“I’d like to put it into words but I can’t,” said Colombia goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda at the end of her side’s momentous 2-0 defeat of France on Saturday. “You can feel emotions like this but you can’t express them.”
The Cafetera custodian had barely had time to dry her eyes when she spoke to FIFA.com at the end of a memorable 90 minutes. The extent of Colombia’s achievement will take some time to sink in for Sepulveda and her team-mates, who followed up their late draw against Mexico with an unexpected win that has taken them to the top of Group F.
“I was on the bench for the first match because of an injury,” she explained. “My understudy was there today and she was encouraging me the same as everyone else. There’s no jealousy in this team whatsoever.”
Asked how it felt to have watched her colleagues from afar, she exclaimed: “Her or me: it’s the same thing. We’re a real family here and the key thing is for everyone to be happy. You tend to forget about your own individual satisfaction when you realise you’ve got the chance to make history for your country.”
The Colombians have been doing plenty of that at Canada 2015. After Daniela Montoya opened their FIFA Women’s World Cup™ account with the valuable equaliser against the Mexicans, the tournament debutants followed up by claiming a major scalp.
Praising the South Americans for their energy, France coach Philippe Bergeroo also acknowledged the role Sepulveda had in Saturday’s shock result.
“We created chances but we came up against a super goalkeeper,” said Bergeroo, who knows a thing or two about life between the posts, having been France’s third-choice keeper at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™.
*Rising to the occasion
*Enjoying the lion’s share of the possession and goalscoring opportunities, the French were left to rue their wayward finishing and the heroics of Sepulveda, who had to work hard to keep her feelings in check.
“When I went out on the pitch I saw the photographers’ cameras flashing and I heard the fans making all this noise,” said the Colombia No1, who plays her club football for Formas Intimas Medellin. “I quickly realised that I couldn’t let my emotions get the better of me, though it wasn’t easy. I had to keep saying: ‘Control yourself’.”
Continuing to reflect on a high-octane afternoon, she added: “We felt a lot of responsibility and the pressure of doing justice to the jersey, which only makes the pleasure you take from this even more intense. I can’t ever remember feeling emotions like this. Football has the power to make you experience the highs and the lows.”
While doing her bit to keep Les Bleues at bay, Sepulveda also had the satisfaction of seeing Lady Andrade and Catalina Usme bear down on her opposite number Sarah Bouhaddi and score the goals the gave Colombia their first ever women’s world finals win.
“I was shouting: ‘Put it away! Put it away!’, and I couldn’t feel anything anymore,” she said, recalling their well-taken strikes. “We were combative and disciplined and we kept our heads when we had to.”
Paying tribute to Colombia coach Fabian Taborda, she added: “We owe this happiness to him. He planned everything, prepared everything and he came up with the right words too.”
Voted the best goalkeeper of the 2014 Women’s Copa America, with her exploits against the French, the 27-year-old Sepulveda has now earned herself even more international recognition.
“Unlike other teams, we don’t have competitions in which we can prepare for a tournament like this, which makes our achievement even bigger,” she commented, referring no doubt to the vastly experienced French.
Shedding her last tear of the day, Colombia’s shotstopping saviour said: “We’ve got a lot of talent and we want to make the most of every opportunity we have to show it to the world.”