Brazil, Colombia find right blend

Brazil’s dominance of women’s football in South America shows no sign of ending. Earlier this week the ladies in green and yellow won the CONMEBOL U-20 Championship for the fourth time running, sealing their place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Germany 2010 in the process. Joining them there for the first time in their history will be Colombia, who finished the tournament runners-up. looks back at the two-week continental championships, which were held in the Colombian city of Bucaramanga. 

A job well done
Arriving in Colombia with lofty expectations, Marcos Gaspar’s side fulfilled them in no uncertain terms, winning all six of their games, scoring 25 goals and conceding only three. They also boasted the tournament’s top scorer in striker Alanna, who netted seven times in all, including all three of her team’s goals in the semi-final defeat of Chile. Midfielder Debora chipped in with five goals, and to cap it all the Brazilians also made off with the Fair Play award.

Those stats are a fair reflection of La Auriverde's superiority on the pitch. Fluent in attack and steadfast at the back, the champions rounded off a flawless fortnight’s work by defeating the hosts 2-0 in the final in front of a partisan 20,000 crowd.

“We’ve had a fantastic tournament,” said Gaspar afterwards. “We’ve won the competition, we’ve qualified for the world finals and we’ve played well too. Even so, there are still things we need to work on for Germany.”

History in the making
Making use of the same pool of players that appeared at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup New Zealand 2008, Colombia won all their group-phase matches, thus avoiding the fearsome Brazilians in the semis. Pitched against Paraguay in the last four, Las Cafeteritas turned in another excellent team display to prevail 2-1 and clinch their historic qualification for Germany 2010.

“Losing in the final was a disappointment but I’m still proud of my girls,” commented Colombia coach Ricardo Rozo.

The hosts’ top markswoman with three goals was Paola Sanchez, one of the side’s star performers along with playmaker Yorely Rincon. “We got frustrated because we couldn’t get possession and we made the mistake of hitting long balls,” said Rincon after the final. “That’s not the way we play but in football there’s always a second chance. Now we have to go away and prepare for the World Cup, which was our main objective.” 

The rest of the field
Though they were unable to improve on their third-place finishes at the last two South American championships, Paraguay have every reason to be optimistic about the future. Despite fielding a side made up mainly of 17- and 18-year-olds, Las Albirrojas caused problems for everyone, including Brazil. Led by Ana Fleitas, the tournament’s second-highest scorer with six goals, the Paraguayans played some thrilling attacking football and scored only five goals fewer than the prolific Brazilians.

Chile departed on a sour note when they lost 6-0 to Paraguay in the match for third place, though they can be heartened by the overall performances of the likes of Dominique Hisis in defence, midfielder Karen Araya and Sofia Machiavello up front.

Ecuador and Venezuela both made progress by finishing third in Groups A and B respectively with six points each. Argentina, meanwhile, have much to ponder. Runners-up two years ago, Las Albicelestes recorded a solitary win and three defeats in their four games.

Final Standings
1 - Brazil *
2 - Colombia *
3 - Paraguay
4 - Chile
* Qualified for Germany 2010

Top scorers
Alanna, 7 goals
Ana Fleitas, 6
Debora, 5

Goal average
3.25 per game (78 in 24)

Fair Play Award
1 - Brazil
2 - Colombia
3 - Chile