Five Things to Know: Colombia

Following a pair of victories over South Africa in September, the U.S. Women’s National Team returns to action with a pair of international friendlies against Colombia in Sandy, Utah and San Diego. The teams will square off on October 26 at America First Field in Sandy (9 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. MT on TBS, Max, Universo and Peacock) before trading in the Rocky Mountains for the beaches of Southern California when they meet again on October 29 at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego (5:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. PT on TNT, Max, Telemundo, Universo, Peacock and FDP Radio) in a match presented by AT&T 5G.

Learn more about the USWNT’s upcoming foe with Five Things to Know about Colombia.

MAGICAL RUN DOWN UNDER

Colombia returns to action for its first international matches following an historic run at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup which saw Las Cafeteras reach the quarterfinal for the first time in program history. Making its third appearance all-time at the Women’s World Cup and first since 2015, Colombia opened Group H play with a 2-0 victory over Korea Republic led by goals from longtime standout Catalina Usme and rising star Linda Caicedo.

Colombia continued its momentum into the second group game and pulled off one of the marquee upsets in the history of the Women’s World Cup, defeating perennial powerhouse Germany 2-1. Caicedo gave Colombia the lead with a beautiful strike in the 52nd minute before Alexandra Popp equalized for the Germans, who entered the match ranked second in the world, in the 89th minute. Colombia then scored in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time as defender Manuela Vanegas headed in the game-winning goal to secure one of the biggest wins in program history.

Despite losing to Morocco 1-0 on the final day of group play, Colombia’s six points were enough to win Group H and sent Las Cafeteras through to the Round of 16 for the second time in program history. There, Colombia defeated Jamaica 1-0 in the Round of 16 as Usme scored the game’s only goal in the 51st minute.

Having already secured its best-ever finish at a Women’s World Cup, Colombia’s run came to a close in the quarterfinals, falling to eventual runners-up England 2-1 in front of a sell-out crowd at Stadium Australia. Midfielder Leicy Santos gave Colombia a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute, but Lauren Hemp equalized for England late in first-half stoppage time and Alessia Russo scored the game-winner for the Lionesses in the 63rd to end Colombia’s remarkable run.   

INSIDE THE ROSTER

Colombia’s roster for these October matches against the USA features 19 players from the 2023 World Cup squad, including goal scorers Caicedo, Vanegas and Santos.

While the vast majority of the World Cup roster returns, notably absent is Usme, the nation’s all-time leading goal scorer, who will miss these games due to injury. Goalkeeper Catalina Perez, who started all five matches for Colombia in Australia and New Zealand and fellow World Cup participants Mayra Ramirez and Diana Ospina are also unavailable for selection due to injury.

There is also a significant change on the sidelines as Angela Marsiglia takes over for former Colombia head coach Nelson Abadia. Marsiglia served as an assistant under Abadia at the 2023 World Cup, and actually coached Colombia’s group stage opening victory over Korea Republic while Abadia was serving a suspension.

Of the 23 players Marsiglia has called up for these games against the USA, defender Carolina Arias has the most experience with 104 caps for her country. Five players are in double-figures in international goals, led by veteran Lady Andrade, who has 17 goals in her 65 caps.

Santos has 15 goals in 66 caps while Caicedo, with 12 goals in 25 caps, is averaging nearly a goal for every two games played in her young international career. Veteran midfielder and captain Daniela Montoya has 10 goals in 86 caps while Vanegas has 10 goals in 40 caps, including her crucial header against Germany at the World Cup.

COLOMBIA WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION

Goalkeepers (3): Natalia Giraldo (America de Cali), Stefany Castaño (Club Independiente Santa Fe), Sandra Sepulveda (Independiente Medellin)

Defenders (8): Daniela Arias (America de Cali), Carolina Arias (Club Independiente Santa Fe), Angela Baron (Atlético Nacional), Jorelyn Carabali (Brighton & Hove Albion, ENG), Daniela Caracas (RCD Espanyol, ESP), Ana Maria Guzman (FC Bayern Munich, GER), Monica Ramos (Gremio, BRA), Manuela Vanegas (Real Sociedad, ESP)

