Taborda: We’re ready to excel

“It’s a major achievement in my life,” said Colombia’s 33-year-old coach Felipe Taborda, indicating how much his side’s appearance at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 means to him.

Las Cafeteras secured their place in the world finals by finishing third in last March’s South American U-17 Women’s Championship, where only fellow qualifiers Brazil and Uruguay were able to beat them. As far as their coach is concerned, however, Colombia’s journey has only just begun.

“It was great for us to qualify again after missing out in 2010, but our objective now is very clear:  to have a good World Cup,” Taborda told FIFA.com, who needed just one year to take Colombian women’s youth football back to the big stage.

The Colombians were present at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, held in New Zealand in 2008, though they failed to get beyond the group phase, a performance they intend to improve on this time.

“The biggest power after Brazil in South American women’s football these days is Colombia, and I can tell you that we have high hopes of improving on our previous showing,” vowed Taborda. “Our target is to get past the group stage and play a central role at this World Cup.”

Starting with a bang
The spotlight will fall on them this Saturday, when they will have the honour of kicking off their tournament against hosts Azerbaijan on the opening night. It is sure to be an unforgettable occasion.

“There are two very important parts in a World Cup: the opening match and the final, and we’ve already got 50 percent of that,” said an understandably excited Taborda, who is well aware of the importance of getting off to a good start in Group A. “The first match will determine the course we take. It’s going to give us something to work with and we know that if we can come away with three points, it will stand us in good stead for our other two games and allow us to dream of the next round.”

Those two other matches will not be easy, coming as they do against big guns Canada and Nigeria, who have now qualified for all three FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cups.

“Canada play very good football and Nigeria are a strong and powerful team,” said Taborda, weighing up their assets.

Those strengths make it imperative that Colombia get off to a good start against the Azeris, who are, on paper at least, the side least expected to qualify from Group A, although Taborda is taking nothing for granted.

Azerbaijan might be a new side but the fact they’re at home means they’ll be tough opponents,” he warned. “I think we’ll see a lot of energy and both sides will play with joy in their hearts. We hope to keep a cool head, though, and dictate the pace of the game.”

To do that, the Colombians will need to focus on keeping possession of the ball, one of their main strengths, as their coach pointed out: “We’re a team that likes to play good football.  We look after the ball, move it around a lot and play lots of short passes.”

As he went on to say, however, there is more to the South Americans’ game than just pretty passing patterns: “I can assure everyone that they’re going to see a committed team out there, a team that will keep on fighting and never give up.”

Confident of his side’s chances, Taborda signed off with a hope-filled message to the Cafetera fans: “The national side are going to perform very well at this World Cup. You can be sure of that.”