Melissa Ortiz could barely put her emotions into words when, ten days before Colombia’s opening match at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, she tore her Achilles tendon. A low point in the defender’s career, the injury setback ruled her out of the competition and had her team-mates on the verge of tears.
The smiles were back on Colombian faces on Tuesday, however, when Daniela Montoya’s stunning long-range strike gave Las Cafeteras a valuable point against Mexico in their tournament debut, a goal that was also their first in a FIFA Women’s World Cup match.
“I still haven’t come down. I’m buzzing,” the goalscorer exclaimed to FIFA.com after helping Colombia stave off a sixth defeat to the Mexicans in seven matches. “As soon as it went in I started thinking about the team. The joy you feel as a team is more intense than your personal emotions.”
Sparing a thought for the stricken Ortiz, midfielder Montoya added: “We all got together with Melissa before the game. She told us how proud she was of us, and it was very important for us to show her shirt to everyone when we celebrated the goal.”
Colombia’s team spirit helped them get through a tough assignment against the Mexicans. Trailing by a goal at the break, the South Americans were a side transformed in the second half, throwing themselves into every challenge in an effort to turn the match around.
As Montoya explained, there was a very good reason for their increased intensity after the restart: “Thinking of our friend gave us an extra boost.”
Relief all round
Colombia’s hero of the day also had her family urging her on from afar: “They were all watching on TV. I bet the tears were flowing. My sister made the trip here, and it made me happy to think that she was there in the stands.”
Understandably anxious to get back on the squad bus and share her thoughts with Ortiz, Montoya and her team-mates were in jubilant mood, and not without good reason. Having been defied time and again by Mexico keeper Cecilia Santiago, they finally earned their reward with just eight minutes remaining.
Coach Fabian Taborda was every bit as excited as his players, not least because Tuesday’s draw was a welcome change from his usual experiences against El Tri.
“I was feeling pretty low when they opened the scoring because I know how difficult it is to score against them,” he acknowledged afterwards.
Thankfully for him, Montoya had not read the script. Buoyed by her late equaliser, she believes Las Cafeteras have more to offer and can build on their valuable point.
“We have it in us to produce another good performance against France in our next match,” she explained. “We are very well prepared and the spirit in the team is fantastic.”
That meeting with the French comes on Saturday. Asked if she is envisaging another memorable strike against the Group F favourites, the smiling Montoya said: “I don’t get many goals, but when I do they always come in big games.”
In the wake of Ortiz’ untimely injury, every match has become a big one for the intrepid Colombians.