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  • Ten becomes four as Copa América Femenina reaches business end


    The South American qualifier for Women's Football, the 2022 Copa América Femenina, has seen the conclusion of the group stage. The ten countries in the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) were split into two groups for a competition based in Colombia in which the winner will have the right to call themselves the South American champion, in addition to the two Olympic quota spots, three Pan American Games spots (the teams coming in third, fourth, and fifth make that competition) and three spots in the FIFA Women's World Cup (as well as two play-off spots). The top two teams in each group would go to semi-finals, with third in each group going to a fifth-placed play-off. Chile, having already qualified for the Pan American Games as host, were not considered in qualifying for that competition.


    In Group A, with most games held at the Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero in Cali, on the opening day a double-header kicked off with Bolivia facing Ecuador. A corner from Ecuador was not fully dealt with and Nayely Bolaños was there to score the tournament's opener. Danna Pesántez made it two for La Tricolor after having an open goal due to a smart cutback. Marthina Aguierre was next to benefit from a cutback and made it three before half time. Things got worse for Bolivia when Kimberly López was sent off for denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity, but La Verde did have at least one positive when Érika Salvatierra headed home a rebound after a free-kick was pushed on to the woodwork. But that was only a brief respite for the Bolivians, as Giannina Lattanzio put in an open goal before a corner was converted acrobatically by Joselyn Espinales and a ball over the top gave Bolaños her second goal in injury time to wrap up a 6-1 win.


    Colombia kicked off their campaign against Paraguay, and the hosts found the lead through a rebound from Daniela Montoya. But Paraguay fought back, with an amazing free kick from at least thirty metres out by Jessica Martínez finding the net. Colombia regained their lead before the break after Mayra Ramírez headed home a cross, before Montoya got her third after taking advantage of a goalkeeping fumble. Another header from a cross, this time Manuela Vanegas confirmed the victory for Las Chicas Superpoderosas but Paraguay did get a consolatory goal from another amazing free kick, this time from Fany Gauto, to complete a 4-2 loss.


    The next matchday was another double-header, with Paraguay looking to get back to winning ways against Chile. And they got off to a perfect start, with Rebeca Fernández reacting to a looping ball over the top quickest, before Martínez took advantage of suspect goalkeeping to double Paraguay's lead. But Chile fought back when Daniela Pardo headed home a free kick crossed into the box before half-time. In the second half Paraguay regained their two-goal cushion through a Fabiola Sandoval strike from outside the box, and though Yenny Acuña fired home in injury time, there was not enough time for an equaliser and the game finished a 3-2 win for Paraguay.


    The second game of the day saw Bolivia take on Colombia. The hosts were hitting their stride as Leicy Santos fired a long shot in and although they missed a penalty, Colombia had no problems wrapping up the game, as Ericka Morales poked it past her own goalie and Daniela Arias headed in a corner to get a 3-0 win.


    Day three and another double header in Cali, starting with Paraguay's match against Bolivia. Paraguay extended their winning run thanks to a 2-0 victory, with a tap-in by Ramona Martínez and a similar goal by Rebeca Fernández earning the three points. In the second game, Chile took on Ecuador, and Chile took the lead just before half time when Camila Sáez got the last touch from a corner. In the second half, the lead was doubled when Acuña put home a cross, and although Ecuador quickly got one back thanks to a smart finish by Aguirre, they couldn't find an equaliser and Chile took a 2-1 win.


    The fourth and final double-header started with Chile facing Bolivia, and La Roja Femenina were in no mood to hang about against the group's whipping girls. Three early goals: a smart strike from Francisca Lara, an own goal from a corner from Salvatierra and a well hit effort from Paloma López. Lara nodded in her second in injury time, and in the second half there was still one more goal to be scored as Mary Valencia headed home number five. In the other game, Ecuador took on Colombia. The hosts took the lead when Ramírez pounced on a through ball but they were soon pegged back by Nicole Charcopa after losing possession in their own final third. But it would be Colombia who would win the game through Linda Caicedo's goal as she took advantage on a lovely back-heeled assist on the stroke of half time and the second period would be goalless.


    On the final day, Ecuador took on Paraguay in Cali and Colombia faced Chile at the Estadio Centenario in Armenia. When play started, Colombia led the group on nine points, both Paraguay and Chile had six (with Paraguay ahead on head-to-head) and Ecuador had three, with Bolivia out on zero points. The hosts were in no mood to be charitable, with María Catalina Usme putting them ahead early on from about fifteen metres out, before Arias dinked in number two after a goalkeeping fumble. Chile's defenders were unable to cope and that was made clear by the third goal, a through-ball splitting the back line to find Manuela Vanegas who provided the finish. There was still time for one more goal before the break with Liana Salazar heading home a freekick to confirm top spot and a 4-0 win. In the other game, Jessica Martínez gave Paraguay the lead from a header before Kerlly Real smashed home an equaliser after a goalmouth scramble. With the game at 1-1, Lice Chamorro's injury time header gave Paraguay a win and sent them through to the semifinals.


