The USA won all three of their games to take top spot at the four-team U-20 women's tournament held in La Serena, Chile, between 11-15 February. Finishing an impressive second were the hosts, who outperformed two powerhouses of the women's game, Norway and England.
There is no question that women's football is making waves in Chile, with the country gearing up to host the next FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup between 19 November and 7 December this year. An important part of that process was the recent hosting of a four-team international U-20 tournament, as Eduardo Rojas, executive director of the Local Organising Committee, explained. "We pulled out all the stops to bring first-class opposition here for three specific reasons: firstly to bring the best of women's football to the Coquimbo region, which has one of the host cities for the World Cup; secondly to continue improving in terms of organisation; and lastly to provide a unique opportunity for the national team to test themselves against powerful opposition."
La Rojita were the revelation of quadrangular competition,
which also formed part of the team's preparations for the
upcoming U-20 South American Qualifying Tournament (Sudamericano)
in Brazil. Coach Marta Tejedor was particularly pleased, saying:
"The tournament went very well. Finishing ahead of Norway and
England was stupendous, and playing a final against the USA even
better. We'll be taking a lot from this tournament and aim to
learn and improve as a result."
Chile got the competition underway with a thrilling draw with Norway. Two up at the break, the Europeans then saw the hosts draw level late in second half. However, with just seven minutes to go, June Tarnes hit what looked like being the winner for Norway, only for Nathalie Quezada to earn La Rojita a share of the spoils with a 90th-minute strike.
England, meanwhile, went down 1-0 in their opener against the Stars and Stripes. They followed that with a defeat by the same score against the hosts - Quezada again finding the target - prompting England coach Mo Marley to admit she had been surprised by the quality of the home side. England secured their only point of the competition in their final fixture against Norway, when a brace from Ellen White in the last 15 minutes earned the reigning European runners-up a dramatic point having earlier been 2-0 down.
"It was a credit to everyone that we managed to draw level in the final minute. Unfortunately, though, we didn't play like we normally do. We'll keep working to get back here in November for the World Cup, when we'll show what we're really capable of," the goalscorer said after the game.
For their part, Norway came into that fixture on the back of a 2-1 reverse to the USA in their second game. On target for their Europeans that day was defender Gunhild Herregarden, who later said: "It was my first goal and I'm delighted to have scored it."
The final game of the tournament, Chile-USA, would decide first and second place. A crowd of over 8,000 flocked to the Estadio La Portada to cheer on the home side, who struggled against Tony DiCicco's charges and eventually succumbed 5-1. "I'm very proud of my team, who have improved game by game and given a very professional performance against an intelligent Chilean side," said DiCicco who, less than a month in the job, was experiencing his first competitive action with the U-20s. "We've seen some standout individual performances from players with limited international experience, and the battle for starting berths for the (Chile 2008) qualifiers is sure to be fierce."