Paraguay have never played in a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Despite some solid performances in South American qualifying, they have always been bested by traditionally giants Brazil and the likes of Colombia and Chile. Las Guaranies’ only World Cup appearance at youth level came at the FIFA U-17 competition in New Zealand in 2008, when they lost all three of their Group C games.
The Paraguayans were unfancied at the South American qualifying competition in Fray Bentos, Uruguay, but were boosted by the success some of their players had achieved in qualifying for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014. Carlos Julio Gomez, coach of both teams, assembled a solid unit with an impressive attack. In the preliminary round, Las Albirrojas started with a 2-0 defeat of Peru then drew with Argentina, who failed to go beyond the first phase. A 3-1 win over Ecuador and a 4-0 victory over Bolivia then ensured they progressed as group winners.
Pressure was high in the second round, but Paraguay defeated Colombia 1-0 and sealed their place at the World Cup by beating Bolivia again, this time 5-0. The campaign concluded with a 2-0 loss to Brazil in their final fixture, but that didn’t take any of the shine off the historic achievement of qualifying. “We weren’t favourites, but the game against Colombia changed things,” Gomez said.
Paraguay will travel to Canada 2014 with confidence and ambition, thanks in part to a powerful attack that scored 15 goals in the continental competition. Allied to that is a solid defence - goalkeeper Cristina Recalde conceded fewer than any of her rivals in Uruguay - and a reputation for sportsmanship evidenced by their winning the Fair Play award in qualifying). “We want to reach the last four,” was the target set in a bold declaration by Jessica Martinez.