Women's football in South America has never enjoyed the same level of popularity or success as that of the men. Indeed, to date only Brazil have had any measure of success in competing with the game's leading nations. However, all that could be about to change if Argentina can continue the remarkable progress they have made under Carlos Borello in recent years.
In November 2006 at the South American qualifyinfg tournament for the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007, the Albiceleste showed their enormous potential by seeing off neighbours Brazil to take their first continental title and secure a second successive appearance at women's football's showpiece event.
Back in 2003, Argentina made their FIFA Women's World Cup debut after CONMEBOL were granted an additional qualifying berth for the finals in the USA. Despite the fact that Borrello's charges had something of a baptism of fire there, losing all three games, conceding 15 goals and scoring just one, they vowed to come back stronger for the experience.
That kind of setback would probably be enough to see off most coaches, but not Borrello, who saw it as further proof of the urgent need for a long-term strategy. To this end, he kept faith with the nucleus of that team, a group complemented by the pick of a new generation of players who represented Argentina at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006. In fact, of the starting eleven that played in that historic victory over the Selecao last November, ten had appeared at one of the two aforementioned tournaments.
In goal, Argentina are fortunate to be able to call on the experienced and safe hands of Romina Ferro, at veteran of USA 2003. Other senior players include the astute Marisa Perez in midfield, influential playmaker Rosana Gomez and striker Mariela Coronel. At the other end of the spectrum are defender Eva Gonzalez and striker Maria Potassa, two starlets who made the breakthrough at Russia 2006 and shot to fame with the winning goals against the previously all-conquering Canarinha.
As for the team's playing style, Borrello can take considerable satisfaction from seeing his charges mastering the passing and ball-control skills he values so highly. However, on the debit side, he still has some way to go in helping them overcome perhaps their biggest weakness: their profligacy in front of goal - a luxury they will not be permitted against the top teams in the world at China 2007.
26 November 2006 will forever be remembered as a landmark day in the annals of Argentine women's football. Not just because the team sealed qualification for China 2007, but also because of the manner in which they achieved it - beating archrivals Brazil for the first time, and all in front of their delighted supporters in the coastal resort of Mar del Plata.
The Albicelestes made it through to the latter stages of the qualifying tournament after securing top spot in Group A with victories over Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia. In the final phase, however, Paraguay dented their qualification hopes by restricting them to a draw, leaving them in need of wins over Uruguay and Brazil to be sure of a berth in China. This they duly did thanks to 2-0 successes over the Charruas and Canarinhas respectively, securing their first-ever continental title in the process.
As for the stats, the Albiceleste had an almost flawless campaign, posting six wins and one draw in their seven games, scoring 21 times and conceding just once.
Carlos Borrello, 51, took his first steps in management at San Martin de Burzaco, a lower-division Buenos Aires outfit where his father was in charge of the women's side. Borrello senior invited his son to join his coaching staff while he completed his coaching course, and he made such a good impression that in early 1998 then national team coach Carlos Torres recruited him as his assistant.
A few short months later, in June 1998, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) had seen enough to place Borrello in overall charge of the national team set-up at every age level, giving him their full support as he set out a long-term development plan. Early successes included the senior side's qualification for the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003.
The second phase of Borrello's plan began with selecting a large number of talented young footballers from across the country. And while they may have missed out on qualifying for the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship Thailand 2004, the group provided several of the players that took part in Russia 2006. Now, strengthened by the inclusion of key veterans from USA 2003, the squad is determined to make a big impression on Chinese soil.
Record at the FIFA Women's World Cup
|BORRELLO Jose Carlos|