Port Said was kind to Brazil. Unbeaten in four games at Egypt 2009's northernmost venue, A Seleção scored 11 goals, conceded just two and basked in the locals' warm, wholehearted acclaim. The coastal city also proved a happy hunting ground for Alan Kardec, who struck three times in as many starts to become the South American champions' top scorer. Strange, then, to hear the Brazil No9 admit that he couldn't wait to leave.
Yet it is not that the Internacional striker is ungrateful to Port Said or its hospitable citizens; rather that he has long dreamt of taking his team's FIFA U-20 World Cup onwards, upwards, and southwards - to Cairo. After all, Kardec knows only too well that, with the Egyptian capital hosting Brazil's quarter-final with Germany - not to mention both semi-finals and the final - it is here, in this bustling metropolis, that their destiny will be determined. And he wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
"The people in Port Said were very kind to us but we have always been eager to go to Cairo," he told FIFA.com. "I don't know if we will have time to go to the Pyramids or anything like that but, really, that's not important for us. The reason we wanted come here is because the last phases of the competition were always going to be in Cairo. This is where the big matches will be and it's here where we will hopefully take our final steps towards the title."
Kardec and Co certainly signed off at Port Said in style, producing some jaw-dropping football in a 3-1 win over Uruguay lauded as "a classic" by coach Rogerio Lourenco. It was Kardec himself, who operates at the apex of Rogerio's flamboyant front four, who kicked off the scoring, and the Internacional striker agreed that La Celeste had been the victims of Brazil's best performance to date.
"I think the team worked especially hard to win this one and the first half was very, very good," he said. "There was a great focus and determination throughout the squad because we know that we're at the stage where there's no going back - it's win at all costs now. If we can maintain that focus, I would be very confident of our chances."
He is not the only one. Diego Aguirre, the Uruguay coach, was effusive in his praise of La Celeste's conquerors, describing Brazil as "certainly the favourites to win the trophy". His reasoning was refreshingly simple: "They have the best players at the tournament."
"We appreciate those kind words and hopefully we can prove them to be correct," said Kardec. "It's certainly true that, wherever Brazil goes, we go to win the title. This team is no different. But we also know that we must remain humble. In football, you only reach your objective by focusing on challenges one by one."
With a trio of goals already to his name, Kardec has an additional challenge: pursuing Egypt 2009's adidas Golden Shoe. As things stand, four players are a goal better off than the Brazil centre-forward, but only one - Ghana's Dominic Adiyiah - is still involved in the tournament. Kardec, therefore, has every right to fancy his chances.
"That is a target for me," he said of the top scorer award. "And with such great players beside me, I think it is a possibility if I continue in good form. But although finishing as top scorer would be great on a personal level, the only prize that really matters at a World Cup is a winners' medal."
That is a target for me. And with
such great players beside me, I think it is a possibility if I continue
in good form.