When they arrived in Ecuador for the sixth South American Women’s Championship, continental powerhouses Brazil had several objectives in mind, the first of which was to win back the title they lost to Argentina four years ago.
The brilliant Brazilians did that in double-quick time, winning their first two games in the four-team final group to depose La Albiceleste and collect their fifth South American title. In doing so A Seleção also made sure of their place at the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011 and the Women's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.
Joining them at both competitions, and for the very first time, will be Colombia, whose achievement in taking second place was no less notable.
“I am very proud to captain this team of winners,” said Brazil defender Aline after receiving the trophy from FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “Now we need to keep on working to win the World Cup and the Olympic Games, which are the most important titles in the game.”
Brazil were in commanding form from start to finish, winning all seven of their matches, scoring 25 goals and conceding a paltry two, one against the Colombians in the group phase and another in their 3-1 defeat of Chile on the final day of the competition.
A Canarinha’s record in the competition as a whole makes hugely impressive reading. Since the inaugural continental championships in 1991, the girls in yellow and green have won 28 of the 29 games they have contested, their solitary defeat coming against Argentina in Mar del Plata in 2006.
Not surprisingly, the Brazilians also had the tournament’s top two scorers in their ranks: the peerless Marta with nine goals, and Cristiane, with eight.
“I’m delighted with this achievement and with the work we put in,” said the four-time FIFA World Player of the Year, who scored three braces in Ecuador, two of them in the final group, and was also named player of the tournament. “We knew that playing at altitude would be a challenge and thanks to God we were able to reach our goals. I wasn’t expecting any individual awards, and like any striker all I want to do is score goals. At the end of the day, though, it’s the team that counts.”
Colombia come good
*Prior to the tournament *Cafeteras coach Ricardo Rozo set out his aims in an exclusive interview with **FIFA.com: “We’ve got a team that can build on this new era in Colombian women’s football. That’s why our aim has to be to qualify for the World Cup and become South American champions. This is a fantastic opportunity to show just how good we are.”
Although Las Cafeteras fell short in their bid to succeed Argentina as the queens of South America, there is no question that their showing in Ecuador represents a landmark in Colombian women’s football, improving as they did on their previous best finish of third in 2003.
In capping a magnificent year in which coach Rozo also took the national U-20 team to fourth place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Germany 2010, the Colombians won four of their seven games, losing twice to Brazil and drawing their other match.
Rozo’s side clinched their runners-up spot by bouncing back from a 5-0 loss to the Brazilians to down Argentina 1-0 on the final day. And in the opinion of Rozo, that painful lesson at the hands of the champions proved a turning point: “We got together the following day and helped each other rebuild our self-esteem. These girls have learned to react to setbacks like that, and they knew they had a chance to come back from it and they took it. They picked themselves up for the next game and went out and dominated it.”
Colombia’s leading lady was the 17-year-old Jorely Rincon, who top-scored for them with five goals. Ten of her team-mates also found the back of the net, with Las Cafeteras ending the tournament as second-highest scorers with 19 goals. And of the eight goals they conceded in all, seven came in their two encounters with Brazil, with Chile the only other side to pierce the Colombian rearguard.