“Out on the pitch I’m fast, strong and I like to play football with a touch of joy,” said midfielder Carmen Rodallega, here to represent Colombia at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, when asked to describe her style of play. And if the surname rings a bell, that is because her cousin Hugo plays up front for Colombia’s men’s senior side and English outfit Wigan Athletic.
What's more, once she takes the field in Germany, 28-year-old Carmen will have surged ahead of her relative in the international stakes, given Hugo has yet to appear at a FIFA World Cup™ with Los Cafeteros. “We just want to get out the pitch already. We want to do Colombian football proud and it’s an honour to play in a stadium where some of Europe’s best footballers compete,” she told FIFA.com after visiting the FIFA Women’s World Cup Stadium in Leverkusen, where Colombia kick off their Group C campaign against Sweden on 28 June. “This is all very exciting,” added the self-confessed fan of former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Thierry Henry.
Women’s football has certainly come on in leaps and bounds in Colombia. The past four years have featured Las Cafeteras’ historic victory at the 2008 South American U-17 Women’s Championship, which earned them a place at that year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, as well as their remarkable run to fourth at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Germany 2010.
“Despite not having a professional women’s league, we do have talent,” said Rodallega. “Plus there’s been a lot of hard work put in over several years now. There’s a lot more support available and, logically, we’re getting results – as you can see in the progress we’ve made at World Cups.”
Also in positive mood about the Colombian women’s football and his players’ chances here at Germany 2011 was coach Ricardo Rozo: “This team is still very young, but they’ve got a very good attitude. They’re really ambitious and highly motivated too, you can see it in their eyes. They’re in the right frame of mind and let’s hope we can have as good a tournament as last year (Germany 2010).”
That said, Las Cafeteras are well aware of the size of the task facing them in opening opponents Sweden, who are ever present at this level and finished runners-up in 2003. “We know Sweden are one of the heavyweights, with a lot of pedigree. But we’ve got enough character to take them on and we’re really excited about it.”
More specific in his analysis was coach Rozo. “Sweden will try to make the most of their greater physicality, their superior size. They’ll look to physically impose themselves and we’ll have to on our guard, particularly when defending set pieces. But we’ve prepared for this game well. We need to try and avoid physical contact and use our pace instead.”
Drawn in a formidable section which also includes the United States and Korea DPR, Rodallega admitted to some trepidation in the Cafetera camp. “When we saw how the draw had turned out...” she said with a wry smile. “Of course people are calling it the ‘Group of Death’ but we’re not disheartened. If we want to achieve big things, we have to be able to beat anybody.
“We’re very well-prepared, just watch us spring a surprise,” concluded a clearly undaunted Rodallega, as the interview ended. And if Colombian women’s football continues to progress as it has in recent years, why shouldn’t they?