Chile exited Tokyo 2020 after three narrow defeats
La Roja have made dramatic improvement in just a few years
“Now that we are here, we want more”
“It is not enough, we wanted to win.” In a few short words, Christiane Endler underscores just how Chile’s ambitions have grown. Just three years ago, few associated Chile with women’s football. Then came surprise qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ where La Roja turned in several highly competitive showings. Now at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020, Chile has provided further hard evidence that they are a genuine player on the international stage. Narrow defeats against some of world football’s elite - Great Britain and Canada – were followed by a heartbreaking 1-0 loss against former world champions and host nation Japan.
It took a 77th-minute Mina Tanaka strike to end Chile's Tokyo 2020 hopes. Yet just minutes earlier, they were within millimetres of opening the scoring with a header bouncing off the underside of the crossbar and onto the line. Had they scored and hung onto the win, Chile would have been celebrating near-unthinkable qualification for the quarter-finals.
“We always dreamed about it [playing at major tournaments] and now it is true,“ Endler told FIFA.com minutes after their painful exit on a wet night in Miyagi. “Now that we are here, we want more. It has been a very hard week, but I am very proud of the team, and I think we did a lot here.”
Endler, the team’s captain and in many ways their inspiration given her role at French powerhouse PSG and recent move to Lyon, believes the foundations that the national team have created must be further built upon. “We are improving but we need more,” she said. “We are still behind the top teams in support and we don’t have a lot of players. The league is not professional and we have to improve there if we want to win [matches] in big tournaments. “I think the team [can grow] a lot. We have the quality but we have to play more and train more. We know that we can play more games and we have to improve that. “We have to improve the domestic league, to have more teams, and have the clubs invest in women’s football.” Endler also says the exponential growth in females playing grassroots football has been a source of pride for the team. “After the World Cup and the qualification many girls are wanting to play football and many schools and clubs are having women’s teams,” she said. “Things are getting better in that sense, but it is not enough, and we have to keep working and trying to improve. “Thank you so much to everyone who woke up early back home. We know it was difficult with the schedule but we know you are there and we thank you for your support. We fought for you until the end.” Chile coach Jose Letelier agreed that further support will enhance the team as they seek to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
“It is important that we have opportunities to play in such competitions,” he said. “We need to continue this kind of structured training and these opportunities so that all the little girls in Chile can dream of growing up and being footballers like these players.”