In professional football, at the highest level, it takes balls to win the big games.

Lucky, then, for home side Botafogo, that they had Fernanda Maia on hand in their Campeonato Carioca final against fierce local rivals Vasco de Gama.

Botafogo, already 2-0 up, were on the attack when a retreating Vasco de Gama defender booted the ball into the stands, to allow him and his team mates a much-needed breather.

A plan which immediately back-fired when ball girl Maia showed lightning quick reflexes to feed a replacement ball to an on-rushing Botafogo player, who was miraculously undistracted by the sexy 22-year-old’s ball-handling skills.

Sexy Brazilian ball girl Fernanda Maia

The quick return took Vasco de Gama by surprise, and Botafogo and Uruguay striker Sebastian Abreu was able to dash into the penalty box and square the ball to teammate Maicosuel for a simple tap in.

The home side went on to win the game and the State Championship title 3-1, but it was local girl Maia who stole the headlines.

The ball girl was credited with the “assist” by fans, but showed Lionel Messi levels of modesty in the face of praise.

“I didn’t score the goal,” she said. “Maicosuel did. He is quick and smart. I did what I always did.”

The aspiring model did what she always did so well that she was spotted by keen-eyed Brazilian Playboy scouts, who have lined her up for a sexy shoot in July’s issue of the mag.

But don’t worry, balls are still an important part of Maia’s future. She said: “I want to be the ball boy at the World Cup final. Perhaps it can happen.”

For the sake of balls the world over, we hope so.

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