Stars shine brightly in golden match
Tuesday’s final proved to be a fitting end to the inaugural Girls’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament, with Chile prevailing over Equatorial Guinea after a hard-fought and high-quality eighty minutes, followed by a breath-taking penalty shoot-out. In a game representing the top level of this six-team competition, both sides put in excellent performance as the crowd was treated to a lively, spectacular final.
Amid a clutch of talented players the star shining the brightest was Romina Orellana, who opened the scoring with a free-kick, before converting the matching-winning spot-kick to seal the victory. “It was a memorable victory for us and I am so happy we won a tough battle to be champions,” an excited Orellana told FIFA.com after receiving the gold medal from former USA star Brandi Chastain at the awarding ceremony. “This success marks a good beginning in our career and I hope I can graduate into the national team of the next age level.”
Having met in their closing group match, where Equatorial Guinea ran out 4-1 winners, both sides began cautiously with chances at a premium at the opening stages. The African side soon upped their tempo but just as they looked to be gaining a stranglehold, the tide turned as Chile won a free-kick to the left of the penalty area. Having scored in the previous contest between the two sides via a set-piece, Orellana again showcased her genius as she fired a rocket over the goalkeeper and into the net from 30 yards to give her side a 1-0 lead.
Equatorial Guinea equalised in the second half courtesy of Judit Ndong’s spot-kick but neither side could find a winner. Having survived the African onslaught in the closing periods, the Chileans looked more confident going into the penalty shoot-out. It was again the impressive Orellana who had the final say of the game, putting the decisive penalty-kick past the keeper after Justina Alene had seen her effort blocked.
“We lost to the rivals during the group campaign so this match was a big challenge for us," said the 15-year-old Orellana. "But we learned from our mistakes last time and prepared for the re-match, so we did very well in countering their attack and hitting back to create our chances. We played a great game."
“Our girls showed what they are capable of,” Chile coach Rodrigo Valdes stated to FIFA.com. “Our players gained precious experiences in the tournament and this team will be the backbone of our national team for the 2012 South American U-17 Women’s Champions. They are our future. The FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in our country two years ago has left with us a lasting football legacy, and winning the Youth Olympic title will come as our second major achievement in the history of our women's football."
Equatorial Guinea were the undisputed favourites going into the Chile final after their landslide victory in the previous meeting. And they had the better of the second half with both Felicidad Avomo and Veronica Nchama close to grabbing the winner. Despite narrowly missing the gold medal, Ndong proved herself one of the tournament’s biggest revelations, dazzling the crowd with her mazy runs and clinical finishing.
“Given the pressure to win the gold, some of our players were nervous and didn’t play as well as they usually do,” said the Equatorial Guinea captain, who finished tournament joint top-scorer alongside Avomo with five goals each. “I tried to stir them up and as the game intensified in the second half but we paid for our lack of composure - we squandered too many chances.”
“The lessons must be learned if we are to make progress at the international level,” continued the diminutive striker. “We should remember that to win a game you must never lose hope and fight to the end.”