Colombia looking on the bright side
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Colombia’s hopes of lifting the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Germany 2010 evaporated when they were beaten 1-0 by Nigeria in Bielefeld in Thursday’s semi-final. Ebere Orji’s strike after just 92 seconds tilted the game irrevocably in the Falconets’ favour, despite the best efforts of Las Cafeteras to pull level. The tears of Yorely Rincon, the Ariza twins and Lady Andrade, who missed the game through suspension, summed up the desolation felt by the South Americans at the final whistle, their dream of advancing to the final on their tournament debut having vanished before their very eyes.

“We are very sad,” captain Natalia Gaitan said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, describing the despondent mood in the Colombia camp. “We wanted to reach the final and be the champions but unfortunately it just wasn’t to be. We switched off in defence for a split second and that cost us dear. And though we created a couple of good chances we couldn’t manage to take them.”

To their credit, however, the Colombians tried to shrug off the disappointment of defeat quickly, enjoying a singsong as they vacated their dressing room on Thursday, an indication of the pride they are taking in their performances at Germany 2010. Another reason for them not to be too downbeat is that their tournament is still not over, with a place on the podium at stake when they take on Korea Republic in Sunday’s match for third place.

“We came here to do Colombia proud and to battle to the end,” continued the skipper. “We’ve been doing really well up to now and we want to set the seal on what we’ve done here by beating the South Koreans and taking third.”

Well worth the effort
Gaitan has witnessed at first hand the steady progress Colombian women’s football has made in recent years. Having dreamed of making her way in the game from an early age, she stepped up from her local club to the Bogota team and from there to the national U-17 side that won the 2008 South American championships.

That success earned Las Cafeteras a place in their first international finals, the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup New Zealand 2008, an achievement they followed up by finishing runners-up in the continental U-20 championships this March. And having made it to Germany 2010, they have continued to chart new territory over the last three weeks.

“We’ve spent the last three years together,” added Gaitan, explaining the secret of their success. “We know each other well, on and off the pitch, and we’ve shared a lot of things, a lot of dreams. Since winning the U-17 championship we have matured a lot and here we are today. We believe in ourselves and in the work we are doing.”

She and her team-mates realised early on in the tournament that they had it in them to achieve something big: “When we played Costa Rica [in their final group match] we knew we could go far. This is the first time we’ve played in an U-20 World Cup and to reach the last eight on our debut was a big thing. It gave us all the encouragement we needed to keep on improving and get the very best out of ourselves.”

As the Colombians’ efforts in Germany have shown, their three years of dedication and sacrifice have paid off. All that remains for them to do now is to round it off with a bronze medal. “The Nigeria game is history now,” she said, ending on an upbeat note. “All we are thinking about now are the South Koreans. We are going to do everything we can to win our last game. We really want to go out in style.”