‘Goal-laden’ is perhaps the best way to describe Yamila Badell’s path to this year’s edition of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, to be held in Azerbaijan between 22 September and 13 October.
The Uruguayan striker found the net an impressive nine times in the CONMEBOL qualifying event, held in Bolivia back in March, thus playing a major role in an historic achievement: becoming the first Celeste women’s national squad to reach a FIFA World Cup.
The highlight of Badell’s phenomenal tournament came at the semi-final stage, when she struck all four of Uruguay’s goals against neighbours Argentina to send them through to the final.
And despite losing out in the decider against Brazil, Las Charrúas had already cemented their passage to Azerbaijan 2012. In addition, their sharpshooter took home the competition’s top scorer award, her nine-goal tally also equalling a South American women’s competition record set by Seleção icon Marta, the five-time FIFA Women’s World Player.
“We made Uruguayan women’s football history and we’re really thrilled about it,” said Badell, a firm fan of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, when speaking to FIFA.com about said continental runners-up slot.
“In Azerbaijan we’re hoping to achieve the same as what we did during qualifying. We want to do our country proud and we’re really looking forward to this tournament.”
Coach Graciela Rebollo’s charges are likely to once again require Badell’s eye for goal should they wish to succeed at the global finals. The forward described herself as “a quick player who likes to get the ball and take people on”, before highlighting the importance of putting the team first: “There are no stars in this squad, each one of us has their part to play. That’s the secret to our success – our strength comes from the whole squad.”
Balancing caution with expectation
The Uruguayan players will need to stick together given the level of expectation surrounding the side, which has increased exponentially since their qualifying displays.
This level of caution is more than justified, given Uruguay are up against two genuine forces in the women’s game in Germany and Ghana, both present at New Zealand 2008 and Trinidad & Tobago 2010. Completing the section are another tough prospect in China PR, who may be making their first FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup appearance but have enjoyed significant success at other age levels.
“We’ve been drawn against three national teams with very different playing styles,” said Badell, who has been putting in extra training every evening with a view to the upcoming finals. “We’ve seen videos of all our opponents, however, and we’re preparing in the right way to face them.”
The daughter of former Uruguayan pro Gustavo Badell, a player for Montevideo outfit Nacional, Chile’s Colo Colo and Paraguay’s Olimpia, among a host of others, during the 1990s and 2000s, Yamila has football in the blood and is mulling over turning professional.
“I have considered the possibility of going abroad to try and make a living through football, but I’ve got to finish my studies first,” she said. “That’s my priority, as I’d like to be a PE teacher.”
For the moment, however, the youngster is simply playing the game for the fun of it, as per her father’s advice: “My dad says I should enjoy what I do and always try to give it everything I’ve got,” said fleet-footed goal-getter Badell, whose father ironically was a steely defender in his day.
And while Yamila and her team-mates continue to put the finishing touches to their preparations for Azerbaijan 2012, the starlet signed off with a message for fans everywhere: “There’s going to be some great football played and La Celeste won’t be holding anything back – we’ll give everything out on the pitch,” she said with a grin. “From us, you’ll see some trademark garra charrúa (Uruguayan grit).”