MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Colombia’s players danced and sang on the field long after the team secured its historic first-ever trip to the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals.
Catalina Usme’s second-half goal gave Colombia a 1-0 win over Jamaica. Both teams were aiming for a first victory in the knockout stage, with the winner moving on to the last eight at soccer’s biggest tournament.
“After the goal went into the net, I had all sorts of emotions,” Usme said. “During all the years in women’s football, it’s such a beautiful moment, giving us the possibility to make history for our country. But we can go beyond. We came here to play seven finals. And we need to go step by step.”
Colombia, a team that didn’t even qualify for the 2019 tournament, played a physical, scrappy match. Linda Caicedo, the team’s 18-year-old sensation who plays for Real Madrid, created opportunities and tested a Jamaica defense that didn’t concede a goal in the group stage.
Colombia moves to Sydney for a Saturday knockout match against European champion England, which advanced on penalties after a scoreless draw with Nigeria.
“The game against England, we came here to play seven finals,” Usme said. “We’re certain in our preparations. We’re dreaming big. We know we can pull it off. We can do it.”
Usme yelled in celebration after trapping a long pass from Ana Guzman and calmly finishing in the 52nd minute. When she was subbed off late in the game, the Colombia fans chanted her name and she bowed to the crowd.
Even when speaking to reporters afterward, Guzman and teammate Jorelyn Carabali broke into song.
The match in Melbourne was an anticipated showdown between Caicedo and Jamaican Khadija “Bunny” Shaw. In the end, though, it was Usme’s emphatic goal that made the difference.
“We are three games away, but each time we get closer to the beautiful trophy that we really dream of. It’s difficult but not impossible,” Caicedo said. “I know we can do it, the team really dreams of it, we want it. There is no obstacle that we can’t overcome.”
Shaw was an attacking force with Manchester City last season, scoring 20 goals in 22 league games, but she went scoreless at the World Cup.
“Right now we’re a bit low, because didn’t want to end the tournament. But I’m proud of all my teammates,” Shaw said. “A lot of people didn’t think we’d make it this far.
“We just have to be proud of our performance and lift our heads up. The gap is closing.”
The Reggae Girlz had just one goal in the competition, Allyson Swaby’s header in a 1-0 victory over Panama, while Shaw sat out of that match because of a red card in the opener against France.
Caicedo, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was 15, had a pair of goals in the opening round amid questions about her fitness. She was seen dropping to the ground during a practice session earlier in the tournament but played the entirety of Colombia’s 1-0 loss against Morocco in its group final on Thursday.
After defeating South Korea in its World Cup opener, Colombia upset Germany 2-1 before falling to upstart Morocco in its group finale. Colombia became just the second South American team to top its group, joining Brazil.
Jamaica’s defense held title contenders France and Brazil scoreless in the opening round, helping to push the Reggae Girlz through to the knockout stage. The Jamaicans lost every game at the 2019 tournament, their only other appearance.
Colombia had more chances in the first half but Jamaica’s stout defense held and the match was scoreless at the break.
There was a scary moment when Jamaica’s Trudi Carter was hit hard in the face by the ball in the 21st minute but she returned.
Jamaica goalkeeper Becky Spencer was able to punch away Usme’s cross in the 29th. Caicedo sent the ball over the goal with a chance in the 38th.
Jamaica’s Drew Spence was shown a yellow late in the half with a tackle on Caicedo, after Chantelle Swaby was also booked.
Spence nearly scored on a header in the 82nd but it went just wide. She raised her hands to her face in disbelief over the missed chance to even the game.
Colombia was without Manuela Vanegas because of yellow card accumulation. Guzman, who like Caicedo is 18, replaced her and gave the team some spark — as well as the crucial ball to Usme for the winning goal.
Las Cafeteras, making their third World Cup appearance, also reached the Round of 16 in 2015 but were stopped in a 2-0 loss to the United States.
Now, they’re only team from the Americas still in contention.
“This is an immense pride. It’s a home pride, a regional pride. We know we’re worthy representatives of Colombia and South America,” Colombia coach Nelson Abadia said. “Now we’re representing the whole continent. We’re representing the whole of the Americas.”
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup