- Uruguay secured a historic draw as they bowed out of the tournament
- Coach Ariel Longo shared his thoughts on his team’s feat
- The lowdown on Belen Aquino and Micaela Dominguez
A whiteboard with blue lettering met the Uruguayan players at the door of their dressing room in Maldonado, prior to their third and final group stage match at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup stated: “The only impossible task is the one you don’t attempt. Never stop dreaming!”.
The message was still on display after the hosts’ hard-fought 1-1 draw with Finland. The pain that the players had felt upon being eliminated three days earlier had begun to subside; the result they had battled for on the pitch was indeed the stuff of dreams.
“This is the first-ever point registered by Uruguay in a women’s World Cup tournament. I believe it’s a big step forward,” said Ariel Longo, coach of La Celeste.
“We knew that the team would grow in stature. In the first match, there were certain aspects we just couldn’t control, like the pressure of playing in the opening game or of representing women’s football in this country.”
He continued: “The real achievement against Finland was the way in which we bounced back from the previous games and upped our commitment levels. I was very satisfied with that.”
The 65-year-old tactician went on to declare his optimism as regards this current generation of players. “They’ve been through a process, and they’ll probably hit their stride, physically speaking and in footballing terms, at the next South American U-20 Women’s Championship. The most important thing is not to let everything they’ve achieved up until now to slip away.
“Every day, I see young girls ask our players for autographs and photos. Clearly, the impact of this U-17 World Cup on Uruguayan society will be enormous, and crucial for the development of the sport.”
Although none of the six hosts of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup managed to advance past the group stage over the years, Uruguay recorded more points (1) and goals (2) than the three previous host nations (Azerbaijan in 2012, Costa Rica in 2014 and Jordan in 2016).
The lowdown on…
- Age: 16
- Club: Colon FC
The memory: “As far as I’m concerned, everything in the tournament was unique and intense. I’m going to pick my goal, because we gave all we had to make that first breakthrough.”
The future: ”The fighting spirit we showed after falling behind to Finland is a good starting point. We need to work hard to improve.”
The legacy: “This World Cup has turned the spotlight on women’s football; nothing will be the same after this. We feel so good about the support we’ve received from the public. There’s no doubt it’ll continue.”
- Age: 17
- Club: Liverpool
The memory: “The goal was the happiest moment. And hearing the crowd chant “Uruguay, Uruguay”, which was incredible. I loved both those things.”
The future: “We are in the middle of a process. Only a few of us are 17, and we knew it was going to be very difficult to get out of the group. One of our aims was to learn. And we learned a lot.”
The legacy: “Now everyone in Uruguay knows that there are women who play football, and that was another one of our aims. They even know that we can play better than the men!”