On Saturday, at 9 p.m. Colombia time, María Laura Fortunato blew her whistle to put an end to the Copa América Femenina, with a familiar result. Brazil, yet again, lifted the trophy in a hard-fought battle against Colombia, including some tough challenges and VAR calls that left some doubts. Brazil won 1-0 via a Debinha penalty kick.
With this, the winners and the hosts qualified for the World Cup and the Olympics, while Argentina (winner of the third-place playoff against Paraguay) will join them in Australia and New Zealand at next year’s World Cup.
How did those teams look during the tournament and what can we expect from them?
Let’s go bottom to top and kick off with La Albiceleste. Argentina looked shaky at moments, particularly after a rocky start against Brazil that saw them fall 4-0. However, they found some good foundations: Vanina Correa was reliable as ever on goal, the pair of center backs always got the job done in Aldana Cometti and Agustina Barroso and Yamila Rodríguez found herself in the same wavelength as Estefanía Banini, plus the hard-running Florencia Bonsegundo doing most of the dirty job.
Solid wins against Uruguay (5-0) and Perú (4-0) solidified Portanova’s team towards the semifinal, where they clashed against the hosts, Colombia. Here, the main problems of Argentina were exacerbated: there’s a lack of a solid choice at right back. Neither Julieta Cruz nor Marina Delgado excelled, and Gabriela Chavez (who started this game) found herself losing constantly to Linda Caicedo and ended up seeing a red card. Plus, Argentina struggled to find goals from their No. 9 (both Larroquette and Jaimes ended the tournament with zero goals, while Lonigro got one from the bench), so the hot form from Rodriguez was a key piece in their results.
Against Paraguay, they conceded first from an own goal but La Albirroja gave the ball away and Argentina found chances to equalize and then win, with Rodríguez scoring twice and winning the golden boot.
Upsides: Defensive steadiness, Yamila Rodríguez form.
Downsides: Lack of goals from main strikers, question marks on squad depth.
It was a big tournament for the hosts, with high expectations. After looking good against the United States in June friendlies, a lot was expected from Colombia – and they delivered. With almost an unchanged XI each game, Nelson Abadía trusted their front four to make the difference in the games. Catalina Usme was dangerous as ever, Linda Caicedo was a terror for defenses with her dribbles, Leicy Santos gave class and vision while Mayra Ramirez put goals and toughness to her role in the No. 9 role.
They qualified for the semifinals with little problems: a win against Paraguay conceding two goals from set pieces, a little moment of doubt against Ecuador with a goal that forced Abadía to sub-in Ramirez, who was resting, and a very solid performance against Chile winning 4-0 paved the way to secure their ticket to the final round.
Argentina was next and a shift from right to the left side for Caicedo gave nightmares to Gabriela Chavez. A goal from the wunderkind put Colombia in the final.
There, they were probably the only team in South America in ages that tried to play straight up against Brazil (they actually outshot the Canarinha 17 to 11, something that happened for the first time in the last two Copa Américas) and could have had an equalizer but Brazil held on, especially with questionable subs from Abadía, who was heavily criticized for leaving his changes for very late in the game even with good talent at disposal on the bench.
Upsides: Young talent, performances from players like Manuela Venegas and Daniela Montoya.
Downsides: Abadía’s reluctance to make substitutions.
And finally, the winners. Pia Sundhage actually broke a record: Brazil was the first team to win this tournament without conceding a single goal in the process. Which speaks about this team.
Without Marta, Cristiane, Formiga, and many more from the old guard, there’s a bit less flair in their style. There’s more balance and a much more needed defensive toughness to this Brazilian team. That doesn’t mean they can’t score or show pretty football, but it’s not their main target anymore. Now it is to win.
Led by five goals from Adriana, Brazil breezed past the group stage, including a gorgeous 12-pass buildup goal before the first minute of the game against Perú. In the semifinals, they showed that new-found grittiness, willingness to go hard on a challenge against Paraguay, and mostly because the game asked for it.
And the same happened against Colombia. They tried to “scare” Brazil with a couple of hard challenges at the start, but they didn’t hide, they fought, even with Angelina going out with an ACL injury. There’s a good balance to this squad and probably we will see a more mature Verdeamarelha in Australia and New Zealand.
Upsides: More maturity, and defensive toughness.
Downsides: Is a question mark about how much of a measure this tournament is for Brazil, Angelina’s injury.