© Alfieri Photo

The past
Uruguay were not expected to push for one of the three Azerbaijan 2012 slots up for grabs at the South American U-17 Women’s Championship in Bolivia, having won just one game in their two previous appearances in the continental tournament. That poor record was quickly forgotten, however, as La Celeste stormed to the runners-up spot and became the first side in the country’s history to qualify for a FIFA women’s tournament.

The present
The Uruguayans showed they meant business by thrashing Ecuador 7-2 in their opening game in the first phase, following up with narrow wins over hosts Bolivia, Argentina and Peru. Not content with winning their section, Las Charrúas showed their traditional grit in earning a 2-1 win over Colombia as the final four-team phase got under way, a victory they achieved despite being reduced to ten. A stunning 4-2 defeat of La Albiceleste came next and, though they fell 1-0 to Brazil in the competition’s deciding game, they can take every satisfaction from an impressive qualification campaign.

The future
“We went to Bolivia with high expectations and our objective was to qualify, even though people weren’t that confident because of the record of Uruguay’s women’s teams,” said national team boss Graciela Rebollo, the only female coach at the continental finals. “Maybe that lack of experience allowed us to get a bit of an edge, and now we’re going Azerbaijan with high hopes of doing well.”

Facts and figures
Key players
Valentina Rodriguez, Karen Acosta, Nicole Arambulo, Carolina Birizamberri, Yamila Badell.

Qualifying statistics
Uruguay won six of their seven games and lost just one, scoring 19 goals in the process and conceding nine. The team’s leading scorer was Yamila Badell with nine, followed by Carolina Birizamberri with three.

The numbers game
4 - The number of goals Badell struck in her side’s 4-2 defeat of Argentina, which sealed their place at the world finals. Badell’s haul in that game also helped her end the tournament as leading scorer.