Amazonas jewels boost the buzz for France
The Libertadores Feminina was decorated by brilliance
FIFA.com identifies four stars who could dazzle at France 2019
Cupcakes and mermaids feature
Fans in yellow revelled rapturously at the Arena da Amazonia, the striking stadium assembled for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. This time, however, they were not draped in the consecrated camisa canarinha of Brazil. They proudly wore the colours of Colombia or Atletico Huila, who had just gainsayed consequential odds – and the mighty Santos on penalties – to win the Copa Libertadores Feminina.
Colombia fell just short of reaching a third consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup™ – they overcame France 2-0 and reached the knockout phase at Canada 2015 – but the three countries above them qualified and were transfused with expectation over two weeks by planet blue's vastest jungle. FIFA.com looks at a quartet who could replicate their Libertadores Feminina magnificence at France 2019.
Brazil They call her ‘Cupcake’. Be fooled into thinking she’ll be sweet on French fields at your peril. This 161-centimetre midfielder hits the ball with sheer venom, as Cerro Porteno discovered when Andressinha scored a free-kick from way out to grab Iranduba a 2-2 draw. The attacking midfielder had already dispatched a gorgeous set-piece in a 2-1 win over Flor de Patria, and her playmaking repertoire was on full show in the semi-final against Atletico Huila, which Hulk da Amazônia lost on penalties. Andressinha, who impressed at Canada 2015, appears to have taken her game to new heights at the age of 23.
Brazil The feeling is that there’s an engine-room spot up for grabs on Brazil’s flight to France – Vadao has included only five midfielders in his recent squads – and this multifunctional 22-year-old championed herself emphatically in front of the spectating selector during the Libertadores Femenina.
Brena, who hit three goals in four games at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, governed matches in Manaus. A youth-defying leader boasting muscle, dynamism, playmaking proficiency and a goal return well beyond her box-to-box role, she has, in the words of Santos coach Emily Lima, “everything”. Brena hit wonder goals against Colo-Colo in the group stage and to put the ‘Mermaids of the Vila’ ahead in the final, finished as the tournament’s leading markswomen, and was its nonpareil performer. Over to you, Vadao...
If the 26-year-old’s heroics against Australia in November – she came on and scored a solo winner to clinch Chile one of their greatest-ever victories – suggested she was ready to shuffle from substitute to starter, her performances in Manaus emboldened that feeling. Huenteo remarkably recorded a hat-trick of assists twice to finish as the Libertadores Femenina’s top provider. The Colo-Colo No19 also netted two goals – both headers – and tormented opponents with her masterful flank play. Quick, skillful, direct and a masterful crosser, Huenteo will be giving headaches to defenders whose countries catch Chile in Saturday’s Draw.
The 26-year-old arrived in Amazonas carrying considerable hype. She’d scored a Zlatan-against-England-juxtaposed flying volley against Platense in February. She’d finished as the 45-goal leading markswomen in Argentina’s Primera Division Femenina. She’d dazzled at the Copa America. And she’d put Argentina en route to victory over Panama in their playoff for a France 2019 place.
Larroquette lived up to her billing. Her footwork bamboozled Cerro Porteno in an entertaining stalemate. She terrorised Flor de Patria throughout and hit the winner with a palatial volley. And she bagged UAI Urquiza’s goal in a 1-1 draw with Iranduba. Unfortunately for the neutrals relishing Larroquette’s rich arsenal, UAI Urquiza, despite being undefeated, were pipped to a semi-final spot on goal difference. Fortunately, those thirsting for further helpings of her twinkle toes and spectacular shooting can tune in to France 2019.