It was Olympic Games founder Pierre de Coubertin who first expressed the notion that, “It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts.” A noble sentiment, without doubt, but try telling that to Ricardo Rozo, whose Colombia side have zero intention of making up the numbers when the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ kicks off in June.
“We’re an ambitious team,” he told FIFA.com shortly after the draw was made in Frankfurt. “When we take part in a competition, we go there to win. No sportsman or woman goes into a World Cup without thoughts of winning it being at the back of their minds.”
Such candour is refreshing given the cautious line usually trodden by coaches and players alike, particularly since Colombia will be making their maiden appearance in the global showcase this year. In fact, Rozo’s comments could almost seem reckless considering the esteemed company Las Cafeteras will be keeping in Group C.
Barring their route to the last eight are two-time winners and three-time Olympic gold medallists USA, traditional women’s football powerhouses Sweden and a Korea DPR team featuring several of the talents who triumphed at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Despite the standard of Colombia’s opponents, Rozo was being neither foolhardy nor arrogant when he outlined his dreams of lifting the trophy. “It’s a very tough group, but above all it’s very competitive,” he said. “There are no small teams and each game is certain to be hotly disputed. If everyone can beat everyone else, that means Colombia can win all three matches.”
Perhaps, but according to that logic they could also end the group stage without a single point. “Obviously, but I don’t think that’ll happen for a second,” added the former Millonarios player, who began his association with women’s football in 2000. “Our goal is to win as many points as possible to get out of the group. We’ll be playing three finals and we can win all three, even if the match against USA will undoubtedly be the most difficult.”
Rozo has yet to elaborate a plan to defeat the Stars and Stripes, untouchable at the top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking for the last three years, but he knows precisely what he will tell his players. “We respect their quality, their history and their titles, but there’s no question of going out on the pitch with fear in our stomachs,” he said. “We’re an organised, disciplined and talented team. That’s enough for us to win any match. And even though the draw was difficult for us, ask the other sides in the group if they’re happy to be playing Colombia.”
FIFA.com did exactly that and, sure enough, no one will be taking Rozo’s charges lightly. “Colombia caused an upset in South America so we’ll have to be wary of them, especially since their players are quick and possess good technique,” explained Korea DPR coach Kim Kwang Min.
“The Colombians will be taking part for the first time in the World Cup but they’re without doubt the most-improved team of the last few years,” added Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby, whose side will pose the South Americans’ first challenge in Group C. As for USA boss Pia Sundhage, she believes “Colombia’s talent and technique more than make up for their inexperience. Above all, we mustn’t underestimate them.”
Should he need further encouragement, Rozo can also point to his experience at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2010, when his tournament newcomers looked clear candidates to leave Germany after the group stage. “Nobody expected anything from us and, with Germany and France in our group, people thought we’d get eliminated in the first round, but we went on to reach the semi-finals,” he recalled with pride.
A year on from that memorable run, he and his players are now plotting to progress even further, with 17-year-old captain Yorely Rincon likely to prove pivotal again after shining in the qualifiers. Indeed, as De Coubertin put it: “Success is not a goal in itself but a means of aiming higher.” This time, surely even Rozo would agree with that.