On the lips of most experts predicting winners for the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship were the United States, Canada, and Germany. All three have reached the expected heights of the semi-finals, showing their obvious class along the way. However, in Edmonton for the final matches, they will be joined by the surprise package of the tournament: Explosive, wildly talented Brazil.
Perhaps it was the fact that they only had to qualify from South America past one other team, or that they were drawn into the toughest group, but not many gave the Brazilians a chance in the tournament. Well, after demolishing Mexico and France, and sneaking by seasoned European champions Germany and physical Australia, the girls in that familiar yellow of football victory have proven that they should be underestimated by no one.
What they have done so far is impressive. Four victories in four matches, fourteen goals scored by six different players. But, more than that has been their tireless running and pressing, their need to keep moving forward, and of course their typical Brazilian gift for flair.
Now however, they must face rampaging host, Canada, in front of a mass of screaming supporters. Not that that challenge is making coach Paulo Goncalves change his plans any. When asked if the attack-minded team will try to sit back more against Canada, he scoffs, "This team was picked and organised to be an offensive team, and we will always be an offensive team. We gave up three goals against Mexico and three against Australia, but I am confident that we will continue to scored more goals than we give away."
Of course, he does recognize the step up in class, and must even more so after Canada's 6-2 demolition of England in the quarter-finals.
"Of course, Canada are very tall and strong," he said. "That means we will have to approach the match with a different strategy against them. I have no doubts that we will be able to do that."
One voice of warning came from Australian coach Mike Mulvey, whose team was knocked out by the South Americans on a golden goal. "Brazil are a very fine team, but the US or Canada will beat them. Don't get me wrong, they are a very very good side, but I don't think anyone has pressured them. They like to play the ball out and take risks at the back. We tried to pinch them tonight, and I think it worked."
Naturally, Goncalves doesn't agree. He said, smiling, "Well, obviously, we don't have to believe his opinion. We will have to see what happens when we play."
The Brazilians played Canada just before the tournament began, losing 2-0 in a friendly in Calgary. However, the confidence the Brazilians have gained through their four matches mean the re-match should be a very different affair.
Captain and winning goal scorer against Australia, Daniela said after the quarter-final victory, "We are united. We have a lot of determination. More than any other side I've been on, I believe we can win."
The coach adds, "We played Canada in a friendly, but we did not have our full team playing," said the coach. "We were missing some players, but of course, we recognize that Canada has a very strong squad."