Sandra Braz Bastos says "I closed my eyes and thanked God" when she learned she had been selected to referee the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final but, as she demonstrated during a pre-match interview with UEFA.com, the Portuguese match official is leaving nothing to chance.
The ninth team at these finals originally comprised six referees, eight assistants and two fourth officials from the Italian host association; now only four remain, with Bastos due to take the whistle when Germany meet Norway in Imola on Saturday evening. She will be assisted by England's Sian Massey and Cyprus's Angela Kyriakou, with Pernilla Larsson of Sweden acting as fourth official.
It will be a day to remember for the fitness coach from Santa Maria de Feira, near Porto. "This final is a very important moment in my career," she said. "It is a reflection of my work, step by step, towards excellence. I think this final is just the beginning: there will be more [big] games and tournaments in the future for me."
At these finals two years ago Bastos was sent home after the group stage in Belarus. She made sure there would be no early exit this time. "Of course it gave me more motivation," she said, "and I never gave up. I discussed all the things I needed to improve with the observers. It was not my moment back then – my moment is now."
The FC Porto fan had studiously prepared for her first ever interview in English, a notebook filled with key phrases always within reach. She will prepare for the final with similar precision, even if the 33-year-old is no stranger to big occasions. She has officiated in several FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers and UEFA Women's Champions League matches, including this season's round of 32 meeting between AZ Alkmaar and eventual winners Olympique Lyonnais.
A taekwondo black belt, Bastos is a fitness coach – an important job in a town famous all around Portugal for its fogaça, an irresistible if not wholly healthy cake. "Actually it is difficult to talk about the Sandra without the referee uniform because all week my job is refereeing," she said.
"After work I do training and go to meetings with other referees. I usually have five matches a week, be it women's and youth on a national level, or men's and boys' games in my local association." By those standards five matches in a fortnight must seem like a rest, but it is not every day you get to referee a major final.
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