Alves eyes crowning glory

It's party time in the Brazilian dressing room and the music is turned up loud as the celebrating players gather their belongings. Instruments in hand, Katia Cilene and Maycon set the beat as the jubilant Canarinhas, singing as one, sashay out of the door. And with the music still ringing in her ears, Daniela Alves dances her way on to the waiting bus, checking her mobile phone as she goes.

"Music is way of expressing our joy," she tells "It never stops. We sing on the way to the stadium, on the way back to the hotel, on the way to training sessions."

No wonder the Brazilians were swaying their hips in celebration as they exited the Hangzhou Dragon Stadium. Victories such as Thursday's 4-0 demolition of the USA, the heaviest defeat the Stars and Stripes have ever suffered, do not come along every day, far less so in a FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final.

"We're on top of the world because we've finally managed to beat them after all these years," explained the No7. "It's tremendously satisfying. It's such an important win for us because we are aiming for our first world title and we knew this game would be like a final."

"This win is for my family in Bahia and Sao Paulo, and for my boyfriend," continues the 24-year-old, beaming with pride as she responds to the flood of messages on her phone.

Going for goals
Although the Brazilians endured a couple of minor scares in the early stages of their semi-final showdown, they soon took control of the game to push the Americans on to the defensive. "We were so determined to win when we went out there," adds Daniela. "It was the game of our lives for all of us. We were completely focused and weren't even thinking about who was on the other side. We knew we had to win to reach the final, no matter who we were playing."

Fellow finalists Germany are now looming on the horizon for Daniela and her team-mates. For the time being at least, however, the only thing on their minds is savouring victory over a side that has had the edge over them for years. If Daniela has but one small wish to make, it is that she can start weighing in with some goals to lighten the burden on her in-form team-mates. She said: "I'm delighted because my team-mates Marta, Cristiane and Formiga have been scoring goals. I'm just waiting to get in on the act, but the goals don't seem to be coming (laughs). Let's hope that changes in the final against Germany."

The powerful midfielder with a rocket-like shot has just one goal to her name at China 2007, a trademark strike from distance to open her side's account against New Zealand in their first group match. Nevertheless, although she has gone goalless since then, typically commanding midfield displays against Denmark and Australia led to her being voted player of the match in both those games.

A watershed
With the team as a whole in such fine form, the mood in the Brazil camp is bordering on the euphoric. Most of Jorge Barcellos' team have been together for four years now, during which time they have claimed two Pan-American Games gold medals and a silver at Athens 2004. Whatever else happens at China 2007, they have already secured their best-ever position at a FIFA Women's World Cup finals, topping the third place they achieved at USA 1999.

"Our aim is to write our name in the history books of Brazilian football," she continues with unmistakable confidence in her voice. "We are looking upon this World Cup as the opportunity of a lifetime. We really needed this win, and reaching the Final can change lots of things in Brazil. Winning it would help Brazilian women's football so, so much."

Daniela, who cites national men's coach Dunga as one of her heroes, believes there is no limit to what the team can achieve, "I honestly couldn't tell you what our weak point is. Our greatest strength, though, is that we are a family, not a team. We spend more time with each other than our own families, and it's that unity that has taken us to the final."

As the party continues, Daniela signs off by revealing her long-cherished ambition. "My biggest wish is to play professionally in my country." Victory over Birgit Prinz and Co on Sunday would no doubt go a long way towards bringing that dream to fruition.