they are a tactical, organised team," the 2007 FIFA Women's World Player of the year tells in Tianjin, site of the mouth-watering last-eight clash. "The key is to not let them have the ball. So, we'll need to keep hold of it and move it around in the Brazilian way."

Between them, Marta and good friend and strike partner Cristiane have scored four goals in three games at these Beijing finals. Their long-time partnership has them looking a veritable force of nature, and the Norwegian defence - who conceded five against Japan in their last pool match - will need to keep more than one eye on the dynamic duo. "We understand each other very, very well," Marta says of Cristiane, who is joint top-scorer with three goals. "We have played together for a long time and the understanding on the pitch will always be there because we are such great friends off it.

"If we are able to keep the ball and make Norway chase us, then Cristiane and I can show our talent going forward," Marta continued.

Drawing their opener 0-0 against Germany, the Brazilians began to grow in confidence and improve as a team. Wins over Korea DPR and Nigeria followed as they topped Group F. "Sure, we've been getting better all the time," added the Sweden-based Umea player who first burst on to the international scene at the FIFA Women's U-20 World Cup in Thailand in 2004. "We are playing better football with every game, and we are looking stronger just in time for the opponents to be getting stronger too."

The memory of losing in the Gold Medal match to the USA four years ago in Athens is still one that haunts young Marta. This time, though, she is convinced things will be different. "In Athens we were a good team and we were well prepared," insists the player. "But we had a lot of the girls playing in their first big tournament there. Now, we all have experience in big games and we know what it takes to win them."

Having reached the final of last year's FIFA Women's World Cup - also in China - the Brazilian team leader and top player has nothing but victory on her mind.

"I think we have a team good enough to win gold here in China," she concludes. "Our expectations are greater and our determination is as high as it can be."