Marta is the latest Brazilian superstar

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HANGZHOU, China - Like just about all the great Brazilian soccer stars, Marta Vieira da Silva is known by a single name.

Star forward Marta celebrates Brazil's quarterfinal victory over Denmark in the Women's World Cup last week. Marta's five goals tie her for the tournament lead in scoring.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Star forward Marta celebrates Brazil's quarterfinal victory over Denmark in the Women's World Cup last week. Marta's five goals tie her for the tournament lead in scoring.

When she swivels, defenders spin to follow her darting feet. She's slight, but her thin legs generate graceful power and audacious fakes. She can sprint and yet linger over the ball, punching it off her heel or instep without breaking stride.

She grew up poor in Brazil and her idols were such one-name wonders as Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Her moves are similar, her goals equally ambitious.

"They were all examples to me, the ones who we all knew," she said after practice, speaking in her native Portuguese. "I was born playing football. I don't know where I learned to play. I've been doing it since I was 7. My inspiration is my family, for all the tough things they have gone through."

Marta and her Brazilian teammates face the United States on Thursday in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup in Hangzhou.

The Americans, undefeated in 51 games over almost three years, will find a host of other single-name players across the midfield and front line. There's Maycon, Cristiane, Formiga, Daniela and Ester - all almost as talented as Marta and standing between the No. 1-ranked U.S. and its bid for a third World Cup title.

The final is Sunday in Shanghai and three of the semifinalists - the U.S., Norway and Germany - have won the World Cup before. Defending champion Germany plays Norway on Wednesday in Tianjin.

Brazil is a new threat, and No. 10 in yellow and green in a key reason.

"Marta has so much confidence when she is on the ball," said U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx, who played against her in the 2004 Olympic final, which the U.S. won 2-1 in extra time. "Their whole team is very crafty, but she is the one you cannot lose focus on because then she'll take it to you. She may put you to sleep, then all of a sudden she'll be ready."

In Sunday's 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Australia, Marta converted a penalty kick to make it 2-0 - her fifth goal to share the lead in tournament scoring.

"Marta knows how to play like a man. This is probably what makes her different," Brazil teammate Simone said. "I don't think you should really compare her to the men because she's a woman. But she's special."

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