Midfielders (6): Lorena Bedoya (Real Brasilia FC, BRA), Gabriela Huertas (Club Independiente Santa Fe), Daniela Montoya (Atlético Nacional), Marcela Restrepo (Atlético Nacional), Camila Reyes (Club Independiente Santa Fe), Leicy Santos (Atletico Madrid, ESP)

Forwards (6): Lady Andrade (Real Brasilia FC, BRA), Elexa Bahr (America de Cali), Linda Caicedo (Real Madrid CF, ESP), Ivonne Chacon (Valencia C.F., ESP), Yisela Cuesta (Ferroviária, BRA), Ingrid Guerra (Clube Atlético Mineiro, BRA)

GROWTH OF THE GAME

Colombia enters these matches against the USA ranked No. 22 overall in the FIFA World Rankings, tied for the nation’s highest ranking ever in women’s soccer.

In a clear sign of the growth of the women’s game in Colombia and the talent of its players, 12 players on the roster play professionally outside of their own home country, five in Brazil, five in Spain and one each in England and Germany. Of the 12 players competing for clubs outside of Colombia, 10 are in their 20s or younger, including a pair of 18-year-olds in Caicedo, who signed with Real Madrid in February of 2023 and defender Ana Maria Guzman, who signed with Bayern Munich earlier this September.

Caicedo and Guzman both represented Colombia at the 2022 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India, helping Colombia reach the final where it fell to Spain 1-0 on a late own goal. Despite the heartbreaking finish, it marked Colombia’s best-ever finish at a Youth Women’s World Cup and served as a coming out party for Caicedo, who won the Silver Ball as the second-best player overall in the tournament as well as the Bronze Boot, finishing with four goals on the tournament. Both players were also a part of Colombia’s roster for the U-20 World Cup earlier that summer in Costa Rica, where Colombia won its group before falling to South American rivals Brazil 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

SERIES HISTORY: USA vs. COLOMBIA

Colombia and the USA have played 10 times previously, with the U.S. holding a 9W-1D-0L advantage overall in the series. Four of the previous 10 meetings between the USA and Colombia have come at World Championship events – playing twice at the World Cup and twice at the Olympics. The lone draw between these teams came during the group stage of the 2016 Summer Olympics, a 2-2 tie against Las Cafeteras on Aug. 9, 2016.

Since that game in Brazil, the USA and Colombia have played four more times, all of them in friendly competitions. The teams played twice in January of 2021 in the USA’s first domestic games following the resumption of play after the COVID-19 pandemic, with the U.S. winning by scores of 4-0 and 6-0 in Orlando, Florida.

The teams met most recently in June of 2022 in the USA’s final games prior to the Concacaf W Championship, at which it qualified for both the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics. The USA kicked off the two-game set with a 3-0 win on June 25 in Commerce City, Colo., powered by a brace from Colorado-native Sophia Smith. The teams then traveled to Sandy, Utah, where the USA prevailed 2-0 on June 28 behind an own goal and a late strike from defender Kelley O’Hara.

Overall, the USA has won its last 15 matches against CONMEBOL opposition, with wins against Brazil (5), Colombia (4), Chile (3), Paraguay (2) and Argentina (1) during that span. During the 15-game winning streak, the USA has outscored its CONMEBOL competition 61-5 and kept clean sheets in 12 of the last 13 matches.

PATHWAY TO PARIS

Like the USA, Colombia has already secured its spot in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Colombia qualified for the Olympics, its third overall in program history, last summer by virtue of its second-place finish at the 2022 Copa America Feminina, which Colombia hosted.

At that tournament, which sent three teams directly to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup and the top two finishers to the 2024 Olympics, Colombia won Group A by sweeping all four matches. Colombia then defeated Argentina, 1-0, in the all-important semifinal before falling to rivals and longtime South American power Brazil 1-0  in the championship game.

Colombia made its Olympic debut at London 2012, where it was drawn into Group G with the United States, France and Korea DPR. Colombia went winless in the group, falling to North Korea 2-0, the USA 3-0 – the match where Lady Andrade infamously punched Wambach in the face off the ball, an indiscretion that was caught on video and led two a two-game suspension for the Colombian star– and France in a narrow 1-0 defeat. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Colombia was once again drawn into the same group as the USA and France, though this time picked up its first ever point in Olympic play with a 2-2 draw against the Americans while losing its other two matches against France (4-0) and New Zealand (1-0).

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