Captain Canarinha on a mission
© Getty Images

Baby-faced, with a shy and gentle air about her, Brazil forward Thais kindly agreed to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to chat with about her side's qualification for the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010, their first participation in the knockout phase of this event.

Away from the pitch, and minus her trademark white headband, she could not be more different from the authoritative persona she adopts as captain of her country. A pacy and tactically astute player, she leads by example, focusing completely on her role in the side; setting up and scoring goals. The Santos striker is one of the veterans of this year’s competition, having been part of the Brazil team that participated in the inaugural edition in New Zealand two years ago.

The joy is intense, mainly because we’ve achieved something that’s not been done before. It’s enormously satisfying to be in the last eight.
Thais on Brazil's first run to the quarters of a FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup

“I was very young at that tournament. It was the first time I’d travelled so far away from my family,” she explains. Just 15 at the time, her age did not prevent her coach from placing complete trust in her talents, slotting her into the starting line-up of all three of A Canarinha’s matches there. “You learn over time, and I think I’ve developed quite a bit over the last couple of years. Many of the experiences that I had back then have been helpful to me here,” she says.

In 2008, the South Americans failed to progress beyond the group stage, but this time around, Thais and Co have managed to go one better by qualifying for the quarter-finals. “The joy is intense, mainly because we’ve achieved something that’s not been done before. It’s enormously satisfying to be in the last eight, and we’re going to fight as hard as we can to become champions,” said Thais directly after Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Canada, a result which secured second spot in Group D and a place in the knockout phase.

An admirer of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, it was not until that final game that Thais succeeding in getting on the scoresheet in Trinidad and Tobago, dispatching a powerful low shot into the corner after being set up nicely by Glaucia. “I’m happy to have scored my first World Cup goal. But I’m even happier that I’m playing well and helping my team to pick up good results,” she says modestly. “Maybe we should have scored more, when you look at how much possession we’ve had, but I think that a lot of credit should go to our opponents, who have all defended extremely well and often managed to disrupt our natural game,” she adds.

Spain block route to semis
During the group stage, Brazil had time to recover from the setback they suffered in losing their second game 1-0 to Ghana, but in the upcoming quarter-final clash with emphatic Group C winners Spain, there will be no margin for error. “We’ve seen them play and they’re clearly a strong side. But we have a good enough team to beat them. We’ll be completely focused on winning every ball and qualifying for the semi-finals,” she insists.

But after the tough time endured by her team in New Zealand, Thais does not want to come across as over-confident. “We all need to keep improving. Each game provides us with a bit more experience. We have to keep working away in training, because some of the matches have not been easy and there are certain aspects of our play that need to be tightened up.” Just what these aspects are, she declines to say – the Brazilian captain will leave those instructions to her on-field alter ego...