Colombia, Brazil and Paraguay last night celebrated booking their places at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.
The trio made sure of claiming their continent's three available slots at New Zealand 2008 on a dramatic final day of qualifying in the South American Women's U-17 Championship that witnessed Argentina miss out altogether. The Albiceleste had been widely regarded as the team to beat in the build-up to this tournament, but after losing 4-1 to Colombia in the second round of matches, a 4-2 defeat to old adversaries Brazil sealed their fate, with two goals in the final 15 minutes from Beatriz Zaneratto and Raquel proving crucial.
An impressive 8,000-strong crowd had turned up for this, the final round of preliminary matches, and the day began with a thrilling 7-2 win for Colombia over Paraguay that secured top spot for Los Cafeteros thanks to their superior goal difference over Brazil's. It was by this same means that the Paraguayans advanced at the expense of Argentina, to whom they had they lost in the first round of matches, with just a solitary point seperating the sides, who were locked together on three points.
Natalia Gaitan, Tatiana Ariza, Yessica Sanchez, Ingrid Vidal, Laura Cosme, Hazleydi Rincon and Liana Salazar were all on target for the Colombians in an emphatic win that suggested they might yet prove genuine contenders to claim gold at the first edition of FIFA's newest tournament. In qualifying, Colombia, Brazil and Paraguay join their Kiwi hosts and Asian trio Korea DPR, Japan and Korea Republic in ensuring that they will, at the very least, be taking part in the party come 28 October.
South American Women's U-17 Championship: final
Colombia, 6 pts. (+6)
Brazil, 6 pts. (+1)
Paraguay, 3 pts. (-3)
Argentina, 3 pts. (-4)
26.01: Argentina 2-1 Paraguay
26.01: Brazil 3-1 Colombia
28.01: Argentina 1-4 Colombia
28.01: Brazil 1-4 Paraguay
30.01: Colombia 7-2 Paraguay
30.01: Argentina 2-4 Brazil