    In the end, Colombia won Group A and will play the second-placed team in Group B in the semifinals, while Paraguay came second and will face the winners of Group B. Chile, in third, will play the third-placed team in group B in the fifth-placed play-off, while Ecuador and Bolivia headed out.


    Group B was mostly played in Armenia, with a double-header on the first day kicking off with Uruguay taking on Venezuela. It was Venezuela that took a 1-0 win thanks to Deyna Castellanos' free kick that went in off the bar. In the later game, Brazil took on Argentina and found life relatively easy. First, Adriana had a tap-in, before Ruth Bravo lazily brought down Tainara in the box and Bia Zaneratto put home the penalty. In the second half, Adriana rounded the goalie to get her second before Debhina did the same to wrap up a 4-0 win for Brazil.


    On the second day, Uruguay took on Brazil in the first game and it was Brazil that got the lead through a familiar source, Adriana tapping in at the far post after a low cross eluded everyone. The Seleção added to their advantage when Debinha was slipped through in injury time before getting another soon into the second half as Adriana again converted at the far post for a 3-0 win. In the other game, Argentina played Peru, and La Albiceleste soon put the Brazil defeat behind them as Yamila Rodríguez opened the scoring from a tap-in, while in the second half the floodgates opened. A cross converted by Flor Bonsegundo, a daisycutter from Eliana Stabile and a goal in-off the post from Érica Lonigro gave Argentina a 4-0 win.


    On day three the first game was between Argentina and Uruguay, and Argentina had found their rhythm. It took them until the stroke of half time to get ahead when Estefanía Banini trapped a long ball over the top and found the net. In the second half it was the Rodríguez show, as she scored the second from close range before latching onto a through ball to score number three and then finishing her hat-trick from another through-ball: Uruguay were clearly ill-equipped to deal with this tactic. Another close-range effort, this time from Stabile in injury time, wrapped up a 5-0 win for Argentina. In the late game it was Peru against Venezuela and it was Castellanos that got the opening goal again for La Vinotinto, pouncing on a sloppy back pass. Oriana Altuve's rebound into an empty net wrapped up a 2-0 win for the Venezuelans.


    Day four saw the two top sides in the group so far, Venezuela and Brazil, face off. Zaneratto gave Brazil an early lead and they never looked back, with goals in the second half coming from a smart Ary Borges strike, a Debinha header, and a powerful finish also by Debinha. In the second game, Peru took on Uruguay. In a game that saw no goals in the first half, Uruguay found their feet in the second period: firstly, Pamela González headed home a corner before Belen Aquino tucked home a crossed free-kick. A header from Esperanza Pizarro was next, and then came a driven effort from Ximena Velasco. There was still time for two more goals: González finding her second of the night with a low finish and Pizarro doing the same from a corner to earn a 6-0 win.


    On the final day, Brazil took on Peru in Cali while Venezuela faced Argentina in Armenia. Brazil were on nine points, Venezuela and Argentina on six (with Argentina ahead on goal difference), Uruguay on three and Peru also out on zero. Brazil took mere seconds to find the lead with Duda putting the finishing touch on an elegant move. Maria Sampaio doubled the lead in a crowded box, before Geyse smashed home number three. Before the break there was still time for another goal when Gretta Martínez brought down Duda Santos in the box, and the Palmeiras midfielder got up and placed the penalty smartly for a 4-0 half-time lead. In the second half, Fernanda head home a corner before the second spot-kick of the game as Liliana Vanegas bought down Sampaio in the box and substitute Adriana scored to earn her fifth goal of the tournament and a 6-0 win that confirmed Brazil would get top spot. But who would join them? This set up a crunch encounter: if Venezuela beat Argentina they would reach the semifinals, if not it would be Argentina. And perhaps nerves showed in a tetchy game decided by one goal, a cutback that Bonsegundo converted.


    This means that Brazil got top spot and will face Paraguay in the second semifinal, not before Colombia take on runners-up Argentina. In the fifth-placed play-off Chile take on Venezuela, while Uruguay came fourth in the group and Peru fifth. The third- and fifth-placed play-offs will take place in Armenia, while the semifinals and final will be in Estadio Alfonso López in Bucaramanga. The two finalists will make the Olympics and the World Cup, with the third-placed team also making the World Cup. The fourth-placed team and fifth-placed team will make the World Cup play-offs. The losing semi-finalists will join Chile and Peru in the Pan American Games.


    Patrick Green

    Writer, Totallympics News


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