The decisive moment of the clash between Costa Rica and Paraguay at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal came in the 83rd minute. It was at that stage, with the game tied at 1-1 and neither side looking likely to score, that Costa Rica goalkeeper Noelia Bermudez brought down Paraguay striker Maribel Portillo in the box.
As soon as the referee gave the penalty, Jennifer Mora calmly picked up the ball and walked towards the spot. The kick was perfect - powerful and accurate - and from afar it looked as though the Paraguay captain had everything under control. In reality, however, she was terrified.
“I was shaking like a leaf when I took the penalty,” Mora said with a shy smile, during a chat with FIFA.com. “I grabbed the ball, and then my team-mates started to put pressure on me, as though I was the penalty taker. So I decided to go for it. ‘If it’s God's will,’ I said to myself.”
The captain’s emotions were still visible as she explained the importance of the victory. “It was a really tough game. Costa Rica played well and worked very hard. I’m thrilled that we managed to win,” she said, her voice trembling and her big eyes filling with tears. “We had to get three points here to keep our chances in the tournament alive. But we showed real Paraguayan grit. We never give up. We’ll always fight to the end.”
It is true that the victory over Costa Rica keeps Paraguay in the hunt for one of the Group D qualifying places. But as well as its significance for their campaign at FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014, the win was a historic achievement for women’s football in the country. Paraguay is making its debut at the Women’s World Cup, and this was not only the side’s first victory in the competition, but also the first win for a women’s team from the country in any FIFA tournament. All of which combined to make this a very special celebration. “After my goal we all went to hug the coach, because we’d promised him the win as a birthday present for his daughter,” said Jennifer, referring to coach Julio Gomez.
We showed real Paraguayan grit. We never give up. We’ll always fight to the end.
The Paraguay captain had even more reason for feeling emotional: as she left the changing rooms, she held a bar of chocolate in one hand, while in the other she proudly carried the Live Your Goals player of the match award.
“I’m thrilled to win the award, and I want to thank everybody, especially our fans who were here today,” said the Cerro Porteno right-back, referring to the Paraguayan supporters who cheered their team enthusiastically throughout the match in Montreal, inspiring the South American players. “We didn’t expect there to be so many supporters here. It really surprised us, and made us very happy. At the end of the game we went to say hello and thank them. Their support really moved us, and gave us strength on the pitch.”
Despite the excitement and the emotion that comes with the team’s first win in the tournament, Jennifer is already thinking about the next challenge: a match against Group D leaders France, the team that has most caught the eye here in Canada after scoring nine goals in two games. To add to the pressure, Paraguay will take the field knowing that a place in the quarter-finals remains a possibility for the tournament newcomers.
“We know it will be a tough game, but we’re really fired up for it. We’re determined to give it our best shot,” said the captain, but not before once again putting in perspective what the Paraguayans have already achieved - as always, with a smile on her face. “Of course we hope to win, but we’re already happy to have come this far, and to have achieved this famous victory.”