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Las Cafeteras Wake Up the World
By DANIEL THACKER
For Colombia, it was progress. While Las Cafeteras’ 1-1 draw with Mexico in Group F is hardly the most eye-catching
result from the early stages of the World Cup, the point, secured with nine
minutes remaining thanks to Daniela Montoya’s brilliant strike, leaves the
South Americans with a good chance of reaching the knockout phase for the first
time ever. There is a bullishness, particularly in Colombia, which makes one
believe that the sueño en Canadá (dream in
Canada) that the Twitter account (@FCPoderosas) so brazenly boasts about might
actually become a reality.
While it may seem presumptuous for the young, inexperienced side
to be dreaming of qualification from a group which also includes European
heavyweights France and England, there was little about the way this Colombian
outfit confidently went about their business in the Moncton Stadium on Tuesday
evening to indicate they were out of their depth. Indeed, the country’s maiden World
Cup goal was more than merited after an enterprising attacking display in which
Las Chicas Superpodorosas hit the
woodwork and had a goal disallowed for offside.
If the performance served as a wake-up call to the rest of the
world not to underestimate Felipe Taborda’s hard-running troops, it came as no
surprise back home in Colombia, which has been gripped by football fever for
weeks. Only days before the male Copa América begins, one of the country’s
major football websites, Futbolred.com,
devoted its entire homepage to the women’s World Cup campaign, with previews of
the Mexico clash and interviews with captain Natalia Gaitán and Oriánica Velásquez.
Leading dailies El Tiempo and El Espectador followed suit, with several
articles on the country’s opening match in their sport sections.
Yet while the prevailing mood pre-match was bullish, it was tinged
with an unmistakeable nervousness. After all, despite finishing as runners-up at
the 2014 Copa América, when only
a stalemate against Brazil prevented them lifting the trophy, Colombia managed
one point in their solitary previous World Cup appearance, Germany 2011, and
that courtesy of a 0-0 draw with North Korea – departing the tournament without
scoring. Indeed, even having developed into CONMEBOL’s second-best side over
recent years, they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Mexico as recently as November.
That nervousness was only heightened when El Tri took the lead in the 36th
minute through Veronica Pérez. Yet,
inspired by goalscorer Montoya and playmaker Yoreli Rincón, Colombia remained in control, defending like the side which
only conceded twice in seven games at the Copa América and attacking with the verve and ebullience which mark out Rincón and Velásquez not so much as stars of the future but as stars of the
here and now.
With one of the tournament favourites, France, having burst
out of the blocks and beaten an out-of-sorts England 1-0, essentially securing
qualification, it is now a three-horse race to reach the last 16 from Group F between
the Colombians, the Mexicans and the English. However, with four of the best
third-placed teams from the six groups qualifying for the knockouts, a positive
result against either the French on Saturday or the English the following
Wednesday could pave the way to the promised land.
Despite Taborda’s expectation-dampening insistence that ‘against
the Europeans, we will be inferior in some areas,’ back in Colombia they’ll
tune in. After all, futbolred.com’s most
shared article on Wednesday evening was the minute-by-minute report of the game
in which Las Cafeteras scored their
first World Cup goal. Imagine what’ll happen when they record their first win.