- After best ever showing at the World Cup, Argentina up to 34th in FIFA Ranking
- Recently took silver at Pan American Games
- "Small but secure steps," says coach Borrello
Argentina may not have progressed beyond the group stage of the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™, but their performance at the tournament still created quite a stir.
First they made waves by drawing their opening game with Japan, runners-up at the previous edition, and then followed that up with the narrowest of defeats to England, another contender for the title. Finally they bowed out with a 3-3 draw against Scotland, in the process becoming the first team to recover from a three-goal deficit in the tournament’s history.
These results gave La Albiceleste their first World Cup points and marked their best performance at the tournament in what was their third participation.
Moreover, it enabled the team to climb three places in the recent FIFA/Coca Cola Women's World Ranking and occupy 34th spot, the same position they achieved in 2016. It was also their highest ranking since 2012, when they held 33rd place. Not bad for a team that just two years ago had no official ranking because of inactivity.
"We need to stay grounded, considering where we’ve come from and where we want to get to," team coach Carlos Borrello told FIFA.com.
"Today we’re at 34 and hopefully we’ll break into the top-30 next year. We have to take small but secure steps, which leave a foundation for us to build from and keep developing. It’s not good to aim for giant steps and then have everything fall apart after."
Argentina took one of those firm steps at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. Featuring 16 players who had also travelled to this year’s World Cup, the team went into the Games as a firm medal candidate and duly delivered, claiming silver after losing the final on penalties to Colombia, who occupy 26th place in the FIFA Ranking despite not featuring at France 2019.
"After the World Cup, the idea was always to go to the Pan Am Games and win a medal – not just to take part. We also wanted to achieve something unprecedented for us as a women's national team and something significant for Argentina as a whole," Borrello added.
"It’s true that it left us with a bittersweet taste, knowing how close we’d come to winning the gold, but nothing can detract from what was a very commendable achievement," continued the 63-year-old.
In Peru, Argentina played five matches, winning three and drawing two. Along the way they netted eight goals and shipped just one, that conceded in the final (1-1). In addition, forward Mariana Larroquette was the tournament top-scorer with four.
For a variety of reasons, Borrello travelled to Peru without Estefania Banini, Florence Bonsegundo, Ruth Bravo, Lorena Benitez and Soledad Jaimes, who had all been starters at the World Cup.
Their absence lead to call-ups for Yamila Rodriguez and Micaela Cabrera, while others who had played minor roles in France – like Larroquette, Yael Oviedo, Dalila Ippolito and Milagros Menendez – all got more playing time.
"I knew their commitment and attitude would be good. It was all about bringing together those who hadn’t gone to the World Cup or hadn’t played much at it. That explains why we’re still lacking the ability to ‘play from memory’. However, using these players was a risk we had to take to see how they’d perform in official games."
Borrello insisted that the key to maintaining progress would be "to continue having competitive games, making it vital that we play on the next FIFA designated match dates".
In September, Argentina will play two games in a four-team mini-tournament: one against Brazil (10th in the Ranking) and another against either Chile (38th) or Costa Rica (37th) for the title or third place.
"When we returned to coach the team in 2017, it wasn't obvious where it stood, which is why we had to play games. Today we’re among the top four in South America, as our results and ranking can attest," the coach explained.
But Borrello has further progress in his sights. "I'll soon be assessing the generation of players born between 2000 and 2002. In early 2020 we have the qualifiers for the U-17 and U-20 World Cups, so there’ll be no let-up."
Looking even further ahead, the coach concluded by saying: "The key is getting players started and the young age categories. It is about bringing women's football to schools, clubs and even thinking about mixed-gender football. Building solid foundations now will help us have a better future."