• Brazil and Colombia qualified for Costa Rica 2022

  • A Seleção won the South American title without conceding a goal

  • Gisela Robledo was outstanding for Las Cafeteras

In what has now become a tradition, Brazil cruised to the title at this month’s South American U-20 Women’s Championship, lifting the trophy for the ninth consecutive time. Despite triumphing at every previous edition, A Seleção showed no signs of complacency, winning all seven of their fixtures and not conceding a single goal. Accompanying them at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2022™ will be Colombia, who, in securing CONMEBOL’s second berth, return to the competition after a 12-year-absence.

Sublime Brazil                                                                                                                                                        The Chilean city of La Calera played host to the continental championship from 6-24 April, with 10 contenders battling it out for two places at the global finals in August. Given their effectiveness in front of goal and intense desire to impose themselves on opponents, it came as no surprise to see Brazil put on a display of dazzling, high-tempo football in Chile. Jonas Urias’s side were never seriously troubled, amassing 22 goals – including 10 against Bolivia – without once conceding. Unsurprisingly, goalkeeper Gabriela Barbieri performed flawlessly throughout. The forwards Tarcianne de Santos, who top-scored for them with four goals, and Analuyza and Giovanninha (three apiece) were no less impressive. So comfortable was Brazil’s journey to the title that in only two of their seven games – against Paraguay and Uruguay – were they not ahead at half-time. The champions peaked in the final phase, which they began with a nerveless 3-0 win over one of the teams to beat, Colombia. Buoyed by that, they then made sure of another crown with narrow 1-0 wins over Uruguay and Venezuela. Brazil’s thoughts now turn to Costa Rica and a tournament that has not traditionally been kind to them. A Seleção reached the semi-finals of the first three editions in 2002, 2004 and 2006, taking third place in the last of those, which is still their best finish at the tournament. Could Costa Rica 2022 finally seem them break new ground and reach a maiden final?

Robledo key for thrilled Colombia                                                                                                          Colombia’s U-20 Women’s World Cup debut at Germany 2010 was the realization of a long-held dream. With star turns from Yoreli Rincon, Las Cafeteras surprised most experts by progressing from the group stage, eliminating Sweden in the quarter-finals and eventually taking fourth place. That performance proved the catalyst for the development of women’s football back home, the results of which can be seen today with the emergence of a generation of excellent players. Under the stewardship of Carlos Paniagua, Colombia touched down in Chile determined to return to the world stage in this category. And in their crown jewel Gisela Robledo, they certainly had grounds for optimism. Still only 18, she was twice named in the Best XI of the Copa Libertadores Femenina, paving the way for a move to Europe, where she now plays for Tenerife in Spain. Despite Colombia pinning much of their hopes on her young shoulders, she delivered in style, netting seven of the team’s 13 goals in Chile, where she finished second-highest scorer and captivated fans.

For all that, Colombia did not have things all their own way in La Calera, not least in the opening phase. They began with a scoreless draw against Argentina and followed that with a 1-1 stalemate with Venezuela. With the latter pair direct rivals for a berth in the final phase, Colombia could have entertained doubts, but instead it only strengthened their resolve. They bounced back with a 5-0 rout of Peru and then overcome the hosts 1-0 to take second place behind Venezuela on eight points. In their opening match of the final phase, Paniagua’s charges fell to their first defeat of the campaign in going down 3-0 to Brazil, obliging them to win their remaining two games to qualify. With their backs against the wall, they emphatically swept aside Venezuela (3-0), then battled like their lives depended on it in their final game against Uruguay. A dominant first-half display put them 3-0 ahead – a lead they defended resolutely after the break to book their place in Costa Rica. When Colombia last graced the world finals in 2010, they finished fourth. The challenge of emulating that, though considerable, is one the current generation are only happy to assume.

The quotes                                                                                                                                                             “It’s an incredible feeling. This title is for many people – those who couldn’t finish their cycle and those who made it possible. Having this medal around my neck is very special, and I dedicate this triumph to the players. They give meaning to everything we do.” Jonas Urias, Brazil coach “Nothing was easy for us. We had a complicated debut against Argentina, then we faced tough teams who were serious contenders for a World Cup berth like Venezuela. Fortunately, the team improved game by game.” Carlos Paniagua, Colombia coach

The stats                                                                                                                                                                  Uruguay’s Belen Aquino scored 10 times and was crowned top scorer in Chile. She is the second Uruguayan to claim the honour and only the fourth non-Brazilian in the tournament’s history. Brazil conceded no goals during the entire tournament, only the second time in the event’s history that A Seleçao kept clean sheets throughout.


Source: FIFA

Benjamin Ofoso Akakpo

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