Colombia may have been brushed aside by the United States women’s soccer team in each of the last two major tournaments, but, if the team’s pre-match talking is anything to go by, Las Cafeteras are determined not to go down without a fight in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup.
Colombia has been one of the surprise packages of the competition so far, beating a highly fancied France team to make it into a World Cup knockout phase for the first time ever. Now standing in its way of further progress in Edmonton on Monday is the formidable U.S., a team with which Colombia already has plenty of history despite meeting just twice before.
The U.S. came out on top against the South Americans, 3-0, in the group stage of the 2011 World Cup and at the Olympics the following year. And it was in that latter game where Colombia’s increasingly impressive forward Lady Andrade delivered a blow from behind to the eye of U.S. legend Abby Wambach, for which the Colombian earned a two-match suspension. But Andrade is not alone among her team in believing the punishment didn’t tell the full story, suggesting that revenge is very much on the mind when the teams meet for a place in the quarterfinals.
“I hit her, what else I can say?” she told USA Today. “If you look back at the video you'll see she hit me too, but we're Colombia so they don't want to review the whole episode.
“They belittle us. They think we're a team they're going to walk all over and it will be an easy game for them.”
Midfielder Yoreli Rincon added further fuel to the fire, stating “They don't have the heart we Colombians have.”
For its part, the USA has been reluctant to engage in a war of words with a team that ended the group stage with a 2-1 defeat to England. And midfielder Megan Rapinoe discounted the idea that the Colombians’ words could provide added motivation to the Americans in the Round of 16 encounter.
“For us, in a way, I get it,” she said, according to ESPN. “I feel like they're an up-and-coming team and feel like they haven't gotten the respect that they think they deserve and that they're striving for. And if that's going to fire them up, that's great. I mean, for us, we don't need any extra motivation. This is the knockout round.”
Rapinoe’s performance is likely to be pivotal in the U.S. team’s hopes of securing a quarterfinal match with China. While the U.S. topped the so-called “Group of Death,” and defended stoically in registering shutouts against Sweden and Nigeria, Rapinoe was one of the few bright spots in an attack still lacking fluidity.
Head coach Jill Ellis has changed the formula in each game so far, last time out against Nigeria reuniting what is likely the first-choice partnership of Alex Morgan and Wambach. The duo offered encouraging signs and Morgan, gaining fitness after nearly two months out with a knee injury ahead of the World Cup, is likely to start again on Monday. The situation is less clear for Wambach, however, with the 35-year-old having played the full 90 minutes against Nigeria and with a possible quarterfinal awaiting on Friday.
Kickoff time: 8 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, NBC Universo