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  • Brazil and Colombia women's footballers on their way to Paris


    The South American women's football qualifier, the 2022 Copa América Femenina concluded its knockout stage with places for the Olympics and Women's World Cup on the line.


    First off was the fifth-placed play-off, between Chile and Venezuela in Estadio Centenario in Armenia. The winner would book a place for the play-off of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in New Zealand. In theory, this game would also decide who would qualify for the 2023 Pan American Games, but as Chile had already qualified as hosts, Venezuela would be guaranteed a spot even if they lost. Chile took the lead from a long-ranged goal by Daniela Zamora, but a scruffy effort by Deyna Castellanos forced the game to penalties. Chile went first and got the advantage as Francisca Lara scored her penalty but Castellanos saw hers saved. Karen Araya put Chile two up and Venezuela were in big trouble when Kika Moreno also missed her penalty. Zamora converted hers meaning Oriana Altuve had to score, and she did to keep the shoot-out alive. Rosario Balamceda could end it if she scored her penalty but failed to do so, although Ysaura Viso still had to score to keep it alive. She did to put the pressure on Carla Gurrero, but she had no nerves as it went in off the post and sent Chile to New Zealand.


    The semifinals would decide Olympic qualification, and were played at Estadio Alfonso López in Bucaramanga, home of Atlético Bucaramanga, a top-tier team in Colombia. The winners would also be guaranteed a spot in the 2023 World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand. And it would be the hosts Colombia that faced Argentina first. Colombia had chances and snatched one after a game that was often frustrating for Las Chicas Superpoderosas: Linda Caicedo the match-winning hero. Argentina tried to get back into the game, but their chances took a big blow when Gabriela Chavez, already on a yellow card, cynically brought down Mayra Ramírez and got her second yellow card. Colombia were through to the final on home soil, and had reached the Olympics and World Cup too.


    In the other game held the next day in Bucaramanga, tournament favourites Brazil faced off with Paraguay. The game was decided in the first half, with a low driven shot from Ary Borges giving the Seleção the lead and Bia Zaneratto used an advantage to smash home number two and set up a Colombia-Brazil final.


    There was the not-insignificant matter of the third-placed play-off first. Both teams that missed out on the Olympics, Argentina and Paraguay, would face off in Armenia. These teams would instead enter the Pan American Games (the two finalists were excluded). This game was crucial for World Cup qualification: the winners would enter the final tournament, the losers would join Chile in the play-offs. Paraguay took the lead when Romina Stefania Núñez put the ball into her own net, and time started to tick away for Argentina. But they found an equaliser through Yamila Tamara Rodríguez on the counter-attack, before avoiding penalties with a very late goal from a María Florencia Bonsegundo free-kick. While Paraguay pushed for a leveller in injury time, Argentina broke and Rodríguez got her second to send Argentina to the World Cup and relegate Paraguay to the play-offs.


    The final took place in Bucaramanga, with hosts Colombia having a raucous reception against Brazil. But it was the visitors who took the lead when Daniela Caracas González took down Débora Cristiane de Oliveira in the box and de Oliveira stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way from the spot. Colombia tried to get back into the game but to no avail, and Brazil were champions of South America for the eighth time.


    So Brazil and Colombia reached the 2024 Summer Olympics; Brazil, Colombia and Argentina qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, with Paraguay and Chile making the play-offs; and Argentina, Paraguay, and Venezuela joined hosts Chile in the 2023 Pan American Games. Brazil are still the queens of South America and have never missed an Olympics, although the gap is closing somewhat to the other nations in the continent. As for Colombia, they made London 2012 and Rio 2016 but missed out on a spot in Tokyo 2020 as they came bottom of the final group in the qualifier for that competition. They will be delighted to make the final and had good attendances for the home crowd.


    Brazil and Colombia join the United States and hosts France in the twelve-team tournament. The remaining eight places will be filled by teams from the five other continents, but now South American qualification is over.


    Patrick Green

    Writer, Totallympics News


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