There are two ways to look at Colombia’s women’s national team.
The first is that in South America, where in many places, soccer is a way of life, this Colombian team is second only to Brazil. The team was late to the party, and didn’t compete in a major international tournament until 1998, and though they were and are underfunded, they competed in their first World Cup just 14 years later. This summer, they’ve returned. Along the way, Las Cafeteras have more or less acquitted themselves honorably against the best teams in the world, beaten lesser ones, and have proven that they are, if nothing else, a tough out. Colombia made it through South America’s World Cup qualifiers without losing even once in seven games, and only conceding twice. Colombia are pretty good.
The second, though, is that Colombia haven’t beaten anyone worth mentioning, ever. They’ve never beaten Brazil, or Canada, or Japan, or the United States. More importantly, they haven’t had any success against their Group F opponents. They have never played England, but lost to France, 1-0, in the 2012 Olympics. They have played Mexico seven times; of a possible 21 points, Colombia have earned one. Colombia are pretty bad.
With three stronger Group F opponents, a successful trip would consist of not getting blown out, seeing some sights on their days off, and finding their first significant victory as a national team. Colombia aren’t expected to find much happiness in the World Cup, but with any luck, they’ll ruin someone else’s trip to Canada.
Goalkeepers: Derly Castaño (Graceland University), Catalina Pérez (University of Miami), Sandra Sepulveda (Formas Íntimas).
Defenders: Carolina Arias (CD Palmiranas), Nataly Arias (Atlanta Silver Backs), Angela Clavijo (Club Kamatsa), Natalia Gaitán (CD Gol Star), Melissa Ortíz (Boston Breakers).
Midfielders: Carolina Arbeláez (Formas Íntimas), Isabella Echeverri (University of Toledo), Daniela Montoya (Formas Íntimas), Diana Ospina (Formas Íntimas), Mildrey Pineda (CD Palmiranas), Yoreli Rincón (Torres Calcio), Leicy Santos (Club Besser), Catalina Usme (Formas Íntimas).
Forwards: Lady Andrade (CD Palmiranas), Tatiana Ariza (CD Gol Star), Laura Cosme (CD Palmiranas), Yisela Cuesta (Formas Íntimas), Manuela González (CD Palmiranas), Oriánica Velásquez (CD Gol Star), Ingrid Vidal (CD Palmiranas).
Las Cafeteras (The Coffee Growers)
Colombia are constructed differently than just about every other team competing in the World Cup. They don’t have many weapons going forward, and aren’t prolific in front of goal. Their gem is Yoreli Rincón, a 21-year-old winger who turned down college ball at Indiana to go pro. Their biggest threat in front of goal may be midfielder Catalina Usme, who has scored 21 goals in just 42 appearances. Their second-leading scorer, however, is Ingrid Vidal, who has needed 50 appearances to score 11.
Las Cafeteras’ strength, and their hope, is in their stingy, physical back four. Natalia Gaitán and Nataly Arias played in the United States in college, and will be tasked with organizing their defense and stifling opposing attacks. Expect Colombia to make the games as ugly as possible and frustrating the group’s many playmakers by digging their heels in at the 18 and hanging on for dear life.
June 9, 4 p.m.: Colombia vs. Mexico at Moncton Stadium
June 13, 1 p.m.: France vs. Colombia at Moncton Stadium
June 17, 4 p.m.: England vs. Colombia at Olympic Stadium
All times Eastern
Photo Credit: Associated Press