Welcome Tour reaches Rio de Janeiro
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Though there is no doubt the magnificent FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Trophy catches the eye wherever it goes, the fact the coveted prize is solid gold with a green-tinged base has been hailed as a positive omen in Brazilian women’s football. “I think that this (having the same colours as our flag) means that it’ll end up in our hands,” quipped the prolific Santos and Seleção striker Cristiane.

The Germany 2011 Welcome Tour, organised by FIFA and the competition’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) and which takes in the 15 nations joining the hosts at this summer’s competition, touched down in Rio de Janeiro exactly 97 days before the start of the tournament. Attending the event on 21 March were experienced Brazil internationals such as Cristiane and Aline Pellegrino, as well as 18-year-old Thais, who was representing an exciting new crop of Seleção starlets.

“We’ve come really close over the last few years and the Seleção’s recent results suggest that the time could be ripe for Brazil,” said national coach Kleiton Lima, summing up the tangibly high expectations of a successful sojourn on German soil. “We started a new cycle in 2009 with a project designed to keep hold of experienced players while unearthing talented newcomers. That’s bearing fruit as we’ve now got a nice blend of both. We’ll be aiming for the world title.”

Jones speaking from experience
During the ceremony in Rio, the Brazilian players present handed LOC President Steffi Jones a Brazil shirt with Marta No10 on the back, as well as a commemorative plaque. Jones, a member of Germany’s FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003-winning squad, pulled on the jersey before giving her view on the progress women’s football has made in Brazil and the warm welcome she had received since arriving.

“I’m really impressed by the welcome we’ve had here. Football is everywhere in Brazil and people talk about it all the time, so to us the atmosphere feels very receptive. I hope that the atmosphere in Germany is the same during the competition,” continued Jones. “Brazil have come on leaps and bounds, while exceptional players like Marta have been hugely influential. But there’s no reason to stop there, Brazil have a great team and a great future ahead.”

Jones then went on to recall a thrilling group-stage meeting between Germany and Brazil at USA 1999. “I had the honour of playing against them and it was crazy: they were so good and so fast. It was a very difficult match,” she said of the 3-3 draw. “Brazil are a side that have come very close to winning the world title and they’ve deserved to win something for some time now.”

Trophy within reach
Having taken up position next to the coveted Trophy during the ceremony, defender Aline recalled how close Brazil came to lifting the prize four year ago. “I could say that I’ve never been so close to the Trophy, but in 2007 we were. Unfortunately we were beaten in the Final by Germany,” said Aline.

“But now I think things are falling into place perfectly for us to bring it home. We’ve got a very balanced side with a blend of veterans and new talents, a mix which ensures a very solid group mentality. We’ll be giving it our all.”

Drawn in an intriguing section also containing Australia, Norway and Equatorial Guinea, coach Lima echoed Aline’s belief that Brazil can go far at Germany 2011. “We’ve got to focus on one game at a time. It’s a very tough group as Australia and Norway are established powers and Guinea have been getting some good results. But we’re totally convinced that our overwhelming desire to win the Trophy will see us through.”

The next stop for the Germany 2011 Welcome Tour, which kicked off in the Australian capital Sydney on 8 December 2010, is Colombia.