CALI, Colombia – The “Powerpuff Girls” are already in London.
That’s the nickname for the Colombian national women’s soccer team that will compete in London, in reference to the popular cartoon.
It’s the first time the Colombian women’s national team has qualified for the Olympics, and the team’s trip to London is its reward for persevering through a process that took several years to complete.
The 18 women who will compete in London have competed together for four years. The players have already represented the country at three recent championships:
- ::The team was ousted in pool play at the Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand;
- ::The team lost to South Korean in the third-place game at the Under-20 World Cup in Germany in 2010;
- ::The team was eliminated in pool play at the 2011 World Cup in Germany.
Colombia is led by Yoreli Rincón, a 19-year-old midfielder who plays for the Brazilian XV Piracicaba team.
“My expectations for the Olympic Games are pretty high,” she told reporters. “I’ve already realized part of my dream by being part of the group of 18 women who are the right ones to go. Now, we have to take our all to London, to win. We know we’re in a difficult group, but we’ve prepared ourselves very well to face those battles.”
Rincón is expected to shine at the Olympic Games. The midfielder from Santander, along with sisters Natalia and Tatiana Ariza are the team’s nucleus, sports journalist Luz Elida Molina said.
“They began together 10 years ago. [Tatiana] was one of the best players at the German World Cup [in 2010], where Colombia finished fourth,” she said.
Colombia, which is coached by Ricardo Rozo, is 28th in the FIFA world rankings and will open Olympic play against eighth-ranked North Korea on July 25 in Hamden Park, Scotland. Colombia faces top-ranked United States on July 28 in Hamden Park, Scotland before closing the group stage against sixth-ranked France, on July 31 in St. James Park in Newcastle, England.
“It’s a tough schedule because we have three competitors with broad international experience,” Rozo said. “We’ve improved since the last World Cup in terms of experience and international training, [and we gained] an athletic maturity that is fundamental to have at the Olympics.”
The coach is confident the team will do well.
“The team is very united, very technical, it identifies closely with the country and is clear about its responsibility,” he added.
Rincón said the experience she gained in the Brazilian Piracicaba team will be useful when handling the pressure during the Olympics.
“What I have gotten most from Brazilian soccer is experience and a way of thinking,” she said.
Colombia enters the Olympics after coming off 2-1 losses in exhibitions to Brazil and New Zealand last week.
Sports journalist Juan Carlos Pamo has modest expectations for the team in London.
“The chances of winning a gold medal are minimal because it’s the first time a women’s national team from Colombia has participated at the Olympics,” he said. “Of course, we need to leave a door open in case they surprise us. The team’s main objective is to qualify for the second round.”