*Brazil fulfilled expectations by winning the Women’s Copa America for the sixth time and qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, where Colombia will join them as South America’s second representatives. In finishing runners-up to the Brazilians, *Las Cafeteras also nailed down a place at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Hosts Ecuador took third place and will now go forward to a Canada 2015 play-off against the team finishing fourth in the CONCACAF Zone. Argentina completed the top four, all of whom qualified for the Pan American Games 2015.
* FIFA.com* rounds up the tournament.
*A job well done
*Though deprived of the services of Marta, one of the greatest players the women’s game has ever seen, Brazil still managed to justify their status as favourites, dominating the tournament from start to finish. In doing so they lost just once, when their second string went down to Argentina in the final round of group games.
The Brazilians were lethal in front of goal, scoring 22 times in seven matches. Six of those strikes came from their experienced attacking spearhead Cristiane, the competition’s top scorer. The champions were no less effective at the back, especially in the final phase, where they did not concede at all. After exacting revenge on the Argentinians with a thumping 6-0 win, they made sure of the title with a goalless draw against Colombia. “Considering we only had 15 days in which to prepare, it’s been a brilliant campaign,” coach Vadao said.
Second in line
Colombia confirmed their position as the second-strongest side in South American women’s football. Not only did Las Cafeteras win Group B without dropping a point, they were also the only side to end the tournament undefeated and struck a fine balance between attack and defence. As well as conceding just two goals – the best record in the competition – they also had the third-most potent attack, with their 12 goals being shared among eight players. The biggest contributor to that tally was the sublimely gifted playmaker Yoreli Rincon, the scorer of three goals and one of the finest women’s players on the continent at the moment.
Having reached the world finals and the Olympic Games for the second time in a row, Colombia were entitled to feel pleased with their efforts and even took satisfaction from the 0-0 draw with Brazil that ultimately cost them the title. “The most successful team in the history of the championship couldn’t beat us, which makes us happy,” coach Felipe Taborda said. “We achieved our objectives and we should be delighted about that.”
*Contrasting emotions for Ecuador, Argentina
*“Brazil are not our rivals,” Ecuador coach Vanessa Arauz told her players after they kicked off the four-team final phase with a 4-0 defeat to the eventual champions. After finishing second to Colombia in Group A, courtesy of having a superior goal difference to Uruguay, Arauz knew that Argentina were the team they had to beat. The two sides met in the final round of games, with the Ecuadorians needing to win to book the play-off place. They did just that, coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and put themselves on the brink of their first Women’s World Cup appearance. “We’re so proud of this historic achievement,” Arauz said. “We might lack the experience of other teams, but we still made it to the play-offs.”
Ecuador’s joy was Argentina’s pain, as Albiceleste elation at beating Brazil to pip Paraguay to second place in Group B quickly evaporated. Failure to qualify for Canada 2015 is a backwards step for Ezequiel Nicosia’s team, especially after their gold medal at the South American Games earlier this year.
Players to watch
While Cristiane led from the front for Brazil, Andressa Alves *and *Maurine* also had telling contributions to make in attack, while *Tayla Pereira was outstanding in defence, as was Andreia Suntaque between the posts. Starring for Colombia along with Rincon were goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, defensive duo Katherin Arias and Natalia Gaitan, midfielder Diana Ospina and striker Lady Andrade.**
Ecuador’s Giannina Lattanzio impressed in attack, while Argentinian playmaker Estefania Banini was another of the tournament’s outstanding players, along with its second-highest scorer, Paraguay’s Rebeza Fernandez, who played three games fewer than Cristiane.
100 - *the number of points that Brazil have now amassed in the competition’s history, having collected another 16 in Ecuador. Out of a total of 36 matches overall, A Canarinha have won 33, drawn one and lost two, both to Argentina. Whereas the first of those defeats cost them the title in 2006, the one they suffered in Ecuador proved to be far less damaging, as the Brazilians made it six Copa America crowns out of a possible seven.
What they said
“I think we showed in Ecuador and around the world that Colombian women’s football is capable of big things. We’ve never come so close to winning a title before, and not being able to score against Brazil was very frustrating for us. As far as me and the rest of squad are concerned, though, we are a champion team,” Colombia midfielder Yoreli Rincon.